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Morocco Week in Review 
June 17 2017

Next Step Travel's Inaugural Trip to Morocco a Smashing Success!

By Tim Resch

NST2017Rough Guides lists 26 things not to miss in Morocco.  Our trip did 20 of 26!  Drawing Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) from across decades, age classes, and countries of service, the group coalesced well, was flexible, and adventurous.  The first Next Step Travel to Morocco experience was a smashing success!!!

Traveling in a 17-passenger Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, we were agile and able to transit roads and medinas (older fortified sections of cities) whose narrow alley ways would be non-negotiable to large tour buses.  We kept to the planned route visiting the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Asilah, Tangiers, Chefchaouen, Moulay Idriss, Meknes, Fes, Ifrane, Azrou, Midelt, Efroud, Merzouga, Ouarzazate, Boulemane.

As a small group, we could stay at smaller boutique hotels and riads (converted palaces with central gardens, acting similar to bed and breakfast inns).  We did not stay at five star hotels, of which there are many in Morocco, but were content with the simplicity (and cost) of three and four star accommodations.  Driven by the Morocco RPCVs search for their favorite foods of Morocco’s famous cuisine, we commissioned feasts and comfort foods and reveled in the street foods and snacks available and in season. 

We visited four UNESCO World Heritage sites (the ancient Roman city of Volubilis, the Fes El Bali Medina, the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou and the Jemaa el Fna square of Marrakesh).  We walked the medinas of several cities, bought rugs, textiles, spices, pottery, and argan oil cosmetics, hiked the palmeries and watched the world go by in sidewalk cafes sipping mint-infused tea. 

What differentiated this trip experience from that of the circa 10 million other tourists visiting Morocco annually was the Peace Corps connection.  On arrival in Rabat, we were briefed on Morocco’s economic foundation, path to sustainable development, and governance by Dr. Youssef Ben Meir, President of the NPCA Affiliate Group, the High Atlas Foundation and Marrakech, Morocco RPCV 93-95.  The following morning, we visited the Peace Corps office in Rabat hosted by Morocco RPCV Doug Teschner (Sale, Morocco 71-73) now serving as a Senior Advisor to Peace Corps Morocco during a staff transition. 

The next day we toured the American Legation in Tangier, the US Embassy equivalent in Morocco for 140 years, the only National Historic Trust property outside of the US and home of the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM) and were hosted by the Director, John Davison (Berkane, Morocco 83-85).  In Tangier, we also met with the Director of the American Language Center in Tangier

Continuing the Peace Corps connection program, in Meknes at lunch we had discussions with a Moroccan political expert and later by the Director of the Meknes American Language Center. We were joined at dinner by two Moroccan millennials with experience working with Peace Corps trainees and volunteers who were fluent in English. We also met with an ambitious American student of Arabic on a Department of State fellowship. 

In Marrakech at dinner at the “Peace Corps” Hotel Toulousain, we were joined by the librarian of the American School of Marrakech (and Morocco RPCV 95-97) and her husband, the Director of the Amal Women’s Center.  On our second day in Marrakech we visited the office of the Moroccan NGO, Project Soar, which supports girls’ education and is staffed by Morocco PCVs and RPCVs. On our second night in Marrakech in addition to Project Soar staff, we were joined at dinner by a Morocco RPCV 82-86 doing short-term volunteer work with the High Atlas Foundation and a Morocco RPCV 82-84 now retired and living in Marrakech. 

The trip was supported by Kristy of Morocco, a one-women travel agency, who arranged and guided our tour.  Kristy was a PCV in Essaouira 82-84 and never left Morocco.  She worked first in the Moroccan craft industry designing bags and belts and later led adventure camel and biking tours for more than 20 years.  She has led more than 200 trips in Morocco and was familiar with our lodging and restaurant choices.   Tim Resch, President of Friends of Morocco and RPCV 1970-1974 Ouezzane and Rabat, Morocco, developed the program for Peace Corps connections. 

NST's encore trip to Morocco, October 8-21, 2017 is at capacity and registration is open for sping and fall trips in 2018. Visit Next Step Travel Morocco for details.

About the author: Tim Resch served as a PCV in Morocco and is the President of Friends of Morocco and the group leader of the NST Morocco trips. Tim can be reached at

Al Hoceima Protests: Morocco’s Choice Between Perpetuating Injustice or Pursuing Progress.

By Hicham Zerhouni - June 3, 2017 , Chicago

Nasser Zefzafi, who has emerged as a leader during the recent six months of protests in Al Hoceima, was recently arrested and charged with threatening national security, among other alleged crimes.
His arrest comes amidst protests by people in the northern Rif region of Morocco against corruption, poor infrastructure, and lack of economic opportunities, since the death of Mouhcine Fikri, a fish seller, in October 2016.

Fikri was crushed to death in a garbage truck while resisting police who had confiscated his fish and disposed of it in the truck. The protesters are not only asking the government for justice, but they are calling for a university for the region, economic projects, and an oncology hospital to enable the region to overcome decades of systematic marginalization by the state. The region is a predominantly Berber area that fiercely resisted both the Spanish and French colonization and has had a tense relationship with the Moroccan government for decades.

In the early 1920s, the Spanish, later joined by the French colonial regime, faced fierce resistance by the people of the Rif region, “Riffians,” under the leadership of Mohammad Ibn ‘Abd El-Karim El-Khattabi. El-Khattabi mobilized the Berber tribes to fight against the colonizers. During the Rif War of 1921-1927, the Spanish Army of Africa dropped chemical and toxic gases such as mustard gas and phosgene on civilians, rivers, and agricultural land in the Rif. El-Khattabi, whose memory is highly respected and honored in the region, later surrendered and died in exile in Egypt in 1963.
Riffian resistance continued throughout the subsequent years and intensified again after Morocco’s independence.  When Morocco became independent in 1956, the French-educated Moroccan elites, who mainly hailed from the Istiqlal Party, tried to impose French and Arabic language on the people of the Rif region, who predominately spoke Riffian and Spanish.

The Riffians perceived the French-system domination of everyday life — including language, government administration, and professional settings — as a form of cultural recolonization, which they rejected and resisted. In 1958 the Riffians presented the late King Mohammed V, the grandfather of the current King Mohammed VI, with a list of 18 demands. The list included the return of El-Khattabi from exile, political and administrative reforms, self-governance, schools, and infrastructure for the region. The government ignored their demands and as a result, discontent turned into wide-spread civil disobedience leading to The Rif Revolt of 1957-1959.

Mohammed Sellam Amzian led the Rif Revolt along with others who had kept their military training, weapons, and organization since their resistance against the colonizers. The uprising was eventually crushed by the late King Hassan II, who was the crown prince at the time, along with the notoriously violent General Oufkir. In an attempt to establish order and reaffirm the authority of the central government, the military descended on the region with 20,000 troops.

There were reports of severe human rights violations and injustices done by the Moroccan military during that period, though there is very little documentation of these abuses. Despite the lack of documentation, the collective memory of the Riffians is full of stories of rape, torture, kidnapping, and unlawful detention committed by the soldiers. Since that time, the region has been marginalized and almost completely excluded from economic and human development.

In 2004, King Mohammed VI established the Equity and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to address the grievances of survivors of the crimes committed during the Years of Lead, including incidents that happened during the Rif Revolt. The Years of Lead were a period in Moroccan history marked by violence against dissidents and democracy activists under King Hassan II. Despite the efforts toward reconciliation, many people in the region still recall what happened during that time and the region remains marginalized.

