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Morocco Week in Review 
August 30, 2014

Tough start to Morocco school year
By Hassan Benmehdi in Casablanca for Magharebia – 28/08/2014

The start of the 2014-2015 school year comes at a critical time for Moroccan families with modest incomes. Things may even be worse than last year, experts warn.

''The new school term this year comes in the middle of three periods of high expenditure: the month of Ramadan, the summer holidays and Eid al-Adha," noted Jamila Attourati, a journalist who specialises in social affairs. "And all of these occasions mean that parents need to have huge budgets."

Classes start September 10th for primary schools and the next day for upper and lower secondary schools. "This situation affects in particular people who have seen their spending power eroded by inflation and the rise in food prices, electricity prices and the cost of basic necessities," economist Ali Hafsi told Magharebia. "This is having a big impact on their wallets and is forcing them to take out loans to balance their budgets so that they can cater to the most pressing needs of their families and children," Hafsi said.

Mohamed Bouaalma, a hotel employee, has had to deprive his family of their summer holiday. "I have to save for the start of term, which is the most important thing for my children's future," he told Magharebia, adding that the school fees for his two primary school children will cost him around 3,000 dirhams. "Just a few weeks after the start of term, I'll have to find a way of buying the sheep for Eid al-Adha, which will cost 2,500 dirhams," Bouaalma said.

Abdelkader Ch'tioui is finding things even tougher than Bouaalma. With three children, he is relying on a bank loan to cover his expenses. "For me, as an employee earning 3,000 dirhams a month, the new school term is too expensive, especially the things that the kids need for school," he said. "As for Eid, I'm not even thinking about that right now!"

Jallal El Ziani, who is better off than both Boualmaa and Ch'tioui, works for a local travel agency. His wages "just about" enable him to lead a life without great financial difficulties. But he has been unable to save any money for over two years. "For my two children's school fees alone, I have to pay over 5,000 dirhams," he said. "During Ramadan and the summer holidays, I was spending over 20,000 dirhams, not including the usual monthly expenses on rent, food and transport," El Ziani added.

Nacer Abdou works for an agricultural co-operative. To cover all of the costs of Ramadan, August and Eid, he borrowed 30,000 dirhams from his bank. Even with this loan, he can't make ends meet. "Prices are becoming more and more expensive and when you have four children who are all at private schools, you really have to take precautions early," he said.

But under the guidance of Bank Al-Maghrib, which is worried about the loan default rate, banks have become very selective in granting consumer loans, especially for those with modest and low incomes, according to Noureddine El Meknasi, a financier.

Abdelkebir El Maati, a political activist, said that these cases point to "a worrying trend, especially at this time of socio-economic difficulties associated mainly with the fall in spending power, wage stagnation, job losses, inflation and excessive debt levels". He held the Benkirane government responsible for the decrease in Moroccans' spending power.
http://magharebia.com/en_GB/articles/awi/features/2014/08/28/feature-02
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Yunus & Youth Morocco Inspires Youth for Social Entrepreneurship. 
Monday 25 August 2014 - By Ismail Elouafi
Fez

Yunus & Youth Morocco has organized its second social entrepreneurship event in Fez, on August 22, 2014. This event is part of a national tour being held in the largest cities in the Kingdom of Morocco, including Casablanca and Tangier. The purpose of these events is to make young people aware of the importance of social entrepreneurship as a key to success for the social development of their community.

Yunus & Youth is a global movement inspiring young people to join, explore and pursue the unconventional paths of social businesses by understanding the business environment in Morocco. Through its program, including the national tour, trainings and online classes, the Yunus & Youth Morocco has shown its potential to reach young social entrepreneurs, leading their own social enterprises and to help them improve their capacity, ability and situations.

Sara Chellaoui, the Hub coordinator of Morocco, in an interview with Morocco World News, has insisted on the importance of social entrepreneurship as the main pillar to assist in the development of our country. She said: “Social entrepreneurship is very important and needed in Morocco, we have many social challenges that we can tackle effectively using this new concept of business.”  Her statement has made it clear that Yunus & Youth is envisioning a global network of young people implementing sustainable, social business solutions to fight the world’s most pressing social issues.

Internationally, Mrs. Chellaoui’s organization offers fellowship programs of six months to encourage and monitor young entrepreneurs to build their own projects effectively.  From 90 applications, only 17 young entrepreneurs have been offered this fellowship.  These projects will receive instruction and assistance from experts and specially trained mentors from Yunus & Youth.

During the workshop in Fez, Mrs. Chellaoui and the participants have agreed on the key points that are to change the mindset of Moroccans about the concept of social entrepreneurship and help to build a strong network. “For [the] Moroccan chapter, the challenge so far is to build a solid network of supporters around Yunus and Youth,” said Mrs. Chellaoui.

Judging by the grand efforts made by the participants of this program, the future social entrepreneurship looks extremely promising. However, more and more encouragement and support are required to transform Moroccan society from a passive consumption mode to an active one.  Morocco of 2014, needs this kind of enterprise to bolster and lead itself toward the ultimate phase of development. http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/08/137189/yunus-youth-morocco-inspires-youth-for-social-entrepreneurship/

 

Youth Social Entrepreneurship Incubator Tours Morocco
Makula Dunbar Published: August 25, 2014

Yunus & Youth Morocco has organized its second social entrepreneurship event in Fez, on August 22, 2014. This event is part of a national tour being held in the largest cities in the Kingdom of Morocco, including Casablanca and Tangier.

