The mineret that takes you home

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links

Virtual Magazine of Morocco on the Web
Morocco Week in Review 
April 22 2017

Donald Trump Receives New Moroccan Ambassador.

By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq - April 25, 2017 , Rabat
Donald Trump Receives New Moroccan Ambassador
US President Donald Trump received Morocco’s new ambassador to Washington, Chrifa Lalla Joumala, on Monday.

During the reception, Lalla Joumala expressed King Mohamed VI’s deep respect for the United States and President Trump. She also pointed out to the fact the two countries enjoy a long-standing alliance that goes back to December 20, 1777, when the Kingdom of Morocco became the first nation to officially recognize the independence of the 13 United States fighting for their liberty.
Ambassador Lalla Joumala said that the two nations are united by the oldest Treaty of Friendship in the history of US diplomacy and that they have always joined efforts to defend shared values of freedom, democracy, peace, and tolerance. These values, added Lalla Joumala, “are the cornerstone of political, security and military cooperation between Rabat and Washington,” who celebrate this year the 240th anniversary of their diplomatic exchanges.

Lalla Joumala reminded the US President of the achievements of the historical partnership between Morocco and the United States, including the designation of Morocco as a major US ally outside NATO, the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement in 2004,  and the launching of Strategic Dialogues between the two countries in 2012. “These are only examples of recent mutual achievements, highlighting the nature of our rich and dynamic relationship,” said the Moroccan ambassador. The growing partnership between Morocco and the United States bears promise of greater cooperation, said Lalla Joumala, adding that two countries share a similar vision regarding regional and international challenges and aspire for future mutual prosperity.

The Moroccan ambassador affirmed that Morocco will support US actions in the Middle East to “bring peace and prosperity in this part of the world.” “As a nation whose foreign policy has always had as an objective to promote peace and security and preach the values of moderation and preserve religious freedom, the Kingdom of Morocco will continue its efforts to fight against terrorism and extremism and promote tolerance,” said Lalla Joumala. Lalla Joumala also expressed Morocco’s will to work with the US presidential administration, congress, and other American institutions to strengthen to Moroccan-US political, economic and strategic cooperation.

RPCV Thomas Duncan in a short interview in Moroccan Arabic

posted on the electronic newsletter “”.

Peace Corps provides experience for a variety of careers  (RPCVs Sara Werling & Ben)

By Abby Land | Editorial Assistant / 04.26.2017

Since its establishment, the Peace Corps has offered unique opportunities for students and graduates alike to go abroad in hopes of improving the lives of  people in less fortunate nations around the globe. Created by President John F. Kennedy via an executive order on March 1, 1961, the Peace Corps attracts many college students looking for an opportunity to travel and make a difference in the world they join after graduation.

University of Indianapolis alum and former nursing major Sara Werling joined the Peace Corps following graduation and is still involved in the organization. Werling and her husband served with the Peace Corps  in Morocco, from 2015 to 2017, under its Youth Development sector. They lived in the small community of Alnif, Morocco during that period, splitting their time between “working at a youth center and being out in the community learning about the community, exchanging culture, working on language, drinking tea and generally spending time with people,” according to Werling.
Werling spent most of her time working with children and women, many of whom did not finish primary schooling. She taught English, health and exercise classes three times a week and called the class “a continually rewarding and entertaining part of my service.”
UIndy alumna Sara Werling and her husband, Ben Ogren, finished a two year service with the Peace Corps on Mar. 31. They served in a youth center in a small village in Morocco where they taught English and art and theatre workshops and organized health and exercise classes.
UIndy alumna Sara Werling and her husband, Ben Ogren, finished a two year service with the Peace Corps on Mar. 31. They served in a youth center in a small village in Morocco where they taught English and art and theatre workshops and organized health and exercise classes. Photo contributed by Sarah Reichle

Werling also found an opportunity to use her UIndy degree in efforts to educate the populace about their health. “Being a nurse, I also found outlets of health education in one-on-one or small group conversations with my friends, neighbors, and host family [those that we lived with for the first months in our community],”  Werling said. “They  would ask questions about nutrition, exercise, birth control and even topics generally not discussed in the public sphere, like sex and domestic violence. I have found that being an outsider was beneficial in this sense, as I was a ‘safe’ person to talk to. This was also a great place for me to learn more about Amazighr culture [sometimes called Berber- the indigenous tribe in Morocco], health practices and the beliefs surrounding them.”

Werling spoke of how UIndy piqued her interest in international travel, thanks to encouraging faculty, Spring Term trips, a trip to Ecuador with professors, and volunteering in Appalachia through the university. Werling explained that these opportunities and her experiences in the Peace Corps after her time at UIndy strengthened her abilities as a nurse and provided her with transferable skills.
“I always knew that traveling was an option for nurses, but I hadn’t considered the other soft skills that came along with nursing that applied to my work in Peace Corps like communication, observation and professionalism,” Werling said. “I also gained many transferrable skills that will be useful in future endeavors. Being shown compassion and grace as I was learning Arabic has equipped me with communication skills to better support non-English speaking patients. Being able to quickly assess and identify cultural norms and see how they impact choices will factor into the considerations and techniques for patient education. And as an American ambassador … being welcomed with such open arms has charged me to extend the same welcome to our Muslim neighbors in America.”

Like Werling, UIndy student and senior international relations and Spanish major Kendra Shaw plans to embark on her own journey with the Peace Corps following graduation in May. Shaw said that she respects the Peace Corps’ commitment to long-term goals, because she has learned through her studies that short-term aid often leads to further turmoil within developing countries.
“I like that it’s a long-term goal whereas two years isn’t necessarily long, but it’s more than just going for a few weeks and then leave,” said Shaw. “I’ve learned a lot in my international organization class that aid industries can actually upset a region more than help if there is too many people going in and out. So I really want to do something more long-term. And the fact that it was teaching, which I have background in, was a bonus.”

Shaw is committed to a two-year program with a three-month training period, a popular choice for recent graduates. The future UIndy graduate will be working in Nicaragua, although she does not yet know the exact location, only that she will undergo the three-month training period in the city of Managua. Shaw said that UIndy helped prepare her for her decision to commit to the program and realize her desire to volunteer and make a lasting difference in a community.
Photo contributed by Sarah Reichle
Photo contributed by Sarah Reichle
“UIndy has led to so many opportunities,” Shaw said. “First off would be the internship I had through the International Relations Department with Exodus Refugee Immigration. And I never knew a lot about nonprofits before I came to UIndy, and to be able to work with one and teach in a community classroom for refugees that are coming into Indianapolis really opened my eyes to how I wanted to go overseas.”

Shaw will teach English in a secondary school in Nicaragua, giving her an opportunity to expand her knowledge of Spanish while improving others’ knowledge of English. This effort will earn her a certification when she returns to the United States to apply for graduate school.

Apart from teaching, the Peace Corps offers tracts in fighting HIV/aids, combating hunger, environmental protection and improving access to technology, to name a few.
Shaw encourages students who have a passion for travel or philanthropy to inform themselves about the organization and its unique opportunities for recent graduates.
“I would say apply, because even though you think you don’t have the experience, they work with you,” she said. “You’re trained, and they give you all the information before you go. So it’s a way to step out and get involved in a country that you’re not used to, but actually do good. I feel like so many people are focused on how to apply it [their education] around here when they need [it] overseas, too.”

According to the Peace Corps website, many former volunteers apply their experience to careers in education, business, or health-related fields. Some also work as journalists, writers, members of Congress, or even astronauts. Central America, Eastern Europe, South America, the Caribbean Islands, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia are all locations where the Peace Corps offers programs, according to their website. It also states that to apply, prospective volunteers for the two-year program need to be U.S. citizens over the age of  18 who can depart in 19-20 months. The site also provides featured openings abroad utilizing a variety of skills. The organization offers many opportunities for students to consider for life after UIndy, both at home and abroad.
While Werling plans to continue working as a nurse when she returns to the states, like Shaw, she also hopes that other students will consider the Peace Corps as they decide on post-graduation plans, despite the anxiety they may feel being so far from home.

She said that the Peace Corps is not only an opportunity to learn new skills, but to  also understand cultures from a more intimate point of view than solely through media coverage.
“When talking to people from home, the first question was often, ‘Were you safe there?’   To be completely honest I was safer in my small Moroccan town than most places in the U.S.,”  Werling said. “Millions of Muslims around the world, not limited to those in our town, practice Islam that is peaceful, and oftentimes there is no worse insult than being associated with the radical sects that populate the news. My hope for America is that we all can look at those different from ourselves with open-mindedness and tolerance, because when we step back, there is so much to learn about ourselves and humanity.”

US Scholarship Opens for Moroccan English Teachers.

By Morocco World News - April 18, 2017 Rabat

The Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (MACECE) has announced a call for applications for the 2017 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship Program (FLTA). Through the FLTA program, the selected Moroccan English teachers will be placed at universities in the United States for two semesters, during which they will support Arabic language instruction and take two courses.

The US scholarship is all-inclusive, covering tuition, transportation, and living expenses. The program is open to public and private school teachers, as well as those in teaching training programs. Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s degree (license) and a minimum score of 80 on the TOEFL iBT. The deadline for applications is July 3, 2017. Applicants are directed to MACECE’s FLTA page for more information.

MACECE was established in 1982 as part of an agreement between the Moroccan and United States governments. It currently administers seven exchange programs for Moroccans and four for Americans

American Writer Honors Sultan Mohammed V for Protecting Jews.

By Morocco World News - April 28, 2017 Rabat

American writer Richard Hurowitz has praised the late Moroccan Sultan Mohammed V for his role in protecting Jews during World War II. In an article published by Los Angeles Times, Hurowitz starts out by reminded the readers of a famous scene of the legendary American movie “Casablanca”, where refugees in Rick’s Café started singing the French national anthem “la Marseillaise” in an epic act of defiance to the Nazi officers.