For the last seven months, the Riffians have staged peaceful demonstrations challenging the historic and systemic marginalization they have experienced. There have been few clashes with security forces throughout the months of protest, and approximately 40 protestors and organizers have been arrested Out of this continuous popular protest or “Hirak,” a new leader has emerged, Nasser Zefzafi. Zefzafi is a young Riffian from the city of al Hoceima with only a modest high school education, but a growing following.

Zefzafi has become a strong voice demanding reform and calling for Morocco’s King to intervene directly to solve the region’s long-standing issues. Zefzafi has expressly called for the King’s intervention due to the Rif community’s distrust of the elected and appointed, and often corrupt, officials who are supposed to represent the region.

Moroccans have expressed their support for the Rif region’s demands by holding solidarity marches across several cities throughout Morocco. The demands of the Riffians are considered legitimate by the majority of Moroccans.  However, their slogans, flags, and signs have caused concern among the authorities and a small segment of Moroccan society who fear they are challenging Moroccan sovereignty. During the marches, instead of flying the Moroccan flag, the protestors have waved the Amazigh (Berber) flag and the Historical Rif Republic flags while shouting slogans such as “long live the people” instead of the more common “long live the King.”

The tension has now spilled over to social media where scores of Moroccans have accused Zefzafi and other protestors of being separatists and carrying out a foreign agenda.  More specifically, Zefzafi and protestors have been accused of trying to destabilize the kingdom and precipitate “Fitna,” a concept of instability or distress akin to chaos that has strong negative connotations in the Arab and Islamic World. The government and its supporters claim that the protestors are attempting to create a Syria or Libya-like situation in Morocco.

The protestors have denied those accusations and assert that they are only asking for basic social, economic, and cultural rights. Notwithstanding such allegations, the protestors have persisted with their peaceful demands asking for basic infrastructure, universities, economic opportunities, and an oncology hospital to help treat the high rate of cancer in the region due to the past chemical attacks.

Zefzafi was detained Monday when a warrant for his arrest was issued after protestors disrupted last Friday’s prayer in the coastal city of Al Hoceima. The public prosecutor has charged Zefzafi with threatening national security, obstructing freedom of worship, and other alleged crimes. If convicted, Zefzafi could face a lengthy prison sentence.

Zefzafi is now on a hunger strike. After his arrest on the second day of Ramadan, he reportedly refused his “Iftar” meal, the meal that breaks the fast each day during the month of Ramadan. Since then, people across Morocco have protested in the streets challenging the legitimacy of Zefzafi’s arrest.

While the protests have been ongoing for six months, the government has attempted to calm the situation only with token gestures. Thus far, the projects the government announced to meet the demands of people in Hoceima have not succeeded in putting an end to the protests. Any further delay in effectively and genuinely addressing the demands of people in Hoceima would be a missed opportunity to facilitate progress and justice and bring a longstanding perceived marginalization of a significant segment of Moroccan society to an end.

In light of the resounding failure of the government to deal with the situation and bring the situation back to normal, King Mohammed VI should step in to mitigate the injury done to the region during the reign of his late father and grandfather. Moroccans in the Rif should not continue to be punished for their proud identity and history of resistance to injustice.

Tarik Ramadan: Government Must Listen to Rif Demands, Protest Brings Hope to Morocco

By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq - June 15, 2017 , Rabat

Swiss scholar and prominent European Muslim figure Tarik Ramadan has called on Moroccan authorities “to hear the voice of the people in Rif,” who he said have legitimate social, cultural and political demands. In a video posted on Facebook, Ramadan urges Moroccan authorities to listen to the demands of the Al Hirak protests movement in the region of Al Hoceima to preserve the achievements in the Kingdom, seen as a stable country in a region in turmoil.

Ramadan describes Al Hirak as a source of hope for a better future of Morocco, insisting that the state listen to protesters instead of trying to “extinguish” their voices. He went on to warn against speeches intended to discredit Al Hirak or accuse it of sowing seeds of discord in the country.“We can continue saying this is fitna [strife] and that this is an attempt to foment division and chasm in Morocco and act against it unity, but none of this true,” he said. “It is in the name of this unity of Morocco itself and transparency and democratization in the country that these voices have raised and it is for that reason too that, I believe, they should be listened to.”

The highly-publicized author, who is an habitué of Morocco having appeared on national TV and been invited to give lectures in local universities, said that the reality of Rif should be taken into consideration in public policies to ensure access to education for the local population, social justice, development, and management of state funds.“These are also political demands as far as democracy [in Morocco] is concerned. If we look, for example, at the last general elections, the participation rate was less than 32 percent which is stupefying. We can’t help wondering about the reality of democratic transparency in the country and how much interest people have for politics.”

According to Ramadan, this situation demands that the people in positions of responsibility, including King Mohammed VI, act to launch a real process of democratization in the Kingdom.“[Morocco] might be better than its neighbors, but this doesn’t mean it has done what it has to do in terms of democratic transparency,” said Ramadan. He pointed out that Moroccan researchers and sociologists have highlighted how much Al Hirak can be a “project of hope” because it opens up perspectives to discuss and deal with question of equality and transparency, not only in the Rif, but in Morocco as a whole.

More Than 80,000 Children Working in Morocco

By Morocco World News -  June 15, 2017 Rabat

At least 80,000 children are working in Moroccan homes, and the vast majority are aged under 15, the Insaf Association has revealed. The non-profit organization reported that the children arrive at slavery work from poor and illiterate backgrounds. Article 143 of the 2004 Code of Work states that it is illegal for a child under the age of 15 to work.

During a press conference on June 12, World Day Against Child Labour, Insaf’s president Bouchra Ghiati said, “the situation needs a lot of will to stop child exploitation. Exploitation deprives the children of the chance to take advantage of the school system, to play and make friends.” Insaf Association said it has saved around 300 girls from domestic work and put them in school.
The number of children currently working in Morocco is a sharp decrease from 1990, when the High Commission of Planning reported that 517,000 children were working.

Moroccan Documentary ‘Behind Closed Doors’ selected for South African Film Festival

By Erin Dunne -  June 14, 2017 , Yakout Elhababi / Feature Documentary / Morocco, Qatar / 80 min / Original Language: Arabic / Interests: Women, Environmental, Biography, Social Issues, Youth, Psychological, Children, Creative Documentary Rabat

The 8th annual Durban FilmMart will take place in Durban South Africa from July 14 to 17 and will feature films from across Africa. This year, the Moroccan documentary, Behind Closed Doors, will be among the films showcased at the festival. Behind Closed Doors portrays a farming family living in northern Morocco where the only thing that grows is kif. The film tells the story of the family though the eyes of children who learn the routine of growing the illegal plant early in their life and watch their parents struggle to be role models. The documentary, directed by Yakhout Elhabibi and produced by Cyriac Auriol, Hind Saih and Karoline Henkel, focuses on the family dynamics and the daily struggles of the impoverished northern region of Morocco.

The FlimMart is a collaboration between the eThekwini Municipality’s film industry development unit, the Durban Film Office (DFO) and the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF).
The goal of the collaboration, according to a press release, is to “showcase and increase awareness of African cinema through stimulating film production on the continent by encouraging collaborations among African filmmakers.”

Other countries with films represented in FilmMart include Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Benin, DRC, Namibia, Somalia, Mozambique and South Africa. The producers of the films selected for the festival will also have the opportunities to further develop their work. Over the four-day festival, they will have the opportunity to meet with possible co-producers and financiers during the Finance Forum in addition to having the chance to pitch their work to a panel of commissioning editors representing local and international funding sources. The FilmMart also hopes to provide film-makers with networking opportunities with industry experts and potential future collaborators.