The purpose of these events is to make young people aware of the importance of social entrepreneurship as a key to success for the social development of their community.

Yunus & Youth is a global movement inspiring young people to join, explore and pursue the unconventional paths of social businesses by understanding the business environment in Morocco. Through its program, including the national tour, trainings and online classes, the Yunus & Youth Morocco has shown its potential to reach young social entrepreneurs, leading their own social enterprises and to help them improve their capacity, ability and situations.

Sara Chellaoui, the Hub coordinator of Morocco, in an interview with Morocco World News, has insisted on the importance of social entrepreneurship as the main pillar to assist in the development of our country.
http://afkinsider.com/69929/youth-social-entrepreneurship-incubator-tours-morocco/
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Moroccan Youth Groups Form 'One Voice'.
By Siham Ali Rabat

A civil council for youth organisations will soon be set up in Morocco. The project aims to will secure the place of young people in the process of ensuring good governance and participative democracy, according to organisers. A two-day launch meeting involving dozens of associations under the theme "one voice" wrapped up in Rabat on August 24th.

"This mechanism will be an opportunity for self-expression, meetings, exchanges of views, proposals and exerting influence to protect the place of young people in the achievement of good governance and participative democracy," explained Kristina Berge of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), which created the project with the Youth for Youth Association.

According to Imad Akka, who chairs the association's national bureau, the council will be independent of the state but will make suggestions to the government on youth-related socio-economic issues, particularly employment, education, health and transport. "The idea is that associations working in the youth field will be able to have an impact on public policy," he told Magharebia. "Up to now, no clear policy has been worked out concerning young people, except for the integrated youth strategy adopted by the government council last April, which will only start to be implemented from 2015," Akka added.

According to sociologist Fatima Talaj, the new council will allow ideas on youth issues to be brought out into the public arena. She said that associations were very active, particularly at the regional level, but they do not work as a network, which would really make their action count. Networking is a key element of achieving objectives regarding the various issues that worry young people, Talaj said.

"The civil council will be a real force for bringing forward proposals concerning various issues, such as youth employment. Today, the unemployment rate is worrying, particularly among the top ranks of young graduates. If civil society can be mobilised, then that could help to deal with this problem with a range of innovative ideas. Who better than young people to convince young people to sign up to continuing education and self-employment initiatives?" she asked.

Among young people, many stressed that the initiative would enable young people to talk with complete freedom about their aspirations and expectations.

Khalid Brahimi, 20, a student, said the council would encourage young people to engage in associative action and take charge of their own destinies. "At the moment, actions taken by associations have no effect on public policy, because the work of civil society is too fragmented," he said. "But with this future framework, we're expecting the impact of association networking to be perceptible in government strategies. In this way, more and more young people will see associative action as credible," he said.
http://allafrica.com/stories/201408280357.html
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Morocco Economy 2014: Recent Developments and Prospects
Written by: Editorial Team on August 25, 2014.

The Moroccan economy improved in 2013, with overall growth of 4.7% supported by good agricultural results. Indeed, agricultural value added increased by 21%, compared to a fall of 2.5% in non-agricultural activities.

The primary sector benefited from good rains and, therefore, from a very good agricultural year. Cereal production rose by 86% compared to 2012 with 20.42 million quintals at the end of October 2013, 99% of which consisted of common wheat. Thanks to the improved 2012/2013 harvest, cereal imports fell by 42%. As for other agricultural sectors, livestock farming and offshore fishing also experienced sustained growth, benefiting from sectoral public investment programmes, in particular the Morocco Green Plan and the Maritime Halieutis Plan. In all, the agricultural sector’s value added grew by 21% in 2013, contributing to nearly 15% of GDP. It should be noted, however, that unfavourable weather conditions and low levels of precipitation for the current year are expected to impact results negatively for 2014.

The manufacturing industries experienced weak and irregular growth in 2013. They contributed less than 15% to GDP and grew by 0.6% compared to 2012, with value added varying wildly across different manufacturing sectors. Certain industries – mainly the automobile and aeronautical industries – experienced significant increases in exports: more than 20% and 14%, respectively. Conversely, real estate, construction, textiles and leather had negative growth rates, having been strongly affected by the fall in European demand. The results for the agri food and pharmaceutical industries were more positive, contributing to exports. The reform of the Moroccan industrial sector, supported by the PNEI, helped revive and diversify the country’s industrial fabric. As of the time of this analysis, prospects for 2014 are positive for certain sectors, in particular for the automobile and aeronautics sectors. More specifically, the automobile sector has proven very dynamic since the inauguration of the Renault factory in February 2012. Its exports have grown significantly, to the point of overtaking textiles for the first time. In aeronautics, the other Moroccan high performer, activities are diversified across the whole value chain, covering everything from production and dedicated services to maintenance and engineering. Although it did not yet exist in 2002, Morocco’s aeronautical industry now consists of about 100 companies, including some of the biggest groups in the world, such as Bombardier, EADS, Safran, Aerospace and Aircelle. The industry employs more than 100 000 highly skilled workers and brings in turnover of more than 8 billion Moroccan dirhams (MAD), with an annual growth rate in turnover of 25% over the last five years.