The clip, as Richard Hurowitz points out, “became an instant inspiration to moviegoers” at that time of war. But during that time, Morocco saw a “much greater — and real life — act of heroism”, yet “too little known or recognized” compared to the scene from Casablanca, namely: “the protection of the Jews of Morocco by the young Sultan Mohammed V.”
Back then, the young Sultan was under pressure from pro-Nazi French authorities. The collaborationist French Vichy regime sought to implement  the Nazi party’s genocidal policies against Jews living in its Moroccan colony.

Morocco’s history had been marked by Jewish presence for ages. They had been an integral part of the country’s cultural makeup and influential in Moroccan society.
“Jews had lived in that part of the world since well before Carthage fell,” writes Hurowitz, “and over a quarter of a million called Morocco their home in 1940. Members of the community had served the sultans’ court as ministers, diplomats and advisors.”

Mohammed V defied the anti-Jewish laws French authorities tried imposed on his kingdom, which aimed at “restricting certain professions and schools to Jews and requiring them to live in ghettos.”
The laws were enforced but the sultan refused to endorse them. As an act of resistance, he invited representatives of the Jewish community to an official ceremony commemorating the sultanate’s anniversary. The Moroccan monarch expressed his rejection of the discriminatory laws against the Jews, telling the French officials he refused any distinction between Moroccans. “There are only Moroccan subjects,” the sultan famously said, clarifying that he saw no difference between Muslims and Jews.

Standing against Vichy’s anti-Jewish policies helped protect the community from the ghastly slaughter occurring in Europe. “No Moroccan Jews were deported or killed; nor were they forced to wear the yellow star,” explains the American writer. When the Nazis and their allies were defeated in North Africa in 1942, “the Moroccan Jewish community was essentially intact.”
His historical role in preserving the lives of dozens of thousands of Jews made Mohammed V a respected figure that many members of Jewish communities around the world, especially those of Morocco origins, still remember.

Seen as a bright chapter of history amid the horrors of World War II, Hurowitz believes it is an example that we can draw lessons from today.
“At a time when anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise globally, we should honor this overlooked but remarkable example of enlightened leadership,” he writes

Student Volunteers Work to Improve Rural Settat Schools.

By Morocco World News - April 26, 2017  By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

Students have voluntarily organized to rehabilitate the group of Madaha Elementary Schools outside Settat. The students, affiliated with the Tech-Sharing Club for Student Development at Settat’s University of Science and Technology (FSTS), divided tasks to refurbish and renovatethe schools’ facilities from April 21 to 23. “The students have been divided into several groups. Each group took care of a specific area of the school,” said El Houssaine Brihim, president of the club. “While some have been in charge of painting the school’s walls, others have been assigned to do the gardening and forestation work.” The students also collected books and put together a library in the school.

Founded in 2012, the Tech-Sharing Club for Student Development aims to help develop educational and health conditions in rural sites surrounding the city of Settat.
“The club is making efforts to achieve its objectives through several activities, including roundtables, seminars, workshops, humanitarian caravans, cultural activities, and solidarity events,” El Houssaine Brihim told Moroccco World News.

About 40 club members, all students a the FSTS, have taken part in the improvement of the external and internal conditions of the school.
By the end of this school year, the club’s volunteers are intending to organize several activities, including school conselling week, and a voluntary project for Ramadan. The club aspires to provide about 200 families with the primary elements they will need during the month.

Moroccan Journalists Launch Association for Advocacy and Training.

By Morocco World News - April 24, 2017 , BY Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

A new assocation, the Forum for Young Journalists, is about to launch, aiming to support Moroccan journalists in Morocco by adovacting for “the freedom of press, the right to access information, and the right for vocational trainings for young journalists”. The president of the association, Samy El Moudni, told Morocco World News that the association will focus on enhancing the abilities of media students and journalists and integrate their common issues into discussion of public and administrative regulations.

 ”The association is working hard to achieve its objectives through several activities, including preparing reports and memoranda in line with thematic discussions with the aim of promoting the right to access information and to ensure that people are able to exercise their constitutional rights freely,” explained El Moudny. He went on to add that the association is expected to organize several roundtables, seminars, and workshops related to media issues and arrange vocational sessions to benefit journalists and young people interested in the sector.
 “Regarding the funding, the Forum will stick to Moroccan Public institutions, in charge of Media and human rights as well as international organizations that share our goals”, he added.
One of the associaton’s more ambitious goals is to offer vocational training 200 people with press credentials, following achieving a legal license from the administrative authorities.
The chairman of the coalition said that he also intends to encourage the involvement of women in the media sector, adding that the association’s executive bureau comprises 50 percent of women journalists. “The association staff strongly encourages young journalists to contribute in the development of the national press sector,” he added.
Currently, El Moudni and the board are pursuing the necessary legal stages. “The Forum for Young Journalists, has presented its paperwork to the administrative authorities of the Rabat-Sale-Kenitra region, with the aim of obtaining a legal license”, he concluded.

Fes to Host Mediterranean Women Forum in May.

By Morocco World News - April 28, 2017  By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

Fes will host the 8th edition of the Mediterranean Women Forum from May 6 to 10 at Hotel les Mérinides. The symposium will bring together figures in the field of women’s rights with the aim of discussing several challenging issues regarding women statues in the African and Mediterranean countries. “The Forum is multi-disciplinary and seeks to develop innovative and insightful ways of unpacking and accounting for these resistances,” said the ISIS Center for Women and Development in a press release.

The 8th edition will be based around the theme of “Women’s Voices in the Mediterranean and Africa: Movements, Feminisms, and Resistance to Extremisms”.
The forum’s discussions intend to tackle the condition of women in the two region, with the aim of improving their circumstances and ensuring their rights.
The event will be organized under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, the ISIS Center for Women and Development, and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in coordination with Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University and Penn State University (USA).

The event’s program will include speeches, lectures and discussions by national and global leaders in the field throughout the five days of the symposium.
In addition to women’s movements, feminism, and resistance, topics discussed will include the contextualization of extremisms and women’s resistance, radicalized ideologies in the Maghreb, radicalized ideologies in Africa, Islam and feminism, and Islamic feminists’ strategies of resistance. “An increasing number of women’s voices in the Mediterranean and Africa is rising against mounting gender-based violence in the name of radical Islam and the instrumentalization of religion to exacerbate Islamophobia and attain power,” the same source added

Urban Art to Take the “Street-Stage” at Mawazine Festival 2017.

By Amira El Masaiti - April 24, 2017 , Rabat

16th Annual Mawazine Festival  will devote an entire program to the celebration of street art, featuring live art, acrobatics shows, urban art performances, and nonstop entertainment on Rabat’s main streets. Mawazine will expose festival goers to the music, dance, and acrobatic wonders of a number Moroccan urban art performers.
From May 13 to 16, Bakho Atika, one of the most popular Moroccan urban art performers will showcase their various talents, varying from comedy sketches to dance to the traditional genre Dakka Marrakchia.

Meanwhile, Oussama Band will give a circus performance,promising to take the audience on a breathtaking journey through what the festival has called their “passion, talent, and creativity.”
From May 17 to 20 May, Les Tambours du Maroc, a percussion group composed of fifteen talented music enthusiasts known for their “unlimited creativity,” will perform its mix of rhythms from around the world alongside striking choreographies. The Casa Fiesta troupe will also partake in the urban street art program. Founded in Casablanca, the troupe brings together a team of percussionists and dancers inspired by a fusion of repertoires from Senegal, Egypt and Morocco. They are set to give a singing performance accompanied by Capoeira dance, a spectacular Brazilian material art that combines dance, acrobatics and music.

'There are no Jewish citizens, there are no Muslims citizens, they are all Moroccans'

The unknown story of Moroccan Holocaust survivors

King Mohammed V stopped the Nazis short of eradicating his Jewish community — but not of imposing anti-Semitic laws. Now Germany pays reparations, even as scholars fill in gaps

By Julie Masis April 25, 2017 MONTREAL

Montreal engineer Sam Edery has a special copper menorah at home, passed down to him from his grandfather, who was the jeweler in the court of King Mohammed V of Morocco during World War II.
Edery says his grandfather made the menorah while the king was meeting with representatives from Vichy France and Nazi Germany to discuss the Jewish question.
“My grandfather knew [about the meeting] because he was a jeweler and he often went to the royal palace. He made the menorah because it represents the miracle of Hanukkah and [the discussions] happened in November or December, around that time,” Edery said.

Not long afterwards, Mohammed V allegedly told the Nazis, “There are no Jewish citizens, there are no Muslims citizens, they are all Moroccans.”
“For my grandfather, it was like a miracle. I think a miracle happened because the king refused to collaborate,” said Edery. Indeed, the Jews of Morocco were saved. Although Morocco was a French protectorate and France’s Vichy regime was complicit in the murder of French Jews, not a single Jew living in Morocco was sent to a concentration camp. Nor did Morocco’s Jews wear the yellow star, their property was not seized, and they were not stripped of their citizenship. French-speaking Moroccan Jews immigrated to Canada’s French-speaking province in the 1960s and 70s, sometimes by first moving to France, and later to Canada.

Recently, however, Jews who lived in Morocco during World War II have become eligible to receive reparations from the German government.
In Quebec, where Moroccans make up a quarter of the Jewish community, about a third of applications for German reparations come from Moroccan immigrants, estimated Stacy Jbeli, a case manager at the Cummings Jewish Centre for Seniors, which distributes reparations payments to local Holocaust survivors. Jbeli said that of the 2,000 Canadian-Moroccan Jews who applied for compensation, about 1,800 have received it.
Montreal-resident Edery’s 96-year-old mother is one such recipient. She received a check for CA$3,000 and might also be eligible for $1,500 per year for medical appointments, eyeglasses, medications, and home care services.
Why are Moroccan Jews now considered Holocaust survivors?