Sand from Merzouga at the Heart of Exhibition in Sao Paulo

By Morocco World News - June 13, 2017 , By Chaimaa Zahaar Rabat

Sand from Merzouga, a small village in southeastern Morocco, and that of other regions of the world are the subject of a scientific exhibition which has just opened at the Science and Technology Park (CIENTEC) of The University of São Paulo (USP). The São Paulo University Science Exhibition, entitled “Sands of the World”, offers visitors the opportunity to observe sand specimens from around the world. Visitors can discover the specificities of these small rock particles whose size Is between 0.063 and 2 mm, as well as the different elements that contributed to shaping them across regions, reports the agency ANBA, organ of the Arab-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to the ultra-fine sand and siliceous taken from the famous Merzouga dunes, the exhibition highlights the sand near the pyramids in Egypt and in places as exotic as Disappointment Island in Antarctica, Iceland, Okinawa Japan and the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Sand samples from Reunion Island, Greece, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, Barbados, Colombia and Thailand, as well as local sand from The States of Maranhao and Sao Paulo, are also presented in this exhibition which will continue until July 29th. The exhibit also showcases the sand formation process through a section showing rocks and minerals at different stages of disintegration.

The exhibition is the culmination of a project funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and coordinated with the USP’s geoscience department. According to the organizers, some of the sand samples presented were collected by students from the geophysical department of São Paulo. Others have been offered by researchers and scientific institutions from several countries.

Morocco Approves Draft Law on ‘Compulsory Medical Insurance’ for Self-Employees

By Morocco World News - June 14, 2017 , By Chaimaa Zahaar Rabat

The House of Representatives unanimously approved in a plenary session on Tuesday draft law No. 15.98 on the compulsory medical insurance system concerning self-employed and independent workers. The draft law is part of the Kingdom’s commitment to expand national health coverage by 2025 for these groups, representing about 11 million beneficiaries and 30 percent of the population.
The Minister of Health, Hussein Al-Wardi said in his presentation of the contents of the draft law that the law aims to establish health coverage for the benefit of independent and self-employed workers and enshrines the principle of compulsory participation in this system, in addition to modernizing the treatments similar to those granted to private sector workers.

The minister added that the new law will be framed by a regulatory text with an allocation to the National Fund for Social Security independently of the management of other systems. Al-Wardi stressed on the importance of establishing comprehensive health coverage for all citizens, in line with the constitutional requirements and international covenants, which stipulate the right of everyone to equal treatment, health care, and health coverage.

The majority of the teams within the parliament were pleased with the draft law, stressing that the text,  considered as a “national gain,” will elevate Morocco in the ladder of human development indicators and will contribute to the achievement of equality in providing medical care. The opposition teams appreciated the draft law, warning the government of unbalances in the health sector.

IKHAE Association Empowers Women

By Erin Dunne - June 14, 2017 , Rabat

Mina Rouatab, the President of IKHAE Fraternité Association, founded the organization after she saw the need to advocate for women who were victims of domestic violence in Rabat.  Since then, with the help of volunteers, the non-profit has grown to include more than 150 women and has led to new opportunities for the women involved. Today, the non-profit, run by women for women, has a number of projects ranging from legal literacy workshops to English classes and the formation of cooperatives to help the women gain financial independence.

Through a partnership with the Ministry of Education, the Association is able to use classrooms at local schools for their educational programs. The women have learned how to use their legal rights to advocate for themselves, have improved their English language skills and have had the opportunity to share their handicraft skills with each other. During these sessions, the association also provides pre-school programming for the children of the women to both enable the women the attend and to enrich the education of their children. Each of these opportunities has allowed the women to be better advocates for themselves and their families.

Recently, the women of IKHAE have also launched a website to explain their work and to better coordinate opportunities for those interested in supporting their mission. On the “How to help” section, those interested in supporting the work of the association are invited to get involved through volunteering or donating. There are also sections detailing the history of the organization and their initiatives.

Importantly, the website also provides an outlet for the women of the association who are part of cooperatives to showcase and market their crafts. According to Maiken Austin, a volunteer who is credited by members of the association with having given the group a new direction, in the past the women have had difficulty selling their products and have often been taken advantage of by local merchants. With their own website, however, the women are in charge of their own products and those interested in purchasing things made by the women can do so directly.

The non-profit is also involved in the UN Women’s “Safe Cities” initiative that aims to make public spaces safe for women and girls. In Morocco, sexual harassment is common. According to the UN, more than 90% of women report being victims of sexual harassment in public spaces making this “Safe Cities” initiative an important element to archiving gender equity. In part due to the organizing work of Rouatab, Rabat became the 20th city to join in March 2015.

This range of initiatives from IKHAE represents the grass roots success that can be achieved when women advocate for themselves and each other. Already the association has helped women take control of their lives and find opportunities outside of the home. While the association is still small, the women are dedicated and always looking for new ways to empower each other.

Moroccan Economists Criticize World Bank’s Bleak Morocco Report

By Chaima Lahsini - June 13, 2017 Rabat

The latest World Bank (WB) report on the Moroccan economy in 2017 is still a source of unrest for the Moroccan government. After being rejected by a large part of the government, the document is sparking the indignation of the Moroccan economists. The WB’s report’s conclusions on the health of the Moroccan economy were very severe. According to the bank, the economic model of the kingdom is at a crucial point. Morocco has not made enough progress to converge its economic growth with advanced countries in the coming decades.

The 300-page document providing a detailed diagnosis of the economic and social performance of Morocco over the last decades was vigorously debated during a round table organized by the Center of Reflection Aziz Belal (CERAB) and the Association of Economists of Morocco (AEM) last weekend, reports the newspaper L’Economiste. The report was a very difficult pill to swallow for the members of CERAB and the AEM, who deemed it necessary to voice their response with a counter-report criticizing the work of the WB to help authorities understand the situation more clearly. Some economists even denounced what they believed to be “the emptiness at the root of the situation that prompted the experts of the World Bank to play the role of commentators instead of taking the initiative,” writes L’Economiste.

While some of the present experts explained that the report can not be questioned, they believe, however, that “the World Bank’s assumptions are wrong, do not reflect reality and its recommendations are biased.” However, L’Economiste has tempered the ardor of critics of the WB’s report by reminding them that even political parties have evoked the weakness of the Moroccan economic model without making any corrections. To this objection, the circle of economists replied that “we must be the locomotives of ideas and not comment on what others write.”

Since its publication on May 15, the report sparked great controversy. Lahcen Daoudi, Minister of General Affairs stated during the presentation of the report that the government was having difficulty accepting the conclusions of the World Bank. “We can agree on many things but relativize others. The report was drawn up according to the vision of the World Bank and it can not have the support of Morocco, especially on the political side. We want the World Bank to distance itself from certain discourses,” the minister said.

In the regional context, the Moroccan economy has shown resilience, with more vigorous growth than elsewhere. However, the World Bank stated that considering its efforts to invite investment, the Kingdom is poorly rewarded. In addition, the job content of growth has deteriorated, which results in a high unemployment rate of around 9 percent, with an alarming level among young people.
The World Bank’s accelerated economic convergence scenario assumes an increase in total factor productivity of 2 percent per annum and an increase in the employment rate of the working-age population to 55 percent by 2040 compared to 45 percent in 2015. The cumulative effect of increases in productivity and employment would lead to a stronger and sustained trend growth of at least 4.5 percent per year until 2040.