Growth in non-manufacturing industries was very weak in 2013 and at times was even negative for certain sectors. Phosphate production, a stronghold of Moroccan industry, fell by more than 2%, reflecting lower external demand. Export turnover for the Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), the state-owned phosphates monopoly, was MAD 34.8 billion at the end of November 2013, down by 22% compared to 2012. This under-performance is due to the significant fall in sales abroad; if external demand rises in 2014, a recovery could be expected.

As for the secondary sector overall, growth of 4.5% is forecast for 2014, after a small rise of 0.6% in 2013. This recovery is based on three elements: i) a recovery in the extractive industries (5.6% in 2014 compared to 0.4% in 2013); ii) improved growth across all processing industries (4% in 2014 compared to 1.8% in 2013), in particular in the textile-clothing sector; and iii) a return to growth in the building and construction sector (4% in 2014 compared to -1.6% in 2013).

The tertiary sector continued to support Moroccan growth in 2013, but at a slightly slower rate than in 2012, reflecting the slowdown in the growth of value added in the public sector. For the most part, telecommunications and commerce were the basis for growth in value added in the tertiary sector. Thus, the development of telephony and Internet networks has been positive and telecommunication service coverage has expanded. Overall telephony stock was strengthened by a growth rate of 6.6% and 44.3 million subscribers, while Internet services rose by 34.7% or 5.2 million subscribers at the end of October 2013. As for tourism, value added continued to improve, reaching a growth rate of 4.8% in 2013. Overall overnight stays and travel revenue also rose by 5% and 13%, respectively. In 2014, the tertiary sector is expected to continue this pattern of growth at an estimated rate of +5.1%, boosted by strengthened telecommunications, commerce and transport. The tourism sector could also continue to improve slightly.
Excerpt from Morocco Country Note, African Economic Outlook 2014
http://www.afribiz.info/content/2014/morocco-economy-2014-recent-developments-and-prospects
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World Bank Announces US$100 Million Project to Support Skills Development and Employment in Morocco
WASHINGTON, August 26, 2014

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$100 million project in support of the government of Morocco’s ongoing efforts to boost employment and improve the quality of jobs. The project will focus on ensuring the skills taught in universities and vocational training programs match the needs of the labor market, increasing the efficiency of employment services and broadening their reach to disadvantaged segments of the population, promoting micro-enterprises while formalizing the employment conditions for the many currently employed by them, and reinforcing the governance of the labor market.

The Second Skills and Employment Development Policy Loan (SEDPL2) is the second in a programmatic series of two projects aimed at addressing employment. A principal aim of the SEDPL2 is to support the development of a clearer path from school to work. The reform of educational and training programs will improve the job prospects of graduates, by equipping them with the right skills, while more effective employment services will match them with available jobs. The project will also support government plans to expand the reach of the national employment agency, ANAPEC, beyond graduates, to offer services to less-qualified individuals.  Another policy initiative supported by the SEDPL2 will be to create a new legal status for self-employed individuals who want to exit the shadow economy and pay taxes, in exchange for a package of benefits; including access to credit and affordable social security. Finally, the project will contribute to improving the quality and availability of information needed to make employment policy decisions.

“Unemployment continues to be a critical development challenge for Morocco ,” said Simon Gray, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb Region. “The government is taking significant steps to improve how institutions respond to the needs of young people, in terms of providing them with the skills that are most relevant to the job market, as well as empowering them to create their own opportunities. We are pleased to be working closely with the authorities to support these and other efforts to boost employment.”

In preparation for the launch of the program’s second project, the government undertook a number of initiatives. These included the signing of agreements with thirteen new private sector providers of vocational training; the launch of a support program for Non-Governmental Organizations, which will be funded to provide training programs to out-of-school youth from disadvantaged backgrounds; the launch of an 18-month pilot program to extend the coverage of ANAPEC to non-graduates in five local offices; the adoption of a draft law to promote micro-enterprises; and the establishment of a National Observatory for Employment.  

As a result of the reforms supported by this project, we hope to see more people employed in more productive jobs with better working conditions,” said Nadine Poupart, World Bank Task Team Leader for the project. “The project also aims to reach a broad cross section of society, with equal access for women as for men and programs designed specifically for young people from disadvantaged areas.”
http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2014/08/26/world-bank-100-million-project-support-skills-development-employment-morocco
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Qatar donates USD 136 mln to fund agricultural projects in Morocco.
Monday 25 August 2014
Rabat 

Qatar granted Morocco a donation of USD 136 million to fund two agricultural projects in the Ouezzane province (north) and in the regions of Sous Massa Derâa and Guelmim-Es Smara (south). The first project concerns the irrigation of the Asjen zone in Ouezzane while the second one aims at organizing transhumance in the semi-Saharan and Saharan zones of Sous Massa Derâa and Guelmim Es-Smara.  The donation was the subject of an agreement signed Monday in Rabat by minister of Economy and finance Mohammed Boussaid and his Qatari counterpart Ali Sheriff Al Emadi.
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/08/137198/qatar-donates-usd-136-mln-to-fund-agricultural-projects-in-morocco/
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Qatar grants Morocco USD 136 mln to finance development projects.
25/08/2014 Arab News RABAT (KUNA)

Qatar on Monday offered Morocco USD 136 million to finance irrigation and pastures projects in the desert areas in northern, central and southern parts of the Kingdom of Morocco. The grant agreement was signed here by Qatar's Minister of Finance Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, on one hand, and Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Mohammed Bou Said and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Aziz Akhannouch, on the other.