Until now, stories about what Moroccan Jews experienced during the war were not collected by Holocaust museums. For example, the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, which has tens of thousands of testimonies from Holocaust survivors, does not include a single interview with a Jew living in Morocco during WWII. Despite the city’s large Moroccan Jewish population, the Holocaust Museum in Montreal also does not have any testimonies from Moroccans.

At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, there are just a handful of testimonies from Moroccans — so few, in fact, that the chief of the museum’s oral history archive wasn’t even aware they existed. In these interviews, Jewish Moroccans describe the hardships of war that both Jews and non-Jews endured: bombings, food shortages, and curfews.
“There is nothing like a ‘Wow!’ [survival] story,” said case manager Jbeli, who has Moroccan clients.

But the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, also known as the Claims Conference, convinced the German government to compensate Moroccan Jews for one primary reason — because they were forced to live in the mellahs, or historic Jewish quarters. Under German law, forced residence is recognized as a type of persecution, explained Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference. Moroccan Jews who were already living in the mellahs were not allowed to move out, and some who were living outside of the Jewish districts had to move into them, Schneider said.

Edery, whose uncle and cousins were forced to leave their home and relocate into the mellah in Marrakesh during the war, suspects that the policy may have been put in place as the first step to extermination.
“They wanted to contain them in one place. Was it done for the same reasons [as in Europe]? It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Edery. “The Germans just didn’t get the time to do it because of the King of Morocco.”
However, a mellah wasn’t exactly like a Polish ghetto because the gates were not locked, people were not prevented from going in and out, and because most Moroccan Jews lived in mellahs even before the war. In addition, Jews weren’t forced into the mellahs in all Moroccan cities. It is indisputable, however, that the conditions in the mellahs were terrible.

Montreal radio commentator Charles Barchechath, who was born in 1943 in the mellah of Rabat, said that food was scarce and typhus and cholera were common.
“The epidemics took the lives of a lot of Jews of Morocco. My father caught typhus, but luckily he recovered,” he said.

Between 1940 and November of 1942 when the Americans landed in Morocco, Moroccan Jews also had to abide by discriminatory laws: Jewish children were expelled from schools, Jews were fired from government jobs, and there were quotas on how many Jews could attend universities or work as doctors, lawyers and pharmacists, said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who wrote a book about the Holocaust in Arab countries.
“In general, Vichy laws that were applied in France, were applied in Morocco,” Satloff said. “The vast majority of Moroccan Jews were not working in the public sector, were not university students or university graduates, but the laws were there and they applied.”

Vichy officials attempted at one point to make an inventory of property held by Jews, but Mohammed V met with the Jewish community and promised to slow down the census, Satloff said. As a result, Jewish property in Morocco was not confiscated, unlike Jewish property in neighboring Algeria.

Historians also say that had American troops not landed in North Africa in 1942, Moroccan Jewry — which numbered approximately 250,000 during WWII — may have also been sent to the death camps.
According to documents that outline the Final Solution, Hitler had planned to exterminate 700,000 French Jews – a number that makes sense only if the Jews in French North Africa are included, Satloff said.
Effort to collect testimonies

Worldwide, more than 43,000 Moroccan Jews have received reparations since 2011, when Germany finally recognized them as Holocaust survivors, according to data from the Claims Conference.
But in addition to the payments, the acknowledgement that the Jews of Morocco also suffered from fascist persecution is helping to preserve history.
The applications filed by thousands of Moroccans for compensation have become the largest source of information on the experiences of Moroccan Jews during the war.
In addition, Holocaust museums are now promising to begin collecting audio and video testimonies from Moroccan Jews.

“There are several ‘categories’ — for lack of a better word — of survivors that we recognize as gaps in our collections, and the Jews of North Africa are among those identified as a gap,” Leslie Swift, the chief of Film, Oral History and Recorded Sound at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, wrote in an email. “We would definitely like to interview more of them in the future.”
The museum is now planning to send a team to Montreal to interview Moroccan Jews, Swift said.

You must remember this: Sultan Mohammed V protected the Jews of Casablanca

Associated Press Richard Hurowitz

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of “Casablanca,” which immortalized quiet acts of resistance against fascism at the murky crossroads that was wartime Morocco. The legendary scene at Rick’s Café where refugees, led by Paul Henreid, drown out Nazi officers by singing “La Marseillaise” became an instant inspiration to moviegoers as World War II was raging. The location of the film was no accident: Casablanca was a haven for those fleeing for their lives. And it was also the scene of a much greater — and real life — act of heroism, one far too little known or recognized: the protection of the Jews of Morocco by the young Sultan Mohammed V. At a time when anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise globally, we should honor this overlooked but remarkable example of enlightened leadership.

Born the third son of the reigning sultan’s younger brother, Mohammed was an unlikely ruler from the start and certainly an unexpected hero. A series of international disputes between France and Germany led to the Treaty of Fez in 1912 and French control of Morocco. Mohammed’s father, Moulay Yousef, replaced his older sibling on the throne when his brother abdicated because of the treaty. Fifteen years later, upon his father’s death, 16-year-old Mohammed was named sultan largely because the French viewed him as more docile than his older brothers. This turned out to be one of the great misjudgments in French colonial history.

When Paris fell to the Germans in July 1940, the sultan, then 30, was put in a precarious position as Morocco came under the rule of the collaborationist French Vichy regime. Among their first acts, the new overseers sought to impose anti-Semitic laws in Morocco, as per Nazi protocol. Jews had lived in that part of the world since well before Carthage fell, and over a quarter of a million called Morocco their home in 1940. Members of the community had served the sultans’ court as ministers, diplomats and advisors. Mohammed V took seriously his role as Commander of the Faithful, which he viewed to include all “people of the book,” meaning everyone belonging to the Abrahamic faiths — Jews, Christians and Muslims. He bravely and publicly declined to assist in the persecution of his own Jewish citizens.

“There are no Jews in Morocco,” he declared. “There are only Moroccan subjects.” Jews had lived in that part of the world since well before Carthage fell, and over a quarter of a million called Morocco their home in 1940. Vichy authorities soon forced Mohammed V to promulgate two laws restricting certain professions and schools to Jews and requiring them to live in ghettos. In an act of resistance, the sultan declined to fully enforce the laws. A direct descendant of the original Muhammad, the founder of Islam, through Muhammad’s daughter Fatimah, the sultan refused to be intimidated. A French government telegram, discovered in Paris archives four decades later, reported that relations between France and Morocco became “much more tense since the day” the laws went into effect. In 1941, for the first time, Mohammed V made a point of inviting senior representatives of the Jewish community to the annual banquet celebrating the anniversary of his sultanate and placing them in the best seats next to the French officials.

“I absolutely do not approve of the new anti-Semitic laws and I refuse to associate myself with a measure I disagree with,” he told the French officials. “I reiterate as I did in the past that the Jews are under my protection and I reject any distinction that should be made amongst my people.” Although there were limits to his power, Mohammed V ensured that there were never round-ups of Jews in Morocco; it remained a haven to the extent possible. During Vichy rule — which lasted a little more than two years — no Moroccan Jews were deported or killed; nor were they forced to wear the yellow star. When Allied troops liberated North Africa in November 1942, the Moroccan Jewish community was essentially intact.

The sultan’s actions offer a contrast with other leaders who rallied to the side of the Axis powers in hopes of driving the Jews from Palestine and the British from the Middle East. The grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Husseini, for example, spent the war years in Berlin, courting Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, plotting the extermination of the Jews and recruiting Eastern European Muslims to fight for the Nazi cause. Mohammed V, on the other hand, was a strong supporter of the Allies and welcomed President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and French President Charles de Gaulle for four days in 1943 at the historic Casablanca conference. Throughout the sultan’s reign, he continued to protect his Jewish subjects. When the Arab world reacted violently to the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 , the sultan reminded Moroccans that Jews had always been protected in their country and should not be harmed.

Mohammed V died suddenly in 1961, just four years after Morocco became an independent constitutional monarchy and he gained the title king. The outpouring of grief was immense. Some 75,000 Jews publicly mourned, the chief rabbi delivered a memorial address by radio, and Jews were prominent participants at the coronation of his son Hassan II and at the new king’s initial prayer services.
The Moroccan Jewish community has dwindled, but in commemorations to this day, its members declare their “eternal gratitude” to Mohammed V and recall his heroism. At a time when such selflessness is in short supply, we should do the same.

Richard Hurowitz is the publisher of the Octavian Report, a magazine about finance, foreign policy, politics and culture. Until its sale in 2013, he led the investment fund Octavian Advisors, which he founded in 2006.

Electricity Production in Morocco Decreases 1.2 Percent in February

MENAFN - Morocco World News - 25/04/2017 Rabat

After a positive growth of electric power production in January 2017, the sector saw a decrease of 1.2 percent at the end of February 2017, following a 1 percent increase a year earlier, reported the Department of Economic Studies and Financial Forecasting (DEPF). This reduction is due to a joint decline in production of the National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water (2.3 percent) and private production of 2.4 percent, alleviated by the strengthening of 44.6 percent of the projects developed under the law 13-09 relating to renewable energies, explained the DEPF in its note of conjuncture of April 2017.

Morocco's trade in electric energy with #Spain and #Algeria (imports and exports) increased by 11.9 percent at the end of February 2017, driven by the increase in the volume of imports of 10.9 pcent after an increase of 17.8 percent the previous year, bringing the evolution of the net energy to 1.9 percent, after a 3.1 percent increase year earlier, adds DEPF.
With regard to the consumption of electric power, it rose slightly by 0.5 percent at the end of the first two months of 2017, after a 2.6 percent growth in the same period of the previous year.
The DEPF attributed this increase to the consumption of very high, high and medium voltage, which grew by 1.2 percent, taking advantage of 2.5 percent increase of energy consumed by distributors and a 6 percent increase by the industrial sector. By contrast, consumption of low-voltage energy fell by 2.4 percent at the end of February after a 1.7 percent increase a year ago, the same source said.