This challenge is certainly big, but is achievable, according to the report, by enacting a profound structural transformation of the economy and substantial efficiency gains. The report called on Morocco to make greater efforts to accumulate more intangible capital. The global institution advocates the reorientation of public policies towards the development of intangible capital, including human capital.

In this context, the bank stressed that any progress would be futile without educational reform. “An educational miracle” is paramount. The backlog accumulated by Morocco in this sector is so enormous that it would take about thirty years to match the level of learning currently observed in emerging countries such as Turkey.

Aicha Ech-Chenna Crowned ‘International Woman of the Year’ in Monaco.

By Chaima Lahsini -June 14, 2017 Rabat

Aicha Ech-Chenna, Moroccan human rights activist and founder of the Feminine Solidarity Association, was crowned International Woman of the Year at the Monte-Carlo Women of the Year ceremony. For the sixth edition of the award ceremony, the theme chosen was “Women for Women”, celebrating female activists who defend women’s rights, as gender equality has become an ever-present debate in today’s societies.

During the ceremony held on June 7 in Monaco, Ech-Chenna was awarded the international prize for her lifelong efforts to help single mothers through her association Solidarité féminine. “When we disrespect women we disrespect something sacred,” Ech-Chenna declared when receiving her award. The Moroccan activists said that she created her association in order to help women become emancipated and independent.

Since its founding in 1985, the Feminine Solidarity Association has sought to help women integrate the job market by offering them professional training in different fields. The association believes that, by enabling these women to achieve their financial and social autonomy, they could therefore be set free. This is not the first time Ech-Chenna would be awarded an international prize. She was a recipient of the World Bank Social Accountability Award in 2015, and the Opus Prize in 2009.

For her part, Cinzia Sgambati-Colman, the organizer of the event said that they received many applications this year, so much that they had a hard time choosing only a few. Candidates did file their applications themselves. Instead ambassadors from around the world as well as those in their close circle of friends nominated the female activists.

Two other women beside Ech-Chenna were also awarded for their outstanding achievements. Sister Anne-Marie Salomon was given the Monaco Women of the Year award. “She is religious, has a degree in mathematics and physics and is also a doctor. She works in Mali where she’s opened a Nomad Hospital that tends to 30 000 patients each year, affected by aids, malaria, leprosy or tuberculosis. She helps build schools and trains caregivers and midwives,” reports the Hello Monaco website.

The last prize, the Special Award, was handed to Michele Mitchell. The American journalist, author and filmmaker was the youngest woman in charge of communications for the US Congress. She was also noticed for her investigative work in the documentary “Haiti, Where has the money gone?”

First Guide for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse Launched in Morocco

By Morocco World News - June 13, 2017 , Rabat

The association Don’t Touch My Child, as part of its mission to raise awareness of the dangers of pedophilia, has launched the first guide for the care of victims of pedophilia in Morocco. The guide, released Saturday, is available in Arabic, French, and Amazigh. It provides a training tool to combat pedophilia and offers accurate information, enabling families with children who have experienced sexual abuse to better control the situation.

The association has also launched a training program aimed towards community actors wishing to use these tools to effectively combat child abuse and pedophilia in Morocco.
These trainings, initiated in partnership with the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), will begin next week in the Casablanca-Settat region and via video conference for wider dissemination throughout the Kingdom.

The association explained that the fight against this phenomenon is above all a matter of prevention and awareness. Preparing social members and integrating legal reforms will assist in putting an end to the prejudices and social stigmatization of sexually abused minors. Since 2004, the association Don’t Touch My Child has been working on the protection of childred, the preservation of their rights, and the fight against any form of abuse, particularly sexual assault. Its work involves representing victims in the courts, seeking reintegration opportunities, and organizing awareness campaigns in coordination with all relevant actors.

Insaf Association Calls for Sex Education and the Right to Abortion.

By Amira El Masaiti -June 12, 2017 Rabat

The Insaf Association for single mothers has called on all stakeholders to take urgent measures to endthe exclusion and rejection suffered by single mothers, suggesting the implementation of reforms in sexual education and legal frameworks. The association has called for the creation of conditions that ensure the dignity, legality and equality of single mothers and their children. Having been assisted and supported single mothers since 1999, Insaf has proposed the implementation of six measures to guarantee the social inclusion of this marginalized category.

The first is DNA tests, which Insaf says should be systematic and free to detect bloodline. According to the association, single mothers must be recognized as a “single parents” and have the right to own a family record book. As explained by Insaf, an important step in dealing with the issue of singe mothers is to integrate sex education into public education programs, explaining that both boys and girls must understand the responsibilities and consequences of having sex.

Another request from the Association is that of the right to abortion, which they say should be introduced to avoid situations of great suffering and lasting trauma. The association also requests the deletion of article 490 of the Criminal Code, which prohibits sexual relations outside marriage. According to the Association, this article criminalizes women as prostitutes, while section 489 represses her.
This law can push women to put themselves and their children in danger, as some abandon their babies at birth, explained the association. Finally, the identity documents of the children of single mothers must no longer be a factor of stigmatization, says Insaf. The grandfather’s last name should replace that of the absent father. The association supported this demands with staggering statistics. Between 2003 and 2009, more than 210,000 unmarried mothers were recorded in Morocco, according to a study conducted by Insaf in 2010. Over this period, 24 children were abandoned per day.

In the Casablanca region alone, Insaf estimates the existence of 44,211 children born out of wedlock for the period 2004-2014, approximately 3,366 per year. For the same period, the study revealed that 9,400 children were abandoned in the same region, an average of 850 cases of abandonment per year, or almost three children per day. The leaders of the association explained that this miserable reality is due to multiple factors, including psychological and emotional causes as well as the role played by social institutions, such as the family, the school, and the social and economic vulnerability of single mothers.

‘Fonds Charaka’ Provides New Funding for Technical Education in Morocco

By Erin Dunne - June 5, 2017 , 1:15 pm Rabat 

A new grant program, Fonds Charaka, will provide funding to improve technical and vocational education in Morocco. Administered by US public development agency the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the program plans on awarding more than USD 90 million for new projects.Fonds Charaka aims to address the discrepancy between private sector needs and educational opportunities. The program will bolster the skills of Morocco’s workforce by working with the private sector to improve the quality and relevance of the country’s technical and vocational education.
The funding will help to build new centers and to expand Morocco’s existing professional training facilities that are currently managed by public-private partnerships.

These centers will offer private-sector driven training in order to help Moroccans fill workforce opportunities. The MCC hopes that this project will be a “model for engagement with the private sector” and will “address both the supply and demand side of the labor market.” The “Charaka” fund is one part of the larger project “Education and Training for Employability,” which focuses on Secondary Education Activity and Workforce Development Activity. In both these components of the project, the Millennium Challenge Corporation will address issues of gender inequality in Morocco.
According to the MCC project website, “a concerted effort will be made to ensure that the project results in equitable outcomes for both girls and boys and reduces social, gender and regional inequalities.”

To determine which projects will be funded, the Millennium Challenge Account-Morocco (MCA – Morocco) launched a call for proposals on May 29. An official launch event will also be hosted on June 14 in Casablanca. The call for proposals will close on September 15.

The Fuel of Ramadan: Favourite Moroccan Dishes.

By Constance Renton -June 9, 2017 , Rabat

Millions of Moroccans are preparing for the onset of Ramadan, 30 days of pious fasting in adherence to the Quran. Sixteen hours a day of fasting needs the proper fuel for a month of sustenance. Morocco has no shortage of traditional favourites to please any Ramadan-inspired appetite. Each day throughout the holy month, from sunrise to sunset, observant Moroccans fast, denying themselves both food and liquid. A canon report or siren signals the start of each day’s fast and registers again at sunset to alert Moroccans it is permissible to begin their feast.