Following the signing ceremony, Akhannouch said the first project would improve irrigation of 2,500 hectares, boost food security and combat poverty through varying plantations. The project, to be implemented in Wazzan, north- central Morocco, will also help boost farmers' income, making the best use of natural resources through drip irrigation, he added.

As for the second project, which costs USD 109 million, it targets the development of pastures and organizing movement in a total area of 16 million hectares in Sous-Massa Draa and Guelmim-Es Semara regions. It aims to improve the pastoral environment of the region and living and educational conditions for the people there, about 100,000 people.

For his part, the Moroccan Minister of Economy and Finance Mohammed Bou Said, referred to the bilateral ties as "a model partnership between two countries, which has witnessed a boom, especially in the agricultural sector." Today's grant is part of Qatar's contribution to a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) USD 5-billion donation to Morocco over five years, Al-Emadi said. Earlier today, Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane received Al-Emadi and both underlined the strong bilateral ties, especially on the economic level. http://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2393554&language=en
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Al-Adl wal-Ihsan Inside Morocco's Islamist Challenge
Vish Sakthivel (RPCV Morocco) August 2014

Across the Middle East, a critical question for regimes and peoples alike is "Are Islamists rising or fading?" Egypt under President al-Sisi is one story; Iraq and Syria facing the ISIS challenge is another.

In Morocco, the banned but highly influential Islamist opposition group al-Adl wal-Ihsan (Justice and Benevolence) is at a crossroads. The 2012 death of the group's supreme guide, Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, an inveterate adversary of Morocco's political establishment, coupled with possible internal cleavages and other political changes, has raised questions about the future of the organization that could have important repercussions for stability and security throughout the kingdom. Will al-Adl wal-Ihsan reconcile with the monarchy and pursue an increased role in Morocco's politics or will it suffer internal feuds and fade into political obscurity?

Although its course remains unclear, what is certain is that the group's popularity -- even clout -- will make it a player in Morocco's evolving politics in the turbulent years ahead. In this new Policy Focus, author Vish Sakthivel examines al-Adl wal-Ihsan's possible paths, their implications for the Moroccan regime, and the role this issue plays in the overall relationship between Morocco and the United States.

The Author

Vish Sakthivel recently completed a year-long Next Generation Fellowship at The Washington Institute, during which she focused on North African politics and especially Islamic political issues in Morocco, where she lived for three years. A former Peace Corps volunteer in the kingdom and fluent in Arabic, she received a master's degree from Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute with a concentration in Arab studies. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford.

Complete PDF version available here: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/al-adl-wal-ihsan-inside-moroccos-islamist-challenge
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The Islamic State Goes After Morocco's Islamists
Vish Sakthivel  ( RPCV Morocco) July 15, 2014

By criticizing Morocco's various nonviolent Islamist factions online, ISIS/IS members are attempting to plant the seeds of emboldened violent opposition in the kingdom.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) recently declared itself simply "the Islamic State" (IS), announcing a "return to the caliphate." And despite its nominal focus on the Levant and Mashreq, it clearly has its sights set on the Maghreb too. In a video released earlier this month, various members of the group denounced key Moroccan Islamist figures, highlighting the potentially far-reaching ripple effects of the crises in Iraq and Syria.

WHO WAS TARGETED, AND WHY

Surprisingly, King Muhammad VI, a perennial target of jihadist rhetoric -- most recently by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) -- was not mentioned in the IS video sermon. Yet the Moroccans who were chosen for reproach are hardly a surprise.

The first was Omar Haddouchi, formerly of the Moroccan group Salafia Jihadia. Over the past several years, in a bid to integrate radical Salafists, the king has shown clemency to imprisoned Salafists implicated in the 2003 Casablanca bombings, including Haddouchi. In turn, these Salafists have relaxed -- even reversed -- their criticism of the monarch (for more on this trend, see "Are Morocco's Political Salafists Committed to Peace?"). Haddouchi, in newly monarchist fashion, has often spoken out against young Moroccans' involvement in the "jihad in Syria." And on July 1, to demonstrate the illegitimacy of any allegiance made to IS "caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he also quoted a hadith of the Prophet that says "anyone pledging allegiance to a stranger without approval from, or consultation with, the entire Muslim community, is eligible for the death penalty."

In response, the IS video severely censured Haddouchi for joining the king in discouraging youths from joining the fight -- particularly when countering extremism and stemming Moroccan recruitment to Syria has been somewhat of a soapbox issue for the monarch on the regional stage. The video also complained that Haddouchi preferred to support "his democratic brothers and aid them in their distress" instead of backing "the initiatives of real jihadists." Two other Salafia Jihadia leaders -- Abu Hafs and Hassan al-Kettani -- were singled out for criticism as well.

