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Morocco Week in Review 
August 1, 2015

The Berber Language: Officially Recognized, Unofficially Marginalized?
Ursula Lindsey / 27 Jul 2015

Ten years after Tamazight—the language of the Amazigh, the country’s Berber population— began being taught in schools here, and four after it was constitutionally recognized as an official language, it remains unclear how it will be incorporated into education. The recognition of Tamazight has been very meaningful, a redefinition of Moroccan identity, says Paul Silverstein, an anthropologist at Reed College who has studied the issue.

Tamazight is the standardized version of the Amazigh languages. An estimated 25 to 30 million speakers of Tamazight and other Berber dialects are spread throughout the North African countries, from the Atlantic Ocean to Egypt. (See related story “In Algeria, the Berber Language Can’t Get an Educational Foothold.”)

In Morocco, a host of questions surround the place of the Berber language in schools: “What language is being taught? For whom? For what purpose? Is it purely a gesture?” asks Silverstein.

Amazigh languages (there are three main regional variants) are spoken by an estimated 35 to 40 percent of Morocco’s population. But North African political discourse, whether nationalist or Islamist, has long been hostile to the Amazigh language, perceived as a threat to national cohesion. For decades, giving children Amazigh names was forbidden in Morocco. Not recognizing the language spoken in the country’s poor rural interior was an effective means of discrimination that shut the Berbers out from participating politically, socially and economically in Moroccan society.

In 1994, King Hassan II came out in favor of teaching Tamazight in schools, partly due to a larger political opening and partly in response to the pressure of Amazigh-rights activists. In 2003, his son, now King Mohamed VI, put the initiative into practice. In the new constitution he helped create in 2011, Tamazight was recognized as one of Morocco’s official languages. Tamazight writing now adorns the facades of most public buildings.

But “there isn’t a real language policy yet,” says Abdeslem Khalafi, a researcher at the Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture (Institut Royale de la Culture Amazigh du Maroc, IRCAM). “There’s hesitation. Mentalities aren’t ready to integrate Tamazight and give it a chance. There’s a change in discourse, but not yet in practice.”

The king created the institute in 2003, and its researchers came up with a standardized written alphabet for a language that has many dialects and has been transmitted orally for millennia. Khalafi worked on the development of the new alphabet and new textbooks to teach the language. Creating a new alphabet was controversial in and of itself. Tamazight has historically more often been written in Arabic or the Roman alphabet. Tamazight is now only taught to about 12 percent of Moroccan students. Because of this, thousands of children whose first language is Tamazight flunk out of school, he says.

Khalafi and his colleagues at the Royal Institute believe that students should begin their education in their native languages—the Moroccan dialect of Arabic or whatever Amazigh dialect they speak—and then learn the standardized version. They are calling for six hours a week of Tamazight throughout primary and secondary education.

Those opposed to the addition of Tamazight to the curriculum argue that it muddles an already complicated linguistic landscape, and that students are better served by learning languages that can benefit them in the global economy. “It’s not the language of instruction that is an obstacle for students,” replies Khalafi, “but the [poor] training of teachers. Integrating Tamazight is a gain even for the other languages,” he argues, because studies have shown that “a child who is welcomed to school in his native language learns other languages more easily.”

Five thousand Tamazight teachers who trained at the Royal Institute are in the field today. Fatima Ibrahimi, who teaches Tamazight in a school in the capital city of Rabat, is one of them. Ibrahimi was trained as an Arabic teacher, but as a native speaker of Tamazight, she volunteered to be re-trained to teach that language.

Arabic, French and other foreign languages may be openings on the region and the rest of the world and carry professional advantages, says the teacher. But to teach those languages alone is a “materialist way of thinking,” she says. She believes Moroccans should learn Tamazight because it is part of their heritage. Pointing to an Arabic-speaking friend who sat with her during an interview, Ibrahimi said: “We’re both Moroccan. Why is his language taught in school and not mine?”

For many speakers of Tamazight, teaching their language is a question of social justice. His mother and grandmother only spoke Tamazight, says Khalafi. “It was their only opening on the world. Their whole life they couldn’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or make themselves understood if they went to a hospital.” Today there are some media in the Amazigh language. But courts, hospitals and other parts of the public administration still operate exclusively in Arabic.
When Khalafi was a university student, he had to argue with his advisor to be allowed to do research on Amazigh folk tales. University departments of Amazigh language and culture exist at the universities of Fez, Oujda, Rabat and Agadir, each with several thousand graduates.

Abdellah Bounfour is a researcher at the Centre de Recherche Berbere (Berber Research Center), which is part of the historic Institut National des Langues et Civilizations Orientales (National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations) in Paris. The center is the oldest and one of the very few to focus on Berber culture, linguistics and language; it cooperates with IRCAM and the programs at Moroccan universities.

Bounfour suggests it would have been better to focus on introducing Tamazight at the university level first. The introduction of Tamazight has largely failed, he wrote in an e-mail, due to general problems with Morocco’s underperforming education, the poor training of teachers, and the creation of standardized Tamazight that doesn’t correspond to any spoken language. “Teaching a language is a political, not a pedagogical decision,” says Bounfour.