1 in 4 Moroccans Lacks Access to Health Care.

By Ezzoubeir Jabrane - April 26, 2017 Rabat

The World Bank 2017 Economic Memorandum has unveiled that more than 25 percent of Moroccans do not have access to medical care, exposing the inefficiency of insurance plans. The World Bank painted a bleak picture of the healthcare in Morocco in the current year’s Economic Memorandum. The report shed light on the system’s inadequacy, including small number of medical doctors in comparison with the population and the ineffectiveness of health insurance plans.

The Economic Memorandum underlined that around 25 percent of Moroccans (8.5 million) do not have access to medical care. Added to this, it revealed that there are 6.2 doctors for every 10,000 inhabitants, in contrast to Algeria and Tunisia, which have double that amount for the same number of inhabitants.

Also, while the global average number of beds in mental healthcare institutions amounts to 4.4 for every 10,000 inhabitants, the report stated that Morocco provides only one bed for that number.
The Economic Memorandum also spotlighted the insufficiency and dysfunction of  insurance plans in Morocco. Only 60 percent of Moroccans are covered by the Compulsory Health Insurance (AMO) and Medical Assistance Plan(RAMED) initiatives. This is not enough, according to the World Bank, which noted a lack of coverage for informal sector and self-employed workers.
The report also pointed out problems related to poor human resource management, absenteeism and corruption.

Morocco’s Largest Agricultural Fair Draws over 1230 Exhibitors, over 800,000 Visitors.

Morocco’s International Agricultural Fair (SIAM 2017), held in Meknes on April 18-23 under the theme: “Agribusiness and sustainable agricultural value chain,” drew an unprecedented number of 1230 exhibitors. Nearly 810,000 people have visited he fair, said Jaouad Chami, director of the 12th edition of the Fair, who was speaking to the press on the last day of the event.
The Fair brought together participants, exhibitors and visitors from Morocco and from 66 countries, including 19 African nations, he said, adding that 33 conferences and seminars, dealing mainly with agri-food and sustainable agriculture were held as part of the event.

SIAM 2017 celebrated Italy as a guest of honor and hosted 20 foreign delegations with the attendance of 15 ministers, Chami underscored.
Twenty-one agreements were signed during the fair, which has become a hub for agribusiness and agriculture professionals to seal deals and exchange experiences.
SIAM 2017 was also an occasion to showcase the headway achieved by Morocco’s agricultural sector and offered a venue for exchange with international actors in the field.

Mehdi Qotbi to Represent Morocco in International Heritage Protection Initiative.

By Morocco World News - April 26, 2017 , Rabat

Mehdi Qotbi, President of the National Museum Foundation, has been appointed by the King Mohammed VI as the representative of Morocco in the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (ALIPH). ALIPH was established in 2017 through a public-private partnership between UNESCO, France, and the Emirates to raise funds for safeguarding.
First announced in December 2016, fundraising was officially launched on March 20 at the Louvre Museum in Paris, aiming to raise USD 100 million by 2019.

Several countries have since answered the call, vowing to protect global cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict through financial and logistical support.
The former Minister of Culture, Amine Sbihi, stressed that Morocco would contribute up to USD 1.5 million. This financial support will be reinforced by the scientific and diplomatic collaboration of several countries. To date, the fund has raised $75 million of the planned $100 million. France donated $30 million, Saudi Arabia $20 million, the United Arab Emirates $15 million, Kuwait $5 million and Morocco $1.5 million. While Luxembourg pledged $3 million, and private donor Thomas Kaplan promised $1 million.

Switzerland bestowed $8 million in operational and administrative costs to help establish the fund’s first headquarters in Geneva, while Italy has promised to supply ALIPH with military personnel and conservation experts. Germany, China and Mexico said they would provide assistance by safekeeping the heritage objects threatened by war in their national museums.

Tara Kitchen brings taste of Morocco to downtown Troy


Downtown Troy now has a bit of Moroccan flavor, with the opening of Tara Kitchen. After much anticipation, Tara Kitchen recently opened its doors to the public, serving Moroccan cuisine at 172 River St. This is the second Tara Kitchen in the Capital Region, with the first opened in 2012 in Schenectady by Aneesa Waheed and her husband, Muntasim Shoaib, of Niskayuna. With two Tara Kitchens now up and running, Waheed said, “We’re just thrilled.”

“The feedback has been amazing,” Waheed said. “People are excited to have a different kind of cuisine in Troy.” The couple had been looking to open a second location in Troy for about a year before signing on with Redburn Development earlier this year. The former Infinity Cafe has been completely renovated to evoke the essence of Morocco for guests, with clorful decor and unique lighting fixtures matched with a clean, modern look to add to the atmosphere while dining. “Eating at a restaurant is not just about the food; it’s the entire experience,” Waheed said. “It has to be a full experience. It’s the service, It’s the ambiance. It’s the food. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.”

In the weeks leading up to the opening in Troy, there has been a lot of buzz in the local community. “You have an amazing following,” Troy Mayor Patrick Madden said during a Tuesday ribbon-cutting ceremony, noting that he already heard great praise. “We’re very excited to have you here. Welcome to the community.” With a substantial base of its Schenectady clientele hailing from Troy, Waheed said the new location brings the restaurant closer to them. “When we came to Troy, it just felt like home,” said Waheed, a former student at Russell Sage College

For those unfamiliar with Moroccan food, Waheed suggests trying lamb with honey, prunes and apricots, a meal she considers to be “quintessential Moroccan.” Customers who are hesitant about trying exotic ethnic cuisine can order more-familiar chicken or vegetarian dish. “We have a pretty extensive menu,” Waheed said., much of which is free of gluten, nuts, soy, dairy and sesame.
To start every meal, diners receive a complimentary taste of green tea with mint and honey. Beer and wine will be added to the menu soon.

Looking ahead, Waheed said they would like to expand next into Saratoga Springs, then New York City, with an eye toward even taking the brand nationwide.
Tara Kitchen also offers a line of jarred sauces distributed at retail locations including Price Chopper, Honest Weight Food Co-Op and Whole Foods. They are also available at the Troy restaurant, which currently serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
The owners hope to soon expand to include Saturday brunch, which isn’t offered in Schenectady. Brunch items would include omelettes with preserved meats and breads with honey and jams, as well as couscous, frittatas, Moroccan quiche and salads.

More information on Tara Kitchen can be found at or, or call the Troy location at 328-6281.

Five Gaps in Saad Eddine Othmani’s Five-Year Program

By Youssef Igrouane - April 26, 2017 Rabat

Morocco’s Head of Government, Saad Eddine Othmani, presented the country’s 32nd governmental program last week. The program consists of 90 pages and divided into five main axes, including “continuing the social reforms,” “consolidating the advanced regional,” “boosting the economy and sustainable development,” “fostering good governance,” and “strengthening democracy.”
However, observers view that there are gaps in the program.

Omar Cherkaroui, a political analyst, gave Morocco World News his assessment of Othmani’s five-year plan.

1 – Lack of Creativity
The new government did include any new axes in its program, which will apply throughout its mandate.  The same classical axes that have been initiated since the [alternation] government of Abderhmane El Youssoufi [from March 14th 1998 to September 6th 2000], are being repeated. The same topics are being repeated, health, economy and so on. The graphic design on the cover has been changed slightly. There is a lack of creativity.

2 – Boring Program, No Deadlines Were Set
The whole program appears boring. Its first page started with the continuation of reforms initiated by the former government.  This was expected, as Othmani’s coalition preserved the former governmental backbone in terms of components and ministers. In addition to the failure of  program’s wording  allow us to perceive the management of the government’s executive power in order to find that there is no compiling program and a unified line include the dispersed sectors of the government in order to be coherent. It appears the committee tasked with preparing the program had too tight a deadline to prepare a clear program reflective of the cohesion in the government’s political components and sectors. The program also did not set any specific deadline for the projects that will be implemented. This will prevent the officials from being held accountable in the future.

3 – Absence of Vision, Ideology, Parties Electoral Program
There is a lack of correspondence between the government program and the parties’ electoral programs, which they capitalized on only to court the votes of the citizens on October 7.
This is reflected in the absence of the trends and ideologies of the political parties within the details and orientations of the program, in addition to the dominance of the bureaucratic trend that contributed in the preparation of a hybrid program including leftists, Islamist conservatives, modernists, and Amazighs. The program also lacked balance and a systematic distribution of sectors within the topography of the government program. It has appeared that certain sectors, such as justice, finance, water, agriculture, equipment and education, have a clear vision, while others, such as employment, tourism, energy and minerals, look just like ink on paper due to an absence of a clear vision.

4– No Vision to Reform Ministers’ Pension and Compensation Fund
The controversial issue of the Ministers and members of the parliament pensions which has outraged Moroccan citizens was been mentioned in the program. The issue, which was criticized by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), has not been declared as a priority of the government to reform. The government has pledged to continue its reforms of the compensation fund and its subsidies of staple goods that have already been subsided. However, the program did not set a schedule for its reforms and it did not specify the goods that will be supported and the government’s process to deal with the issue. It seems that Othmani only attempted to reassure the Justice and Development Party (PJD), which sees this issue is as a barometer for measuring the legitimacy of the new government.

5 – Neither Diplomacy or Religion nor State of Emergency
The government’s plan for diplomacy, security and the religions is shameful.  It has appeared that the [inclusion and reversion of these fields for the King] in accordance with the constitutions have diminished any moving attempt of the government to act. It only expresses its unconditional support for the King in these fields.
The program also does not take precautions if the government fails to implement the program, and it does not include contingency plans if the government is not able to manage the political and economic situation.