In addition, the IS video inveighed against Morocco's Justice and Development Party (PJD), an opposition-cum-monarchist Islamist faction, referring to party member and Moroccan justice minister Mustafa Ramid as the "Minister of Injustice." This too comes as little surprise -- while the PJD has roots in the clandestine, antiestablishment group Shabiba Islamiyah, its members have abandoned discourse on an "Islamic State" and even sharia in favor of political participation, presumably under the conviction that they can take Islamic "small steps" from within. For his part, Ramid -- once a virulently anti-king figure -- has made various palace-aligned decisions as justice minister. A famous example came at the peak of the 2011 uprisings and government crackdown, when he sought to cover up torture by palace agents and publicly denied the existence of political prisoners in the country.

Another target of the IS video was the late Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine, supreme guide of the banned Islamist group al-Adl wal-Ihsan (AWI, or Justice and Charity). Formerly a ranking member of a Moroccan Sufi zawiyah (religious school/monastery), he was described in the video as inauthentic and as a "polytheist." This is a rather common accusation leveled against Sufis, many of whom seek blessings from local saints. This saint-reverence and pilgrimage to mausoleums has bled into mainstream Moroccan ritual, much to the chagrin of Salafists and other domestic extremists. It has also provided fuel to transnational Islamist groups seeking to discredit Moroccan Islam. Most important, Moroccan Sufis -- including Yassine, who sought to slowly Islamize the country -- have typically been unsympathetic and impervious to the literalist Quranic approaches of jihadist groups. As such, the decision to target Yassine is also unsurprising: although he was (and AWI remains) staunchly anti-king, believing that any monarchy contravenes Islam, even this stance is not sufficient for the IS.

THREATENING MOROCCO

Following the comments against Yassine and the other Islamists, eight Moroccan IS members appeared in the video. Speaking a mix of Arabic and Moroccan dialect (Darija), they warned that they "intend to bring jihad to Moroccan soil," adding that they are glad "to be in a capacity to aid the caliphate" and that they are "prepared to install this system of rule in Morocco."

Such messages are particularly significant for two reasons: (1) they confirm the group's exclusionary approach to Islam and Islamic governance -- while AQIM has primarily gone after the non-Islamist, "modern" Moroccan monarch, ISIS/IS has leveled criticism against Islamists first, portraying them as insufficient, inauthentic, even kuffar (infidels); and (2) they elaborate the threat that the IS poses to the Moroccan state and the broader Maghreb. For example, Oumou Adam Fatiha Mejjati, a well-known female Moroccan Salafi figure known as the "Black Widow of al-Qaeda," tweeted her pledge of allegiance to al-Baghdadi on June 29, recognizing him as caliph and conferring on him the title of Amir al-Mouminin (commander of the faithful) -- a label reserved, in Morocco, for the king. Some other local Salafists have followed suit. On July 9, Mejjati tweeted that she had moved to Syria to join ISIS -- a disturbing and telling development. Her husband, Karim Mejjati, was the late founder of the infamous Moroccan Islamic Combat Group (MICG) and was killed in Saudi Arabia. Figures such as these and their potential to influence other followers are likely what drove Haddouchi, a new palace counterweight against extreme Salafist forces, to speak out against the IS caliphate announcement.

While mainstream Moroccans have not been visibly moved by ISIS/IS, the group has covered all bases by attacking a broad range of local Islamist figures: according to its narrative, no type of Islam or Islamism in Morocco is haqiqi (authentic). The video clarified the group's intentions in the Maghreb and sought to turn Moroccan youths away from the many nonviolent Islamic/Islamist options in their country, be it the latest pro-king Salafist trend, the PJD's political route, or AWI's activist route. Citizens have already been recruited into several extremist groups fighting in Syria, including the majority-Moroccan battalion Harakat Sham al-Islam, al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and the IS, which boasts nearly a thousand Moroccan members (for more on such recruitment, see "Weathering Morocco's Syria Returnees").

The palace has yet to issue a statement on the IS video itself. The king's response will be telling on two fronts: how Rabat positions itself as a regional political authority, and whether it deepens its use of symbolic/rhetorical tools in countering recruitment and extremism at home. The king's recent decision to bar religious leaders from participating in any form of political or union activity may be indicative of the latter.

IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. POLICY

Given ongoing regional trends -- with dynamics in the Levant frequently rippling to the Maghreb over time, and instability plaguing the Sahel -- Morocco must brace itself for the possibility of an emboldened violent opposition in years to come. The Islamic State is increasingly operating on the hubristic assumption that a large swathe of the world's Muslims support its cause, further encouraging the group to expand recruitment in the Maghreb. Extremist groups have also burrowed into pockets of various countries in the region, and into the ungoverned spaces of the vast Sahel.

Maghreb countries hold strategic importance for the United States largely due to their relative stability in an unsteady region, their commitment to friendship with Washington, and their dedication to stemming AQIM's growing influence. Morocco, a key ally in this regard, is not terribly afflicted by domestic terrorism for the time being, but its citizens are being recruited to violent movements with disconcerting regularity. The number of Moroccans in Iraq and Syria has skyrocketed in the past year alone.