One of Bounfour’s colleagues, Salem Chaker, has written that “the Berber language presents an inarguable scientific interest. It constitutes a veritable ‘laboratory situation’: a ‘stateless’ language, marginalized for the last two thousand years, in close and permanent contact with other languages, extremely rich in dialect but also homogenous over an enormous geographic area, presenting many original features.”

The decision to include Tamazight in the curriculum is important symbolically, says Silverstein, as “a recognition that being Berber is not something you should hide.” But “there’s a gap between the symbolic value of Tamazight and the pragmatic way in which Tamazight will be actually, functionally important for people,” he says. Even Amazigh activists and intellectuals do not generally work and write in the language. According to the Royal Institute, only 250 books have been written in Tamazight.

Silverstein doubts that the new education policy will stem the ongoing decline in Tamazight speakers. The language competes with English, French and Arabic, and when young people think about what they will need in the future, Tamazight often takes second place, he says.

Berber identity is more recognized than ever before in the country’s history, but this recognition is unlikely to stem the language’s decline.

The Moroccan Stigma Around Sexual Health.
July 27, 2015 - By Ida Sophie Winter

It’s 11 p.m. in the springtime at a hospital between Ifrane and Fes. A potbellied man in his 50s and a young woman negotiate payment for an illegal procedure. Hugging her, the man tells her to undress, and she begins to shiver. Meriem* a university graduate, wonders if this is a nightmare. He gives her a pill, injects her with an unidentified fluid, twice, and she returns home. Due to severe cramps, Meriem knows that this time, finally, the procedure will work. It doesn’t.

Meriem attempted miscarriage with pills. She tried injections. Finally, in a Rabat clinic, Meriem ended her pregnancy. Though she suffered no lasting physical consequences, the psychological and financial costs were significant.

In searching for an illegal abortion, Meriem was hardly alone. Morocco legalized contraception in the 1960s. Free condoms are available in public hospitals, emergency contraception retails in pharmacies, and abortions are legal if pregnancy threatens a mother’s health, and also in cases of rape or severe birth defects.

Education on contraception targets married people, though, and this represents a larger taboo in Moroccan society: here, premarital sexual intercourse is illegal and heavily stigmatized, according to France’s 2006 Emergency Contraception in Africa survey. While society considers premarital sex necessary to prove male virility and adulthood, 90 percent of women surveyed considered premarital virginity a “social duty.” Most men refused to marry a non-virgin, one likening women’s premarital sexual behavior to prostitution.

Nevertheless, many women begin sexual relationships. In a 2006 L’Economiste study, 34 percent of women surveyed reported sexual activity before marriage.
Unmarried women discovered as sexually active are shamed, and, if pregnant, can face ostracism and abuse. Perhaps consequently, levels of illegal abortion are high—between 130,000 and 150,000 procedures happen each year, according to a 2003 USAID study.

If contraception is readily available, why are there so many illegal abortions?

Ignorance regarding sex strongly influences unprotected behavior. The ECAF survey found unmarried women often began sexual activity without contraception, as reproduction was only briefly discussed in schools and overlooked in families.

In schools, many teachers refuse to teach sexuality-related topics to pupils younger than 15 years old. Some Muslim authorities dismiss premarital sexual education for single people, as clerics believe it encourages activity. Though the Ministry of National Education recently signed a bill to promote reproductive education in public schools, it is unclear whether this measure covers premarital sex.

It also fails recent graduates, who enter university unprepared for sexual culture. Students from some universities are able to easily avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections by accessing emergency contraception on campus and buying condoms in town.

However, like other Moroccan youth, they have little sexual education. Current sex education centers on the biomedical model, which introduces diseases, cures and prevention while largely overlooking psychosocial aspects of sexual behavior, like respect, which have a greater effect on student decision-making.
Dr. Jallal Toufiq, a psychiatrist and director of Salé’s Arrazi Hospital, believes students’ ignorance also comes from cultural silence.“This is a conservative society, and (students are) not educated (to) talk about their sexual lives… very easily,” said Toufiq.

New male students, says Mohammed, a former student, expect university to mirror an American Pie movie. They pursue numerous encounters, sometimes oblivious to safe practices. When asked what consequences single, pregnant students face, Mohammed indicates psychological burdens stemming from religion.
“Religiously talking, it’s forbidden to have premarital sex,” said Mohammed. “It’s seen as something evil… like she did the worst crime in humanity.”

Toufiq recalls a student who, to avoid parents’ involvement in her pregnancy, went on academic exchange and later left university.

Simo, a male student, says most of his friends have impregnated women and that, frequently, they abort due to familial shame. “Morocco is (a) very conservative society,” said Simo. “The woman’s) family will feel shame… I would feel merciful for her, because people are worms… the way they’re going to treat her.”