Over many generations, Moroccan traditions have created slew of recipes to share with family and friends. Over the years, recipes alter slightly and new favourites are added but always there is a core collection of favourites. Some or all of them make an appearance in virtually every Moroccan home during Ramadan. Here are a few:

Packed with protein and staying power, soups have become a staple Ramadan food for Moroccans. Favourites include Hssoua Belboula, a barley and milk Moroccan classic and Harira, a delicious lentil and tomato soup.

Sweet or savory, these Moroccan treats never stay o the table for long. The popular, triangle-shaped pastries can be filled with a traditional almond paste flavoured with orange flower water, fried and soaked briefly in honey. The savory versions feature cream cheese fillings, seasoned with optional herbs and hot peppers. Other versions include fillings of shrimp and Chinese vermicelli, seasoned, ground meat or chicken with saffron, ginger and cinnamon.

Square or round, Moroccan pancakes, also called rghaif, provide priceless sustenance and are packed with wholesome, basic flavours. Msemen, the square version, are flattened and folded before being pan-fried and served warm with butter and honey. Many Moroccans enjoy Msemen with Kefta, a filled version of the pancake, stuffed with seasoned ground beef or onion. They can be made ahead of time and frozen. Their round cousins, called Meloui, are made by rolling strips of dough like rugs, flattening them into circles and frying them in a pan. They are also served with butter and honey. Beghrir are closer to crepes but are still classified as a pancake. Made from fine semolina, they melt in your mouth served with the traditional butter and honey syrup.

A near-sacred staple every day of the year, Moroccan breads take on a special significance during Ramadan. Krachel are sweet rolls, flavoured with anise, sesame and orange flower water. They are perfect alone or with selection of other goodies. Harcha is a pan-fried bread made from semolina flour. When baked they have the appearance of English muffins but the flavour and texture is closer to cornbread. They are best when served warm with jam or butter and honey syrup. There is also a stuffed version of Harcha that uses fillings flavoured with thyme, onions, olives, parsley and cheese.
Batbout are best when cooked using the stove-top method. This gives them a chewy texture and a nice pocket, perfect for stuffing with a variety of fillings. Khobz B’Chehma is a stuffed bread, filled with traditional mixtures of lamb or beef suet, parsley, spices and onions.

Like a donut but so much more, the simple but glorious beignet is served with a variety of fillings or jams. They are even delicious plain. Sellou To simply call Sellou a cookie is selling the delectable item short. A mixture of roasted sesame seeds, fried almonds and flour form the base of the sweet treat before browning it in the oven. Say the word sellout in front of any Moroccan and his/her mouth will immediately begin to water.

Moroccan Brochettes and grilled meats are a Ramadan favourite. The basic kebab is carried to new heights after being seasoned and marinated for several hours before hitting the grill. Flavoured with a touch of saffron, they are served as an appetizer or an entrée.

Lemon Cake
There is nothing like a Moroccan lemon cake.  Light and fine in texture, subtle and sweet in flavour. For those who aren’t fans of lemon but still want a citrus zest, try substituting lemon with natural orange flavour.

During daily fasting, liquids take on new importance in keeping the body’s electrolytes balanced. Strawberry/orange juice is a favourite Ramadan choice. The juice, fresh or frozen, provides an all-important energy boost either at the end of a long day of fasting, or at the start of a new one. For a refreshing treat with a bit more staying power, try mixing in yogurt for a delicious smoothie. Dried apricots combined with orange juice is a variant of the Middle eastern drink known as qamar el-deen. Another popular flavour combination is peach and orange.

Milkshakes are hugely popular once the day’s fast is broken, most beginning with an almond base. You can give yours a uniquely Moroccan twist by adding orange flower water. A power-packed version of the Moroccan milkshake incorporates avocado for added protein to help you through the next 16 hours of deprivation.

Moroccan Mint Tea
Perhaps the most recognizable Moroccan beverage in existence, mint tea is a Ramadan staple for many Moroccans. The syrupy sweetness, charged by a handful of fresh spearmint leaves reawakens a tired body and mind. So-called Chinese gunpowder tea is the preferred base for most Moroccans.

Ramadan is a personal experience to be sure, but paradoxically, also a communal one. The knowledge and awareness achieved during these 30 days of sacrifice shape millions of Muslim minds and hearts each and every year.

The communal atmosphere of breaking each day’s fast is more than symbolic. It represents a shared celebration of individual spiritual achievements, a veritable reaping of spiritual seeds sown and that, is priceless.

Rocky Mount student goes to Morocco

Jun 12, 2017

Madison Stein won a competitive language study scholarship from the U.S. State Department. Madison Stein, a rising junior at Franklin County High and the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School, will be traveling to Morocco this summer on a special assignment. Stein has been awarded a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship by the U.S. State Department to study Arabic in the North African country.

She lives like a normal teenager, going to school and participating in the Model United Nations and the scholastic bowl teams at Franklin. But Stein aspires to be a polyglot — a speaker of many languages. She has already studied Chinese, Hebrew, French, Spanish and Arabic to various degrees, although recently she has been concentrating on Arabic in preparation for her trip.
With her participation in the program, she hopes to gain a greater proficiency of the language through immersion while soaking in the cultural complexity of the Islamic world. While in Morocco, Stein will experience the religion’s holy month of Ramadan firsthand.

Stein is one of approximately 600 students selected by the State Department from across the U.S. who receive the immersion-experience scholarships for the languages of Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian or Russian in various countries around the world. While in Morocco, Stein will receive formal instruction and informal language practice as part of her curriculum. The scholarship is part of a multi-agency federal government initiative launched in 2006 to improve Americans' ability to communicate in select “critical” languages in order to advance international dialogue and increase American economic competitiveness in the global market.

Juan Goytisolo’s Love Story with Morocco

By Morocco World News -June 8, 2017 , By Lery Hiciano Rabat

With his unfortunate passing on June 4, we are now afforded the opportunity to look back at the life that Juan Goytisolo led and his love of Morocco that enticed him to spend his final 20 years in the Kingdom, surrounded by what he called his “tribe.” Although Spanish by birth, by the end of his life he identified strongly with the North African country, going as far as to say that he was from Jemaa el Fna.  

He left Spain at the age of 18, after years of suppression at the hands of Franco had taken its toll on him. His father’s arrest at the hands of the Republican government and his mother’s death in a Francoist air raid influenced him greatly, and he often would return to 1930s or ’40s Spain in his writing. He moved to Paris, where he met famous writers and philosophers that would later influence his life, like Sartre or Guy Debord. He first arrived in Marrakech in the ’70s, and he soon learned to speak Arabic so that he could understand the storytellers at the square he visited everyday.

Until his final days he would still routinely visit Paris and Barcelona to see his children and grandchildren. His most famous work, “Count Julian,” is a controversial and moving work that upon release was viewed as staunchly anti-Spanish and anti-Catholic. It was so despised by Franco’s regime that it could not be printed in Spain. In the novel, the protagonist lives in Morocco, much like Goytisolo, and declares war on Spanish culture, religion, tradition and language. He was often influenced by the stories he would hear and read from Morocco to Iran.

In an interview he once said, “I consider at least two of my works to be mudéjar, heavily influenced by Arab and Persian literature. The Virtues of the Solitary Bird, inspired by the mysticism of St. John of the Cross, and Quarantine, which requires a good knowledge of Muslim eschatology. I’ve learnt a lot about the Spanish language by learning spoken Arabic.” He never stopped working, contributing and writing. He was one of the first people to publicly predict the far-reaching effects of the 2011 Arab Spring that took the region by storm. And he played the role of an active journalist as he travelled around the region reporting and interviewing people involved in the uprising. About the period, he said, “The effects of Arab Spring will extend through the present decade and nothing will ever be the same again.”