As such, while the IS footprint on this region may not become obvious today or tomorrow, current developments inside and around Morocco highlight the need for speedy action. In particular, Washington and Rabat must ramp up intelligence sharing on recruitment into armed extremist groups. The United States should also continue to assist Morocco and other Maghrebi governments on counterradicalization and other important preemptive initiatives, as well as on questioning arrestees about factors that pushed them to leave Morocco and pulled them into the Syria war. In addition, the palace could offer incentives to convince the swelling but still-manageable number of returning jihadists to abandon their lifestyle, countering the push factors that led to their departure. Finally, as recruitment is occurring primarily among radical youths, Washington could encourage the Moroccan government to boost voices like Haddouchi's, which might be used to drown out those of figures such as Mejjati.
Vish Sakthivel is a Next Generation Fellow at The Washington Institute.
http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/the-islamic-state-goes-after-moroccos-islamists1
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No Burkinis! Morocco hotels ban ‘halal’ suit: Women are banned from wearing a Burkini in Morocco . (AFP)
By Staff writer Al Arabiya News  Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Some private pools in Morocco’s tourism hot spots have banned women from wearing burkinis, sometimes described as halal swim-suits, which cover the body and have a head covering attached. Several resorts in the touristic city of Marrakesh have reportedly banned the burkini in their private pools, with many citing “hygiene reasons,” according to local news reports.

Mazagan beach resort, located in al-Jadida which is south of the economic capital Casablanca, told Al Arabiya News that burkinis are not allowed to be worn in the resort and that only “ordinary swim-suits” are permissible.

Local news websites have published posters used by the management of private swimming pools to inform users that the burkini is not allowed. One posted in Morocco World News came in three languages and says “Burkini not allowed” and “Bathing suits mandatory.”

This is reportedly even the case if the burkini is made of special swimming material.

Abdelaziz Aftati, an MP of the ruling Moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, sent a complaint to Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad, after a woman wearing a burkini was reportedly banned from a swimming pool in al-Jadida, according to  Morocco World News. Aftati told the press that it is unacceptable to restrict people’s freedom and their beliefs, saying the move signified the “rudeness of the new colonization.”

In 2009 in France, a 35-year-old convert to Islam threatened legal action after she was evicted from a public pool for wearing a "burkini."
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2014/08/26/No-Burkinis-Morocco-hotels-ban-halal-swimsuit.html
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Morocco. Below-average Cereal Harvest Gathered in 2014
27.08.2014

The 2014 grain harvest is concluded. Being largely rainfed, cereal production in Morocco is highly variable. Dry conditions in autumn 2013 slowed down wheat planting. Compared to previous year, about 15 per cent less land was planted to cereals. Despite generally favourable weather conditions later in the season, yields were not sufficient to offset the area reduction.

The Ministry of Agriculture puts a preliminary cereal production forecast in 2014 at about 7 million tonnes, some 29 per cent below the last year’s exceptionally high harvest, and 16 per cent below the five-year average.

Total wheat harvest is put at 5.1 million tones, some 10 percent below the five-year average and 27 per cent below last year. Total barley harvest, used mostly as feed, is forecast at 1.7 million tones, about 37 per cent lower than last year and some 32 per cent below the five-year average.
Wheat imports expected to decrease in 2014/15 due to high carryover stocks

Morocco relies heavily on wheat imports from the international market to cover its consumption needs. Morocco’s cereal imports in 2014/15 (July/June) are forecast at 6.275 million tons, seven per cent down on 2013/14, of which wheat imports account for 3.5 million tones. EU and Black Sea countries supply most of the common (soft) wheat while Canada is the traditional supplier of durum wheat. Lower import forecast is supported by higher carryover stocks, despite the below average 2014 harvest.

The Attijariwafa Bank, one of Morocco’s three major banks, signed a deal with Moroccan wheat trade federation to finance $300 million of Russian wheat imports in the 2014/15 season. Morocco typically imports from October to May (the start of the local harvest). However, wheat importers are seeking to establish a longer window for imports to take advantage of Black Sea exporters offloading large volumes at attractive prices at the start of the international marketing year in July.

In July 2014, the government announced that the common wheat import tariff would be lowered to 17.5 per cent (from the current level of 45 per cent) beginning from 1 September 2014.

Due to excess milling capacity in Morocco, limited quantities of wheat flour are exported to neighboring countries.

Food inflation remains moderate:

The food inflation stood at 0.2 per cent in the 12 months to the end of December 2013. In April 2014 (the last data available), there was no change reported in food indices compared to a year ago. In spite of the country’s high import dependency rate, the impact of the changes in international prices on domestic prices is mitigated by government subsidies of more than one million tons of “national flour”, a common wheat of standard quality used to make flour for the low-income consumers. The Government covers the difference between the actual price and guaranteed mill price. Durum wheat is not regulated.

The Government removed fuel subsidies in February 2014, narrowing the fiscal deficit from MAD 36.9bn ($4.4bn) in June 2013 to MAD 23.6bn in June 2014. A reform of food subsidies remains unlikely.
http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/morocco-below-average-cereal-harvest-gathered-in-2014
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Morocco Opens Electricity Production to Private Sector.
Wednesday 27 August 2014 By Ismail Elouafi
Fez

Due to the crisis of the National Office of Electricity and Water, (Office National de l’Electricité et de l’Eau Potable), the Moroccan government is endorsing a national project that privatizes the production of electricity in Morocco.

This project aims to allow private sectors to produce electricity needed to satisfy the population through transferring needed megawatts. They need approximately 300 megawatts to access their network and then transfer the needed electricity from the production spot to the consumers.