18 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Morocco

A tale of two Kingdoms

Zaid M. Belbagi Wednesday 26 April 2017

In 1900 the world consisted of 70 sovereign nations, a fraction of the number that exist today. The UK and the Sultanate of Morocco, however, occupy a special position in that they existed as independent nations in 1900 and earlier. In 1213, backed into a diplomatic corner, King John of England dispatched an embassy to Moroccan Sultan, Mohamed Ennassir, proposing an alliance; over 800 years later the two Kingdoms endure and maintain excellent relations.

As a scholar of diplomacy, a bilateral relationship of such longevity between countries separated by geography, religion, language and ethnicity is striking. In a political exercise of the old proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” frequent wars with Spain or France brought England and Morocco together throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the early modern era.
For relations to have been established between the Plantagenet King John — whose own brother Richard I famously went on a Crusade — and a Muslim sultan is truly remarkable. This was an age when Muslims were, in the words of Pope Urban II, “a despised and base race, who worship demons.” Having been excommunicated from the Church following a quarrel with Pope Innocent III, his barons in revolt and the French threatening invasion, the king sent envoys to the Moroccan sultan requesting military assistance. In an extraordinary turn of events, some historians claim that the king even offered to convert to Islam in the event that support was offered and war was declared against France.

These early exchanges culminated in the establishment of formal alliances and frequent diplomatic missions with the emergence of a new outward-looking England during the Elizabethan era. As the king of Spain amassed a great Armada to invade England in 1588, Queen Elizabeth I sent an envoy to Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansour requesting a military alliance and special privileges for English traders. In complete disregard of a papal ban on trading with Muslims, strong economic ties developed as the English sold armor, ammunition, timber and metal in exchange for Moroccan sugar and molasses. The union was detrimental to Spain and a leading Spanish clergyman of the period referred to it as a further “evil devised by that woman (Elizabeth I).”

The striking figure of Abd El-Ouahed ben Messaoud, immortalized in an oil painting of the era, came to personify not only the confidence of the Moroccan sultanate overseas but also the importance of the bilateral relationship with England. A private secretary to Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansour, he was sent to the Court of St. James to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. The robed and perfumed personage of the emissary made some impression upon the court and its celebrated playwright, a certain William Shakespeare. Othello, the brooding Moorish protagonist of the Shakespearean tragedy bearing the same name, is believed to have been inspired directly by Abd El-Ouahed ben Messaoud. It is said that Shakespeare witnessed the procession of his delegation and was stuck by the character of the envoy, described by his Elizabethan contemporaries as conducting himself with extreme “ the fashion of the season” as he wooed onlookers riding his Arabian thoroughbreds through Hyde Park.

The strong relationship between the UK and Morocco is rooted in history. The close ties would only have been possible because of the broadly tolerant and entrepreneurial policies of both countries. In an age characterized by religious animosity, such stories of historical cross-cultural understanding are immeasurably important.
Zaid M. Belbagi

Relations developed as political union at home made the British more proactive overseas and Morocco, under strong leadership, took on a distinct identity as a regional trading hub. Toward the end of the 17th century, an interest in the Orient and the Arab word reflected itself in new library collections at Oxford and Cambridge as well as in other academic institutions. The Royal Society, established in 1660 as a learned society for the advancement of sciences, reflected the close relationship between the two Kingdoms. Two of only three Arab fellows appointed to the society were actually ambassadors of Morocco, Mohammed bin Haddu (1682) and Mohammed bin Ali Abgali (1726).

Relations were not always cordial. Mohammed bin Haddu’s ambassadorship was followed by a period of shifting alliances. Between 1661 and 1684, the English occupied the port of Tangier, which was granted to King Charles II as a dowry for his marriage to Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza. Interestingly the Coldstream Guards, the oldest infantry regiment in the British Army, saw their first international action in Tangier (the port’s name is still proudly stitched on their regimental colors). Forced out of the colony by Sultan Moulay Ismail, relations entered a new phase as the specter of French and Spanish expansionism led to both sides seeking to strengthen their alliance.

As the thin red line of British imperialism spread over the world, interaction between the two Kingdoms increased. Plagued by domestic instability and foreign threats to their sovereignty, successive Moroccan sultans hired foreign advisers to oversee reforms to the military and administration. Occupying positions of extreme trust and considerable influence, several British advisers played a key role in the history of modern Morocco. Gen. Sir Harry Aubrey de Maclean, otherwise known as Kaid Maclean, was hired as a military instructor and famously rose to prominence as Commander of the Sharifian Army under Sultan Moulay Hassan and Sultan Moulay Abdelaziz. In a position of unparalleled influence, Maclean was key to putting down successive tribal insurrections and was an important figure during the transfer of power between the two sultans. The Times published a profile of him in 1901, in which its correspondent noted that, however exotic Morocco might be, the presence of the “ubiquitous Scotsman” was reassuring and noted that Maclean was central to implementing the Sultan’s modernizing agenda. Sent to King Edward VII on his accession, Maclean became a crucial go-between during a high point in relations as Britain sought to keep French and Spanish colonial interests at bay.

The bilateral relationship between the two Kingdoms has persisted into modern times. With both countries sending some of their best diplomats as representatives, the importance of maintaining close ties is clear. Importantly, the close ties would only have been possible because of the broadly tolerant and entrepreneurial policies of both Kingdoms. In an age characterized by religious animosity, such stories of historical cross-cultural understanding are immeasurably important.
• Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator. He also acts as an adviser to private clients between London and the GCC.

Flavours from Lebanon and Morocco arrive in Squamish

Saha Eatery opened in downtown this month Kelly Ann Woods / Squamish Chief April 26, 2017

See more at:

Celebrating Moroccan Literature

By Morocco World News - April 24, 2017 , By Soufiane Khebbaz Rabat

This year, the Paris Book Fair, held March 24-27, decided to honor Moroccan literature. This is an event we have every reason to celebrate. Because, believe it or not, it is the first time since its creation that the Parisian Salon has given such a platform to a country from the Arab world.

For the past few weeks, I met many French journalists to discuss this event. Very modestly, most of them confessed a great misunderstanding of this literature. Often they admitted they do not know what to expect. Moroccan novels are very rarely featured in the French media and, apart from some very famous names, such as Tahar Ben Jelloun, Driss Chraïbi and Fouad Laroui, they feel unable to quote a Moroccan writer. “Moroccan Literature? Well, but what is that?” And then, they plunge into books, discover the biographies of authors, read interviews and many have confessed to me that they were astonished by the content of the texts, their freedom, even their crudity.

I offered Mohamed Choukri’s “Bare Bread” to a journalist who called me the next day, completely upset. He had inquired about Choukri’s character, watched the famous interview with Bernard Pivot, and he assailed me with questions about this author and his contemporary successors: “Can you write that in Morocco? You can talk about drugs, sex, and violence with such freedom?” I do not know what this journalist has imagined. Perhaps he thought that the Moroccan authors were content to write oriental tales, with lascivious eroticism.
If our authors are so little known, it is not without reason. Those who publish in Morocco often have very few spaces or forums to exist, to express themselves and to make themselves known, especially abroad. In his remarkable essay “I have only one language, and it is not mine”, Kaoutar Harchi explained through the case of “Meursault contre enquête” by Kamel Daoud how the transition from a Moroccan publishing house to a French one made a huge qualitative leap for the Daoud’s novel in terms of media visibility. It is a pity, but it seems to me that this case would equally apply to Moroccan authors.

Obviously, the other problem, if not the major problem, is that there are insufficient Moroccan readers. Now, a writer only lives and grows by their readers. They are the ones who make their books exist, who debate them, who share them, question them, transmit them. Unfortunately, and this is especially true for French-speaking literature, the circle of readers remains very small.
Part of the problem is the absence of financial resources, access to the language and a lack of involvement of the Ministry of Education on this subject. At the International Book Fair held in Casablanca in January, I was struck by the great curiosity of the public, its appetite for books. People, especially young people, stopped for a long time in front of different stands. They looked at the books, read the back cover, asked questions but then at the end they left a bit embarrassed, apologizing for not buying the books that were too expensive for their limited budget.
But I want to pay tribute here to all those who still live for and from the book in a country where there is no book policy in the strict sense. I met in Morocco, booksellers absolutely passionate, who love authors and stories and who spend their energy without counting to make texts known, to organize meetings and debates. And I have to say that every time I attended a debate or reading, I was struck by the attendance of the public, its interest and the quality of its questions.

We must salute the work of Moroccan publishers who struggle to continue to exist, to find authors, to give life to their texts and to value their work. I recommend you also the book of Kenza Sefrioui, “Le livre à l’épreuve, les failles de la chaîne au Maroc”, published by Editions Tout Les Letters, which raises the alarm bell on the situation of books and reading in Morocco.

Solar Energy – A HUGE Bright Spot In The Desert

In the middle of the Moroccan desert in the Drâa-Tafilalet region, a few kilometres from the city of Ouarzazate stands the future largest concentrated solar power plant in the world.
Ouarzazate Solar Power Complex began in May 2013 and went into operation in February 2016 on an area of 2,500 hectares. Ouarzazate which is widely known as a filming location for Hollywood blockbusters like “Lawrence of Arabia”,”Gladiator”, Prince of Persia”, “The Way Back” and other movies, is now the location of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant.

Energy from the sky
The new “pride” of Morocco and Africa is the fruit of a long-term national strategy to positively respond to the growing energy demand and the challenge of global warming by aiming at producing more than 40% of the Kingdom’s electricity from clean energy by 2020. It will supply more than one million people with electricity and avoid at least 730,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
The country has taken advantage of its desert areas which are particularly conducive to Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). The generation of electricity with solar concentrating systems is considered a future solution for producing renewable electricity. In fact, with only limited energy resources, Morocco depends on 90% of the imported energy for covering the needs of the country. This high dependence, coupled with the upward trend in oil prices, is a significant strain on the trade balance and the budget.