Tenderfoots on Toubkal

By Morocco World News -June 8, 2017 , By Cosima Schelfhout Rabat

After living in the Maghreb for almost four months, we had one weekend left, and we wanted to make the most of it. Our female pack of 6 squeezed into a manual VW Jetta, and drove south, towards Toubkal National Park. We, with our windbreakers, Nikes and naïve enthusiasm, were going to hike the tallest mountain in North Africa. We left on a Thursday, and expected to return 2 days later, refreshed and invigorated.

After collectively figuring out the stick shift, we joked about the power of our “united feminine force”. We didn’t know how often we’d invoke this self-ascribed power over the next few days.
It began to get dark once we passed Marrakech, and only the driver and I were awake by the time we reached the mountains. As we climbed, each turn was blinder, and each gear jolt louder. I wondered for the first time if we had bitten off more than we could chew.

It was almost 2am by the time we reach Imlil, a small village at the base of the National Park, so we opted for a later wake-up call, and fell into fleece-blanketed beds. It was colder than we thought it would be.  The next morning, we planned our trek over instant coffee and khobz. We’d make it halfway up Toubkal the fist day, and summit and return the next. On our way out, our hostel owner looked quizzically at our worn-out sneakers and convinced us to invest in crampons, strap-on spikes that keep shoes secure in ice and snow. While skeptical we’d need them, we clipped the detachable footwear onto our backpacks, and set out.

We ran into trouble within the first hour: the cool air and steep incline had triggered a group member’s asthma. As we felt we had time to spare, we decided to slow the pace. As we took breaks under the shade of jagged stone, and sipped cool orange juice made fresh at wobbly, cliff-side stands, we could see Toubkal’s white peak in the distance. We reached the Refuge, a bare-bones camp planted 1,000 feet beneath the summit, 7 hours later.

As we huddled in the dark cool lobby, we poked at the taught, sun-crisped skin of our foreheads, and explored the ache in our limbs. Later, over the steam of two tagines, we eyed groups of European hikers, clad in glossy ski-gear, bustling around the check-in desk; they were overwhelmingly male, mostly middle-aged, and seemed to know what they were doing. Before bed, we combatted self-doubt and general exhaustion with affirmations of our youthful determination, and collective female power.

The next morning, we layered on all the clothing we had, stuffed our pockets with “La Vache Qui Rit” cheese packets we’d stolen from breakfast, and ventured out. While the sun hadn’t yet risen, we could see the practiced European mountaineers, with their ice axes and guides, well in the distance. After crossing an icy stream at the foot of the Refuge, we strapped on our crampons, and marched the first of many, steep snowy slopes. We were wearier with each plateau, but also more innovative; we stripped off extra pairs off socks to wear as gloves and rotated our daypacks to alleviate the most fatigued. In staggered breaths, we yelled encouraging phrases at one another, and tried to find comedy in our unpreparedness

After four hours in the snow, we reach the rocky serpentine paths that circle Toubkal’s summit. Adrenaline kicked in as we caught sight of the Tripod that marks the peak, and in the face of foreboding comments by returning hikers, we marched onwards with new energy. One by one, we stumbled onto Toubkal’s uppermost ridge, and took in the impressive views that an altitude of 13,671′ affords; a sea of sharp, white mountain tops with dust colored villages nestled in its shallows. We imagined we could see the Sahara’s sands to the East, and hear the Atlantic’s break to our West.

But we weren’t finished, Imlil, our car, and the rest of our belongings were a 7-hour hike away. After half-walking, half-falling our way down to the Refuge, we realized we wouldn’t beat the sun; we had 5 hours to go and it would be dark in 2. So with our blistered feet, wet socks, and frozen fingers, we hunkered down for another night at the base camp.

In the fear we wouldn’t return our rented car on time, we got up before five the next morning, and raced down the rest of the mountain. As we watched groups of sporty young men pass us on their way up, we began to feel the weight of our accomplishment. With groggy eyes and soiled clothes, we cheered, “Good luck!” and informed them that “the views were really something”.  We donned advice like expert adventures, and in a sense, we were.  We didn’t have the equipment, or the experience, but we did have a solid dose of group spirit- an ingredient we agreed later was the most important to our success.

Though, upon arriving in Rabat, I wondered if it might have been something else too; maybe our naivety was also a key to our triumph. Would it have been an adventure, if we’d been fully prepared? And would we have taken the first step, if we had known how many would follow?

Homo Sapien fossils in Morocco could rewrite human evolutionary history

By Kelly Paik

What looks to be the oldest fossilized remains of Homo Sapiens have been unearthed out of Morocco. As it turns out, this discovery is shaking up everything the scientific community thought it knew about the origin of the human species. The ancient fragments of skulls and jawbones were collected from an archaeological site called Jebel Irhoud along the Atlantic coast near Sidi Moktar. In a study published in Nature, researchers dated the remains to be 315,000 years old – a date that pushes the emergence of Homo Sapiens as a species back by 100,000. Just as importantly, scientists also found fire-heated flint artifacts at the site, which dated to the same time period and can give us some clues into how these early ancestors lived.

Before these findings, the prevalent theory up to now was that modern man first evolved about 200,000 years ago in East Africa. This is based on a collection of fossil discoveries in Ethiopia dated that far back. This led scientists to believe Sub Saharan East Africa was a sort of “cradle” for mankind and that we spread out to other parts of Africa from there. However, these new finding challenge the notion that man walked out of some singular birthplace and indicates we may have instead formed distinct and coexistant groups across all of Africa. Lead researcher of the study, Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, likened prehistoric Africa to “a kind of human zoo”.

“We are moving further and further away from this linear vision of human evolution with a succession of species, one replacing the other,” Hublin said, according to the AFP. “There were probably several groups of hominins existing, overlapping in time… and having, I would say, complex relationships.” “These new finding challenge the notion that man walked out of some singular birthplace”

The result of those complex relationships means we’ll likely find some intermingling of everything from tool technology to genes between the hominin groups across Africa over the course of time.
As for the people from Jebel Irhoud, we unfortunately can’t say how related they are to modern man on the genetic level. Hublin and his team tried and failed to extract DNA samples from the fossils. Physically, we can see that their faces are remarkably similar to modern humans. On the other hand, their brains were much more divergent and their skulls lack that characteristic bulge in the back developed later. Still, they lie close enough to home on the family tree that we may be seeing some revisions to our current understanding of human evolutionary history in the near future.

The Humans of Jebel Irhoud – a Poem

By Nandita Jayaraj on 12/06/2017

New findings at a site in Morocco suggest that ‘pre-modern’ humans came to be at least 100,000 years earlier than thought, and evolved into modern humans after dispersing across all of Africa.

The location of Jebel Irhoud in Morocco. Credit: Eric Gaba/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

How and from where did modern humans evolve? Until now, the consensus was that it happened around 200,000 years ago in sub-Saharan Africa. However, results from a recently reopened excavation site in the Saharan nation of Morocco suggest that this probably was not the case.

The site of Jebel Irhoud was a hotbed of palaeo-anthropological studies in the 1960s and 1970s after some fossils relevant to human evolution were found there by accident. They were identified as those of our predecessors, who lived about 160,000 years ago. This is about 40,000 years earlier than when the modern humans, Homo sapiens, were supposed to have evolved.