In addition to pregnancy and transmission of disease, ignorance can lead to risky situations. Mohammed recalls an overnight trip with a co-ed student group, where, despite sex-segregated sleeping arrangements, a man attempted to coerce a woman into having sex. Mohammed returned to campus with the women, rather than stay with the alleged offender. Unfortunately, he described sexual coercion as common among young men. “’I’ll be insistent until you fall down and do whatever,’” said Mohammed, characterizing how he believes young men approach sexual encounters.

According to Glorianna Pionati, a school counselor and professor, students have reported Rohypnol, a popular sexual assault drug, as common in town. ccording to Pionati, young female students are especially susceptible to sexual violence due to a lack of education.

Simo believes freshman-level sexual education can decrease risk-taking and increase knowledge about consent.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in order to create an effective sexual education course, high schools must focus on reducing behaviors that cause unwanted pregnancy and STIs. This can occur by reinforcing a clear stance on unprotected sex and adapting material to students’ cultures. Effective programs, according to the CDC, last 14 or more hours and work best in small groups.

If Moroccan universities tailor an effective course, they may help students avoid sexual issues. School administrator Abdelhamid Lotfi believes this is possible. He stresses that a well-designed course should include a cross-section of society, Islamic teachings and universal human rights.
“Sexual education… has to go along with what’s taking place in the social environment,” said Lotfi.

In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development declared access to health-care services and education as fundamental human rights. To help students realize their rights, Moroccan universities must focus on sexual education so students are informed regarding issues of consent, diseases, and unwanted pregnancy.
*Students were given anonymity due to this topics’ social stigma.
Ida Sophie Winter is an undergraduate student of journalism at the University of Missouri. During the 2014-15 academic year, she attended Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane as a Boren Scholar.

Building Skills That Build Societies in Morocco
Layla Madih07/31/2015

I had the chance to go to school and to graduate from a public university in Morocco. It was a chance to study, for a girl who is one of the few in her family to have gone that far. But, it is what happened after university that led me to dedicate myself to social innovation, specifically helping unemployed Moroccan youth. I hope I can convince other young people to make the same decision.

Years ago, with my university diploma in my hand, I was thinking that the hardest part was left behind. Nevertheless, the reality of adult life caught up with me: the future that I aspired to, was taking a while to come. Indeed, like any young university student, I wanted a better future and the starting point for me was to find a job. Typically, as any young graduate would do, I started sending my resume and cover letters, thinking that, "with my Master's Degree, finding a job will be easy. At the end of the day, who will say no? I am a Master's Degree graduate after all!" Big mistake!

Even with my degree, I started collecting "No's" and sometimes no responses at all. This situation had negative effects on my personality and especially my self-confidence. I started doubting myself, my university choices and my ability to work and achieve my aims. What surprised me was that it wasn't just my case; my friends and classmates were facing the same challenges.

To get out of this situation, I took a job-training course at a social-sector nonprofit. To keep learning, I started an internship there, even though the social field was not what I had in mind when I had started my job search in the private sector. Back then, no one told me that interning at the nonprofit organization, Education For Employment in Morocco (EFE-Maroc), would be a life-changing experience that would make me discover a real and deep passion for the social sector.

As an intern, I was not considered an accessory, which was the case for a lot of internships I had. Instead, I was a real asset to the team. This is what social businesses provide: from day one, I was involved in the daily work, and had real tasks for which I was held responsible for.

No matter what your diploma or your background is, once you step foot in the social field, you'll have to do your part of the job and be responsible for it.
After months, I applied for a job within Education For Employment -- Maroc, and I was fortunate enough to be accepted and to start working as a project coordinator.

Usually, when I say that I am working in the social field, people tend to think that I am working there during my free time, or it is just a fun project where there is no responsibility, no deadlines... and overall that it's not a "job." Well let me tell you something: working in social business is a job!

It's a jobthat offers more learning opportunities than any other field. It's a job where I have to challenge myself everyday, where I have to give the best not only for myself, but for others as well, and where I work for a cause. The learning process in the social field is efficient, and the professional experience can be larger than the one gained even in the biggest international companies.

In the social field, I've learned the importance of teamwork and also to be creative in order to find solutions. I've learned not to spare any effort to achieve my goals, because at the end, those goals are not about me, but about the wellbeing of others. It also has given me the chance to develop multi-purpose skills and to work independently.

Working for a small organization where each staff member plays many roles has made me aware and involved in the different areas of operations, and has given me the chance to meet different people and partners. This helped me improve my communication skills, learn to be a good listener, and develop management, leadership and negotiation skills.

I've had the opportunity to meet leaders and change-makers, and to be involved in international projects that improved the lives of many people. What is even more attractive, and this is what makes me more passionate about my job, is the impact that it has on others.

Waking up every day knowing that my job is positively impacting lives is the most rewarding thing I can have. I can see and feel this impact in the faces of the young alumni of Education For Employment who, thanks to our trainings, have secured a job and all of the dignity and freedom that comes with it.