Consequently, Moroccan authorities took the initiative and, therefore, set up a solar energy plant, Noor, a four-phase project aiming at making the world’s largest multi-technology solar production with a capacity of 580 MW. Noor Ouarzazate is part of the national “Noor Plan” along with other sites: Ain Bni Mathar, Foum Al Oued, Boujdour and Sebkhat Tah. The whole plan aims at the establishment of an electricity production capacity from the solar energy of 2000 MW by the year 2020. The project also includes training, technical expertise, research development and the promotion of an integrated solar industry. It is part of Morocco’s 2010-2030 energy strategy with the objective to improve the country’s energy security of supply to sustainably reduce the kingdom’s dependence on the imported oil and diversify production sources through the use of renewable energies.

Four phases, one project
Noor Ouarzazate 1 is the first phase of this solar complex which was chosen for its exceptional sunshine, almost 320 days, the site spreads over an area of 480 hectares. The first phase of the Noor Complex consists of developing an IPP (Independent Power Producer) production project, covering the design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of a solar thermal power plant of 160 MW. Based on thermo-solar technology (CSP), with cylindrical-parabolic sensors, Noor 1 has a storage capacity of 3 hours at full power and can supply electricity to more than 600,000 people.

The second phase of the Ouarzazate solar complex project consists of the construction of two separate CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) stations with storage capacities. Noor II will use cylindrical parabolic troughs with a power of 200 MW and Noor III, with a capacity of 150 MW based on tower technology, thus enabling technological diversification in the CSP. Noor uses four techniques to keep the heat and transform it into electricity at different times: from photovoltaic to immediately, and solar concentrating that will produce electricity until 3:00 in the morning. The project concentrates the sun’s rays on a coolant that passes through the parabolic troughs. It warms up to 393 degrees, and even higher up to 565 degrees, with storage that can go up to seven hours.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI launched the works of the fourth and final phase of the solar power plant on 1 April. When completed, this phase will make the Noor project the largest solar thermal park in the world. The site is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to store electricity for hours.

A model for the whole world
When the plant is fully operational, it will be able to cope with continuously growing energy expenditure and will save 1 million tonnes of annual oil equivalent. On the side of greenhouse gas emission limitations so as to preserve the environment, the project aims at avoiding the emission of 3.7 tonnes of CO2. It will also be able to ensure an annual production capacity of 4,500 GW estimated at 18% of the annual national production. This initiative has known the participation of targeted public-private partnerships, both local and international, and more specifically the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), which is responsible for the implementation of the whole project.

The project was highly acclaimed during the latest United Nations conference on climate change in Marrakech. The World Bank has indicated that the Noor Ouarzazate complex is expected to reduce the overall costs of concentrated solar energy by 3%. The project is internationally described as a model to follow for all countries of the world, especially in the African continent that is most affected by global warming. ”

“With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting-edge solar technology,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb. She added, “the returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.

An ambitious project
Morocco is putting on this enormous project to reduce its energy bill, but also eventually export its electricity. With Germany as its first potential customer, it plans to phase out nuclear power in 2022. The cost of the project is about 3.000 billion Euros. Funding provided through a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement that brings together national and international institutions, including the KFW German Development Bank, which is the first investor of the Noor plant with a loan more than 800 million. Other investors include the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the Clean Technology Fund (part of Climate Investment Funds), the European Investment Bank, the French Development Agency, Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), and other private operators. It also benefits from a significant grant from the European Union.

The operation of this plant depends on the ability of successful transfer of skills from foreign operating companies to the local workforce. The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) is watching over the project and multiplying the efforts to form a real industrial sector in the Kingdom of Morocco. The objective, at long-term, to be able to duplicate these infrastructures on the African continent and participate in its electrification.

The goals of the project

Riads and road trips along the north coast of Morocco

Samar Al Sayed April 27, 2017

High in the Rif Mountains, my sister, my mother and I carefully tread the unfenced edges of a mountain highway road, trying to capture pictures of the blue panorama in the Chefchaouen Valley before sunset. It’s the only chance we have thanks to a tight schedule on a three-day road trip along Morocco’s north coast.

Getting here is a five-hour drive from Casablanca, where we earlier sat admiring the walls of one of the world’s largest mosques. No matter how much my family want to hang about in this industrial city a little longer – mainly dreading the "primitive" highway that my sister makes us sceptical about embarking on – I’m eager for something more adventurous.
Despite my sister’s warning, I soon find myself wondering how a country with a desert niche can be so lusciously green. It’s thanks to increased precipitation along the north coast, our local driver, Mehdi, tells me. As three women travelling together, we never considered taking the train because we had been warned about getting harassed; besides, hiring a private chauffeur cost us nothing more than the rental, petrol and a modest wage of US$70 (Dh257) a day for Mehdi, who ended up being our bodyguard, translator and photographer.
We have trouble finding any remotely familiar first-world comfort food at service stations, and are stopped by flocks of livestock and their herders at least three times on the way. But I relish time in a world still untouched by globalisation and international franchises.

As we drive up a valley, I’m baffled by a docile wedding procession along a highway. The bride, whose face is covered by a net, looks solemn and nomads around her are chiming words as if at a funeral procession. I impatiently ask Mehdi to pull over and try to take a photo, but I’m sternly averted by one of the men. I feel like we have invaded their bubble.
The air gets rather dry as we drive up to the landlocked city of Chefchaouen, within the valley. Scruffy-­looking children playing football in a descending, orange-­lit alleyway leer at us, out-of-­season tourists, as we wait to be guided to our riad on foot.

The different shades of turquoise – and sometimes purple – have us in a trance. Locals paint their houses blue to keep away mosquitoes, Mehdi tells us, which explains big bags of powdered paint at souvenir shops.

Unlike the luxury examples in Marrakech, the riads here have a primitive, cave-like feeling. I start chatting to the desk clerk in French, only to be stopped and told that Spanish is the main second language in the uppermost northern region of ­Morocco.

The next day, we sit on the terrace of a riad that serves food, warming our hands with our teacups, watching a teenager being paraded by police, as the townsfolk converge in the main square below us. It turns out that he’s a suspect in a murder case, and we watch the townsfolk gather around as the man is ushered from one cafe to another re-enacting the night of the crime.
Behind is a spectacular panorama: the mountain range so near that we feel like we can touch it; the peach walls of the old colonial fortress in front of us; the view of the medieval-looking town below us. A Christmas-style tree about 10 metres high stands tall in the middle of the square, dwarfing the green plains behind it.

We marvel at the different shades and flowerpots filling the ascending and descending staircases every few metres, thanks to the city being built on a mountainside. We’re gripped by one painted ice blue, telling Mehdi exactly at which angle we want our picture taken, as a frowning boy shields his brother from our lens.
The staircase in front of us offers a view of the green valley in the distance, juxtaposed against brown shutters and blue walls, but again, an old man in a hooded cloak carrying groceries shields his face from us as we take photos. Luckily for our photo collections, a bread boy carrying a wooden tray of dough balls on his head isn’t able to do the same.

On the way out of the pedestrian world, we pass the bustling weekend vegetable market. Cloaked Moroccan men and women haggle over piles of tomatoes, eggplant and greens, as the mountains and mist towers above them. I want to sit there and do nothing apart from watch people go about their day, but we need to make it out of the mountain roads, not for the spectacular views, but for fear of driving on winding roads at night.

It’s midnight in Rabat. Rain pounds onto our windscreen. My sister resents my insistence at staying at a riad even in the capital city. I soon discover that the old city where our accommodation lies is a bit of a ghetto, not an enchanting, self-contained haven to rival the likes of Essaouira, Marrakech or Chefchaouen.
Back we come to the modernised world, where homeless people sleep in alleyways and locals are nowhere near as friendly as in the rural villages. The riad we have booked to stay in is nothing like the ones we had previously seen either. This is majestic, with high ceilings designed for French colonialists. It has four bedrooms upstairs with a single balcony, all with wooden doors, and four on the ground floor, along with a blue, mosaic fountain in the middle.

By the time we check out, we have five hours to tour the city before we have to hit the road to Marrakech in time to meet other family members at the airport. With limited minutes, we try to ration our time within the 11th-century fortress walls of the Kasbah of the Udayas, but we can’t help stopping to take photos of the tiny neighbourhood full of locals living inside the white-and-blue painted alleyways of the Unesco World ­Heritage-listed area.

We head to the end of the ­Kasbah through a fortress door, and onto a terrace that offers a panorama of the old medina dotted with white ­Andalusian-style houses and surrounded by the ocean. This is the view I have come for, I tell everybody.

We cross the road to an old souq. The handwoven carpets and wooden wall hangings suspended from the shop doors keep us wandering for hours. From the exit, we can see the green valley extending all the way to the Mohammed V ­Mausoleum a short drive away.

Roman pillars line the courtyard outside. Inside, tourists take photos of the tombs of the late king and his two sons. The mausoleum extends far beyond the tomb area. We have an extensive photo shoot in front of a rustic copper door beneath green-peaked roofs, tiled fountains and domed sills. Outside the courtyard, two uniformed soldiers, atop horses, guard the fortress.
The rest of my family is too exhausted to explore the ­Chellah necropolis (admission 10 ­Moroccan dirhams [Dh4]), so I head there by myself. Although not well-­maintained, the area offers a different vantage point to the green valleys seen from the Kasbah of the Udayas.

I see ruins in the distance, but I don’t venture that far down to save on time. We have already decided to head back to the souq to pick up a wall rug that we regretted not buying during our initial visit.

My mother and sister might be moaning about the fast pace of the trip, but these quick glimpses of discovery and fascination, from one city to the next, with the feeling that we have to take in everything in finite moments, culminate in a real sense of the wider country.