In the past decade, interest in this site was renewed when a multinational team of scientists found more skeletal remains and stone tools as well. This time, the technology was more advanced. Luckily, the scientists noticed that the tools had been burnt at some point, probably while the people were cooking. This opened up the possibility of using one of the best dating techniques available – thermoluminescence – to estimate the time of burning. This would coincide with the rough age of these tools, and by extension the bones that were found in the same layer of the earth as them.
In this manner, the new fossils were dated to 300,000 years ago. An older fossil found in the 1960s was re-dated to show the same age. And the pieces of bones were reconstructed to reveal that these individuals were a lot more like today’s humans than has been thought. Though the shape of their braincases remained primitive, their faces had already begun to look identical to modern humans – so much so that the authors felt it fit to identify them as Homo sapiens. This declaration shook up the field of paleoanthropology like few discoveries could ever do.

These ‘pre-modern’ humans evolved at least 100,000 years earlier than thought, making them older than our cousins, the Neanderthals. Evidently, this evolution was happening simultaneously in many parts of Africa: not just in the sub-Saharan regions like Ethiopia but also in Morocco, presumably helped by climatic events at the time that gave rise to ‘green’ spots in the Sahara. Scientists around the world have acknowledged the significance of the new studies, published in the journal Nature on June 7 (here and here). Some of them feel that the basis on which the fossils have been termed Homo sapiens is rather loose and are are wary of the hype. Nevertheless, the science media is abuzz with inspired coverages of this rewriting of history. This correspondent decided to throw some poetry into the mix.

Part I: The 1960 Find
There was once a bored barium miner,
Burning sun and dry throat, but he’s no whiner,
Then he spotted a skull,
Afternoon no more dull,
That night he was the star at the diner.
A professor who loved science and history,
Heard of the skull in a mine – what a mystery!
Called friends from abroad,
To visit Jebel Irhoud,
And tell the world about human ancestry…
Emile Ennouchi came from faraway France,
Here he found magnificent fossils that made him dance,
Of zebras and gazelle,
And as far as he could tell,
There were bones that looked like a human’s.
Near the bones lay stone tools in a scatter,
(In palaeontology, such things really matter),
They poked and they prodded,
Compared, gravely nodded,
One voice then emerged from the chatter…  
These tools are rather Neanderthal-ish, so
These bones probably belonged to Neanderthals,
Who lived 40,000 years ago.
As years went by, more bones were found,
And science this time was lot more sound,
They weren’t Neanderthal (like thought before),
How old were they? 40,000 times four.
[The thing about paleoanthropology is
Discoveries are sometimes hit-and-a-miss]

Part II: Forty Years Later
In 2004, came along Jean-Jacques Hublin,
Who convinced Morocco to let him in,
And to his delight,
Hidden in the site,
More tools and bones looking quite human!
Experts of the world came to here to dwell
On these mysterious species, their story to tell,
Armed with a winning mix,
Of logic and science tricks,
The men and women all but did ‘Eureka!’ yell.
These beings were humans like us it seems,
Who lived in the Sahara, same place but more greens,
With faces like ours,
But longer brain covers,
300,000 years old. So you know what this means…
Twenty-first century science is pretty hardcore,
That means we can be (almost) sure,
That these enigmatic bones are from more
than three hundred thousand years before.

Volunteers in Rabat Coordinate on Social Media

By Erin Dunne - June 7, 2017 Rabat

Many ex-pats living in Morocco want to volunteer. Finding the right ways to help, however, can be difficult. When Heather Choate Hall moved to Morocco, she knew she wanted to get involved in the local community. Despite being told that it would be difficult to find opportunities, she set out to find ways to help. Eventually, her dedication connected her with other ex-pats in the area and together they decided to build a database of volunteer opportunities.

After visiting numerous charities and building a list of places that both needed help and were willing to work with ex-pats, Hall began to share those opportunities with those who expressed interest.
As volunteer opportunities solidified and interest grew, social media, such as Facebook, proved the “perfect outlet for communication.” Hall told Morocco World News, “Almost all of my volunteer coordination is done through Facebook and Facebook messenger.” She explained, “I can reach wide audiences through our ‘Rabat Volunteer and Donation Opportunities’ Facebook page, and the same goes from when I post on other Facebook pages.”

Demonstrating the success of these efforts, the ‘Rabat Volunteer and Donation Opportunities’ page now has almost 100 members and posts weekly updates about how to get involved. The page also shares the success of volunteers and the various organizations that they have partnered with.

For Hall, the connections made possible through both social media and in person meetings have allowed her not just to find meaningful ways to help, but to share those opportunities with others. She explained, “My greatest joy has been connecting the dots between an ex-pat who wants to serve their community but not knowing where to go, to a specific need within an organization like IKHAE [a women’s association] or CSK [a center for handicap children in Salé] or the Children’s Hospital.”

Thanks to the work that many ex-pats have already devoted to coordinating opportunities the new volunteers should have an easier time finding opportunities and continuing to find success helping existing partner organizations. Some of these success have included fundraisers from the playroom at the Children’s Hospital, connecting marines stationed in Morocco to CSK, helping IKHAE find English teachers and mentorship for starting cooperatives, aiding local resources for Sub-Saharan migrants and painting rooms at the Boy’s Orphanage in Akkari.
Based on her own experience Hall has some advice for those coming to Morocco and hoping to volunteer: “There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to find them. Moroccans are generally happy to have you work with them, no matter if you speak the language or are not from their culture.”

UNESCO: Morocco Rewarded for Promoting Gender Approach in Fishery Sciences.

June 7, 2017

Morocco has been awarded a UNESCO prize in recognition of its efforts in promoting the gender approach in fisheries sciences. The award was handed by UNESCO Director Irina Bokova to Moroccan Minister of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development and Water and Forests, Aziz Akhannouch, at A ceremony organized by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, on the sidelines of the UN Conference on Oceans held in New York (June 5-9).

Speaking on this occasion, Akhannouch said he was honored to receive, on behalf of Morocco, this award, which recognizes the North African country’s efforts in strengthening fisheries and ocean sciences. A distinction in the gender approach category “particularly delights us because gender equality in research is not sufficiently valued,” he said, insisting that the situation needs to change.
In Morocco, women constitute 33% of the people active in oceanographic and fisheries research, he said, adding that this percentage increases year on year.

The woman component in scientific research is “fundamental”, Aziz Akhannouch said in a statement to the press, expressing optimism that women’s contribution to fisheries research and their presence in the world of oceans will steadily grow.

Morocco “Bringing People Closer to Nature” for World Environment Day

By Chaima Lahsini - June 5, 2017 , Rabat

Morocco is celebrating World Environment Day under the theme “Bringing people closer to nature” amid a tense global environmental climate, on June 5. In a statement, the State Secretariat for Sustainable Development explained that this year’s World Day, organized under the title “Bringing People Closer to Nature,” is an opportunity to draw the attention of various actors and the general public to Environmental issues and to renew their commitments in its favor. It will also provide an update on Morocco’s actions and the programs implemented for its preservation.

In this context, the secretary of state has prepared a rich program that includes awareness-raising and educational activities, scientific meetings and field visits showing achievements in the field of environment and sustainable development. Partnership agreements are also on the menu, as the secretary of state will proceed to sign partnership conventions with the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research and the National Broadcasting Corporation (SNRT).

World Environment Day was promulgated in 1972 by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). This international celebration regularly raises essential questions regarding environmental protection and its consequences for the quality of life for people and the survival of our planet. Discussion topics include the fight against the destruction of the ozone layer, deforestation, desertification and drought, as well as the preservation of quality of water supplies.