How many people have the chance to see this? Working in the social field isn't just about fighting for a noble cause, in my case; it's also about doing what I love every day. I've shared tears and laughs, hardships and joys of our alumni. They are not just anonymous graduates or names on a database. They became my friends, brothers and sisters... they became my family. While working for a social firm, I started a journey of change and growth. But as they say: The best is yet to come! And I hope other young people will join me on this journey.

Morocco’s Wine and Cuisine Conquering America.
Sunday 26 July 2015 - morocco world news By Karla Dieseldorff Miami

We think of Morocco and we immediately picture amazing architecture, rich culture, savory cuisine, Arabic and Moorish influences amongst many other wonders, but do we think of Moroccan wine as a staple? Not really! However, we might have even cooked some Moroccan recipe from well-known Paula Wolfert’s “The Food of Morocco” and enjoyed the spice-scented bestila or even the famous lamb tagine.

The Los Angeles Times interviewed importer Didier Pariente, who for the last 10 years has been introducing to the US, the wines of Ouled Thaleb – Morocco’s oldest working winery. Since Morocco is a Muslim country and the consumption of wine is not a topic of common conversation, it has not been an easy task introducing the wine into the US market.

Pariente fancies Morocco’s wine and cuisine and he can be easily found enjoying a grilled sardine from a street stall in a Moroccan alleyway. S. Irene Virbila for The Los Angeles Times visited with Pariente while he pampered his relatives in their Los Angeles home. He shared his love for Morocco and cooked miniature tagine dishes held olives spiked with harissa, chickpeas seasoned with preserved lemons and carrots scented with cumin.

Pariente served a chilled bottle of Moroccan rosé scented with strawberries, dry with a delicate bitter on the finish. The Moroccan rosé is a blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 10% Cinsault. And at $14 or less per bottle it is quite desirable.

Virbila describes that for the entrées, Pariente brushed sea bass brochettes on the grill threaded with cherry tomatoes, zucchini and yellow bell peppers with chermoula, a marinade of olive oil with cilantro, garlic, paprika, cumin and a pinch of saffron. “My mother is from Fez, and this is her recipe — with a twist,” he says. Pariente is of Moroccan Jewish descent but grew up in France. Born with a natural talent to cook, he makes his own recipes.

While the brochettes finished cooking he broke eggs into a tagine pot bubbling on the barbecue. Like paella, you can cook tagine on an outdoor grill, he graciously showed.

Virbila notes that along with the fish, he poured a white wine made from the native Faranah grape blended with Clairette. “I call it a Moroccan Pinot Gris,” Pariente explains. “This is the wine they drink every day in Morocco.” Virbila describes it as lovely, ripe and round – an easy drink.

To accompany the tagine of kefta (beef and lamb meatballs) with tomatoes and poached eggs, Pariente served a couple of red wines, lightly chilled. The Cabernet/Grenache blend is fresh and spicy, but the Syrah is buoyant and refreshing, pure fruit, the very definition of a quaffable wine, the report tells us.
Pariente went on to add, “Morocco has a fabulous patrimony. Every trip there, I discover something new — a parcel of 90-year-old Carignane on its own rootstock or another vast old winery left behind by the French.”

California and its love for wine could not be left out and it is slowly venturing Moroccan wines at some Los Angeles-area restaurants’ lists. The report notes that the Syrah is on Patina’s wine list as a sommelier recommendation. L&E Oyster Bar, Bar Covell, Catch & Release, the Little Door, the Springs, Elf Cafe and Cleo are all pouring Ouled Thaleb wines. Moreover, these exquisites and colorful labeled Moroccan wines are appearing at wine shops, such as Buzz, Bar & Garden, Lincoln Fine Wines and Whole Foods.

America is discovering its love for these superb Moroccan wines, and just as Moroccan cuisine has seduced the US for many years…we have yet to learn and savor about these old-vine vineyards full of history and culture. This is without a doubt another great gift from Morocco.

Moroccan Olives Banned in USA Due to Insecticides.
Saturday 1 August 2015 Miami

The Moroccan olives loved by so many Americans have encountered a major problem. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has detected the presence of large amounts of insecticides and has banned the export of Moroccan black and green olives into the United States.

Maghreb Confidentiel reports that the olives in question are those exported by the French producer of olives “Crespo”. According to the US FDA, the “presence of too much insecticide chlorpyrifos” is what has caused the banning. Morocco is concerned with this prohibition ordered since last April and has begun to appeal the case. In order to do this, “Somia”, the Moroccan branch of “Crespo” has contacted US lobbying firm Mayer Brown. According to the report, American lobbyist Anthony “Toby” Moffett, former Congressman, works for Mayer Brown.

Known for lobbying for Morocco, Moffett was instrumental in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations between Morocco and the United States. An expert in agribusiness matters, Moffett held an important position at the American company “Monsanto” and has been recognized to know “agrifood problems perfectly”, concludes the report.
Reporting by Karla Dieseldorff

Magic in Morocco
Deepa Natarajan Lobo, July 29, 2015, International shores

They have always had the listeners in rapt attention every time they have taken the stage. Now, Bengaluru-based jazz band ‘MoonArra’ will be spreading their charm on the African continent too as they have been invited to perform at the 16th Edition of the Tanjazz festival in Tangiers, Morocco in September. The festival, that supports UNESCO’s 70th anniversary celebrations, has been billed as ‘Jazz of the Five Continents’ as it features musicians and artistes from Africa, Europe, Australia, USA and Asia.