Privatizing this sector is a crucial action to solve the actual needs of Morocco. The government is taking appropriate steps by targeting private companies that can facilitate the task of producing electricity and stabilize the socio-economic development of Morocco.

Implementing various alternatives to solve the crisis, the national office, Office National D’electricité (ONE), has proposed to start working with the network of Smart Grid to minimize the electricity consumption and the costs of production.

The future of this technique is so promising in Morocco, based on the use of the renewable energy and the regularization of its consumption through including the consumers in these national issues.

The Swedish company “Ericsson” has stated its readiness to provide Morocco by this technique of Smart Grid which can solve the national need according to Stefano G. Coiro, sales development Director in Morocco. He said, “we are ready to provide all the Moroccan companies by this technology to facilitate its task of electricity production.”
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/08/137375/morocco-opens-electricity-production-to-private-sector/
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A’abidat E’rma Heritage Enriches Morocco’s cultural diversity
Tuesday 26 August 2014 - Fez

The city of Khouribga [75 south east of Casablanca] organized the 14 th  session of the National Festival of A’abidat E’rma from August 22 to 24, in collaboration with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, the Khouribga province, and the collective councils of Khouribga, Oued Zem and Abi Ja’ad.

According to the Ministry of Culture, such national festivals like A’abidat E’rma are programmed to represent the cultural heritage, the art possesses, and a gathering place where different masters and leaders of the art meet and perform. Many associations, researchers, and aficionados of the genre attend the festival, as well as the Moroccan Minister of culture Mohamed Amine Sbihi and the Chairman of the Municipal Council of Khouribga.

The festival was well attended during its three days, with performances by 38 bands, 34 of which are from A’abidat E’rma and four that are guests of honor, coming from different places in Morocco including the Sarba (from Casablanca), Nojoum E’rma (from Oued Zem), al Allama (from Khouribga), and many others.

The Moroccan artistic heritage is multifaceted  and differs according to the various areas of the country but not all genre of Moroccan music have been archived in the Moroccan art heritage repertoire. Some types of Moroccan Folk music are not well revered due to misperceptions about its roots and significance.  The knowledge of the heritage and cultural background of Moroccan traditional art enriches our appreciation of Morocco’s cultural diversity.

Who are A’abidat E’rma and what does their name indicate

A’abidat E’rma is one of the most popular musical bands in Morocco. According to historical tales, A’abidat E’rma refers to a group of people who were used mainly for security. They weres knights protecting the leader or the wealthiest people in a town when they went hunting in the forests. They have been in existence since the early years of tribal warfare and agricultural prosperity, when the leader of the town owned the most valuable property and no man was able to trespass on the leader’s property or ignore his commands. A’abidat E’rma were protectors, whose role was to obey the leader and give him as much security as possible outside the palace, and to entertain him.

As their name indicates, the term A’abidat E’rma is related to hunting. The word means “the servants of the hunter.” They were required to chase prey to make it effortless for the hunter to catch. This prey could be any animal, including rabbits, pigeons, gazelles, or wild boar. Hunters usually used guns, canes, and slings. Sometimes, the hunter made loud noises to scare the animals so they fled their hideouts and were distracted by noise and confusion. The A’abidat were the beaters who drove the prey, and E’rma were the people who hunted the prey.

After hunting in the forest, they spontaneously began singing and dancing, rejoicing the hunt’s successful conclusion. They used whatever musical instruments they had available, often agricultural implements.

These gatherings created their own genre of music, which has become an independent Moroccan art, celebrated each year through festivals. This music is now performed by a musical band of 5 to 8 members wearing traditional Moroccan costumes (Djellaba) and Moroccan leather slippers (L’balgha), singing and dancing to amuse the audience. They use many instruments, including Taarija, which is a Moroccan traditional musical device made of mud and hard leather, Moroccan typical tambourines (Bandir), and large iron scissors. They result is an amusing musical diversion.

They choose themes for their songs, singing about everything affecting their society, such as divorce, marriage, immigration and so forth. They use Moroccan Arabic (Darija) that might include wise proverbs, sometimes particular to each band of A’abidat E’rma. The head of the group or “mkaadem” is the member who sings most, if not all, of the lyrics.
http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/08/137293/aabidat-erma-heritage-enriches-moroccos-cultural-diversity/
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Images out of Morocco in art exhibition at Walter Reid.
Jackie Murray 26th Aug 2014

ROCKHAMPTON residents will experience two weeks in Morocco when they visit the Moroccan Odyssey art exhibition this week. The exhibition debuted last night at the Walter Reid Art Gallery with about 180 guests arriving to experience North Africa at the grand opening.

Three local photographers including Tracey Hardy, Mike Schurmann and Aileen Hubbard have showcased 100 photographs of the unique country and its culture. The trio travelled to the scenic location earlier this year to undertake a private photographic tour.

When they arrived home, they decided to share the photographs with the community.

Photographer Tracy Hardy said she feels like she is still living the wonderful Moroccan experience through the art exhibition. "When you are in Morocco you can experience four seasons in one day, there is nothing quite like it,'' she said.. "Now the Central Queensland community can experience it too." http://www.themorningbulletin.com.au/news/images-out-of-morocco-walter-reid-art-gallery/2361683/
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Morocco's Secret All-Blue City

A city high in the mountains of Morocco remained shut off from the world for almost 500 years. Now its labyrinthine streets decked in shades of blue are open to visitors.