The journey along the coast had taken us past weddings and scandals, weekly markets, flocks of livestock and a land so primordial that we felt like we were on another planet.
Despite the enjoyment of afternoons lounging and bonding in front of Atlas Mountains views, the bustle and momentary encounters in Rabat and ­Chefchaouen were undoubtedly the highlight of our trip.

Press Freedom: Morocco Ranks Near the Bottom.

By Morocco World News - April 28, 2017 Rabat

Morocco was ranked 133rd in press freedom out of 180 countries by the latest World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Morocco slipped down two places from 2016.
The index said that this low ranking resulted from authorities’ use of political and economic pressure to deter local independent media outlets from covering sensitive subjects. The report added that even international media members have become targets. The index, released annually since 2002, pointed out that Morocco expelled a growing number of foreign reporters in 2016 for lacking official filming permits.

Topped by Norway and bottomed by North Korea, the index said that in Western Sahara, where the Polisario Front continues to abuse human rights, journalists are threatened and prosecuted when they attempt to report human rights violations. According to the RSF, which published a corresponding analysis, two recent international major events, the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States, were marked by high-profile media bashing. The United States ranked at 43rd, falling two places, and the United Kingdom at 40th.
In Africa, Namibia topped the list, ranking 24th followed by Ghana at 26 and Cape Verde at 27

QUIZ: How well do you know Morocco?

Overflowing with charm and warmth.

2017-04-29 By Sarah Ahmed Shawky Contributor

Morocco overflows with charm and warmth. The North African country is home to numerous towns and cities that dot its exquisite landscape.
Do you think you know Morocco well enough? This quiz will test your knowledge.
Ready, set, go!

Morocco Makes Major Strides in Economic liberalization (Report)

April 28, 2017

Morocco continues to make notable progress in economic liberalization, according to 2017 Index of Economic Freedom created by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal.
The North African country, which ranked 8th in Africa and 86th globally, is benefiting from a commitment to economic reforms that encourage a dynamically evolving private sector, says the annual guide, measuring the degree of economic freedom in the world.

The Index covers 12 freedoms – from property rights to financial freedom – in 186 countries.  Algeria, OPEC member, ranked 47th in Africa and 162th in global standings.
The Index of Economic Freedom enables investors and decision-makers to track over two decades of the advancement in economic freedom, prosperity, and opportunity and promote these ideas in their homes, schools, and communities. In its analysis of Moroccan economy, the document says the policies adopted by Moroccan government to facilitate competitiveness and diversification of the productive base contributed to economic expansion averaging around 4 percent annually over the past five years.

Morocco is a strong reformer in the area of private sector development, adds the document describing the country as a key U.S. ally in the struggle against Islamist terrorism.
The 2011 constitutional amendments, which were approved by referendum, increased the power and independence of the Prime Minister and provided greater civil liberties, says the analysis.
In addition to a large tourism industry and a growing manufacturing sector, Morocco’s nascent aeronautics industry has attracted foreign investment, the document adds.

In the Arab world, the region has been suffering in recent year

s from low economic growth and plagued by a high level of unemployment. Since early 2011, many countries in the region have experienced socioeconomic upheaval or outright conflict, and outcomes have been far from certain. The lives of many ordinary people have yet to change for the better.
Of the Arab Spring economies, Tunisia and Egypt have shown the most encouraging results over the past year. However, Bahrain continues to be on a downward path in terms of economic freedom, and grading of economic freedom for Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen remains suspended because of ongoing violence and unrest.

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are the region’s two “mostly free” economies. The majority of the Middle East/North Africa region’s 14 economies graded by the Index continue to be rated only “moderately free” or “mostly unfree,” with the Algerian economy categorized as “repressed.”
Structural and institutional problems abound throughout the region, and private sector growth continues to lag far behind levels needed to provide adequate economic opportunities for growing populations.

Despite the outflow of crude oil, actual trade flows remain very low, indicating a lack of economic dynamism. Taken as a whole, the MENA region’s lack of job opportunities remains a serious problem, particularly for younger members of the labor force whose average unemployment rate is close to 25 percent.

LARB Radio Hour: Abdellah Taia’s “Another Morocco”; Gershom Scholem’s “Mystical Messiah Sabbatai Sevi”

By LARB AV -  April 27, 2017

In a powerful show, author Abdellah Taia talks with co-hosts Kate Wolf and Eric Newman about his new collection from Semiotexte, Another Morocco. He discusses his experience as the first prominent Moroccan author to come out of the closet, his love of Morocco, how he knew he would lose part of himself when he moved to France, and his bitterness towards French liberal society, which may be less homophobic, but is not tolerant of the young man he was in Morocco. George Prochnik, author of a new book about Gershom Scholem, returns to recommend Scholem’s magisterial biography The Mystical Messiah: Sabbatai Sevi about one of the most astonishing figures in Jewish history.

Spain: LGBT Asylum Seekers Abused in North African Enclave

Report from Human Rights Watch 28 Apr 2017 — (Milan)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) asylum seekers in Spain’s North African enclave, Ceuta, are exposed to harassment and abuse, Human Rights Watch said today. Spanish authorities should transfer them to mainland Spain without delay and halt its de facto policy of blocking most asylum seeker transfers to the mainland.
“LGBT asylum seekers who fled homophobic harassment and intimidation at home face similar abuse in Ceuta, both at the immigration center and on the street,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Spain should transfer them to reception centers on the mainland, where they can get the services and support they are entitled to.”

All migrants who enter Ceuta irregularly are housed in the Temporary Stay Center for Immigrants (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes,
CETI), under the authority of the Employment and Social Security Ministry. The facility, designed for short-term stays and with a capacity of 512 people, is often overcrowded. Despite staff efforts, asylum seekers cannot get the care and services there to which they have the right under Spanish law.

When Human Rights Watch visited on March 28 and 29, 2017, the center held 943 residents, many living in large tents set up on what should be a basketball court inside the compound, with others sleeping in rooms that should be used for classes or group activities. While the center is open, and migrants may come and go, they are not allowed to leave Ceuta, an enclave of only 18.5 square kilometers. According to center staff, currently 70 to 80 asylum seekers are in the Ceuta center, of whom at least 10 have filed for asylum on the grounds of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Human Rights Watch spoke with three gay men housed at the center, two from Morocco and one from Algeria, all of whom had filed for asylum on the grounds of persecution due to their sexual orientation. They described extreme abuse, including physical violence, by family members, repeated and widespread societal rejection, and physical attacks on the streets in their countries of origin. One Moroccan man said he had been jailed in part due to his sexual orientation. Both Morocco and Algeria criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, punishable by up to three years in prison and fines.

All three spoke of difficulties in the center and in Ceuta due to their sexual orientation. “Ahmed” (a pseudonym), a 29-year-old Moroccan, said he fled his country because he suffered threats from both his family and the police but that he is experiencing the same kind of treatment at the hands of other people staying in the CETI. “They [other CETI residents] tell me if they see me outside [the center] they’ll beat me,” he said. “They come after me, and I run. One time, in November or December, they hit me.”

LGBT asylum seekers are trapped in Ceuta by what Human Rights Watch believes to be a policy designed to deter asylum applications from all asylum seekers, except for Syrians, who manage to reach the enclave. Migrants who do not apply for asylum are given expulsion orders and transferred to mainland Spain at a target rate of 80 per week where they are placed either in detention centers pending deportation or in shelters operated by nongovernmental groups. Asylum seekers, however, are generally not permitted to transfer.
“Denying asylum seekers their freedom of movement to deter applications would not only be cruel and misguided, but also a misuse of power,” Sunderland said. “Yet, the evidence suggests that the authorities impose a terrible choice on people in need of protection, requiring them to declare their need and face months or years in limbo in Ceuta, or to take their chances and apply for asylum only after they’ve been transferred to the mainland with an expulsion order in hand.”

While some migrants may stay at the center in Ceuta four or five months, those who apply for asylum normally stay much longer, sometimes throughout the entire procedure for assessing their application for protection, a process that can last well over a year. Police in Ceuta carry out border checks and block asylum seekers who try to leave the enclave for mainland Spain.
In 2010, the Spanish Interior Ministry said that the asylum seekers in the enclaves receive documents allowing them to live both in Ceuta and in the other North Africa Spanish enclave, Melilla.

However, the ministry said that these documents do not in any circumstances entitle them to travel to the Spanish mainland. Although Spanish authorities do regularly transfer Syrian asylum seekers from the enclaves, the ministry does not appear to have changed its policy with respect to other nationalities despite a series of court rulings and recommendations from the Spanish human rights institute – the Defensor del Pueblo – and refugee rights organizations. Court rulings also have said that asylum seekers should have freedom of movement inside Spain.
“The situation of the enclaves, the European Union’s borders on the southern rim of the Mediterranean, is no doubt different than for other EU countries but that’s no excuse for punishing those who enter Ceuta to seek asylum,” Sunderland said. “Spain has the wherewithal to treat asylum seekers decently including LGBT people searching for a tolerant country where they can live without fear of discrimination or violence.”

Accounts by Asylum Seekers
“Ahmed,” the 29-year-old Moroccan, told Human Rights Watch that in his home country, “I couldn’t find anyone to protect me, neither my family nor the police.” He had been sentenced to six months in prison after he ran to the police late one night from two men beating him in the streets because he is gay. But life in the center in Ceuta, where he has been housed since mid-October 2016, is hard. “Here too they insult me, call me ‘faggot.’ They tell me if they see me outside [the center] they’ll beat me. They come after me, and I run. One time, in November or December, they hit me. It was an Algerian. He called me a faggot, he said ‘I’m going to kill you.’ The day before yesterday, I was in a friend’s room [in the center] and an Algerian came and threw me out, saying, ‘Hey faggot, get out of here.’” Ahmed spoke of his dreams of a new life: “I want to survive, I want a future. I don’t want to have to always think that I’m going to be beaten up…I can’t in Morocco, and I can’t here either because Ceuta is like Morocco.”