The band consisting of Jagadeesh MR (composer, founder and guitarist), Madhuri Jagadeesh (vocalist, songwriter and co-founder), Prakash Sontakke (slide guitar player, composer and vocalist) and Karthik Mani (drummer, percussionist and konnakol) is visibly thrilled. “We had applied sometime ago and when we got a mail saying we have
been invited to perform, we were really excited,” exclaims Jagadeesh.

‘MoonArra’, meaning

‘three streams’, plays a fusion of Indian classical, jazz and world music. “We will be performing on the opening and closing day. We have a special performance at the palace with the Moroccan group ‘Gnawa Express’ on the last day. They play folk music and many European rockstars have collaborated with them,” he adds.

His wife Madhuri is very excited about listening to different forms of jazz. “I am always listening to jazz and now, I will be listening to jazz from all parts of the world. Throughout the week, workshops and jam sessions will be conducted and I am hoping to catch some of the workshops. I also hope that our journey would be all the more musically rich by the end of the trip,” she says. A part of their performance with ‘Gnawa Express’ will be spur-of-the-moment. “We will jam but won’t make it too long and boring for the audience,” says Madhuri. The collaboration is titled ‘India Meets Africa’ and Madhuri says, “It will open our minds to how jazz is in different countries.”

‘MoonArra’ even received a special letter of acknowledgement from jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who is UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue. “He has always believed that music can be fused and even if listeners don’t like it initially, he believes that they are bound to like it later, and I agree with him,” says Madhuri.

According to her, jazz is taking new proportions. “Musicologists say that jazz is America’s only true art form. Some also say that it’s American’s only original traditional art form. Yet, it is the most open form of music. The same way, we should not restrict our traditions and take them forward,” she adds.

Jagadeesh says that they are excited to performing in a place that is a “multi-cultural melting pot”. “It has people of African, American, Arabic, Spanish and French influences,” he informs. “We have played in South East Asia but this is the first time that we are playing in this part of the world. So far wherever we have performed, we have received a great reception and hope to get the same here as well,” he adds.

Moroccan Monarchy Enjoys Strong Religious And Political Legitimacy – OpEd.
By Said Temsamani  Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

King Mohammed VI is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and his family has ruled Morocco for close to 400 years. He is also constitutionally the Amir al Mu’minin, or Commander of the Faithful thereby combining religious and political authority. King Mohammed VI is lauded for his domestic reform policies and pioneering efforts in modernizing Morocco and countering terrorism. He tackles issues of poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion at home, and has improved foreign relations. King Mohammed VI is an influential leader for his control of the network of Muslims following the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, and as a leading monarch in Africa.

In Morocco, the monarchic regime had a strong legitimacy. Deeply rooted in the “Commander of the Faithful” status of the king, this legitimacy had been consolidated by the role played by the monarchy, first, in the fight for independence, and then in the semi-democratic system established after independence.
This semi-democratic system, then subsequently underwent substantial improvements beginning from the early 1990s, when the late Hassan II called for an “alternate government” to be formed by the opposition parties. The pace of these improvements accelerated with the advent of the Mohammad VI, who in particular encouraged the national reconciliation process which called for a radical reform of the judiciary, launched the “regionalization” process, and last, but not least, installed the “Economic, Social and Environmental Council” as a permanent frame for social dialogue and discourse.

All these improvements needed was to culminate in a profound reform of the constitution. It is the merit of the 20th of February movement, which finally precipitated and accelerated this reform process. Morocco has now certainly one of the most advanced constitution in the Arab world.

It clearly reflects the diversity of Moroccan society and culture, including recognition of ethnic Berbers and making their language with Arabic official state language. It explicitly mentions all universally agreed upon human rights. It particularly insists on women’s rights. It establishes a clear separation of powers.
But a constitution is merely still just a text when it is written. It needs to be enacted in the field. And this is where the role of political parties come in. It is in the end their responsibility to mobilize the people and to expand their participation.

In the final analysis, the reforms now extant in Morocco were just a beginning and it will take dedication, hard work, and greater involvement on the part of the parties and the country’s citizens, including 13-15 million young adults, before real democratization can be realized.

But a constitution and an election, while essential building blocks for democracy, are not in themselves dispositive.

What counts is where the leaders want to take this North African nation. Will it move inexorably to democracy? Or will it backslide with pressure from Islamist movements? That was the great irony of the Arab Spring. Its tragedy is that the Islamists, for whom Western-style elections are stepping stones to the eventual imposition of Islamic law, knew how to manipulate the democratic process far better than did their liberal rivals.