Holland’s multi-colored hamlets are nice, there’s no place quainter than England’s yellow-brick Cotswolds, and Greece has beautiful whitewashed islands. But few cities can compete with the magical charm of a hilly northern Moroccan outpost that was kept locked away from the rest of the world for centuries and is painted entirely in shades of blue.

Tucked into the Rif Mountains, the bright blue city of Chefchaouen seems like a mirage, situated as it is in the middle of an all green-and-tan landscape. The city was founded in 1471 as a base for Moroccans to fight off the invading Portuguese, who occupied the coastal areas. Its remote and mountainous location, four hours from the sprawling metropolis of Fez, kept the city insulated and enabled its inhabitants to successfully fend off foreign influence, unlike its bigger neighbor.

In the following centuries, Chefchaouen became known as a refuge for Jewish and Muslim minorities leaving Europe, and, for half a millennium, it managed to stay relatively isolated from the ever-changing rulers of Morocco. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the walled city was finally captured by Spain and its gates opened to the outside world.

During the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century, many Jews and Muslims chose to flee across the thin Strait of Gibraltar separating Africa from Europe instead of stay and be forced to convert to Christianity. A good portion of these refugees made their way to Chefchaouen. Once there, the Sephardi Jews painted every building and home in the old city cool shades of blue, most likely because it’s the color of divinity in Judaism (although another theory claims it repels flies).

But the city had limits to its acceptance—early on, all foreigners, especially Christians, were barred from entering the walled city under the threat of death. It’s thought that only three outsiders—a French and an American missionary and a British journalist—made it in (and one was reportedly killed) in the late 1800s. The town had remained so closed off from the rest of the world that the visitors reportedly found its Jewish inhabitants were still speaking a 15th-century version of Spanish.

“Chefchaouen, shut off from the world for centuries, is almost absurdly picturesque.”

Locals spent centuries fighting off invading forces, from the Berbers to the Portuguese, but Chefchaouen finally succumbed after a successful Spanish occupation in 1920. Residents fought back and gained their freedom for two years, but were occupied again in 1926, and remained under Spanish control until Morocco gained independence 30 years later.

Today, the city is a dream for wanderers and adventurers. Chefchaouen’s steep, winding alleyways baffle even the most directionally astute visitors in the car-free old town. Vendors peddle a colorful array of goods: the country’s famed leather products, omnipresent carpets, and traditional woven blankets. Tucked away antique shops are piled floor-to-ceiling with dusty relics. Luckily, the cool mountain air dilutes Morocco’s normally stifling summers, since most browsing sessions include a curved glass of sweet mint-stuffed tea.

Chefchaouen, shut off from the world for centuries, is almost absurdly picturesque. Stairways painted blue connect covered walkways stuffed with small stores selling jewelry, scarves, and ornate pottery. When the shops close for the night, their blue doors add another layer of color and texture to the structures, which are constantly being repainted. Building walls are strung with potted plants, lined with sacks of fluorescent spices, and studded with ornately peaked archways and windows.

The central old medina, a calm place compared to the shrill sights and sounds of Morocco’s major cities, is lined with olive trees and restaurants offering tagines, peaked dishes of roasted vegetables, and meat served with couscous. The ancient Grande Mosque and Kasbah fortress line the main plaza square. Hotels arrange accommodations around a shared courtyard, as the traditional Moroccan architecture of the riad mandates. Down the hillside, a steep collection of streets turns into a bazaar twice a week, where anything from bike wheels to fabrics can be purchased.

In this northern tip of Morocco, surrounded by vast marijuana plantations that supply kif to the area, the vibrant city sits between two looming mountains, more open than it once was, but still an isolated escape from the country around it. In homage to this landscape, the town was given its name, “Chefchaouen,” which translates to “watch the horns” in the Berber language, a reference to the two goat horn-shaped peaks behind it that paint a dramatic backdrop for a little blue town of unparalleled beauty.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/28/morocco-s-secret-all-blue-city.html#
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Moroccan red lentil-bean stew.  
May 01, 2012   

Makes 5 cups - 4 to 6 servings

In Morocco, this well-loved stew breaks traditional religious fasts. Each household has its own version. This recipe replaces lamb or beef with plenty of white beans and red lentils. It's a satisfying, hearty meal.

If you're unable to find red lentils, brown lentils can be substituted. See the Variation for changes in cooking time.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
1 tablespoon hot water
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
6 cups hot canned chicken broth or vegetable stock (prepare using stock concentrate, cubes, or powder), divided
One 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup dried red lentils
½ cup uncooked basmati rice
1 tomato, cut into ½-inch cubes
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Few drops of Tabasco sauce, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the saffron with the hot water; set aside.

Add the curry powder, cumin, rosemary, and fennel seeds to the Dutch oven; stir for about 30 seconds. Stir in the saffron-water mixture and the vegetable stock, beans, lentils, and rice. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and rice are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the tomato, cilantro, and tomato paste. Season to taste.

Garnish servings with sprigs of fresh cilantro.
http://www.ktuu.com/moroccan-red-lentilbean-stew/12388278 ##########################################################

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