“Francisco” (a pseudonym), a 30-year-old from Morocco, had been living in the center for 14 months. He said that his family had kicked him out when he was 12 because of his sexuality. He had been raped by two men in a garbage dump while still a teenager, and beaten and arrested by the police. The last straw was when a cousin, with whom Francisco had been living after the cousin’s return after years abroad, turned against him after learning he was gay: I came to Ceuta. I didn’t have any other choice but to ask for asylum. But here it’s terrible. I am desperate. Ceuta is just like Morocco. One time I was at the beach, and a man who was a little older than me offered me a joint. I said no. He wanted to have sex but I said no, and he threw a rock at me and hit me. I went to the police. At first they didn’t want to take my complaint. They didn’t do anything. That man is always there at the beach…In the CETI I don’t talk to anyone, I avoid problems. If I didn’t, I would burst. You know, being thrown out of my home when I was 12, all the problems…

“Said” (a pseudonym), a 32-year-old Algerian, had been at the CETI for almost 10 months when Human Rights Watch met him: “I want to live a new life,” he said. “I need to forget my problems. I didn’t have a clear idea of where to go, just a place where I could live without violence. It’s hard here. You can only sleep and eat, sleep and eat. I avoid everyone here to avoid problems.”
A staff member told Human Rights Watch that other residents often “ridicule, harass, and attack” LGBT asylum seekers. “Many don’t accept sharing a room with a homosexual. Either they harass them here or they fight outside the center.”

EU Policy
The European Union Reception Directive, binding on Spain, requires EU countries to take into consideration the situation of vulnerable people when it comes to accommodation, and to take measures to prevent sexual assault and harassment in reception centers. Although LGBT asylum seekers are not listed in the directive among people considered vulnerable, Human Rights Watch agrees with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) that many LGBT people seeking asylum qualify due to the kind of persecution experienced in their countries of origin. In a 2015 report, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, noted that, “LGBTI persons of concern face a wide variety of protection risks in countries of asylum, including further persecution by authorities, host communities, family members, and other asylum-seekers and refugees.”
Best practices in reception for people identified as LGBT asylum seekers by such organizations include accommodation in single rooms, transfers to smaller centers, specific training for staff, and facilitating access to LGBT organizations and support networks.

These conditions cannot be met for LGBT asylum seekers at the reception center or elsewhere in Ceuta.
Nongovernmental organizations, the Defensor del Pueblo, and UNHCR have repeatedly underlined that the center in Ceuta, as well as the one in Melilla, are not fit as reception centers for asylum seekers. In a report published in June 2016, the Defensor del Pueblo concluded that these centers “cannot be considered appropriate for housing and attending to asylum seekers” and reiterated that the institute has drawn attention to “the lack of specialized assistance for asylum seekers and particularly for persons with special vulnerabilities.” UNHCR’s representative in Spain, Francesca Friz-Prguda, said in December that the centers “do not meet the minimum requirements laid out in European [asylum] directives” and “are not the place for people who arrive traumatized fleeing from war and persecution.”

Land border crossings to Ceuta have fallen over the past few years, despite some recent large group arrivals. In 2016, just over 2,000 people – mostly sub-Saharan Africans and some Algerians – crossed the land border irregularly. Fewer than 16,000 people filed new asylum applications in Spain in 2016, well under 2 percent of the EU total.

The Situation in Ceuta
Ceuta is just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Algeciras, entirely separated from its neighboring territory in North Africa by a double-layer fence topped with razor-wire. A triple-layer fence separates Spain’s other enclave, Melilla, closer to the Algerian border, from Moroccan territory. Irregular migration to the enclaves takes a variety of forms, including large group attempts to scale the fences, crossing in hidden compartments in vehicles, approach by sea, and through the use of fake travel documents.

Human Rights Watch visited Melilla on March 23 through 26, and Ceuta on March 27 through 29. Researchers were not granted access to visit the reception center in Melilla. At the time of the visit, approximately 880 people were living in the Melilla center, which as a capacity of 480. At least 350 asylum seekers were housed in the Melilla reception center, at least 50 of whom have applied on grounds of persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Moroccan government has coordinated security measures and border management with EU member states, especially Spain, since the 1990s, and the country is an important partner in EU efforts to externalize border controls. While the numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers reaching Spain from Morocco pale in comparison to arrivals to Italy and Greece,
EU migration cooperation with Morocco, driven by Spain, has provided a blueprint for policies pursued by the EU and member states since 2015 with other transit countries.
Bilateral readmission agreements between Spain and Algeria, as well as between Spain and Morocco, make it easier for Spain to directly return nationals of those countries from its enclaves.

Morocco adopted a national strategy in 2013 to overhaul national policies toward migrants and asylum seekers, including by providing certain basic rights. In 2016, the government granted one-year renewable residency permits to thousands of sub-Saharan Africans and to over 500 UNHCR-recognized Syrians. However, interviews with sub-Saharan Africans in Ceuta and Melilla in March 2017 indicated that police raids on informal migrant camps, destruction and theft of property, involuntary transfers to other parts of Morocco, as well as violence by Moroccan border guards, previously documented by Human Rights Watch findings, continue. Morocco does not yet have a functioning asylum system.

Spain has taken drastic border control measures in its enclaves, including summary returns to Morocco and disproportionate use of force by border guards. In April 2015, the Spanish government changed the law to formalize the unlawful practice of summary returns to Morocco of anyone apprehended scaling the fences in a group, a move denounced by numerous nongovernmental groups, including Human Rights Watch, as well as the Defensor del Pueblo, the UN, and the Council of Europe.

A challenge to summary returns in 2014 is pending before the European Court of Human Rights. On February 6, 2014, at least 15 migrants died attempting to swim to Ceuta when the Spanish Guardia Civil fired rubber bullets and teargas at the water. A high court reopened in January 2017 the investigation into criminal responsibility of 16 Guardia Civil agents, overturning a lower judge’s decision in October 2015 to close the case without filing charges.

Spain officially inaugurated border asylum offices in both enclaves in 2015. While Syrians and Palestinians continue to access the Melilla asylum office, many reportedly using fake Moroccan documents and by bribing Moroccan officials in order to leave the Moroccan side, no other nationals have ever approached the Melilla office. Since its inauguration, in March 2015, not a single person has applied for asylum at the Ceuta border office. The obstacles to exiting Morocco via the official border crossing leave many, including asylum seekers, no choice but to attempt to enter the enclaves irregularly. Once in Ceuta or Melilla, they can apply for asylum at a police station or at the CETI.

Human Rights Watch visited the well-appointed but locked and empty Ceuta border asylum office on March 29. The chief inspector in charge explained that a trained officer is always on duty, with a key, should anyone arrive. He added, however, that the office “is useless, it’s only to comply with a European regulation.” When asked why he thought no one had ever applied for asylum at the office, he explained that the Moroccans “shouldn’t let people through…they do their filter. It doesn’t make sense to have an office on this side of the border if Morocco can grant asylum, it’s not a country at war.”

Human Rights Watch has observed that the central Interior Ministry routinely decides not to allow non-Syrian asylum seekers be transferred to the mainland, while irregular migrants are transferred. Ricardo Espíritu Navarro, director of the Ceuta reception center, said: “It’s not the responsibility of the Ministry [of Employment] to draw up the lists of transfers. The Ministry of Interior makes its own decisions. They usually don’t transfer asylum seekers. They don’t transfer Algerians. I don’t know why, it’s not my job.” The director said he had convinced the authorities to transfer to the mainland, in early March, a group of Algerian women asylum seekers, including some who are LGBT, who had protested unfair treatment and length of their stay at the Ceuta center.

Human Rights Watch believes the prospect of having to remain in Ceuta indefinitely deters people in need of international protection from applying for asylum. Human Rights Watch spoke to a 22-year-old from the Central African Republic who, a month after arriving at the reception center, was struggling with the decision of whether to apply for asylum: “They say you have to apply in the first place you reach, but if there’s no place for me how am I going to do that? The procedure takes a long time, I don’t want to stay here.” Human Rights Watch heard from several sources about a sub-Saharan man who withdrew his asylum application after the police explicitly told him he would be transferred to the mainland if he did so; he was transferred a few days later.

The police regularly deny transfer requests by asylum seekers in Ceuta. Police orders viewed by Human Rights Watch cite Spain’s commitments under the EU’s Schengen Border Code to check identity papers and travel documents for travel from the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to other parts of Spain or to other Schengen countries, and assert that the applicant does not fulfil any of the requirements for entry into Spain “nor is there any exceptional reason of a humanitarian or public interest” to allow the person entry. The Ceuta National Police, through its media office, declined a Human Rights Watch request to meet with the head of the immigration and borders unit (Brigada de Extranjería y Fronteras).

Numerous Spanish court rulings have upheld the right of asylum seekers to freedom of movement within Spanish territory and ruled that preventing asylum seekers from traveling from the enclaves to the mainland constituted a violation of that right. Reiterating its findings in previous cases, the Sevilla Superior Court ruled in February 2015 that under Spanish immigration law asylum seekers enjoy the right to freedom of movement, irrespective of the manner in which they entered the country, and that the “exceptionalism of Ceuta resides in [the right of the police to conduct border] checks but not in a limitation not imposed by law. That the police can check [documents] does not mean they can impede the enjoyment of a right.”
The higher court found that the lower court’s decision validating the police denial of the possibility to travel onward from Ceuta amounted to “punishing irregular entry into Spain of someone who subsequently applied for asylum, which is at odds with existing legislation.”
Human Rights Watch: © Copyright, Human Rights Watch 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA

These postings are provided without permission of the copyright owner for purposes of criticism, comment, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and it may not be distributed further without permission of the identified copyright owner.  The poster does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the message, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Return to Friends of Morocco Home Page

About Membership Volunteer Newsletters Souk Links