Setting up constitutional monarchy, Morocco has initiated a new governing style , that other Arab leaders could possibly follow suit and introduce key amendments to their respective constitutions that will guarantee real democracy, rule of law and freedom of expression. If these constitutional amendments have succeeded in countries like Morocco or Jordan for sure they can witness same success in other Arab monarchies.

The transformation of Arab monarchies into constitutional systems is a matter of when rather than if. The alternative may be less appealing to those in power today. Millions of young Arabs erupted on street calling for sweeping reforms. Some had to pay with their lives (or still are as is the case with the Syrians) others marched and demonstrated peacefully and luckily they had reform minded leaders in front of them. They answered quickly their demands and even went further of their people’s expectations.

Without urgent non-cosmetic reform the Arab monarchies will simply be kicking the reform ball forward. Modern Arab history has taught us of the ramifications of perpetual reform delays on monarchies. One year after King Mohammed bald decision to introduce key amendments to Morocco’ constitution, the Arab monarchies are in urgent need of such visionary leadership.

The 400 year-old Alaoutie dynasty traces its lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. It sees itself as a continuation of the Andalusian Golden Age of Islam, which was characterised by peaceful co-existence and intellectual and cultural exchange and development. King Mohammed VI exercises vast amounts of power and influence over Muslims in Morocco, throughout Africa, and the rest of the world. He leads one of the most stable constitutional monarchies in the region, which is also the center of a moderate, flourishing Muslim culture.

Morocco: The forgotten frontline of the migrant crisis
July 29, 2015 Joe Dyke

In Morocco, Muslims and Jews study side-by-side but for how long?
BY Madeline Gressel, Zoe Lake, Siyi Chen, Kelsey Doyle and Khadija Boukharfane July 29, 2015

For many people, Judaism in the Middle East conjures images of discord. But the Islamic nation of Morocco is an exception — it’s a place where Jews are not just tolerated but embraced in some circles as an important part of the country’s history and culture. Even before the arrival of Islam in Morocco, Jews called this North African coastal nation their home. About 400 years ago, the Moroccan Jewish community forged a strong connection and alliance with the country’s ruling dynasty, the Alaouites.

In the 20th century, persecutions across Europe brought new waves of Jewish immigrants to Morocco seeking safe haven. Their hope was not in vain — in 1940, when the Nazi-controlled French government in Morocco issued anti-Semitic decrees, the Alaouite Sultan Mohammed V rejected the racist laws. In one oft-repeated story, he refused to ask his Jewish subjects to wear the yellow stars. “There are no Jews in Morocco,” he reportedly said. “There are only subjects.”

Today in Morocco, Jews enjoy equal rights and privileges. One of King Mohammed VI’s senior advisers, André Azoulay, is Jewish. Morocco also has state-funded Jewish schools and Jewish religious courts. At the Jewish courts, called Bet Din, civil cases are heard and adjudicated by rabbis. Morocco’s Bet Din is the only such Jewish court system outside Israel, officially recognized as an alternative legal body and housed within the same complex as Muslim courts.

Despite the tolerant atmosphere, Morocco’s Jewish population is steadily decreasing. Although Moroccan Jews are largely free from the persecution and animosity that they may face in other Muslim nations, there was a series of suicide bombings on May 16, 2003 in Casablanca that targeted sites of Jewish life and killed three Jews.

Moroccan Jews have been flowing to Israel, Europe and the Americas for religious reasons, fear of persecution and to better their economic situation. At its height in the 1940s, Morocco’s Jewish population exceeded 250,000; today, only about 4,000 remain. The Jewish community has mostly abandoned its formerly vibrant existence in Moroccan cities like Tangier, Fez, Salé and Tetouan. Only the city of Casablanca maintains a significant population and is now the center of Moroccan Jewish life. Casablanca boasts 17 active synagogues, three Jewish schools, an extensive Jewish museum, and a community center that cares for the sick and elderly. But the mellahs (Jewish quarters) of other Moroccan cities stand empty or repurposed.

Because of the mass exodus, some in Morocco are racing to preserve the country’s Jewish culture and community. At the Jewish Museum in Casablanca, which is the only one in the Arab world, Muslim curator Zhor Rehihil is passing on the history of Morocco’s Jews to all who visit.

And American scholar Vanessa Paloma has launched KHOYA, an oral archive of Jewish sounds, songs and interviews that she hopes to one day make available to all Moroccans. “Even with all the imperfections that exist here, what Morocco has is amazing. I don’t want the future to lose that. I feel that it is imperative, it is our responsibility,” she said.

For Paloma, preservation is the answer. “In the next 20, 30 or 40 years, will the Jewish community still be here and thriving? I hope so. But we don’t know.”
This article and video were produced through the GlobalBeat program at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Credits: Madeline Gressel, writer/reporter; Zoe Lake, correspondent; Siyi Chen and Kesley Doyle, camera/ editor; Khadija Boukharfane, field producer.
Morocco offers spicy, colorful and lively vacation
ASENA E. ARIOĞLU ISTANBUL PublishedJuly 29, 2015

Morocco has long been known for palm tree-lined streets filled with the smell of saffron, a colorful night life and spicy cuisine. The country, also famous for the 1942 Hollywood film ‘Casablanca,' attracts tourists from around the world

This country boasts many sites included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list and attracts many tourists from all around the world. In recent years it has become a popular destination for Turkish tourists. Casablanca became famous thanks to the eponymous 1942 Hollywood film set in the city. The city is mostly adored for its streets decorated with palm trees, its coast on the Atlantic Ocean and the Hassan II Mosque with a 210-meter-high minaret. Casablanca was a Berber town in the seventh century, Portuguese in the 15th century, Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries and in 1907, the French invaded and remained under French control until 1957. All the cultures that have inhabited Casablanca have shaped the city into what it is today.

It is possible to get to Casablanca from Turkey on a direct, five-hour flight. Casablanca is composed of two parts - the historical area called the Old City or Old Madina and the modern part called Ville Nouvelle.

The Place de Nations Unies square, luxurious buildings and the Clock Tower, built by the French architect Henri Prost at the beginning of the 20th century, form the center of Ville Nouvelle. The center area is the Habous district. The buildings in the area contain modern features even though they were built according to traditional western Arabic architecture. With neat streets, green areas, commerce centers and shops, the district is one of the most important districts in Casablanca. The Royal Palace is also located near this district. Mohammed V Boulevard is in the north of the Habous Quartier. The most important passages of this boulevard are Passage Sumica and Passage du Galaoui, which were built in the Art Deco style.

The world's highest minaret is part of the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, built by the French architect Michel Pinseau. The minaret is 210 meters high and its mosque is located on a cape near the harbor on the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, in Morocco, places like Ain Diab, La Corniche, Anfa Region, Cathedrale Sacre-Coeur, Casablanca Twin Center, Musee du Judaisme Marocain and the Port of Casablanca are among recommended destinations to see. Casablanca is the center of commerce and culture as well as the center of entertainment in Morocco. Besides cinemas, theatres and cultural centers in the city, the entertainment organized by big hotels, which recreates the atmosphere of the tales of "One Thousand and One Nights," are tourist draws. The night clubs in the city are manily located in the Ain-Diab neighborhood. Moreover, water sports, golf, sailing and trekking are among the preferred activities by tourists. The Casablanca International Video Arts Festival and Jazzablanca are among the famous festival organized in the city.

Morocco's second most famous city is Marrakesh. With its maze-like streets, the part of Marrakesh that can be enjoyed the most is the Djemaa el-Fna Square. At all times of day, the square is filled with dancers, local rhythms, snake charmers, street vendors and colorful food counters.

Morocco's interaction with different cultures can be most seen in its cuisine. In the cuisine of Casablanca, the influences of Arabic, Maghrebi, Mediterranean and sub-Saharan African cuisines can be found. The main ingredient is fish and meat. A famous meal cooked in a cooking pot with many different spices is called "tajine." Couscous, "bstilla" and "harira" are also among the delicious dishes in Casablanca. The most consumed drink in Casablanca is mint tea

Morocco king calls for development of remote regions
2015-07-31 RABAT

King Mohammed VI has tasked government to chart plan of action to improve infrastructure, social services needed in remote areas. Morocco's King Mohammed VI urged the government Thursday to develop remote regions of the North African nation, in a speech marking the 16th anniversary of his accession to the throne.

"Despite the progress achieved by our nation, what saddens me is the precarious situation of some of our citizens in remote and enclaved areas," he said.
The king said he had tasked the government to chart a plan of action to improve infrastructure and social services needed in such areas as the remote mountains of the Atlas and the Rif and the Sahara desert.

Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad was instructed to map out what needs to be done, also in the fields of health and education, building roads as well as water and electricity stations, he said. Hassad has drawn up a study which indicates that more than 29,000 villages across the country are in need of development, the king said. Authorities have also examined the possibility of carrying out 20,000 infrastructure projects that would benefit some 12 million people for a total cost of 50 billion dirhams (4.4 billion euros,$4.8 billion), he added. The king also called for educational reforms in state-run schools to ensure a better future for Moroccan children.

Fasting enhanced experience in Morocco
Bethlahem Belachew July 27, 2015

My students in the Morocco classroom where I taught earlier this summer were puzzled. “Enti Muslima?” or “are you Muslim?” asked Walid, after I told him that I was fasting during Ramadan.“La” I answered, attracting half of the class’s attention.

With a puzzled face, Zakia asked why I wasn’t Muslim. As I was carefully crafting a good response, Aziz followed up asking “enti qafira?” I don’t think that I will forget the baffled expression of my students when I responded that I was neither a Muslim nor a heretic.

Ever since that day they always ask the question “so are you fasting today?” to which I answer, “Yes.”

Eto, our “village Mom” at Tarmilaat, prepared ftour and invited us. It was nothing less than a feast. I appreciate their frequent effort to label me in a way that is most convenient to them, and I am pleased to see that my presence in their lives and my actions evoke a certain question. In my own spiritual journey, I have tried to eliminate such a dichotomous view of the world, and meeting people from different parts of the world has helped me attain this position.

My difference of faith, tradition and even looks is question enough already to my students; consumed by lesson planning and grading, I had not acknowledged my mere presence as another instrument for learning. It gives me great joy in knowing that my students appreciate me enough to not accept the idea that because I am of a different faith, it does not necessarily mean that I am to be condemned eternally.

As getting to know me has made my students more or less sympathetic toward people who are different, fasting has made me more sympathetic and mindful of the people around me. During Ramadan, the pace of life slows down; people wake up later as they stay up late to have suhoor , the last meal before sunrise. It is not uncommon to see people laying in the shade as it is extremely hot.

As one might guess, it is illegal to consume food or drinks in public, it is not only religiously immoral, but also culturally unacceptable. Although my Moroccan friends and colleagues told me that I have the tourist pass, I found it difficult to go the university cafeteria, or eat in the car in front of our driver.
After much reflection, I wholeheartedly decided that I would be fasting the remaining three weeks of Ramadan, for both religious and moral reasons. I was never more wrong in my initial belief that Ramadan would hinder me from fully experiencing Morocco.

So far it has been quite the contrary. Partaking in this religious tradition has brought me closer to my friends, my students, all of Morocco, and I dare say, the Muslim world.

Bethlahem Mehari Belachew, born in Ethiopia, is a rising senior studying political science and French at Furman University. She also is working toward minors in Middle East and Islamic Studies, and Poverty Studies. She taught French in Tarmilaat village, Ifrane, Morocco, for the 2015 Summer Service Internship with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors, a program started by Creative Learning

Forest certification: innovating to ensure a sustainable valorisation of Mediterranean forest products.
Contributed by: AliénorEU

Desertification is one of the major environmental problems faced by the Maghreb. The sustainable use of forests in these countries would help mitigate and adapt to this global change. This is why forestry experts gathered in Barcelona to discuss opportunities and challenges brought by innovative solutions such as forest certification in the Mediterranean region.

In Morocco, 80 % of the lands are at high risk of desertification. To face this challenge, Morocco has made significant effort to address land degradation. However, forest management remains an important issue for the country. Indeed, in Morocco as well as in Tunisia, forests are of public ownership and inhabitants can use their resources for their own needs. Unfortunately, this legal framework has led to abuses and to desertification due to a lack of awareness regarding the value of the forest and its products and the need to exploit it sustainably.

Being able to identify a certified product issued from a Mediterranean forest as environmentally friendly and socially fair is key in the development of a market for Mediterranean forest products. The development of such a market would favour growth in the Mediterranean by attracting investors, and therefore increasing the interest of local stakeholders in using their source of income in a sustainable way.

'If, in the northern Mediterranean PEFC certification is well developed, it’s not the case in the south,' explained Sarah Price from PECF international. 'The MENFRI project is therefore a great opportunity to discuss how forest certification could help Mediterranean forests and their products to be better valued.'

PEFC is the world's largest forest certification system and it endorses national forest certification systems developed through multi-stakeholder processes. Their moto is 'Think Globally, Act Locally', ensuring that standards meet the expectations of stakeholders on the ground, address local conditions, and are consistent with national laws and regulations while at the same time meeting international benchmarks and being internationally recognised. In addition, PEFC certification covers the entire custody chain and includes social aspects such as workers' rights and welfare, local employment, indigenous peoples' rights, etc.

PEFC endorses national forest certification systems, therefore, national administrations have to develop national standards for sustainable forest use. While Morocco is reviewing its legislation to support public-private partnerships for forest management, Tunisia still has to launch this legislation reform to allow actual pilot projects already in place to become the rule on the territory. 'Certification will not be a solution to this urgent need for legislative reform,' warned Abdhelamid Khaldi, from the National Research Institute of Rural Engineering, Water and Forests in Tunisia.

'We need to show the advantage of forest certification to the administration so as to encourage them to set national standards. We have to demonstrate that forest certification can ensure an environmental, social and economically viable product,' stated Mrs Druget from the EU delegation to Morocco. She added that a four year programme was launched in 2013 by the European Commission to support the adaptation of the Moroccan forestry sector to new challenges, to promote territorial approaches and ensure the participation of local communities to the sustainable use of forests.

This demonstrates that many actors are on the ground developing strategies and pilots in order to find solutions for a bright and sustainable future for Mediterranean forestry. The MENFRI Network allows all these actors: researchers, forest managers, administration, cooperatives, investors, policymakers, etc to find a common platform to exchange ideas and build strong collaborations.

The MENFRI experts’ meeting was completed by a visit of certified forests in the Catalonian region. This field trip allowed southern actors to compare their own management with the local requirements in terms of forest planning. This exchange will continue, as MENFRI is also preparing training sessions in November 2015 in Morocco and in May 2016 in Tunisia on forest certification and innovation in the forestry sector for women empowerment to develop capacity building in the Maghreb.

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