This year’s host country, Canada, will be at the center of celebrations which will take place around the world.

Since its launch in 1972, several thousand events have been organized around the world, from neighborhood cleaning operations to actions against wildlife crime and the planting of new forests. This year’s theme, “Bringing People Closer to Nature,” invites us to leave our homes, go back to nature, appreciate its beauty and reflect on how we are part of the nature on which we depend.
Billions of people living in rural areas spend each day working while “connected to nature” and are fully aware of their dependence on natural water supply and livelihoods in the form of fertile soils. These farmers are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened by pollution, climate change or overexploitation.

This year, the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Agreements for financial reasons, shook the world and left a gruesome mark on the environmental community. Refusing to honour USD 3 billion worth of aid to a crucial world and human problem is not the first, nor will it likely be the last time Donald Trump will create controversy over his political and diplomatic decisions.

‘Moorish’: A Feast of Dishes From Mecca to Morocco

Jun 15, 2017 By Daisy Nichols Editor

Discover new recipes and new flavors to transport your kitchen
“We are shameless! We want to seduce you: to stimulate your imagination, invigorate your senses and tempt you to try the wonderful flavours of Moorish food.”
Check it here:

Here are six must visit places in Morocco.

As Morocco is set to join ECOWAS, it has brought much excitement to travel junkies in the sub-region as it represents a potential loss of strict national borders because of the free movement of people enjoyed by ECOWAS citizens.
Read it here:

Mosques collect one quarter of blood donations in Morocco.

June 15, 2017

One quarter of registered blood donations in Morocco are collected through mosques across the country, Mohamed Binajiba, head of the National Centre for Blood Donation, told Anadolu yesterday as Morocco celebrated the International Day for Blood Donation and organised campaigns in a number of the mosques across the country. “We faced many problems related to [finding] enough blood for patients,” Binajiba said, “therefore, we turned to mosques”. He noted that during Ramadan campaigns take place at night because people are fasting during the day and many people gather at mosques at night.

Binajiba said that the campaigns have been conducted in cooperation with the Mohammed IV Organisation, a charity affiliated to the endowment ministry since 2011. “We put a target of 100 per cent of voluntary donations and getting 25,000 blood units, including 13,000 from mosques,” Binajiba said, noting that 47 per cent of the target was achieved in the first two weeks of Ramadan.
WHO recommends that at least 1 per cent of the country’s residents donate blood every year. Binajaiba said that 0.96 per cent of Moroccans donated in 2016, an increase from previous years.
Comparing the number with the previous year he said that 313,680 people donated in 2016, while 297,711 people donated in 2015.
According to WHO data, only 62 countries reached their target.

‘Colors of Morocco’ comes to the Traveler

Tue Jun 13th, 2017

Tuesdays at the Traveler presents “Colors of Morocco” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 13. John Shaw, an experienced representative of Collette Tours, will share with the vibrant culture and colorful backdrops that are distinctively Morocco. These will include the capital city of Rabat, Fez and a walking tour in the Medina, the Sahara Desert and the “Road of 1000 Kasbahs.”
The public is welcome to come by for a virtual trip to Morocco and also learn about an actual trip planned for April 2018. Admission is free.
Tuesdays at The Traveler is a series featuring adventures from all over the world.
The Traveler is located at 256 Winslow Way East.
For more information, visit or call 206-842-4578

Neglect in Harsh Soil: The Deep Roots of the Rif Crisis

By Mohamed Chtatou -June 12, 2017 Rabat

The ongoing protests in northern Morocco started almost eight months ago, but they have their origin in nearly a century of violent repression by the state. The Rif has, in spite of itself, got involved into a peaceful revolt since the death of the fishmonger Mohcine Fikri at the end of October 2016, a dramatic situation that seems to have no outcome at the moment.

Worse, there is an escalation of tension from both the Hirak (uprising) movement and the government. Nasser Zafzafi, the icon of the popular Rifi protest movement, clumsily attacked the sacredness and the sanctity of the Muslim religion in a very conservative country, and the government hastily proceeded to arrest him along with his circle of lieutenants and decision-makers.

In this regard, Kenza Oulmlil, an assistant Professor in Communication and Gender at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, argues in Al Jazeera electronic portal publication on June 6, 2017:
“As well as being accused of ‘obstructing the freedom of worship’, Zefzafi was also criticized for the lack of structure and eloquence in his intervention at the mosque. The protest leader, who is not a highly educated person, was accused of being a misogynist after making comparisons between the political corruption in the country and the ‘corrupt mores of women’, criticizing the way women dress and even using language that implies men’s ‘ownership’ of women. This is indeed a worrying discourse, especially for women who are concerned about not losing control over their bodies. But the Hirak Movement recently sent out a more egalitarian message by including a woman, Nawel Ben Aissa, among the leaders of a protest following Zefzafi’s arrest.”

It seems that on both sides impulsiveness has largely prevailed over wisdom and common sense, and as a result the gap will expand further. Yet, a peaceful and responsible dialogue could have readily resolved the conflict, bearing in mind that the government has promised to put USD 1 billion on the table, a tremendous amount, for the much-needed development of the city and its surroundings. In short, no city or region of Morocco has had the chance of such governmental generosity at once and as quickly. It is a boon for the Rif, if the promise is respected, of course.

But, however, it must be said openly that the Rif has been suffering stoically and in silence for over a century. Indeed, since the beginning of the last century, it has suffered greatly from the yoke of harsh French and Spanish colonialism and since the independence in 1956 from the contempt of the central state, without mentioning the harshness of nature. All this can seen on the face of the Rifi people, who are victims of abject poverty and horrendous injustice.

Structural handicaps
The Rif as a region and as a cultural entity has been confronted, for a long period of time with a range of handicaps both natural and human:

Geographic handicaps
The Rif is a predominantly mountainous region – very steep and therefore generally rugged. It has few plains. The slopes of the soil are often very strong and with an inclination of more than 50 percent. The soils are not very permeable and are thus very sensitive to erosion. Although it has access to an important rainfall, in wet years it is arid and badly lacking water most of the time. The Rif in its entirety is subject to devastating and continuous erosion.

Cultural handicaps
In the popular imagination of the Moroccans, the Rifis are at the same time very brave and very honest people, responsible heads of families and loyal spouses. They are known by the name of shluH al-‘azz, the valorous Amazighs / Berbers.

That said, however the Rifi is seen and stereotyped as a shady and unfaithful being who can change his mind and camp quickly:
– Rifi gheddar u qattal (the Rifi is sanguinary and incapable of fidelity);
– Rifi diru guddamek u ma-tidiru urak (The Rifi is not trustworthy);
– Rifi ighadrek, ighadrek (the Rifi will be unfaithful to you sooner or later), etc.

These strange stereotypes about the Rifi individual are the result of his pugnacity and innate sense of survival in an inhospitable geographical and human environment. His face, cicatrized by the hardships life, gives him the impression of being a patient sufferer and untrustworthy man with a natural propensity to fight and aggression.
Economic handicaps

The Rif is a basically poor region.; Mountainous and arid, it is therefore unable to feed its own people. In the 1930s the Rifis immigrated seasonally, en masse, to French Algeria to work in agriculture. They called this movement “shareq” (“migration to the east”). In the 1950s, they crossed, this time, the Mediterranean to go to Europe, which was in full reconstruction after the Second World War, thanks to the American generosity of the Marshall Plan. They settled mainly in Holland and Belgium but also in Spain, France, Germany and the countries of Scandinavia. Thanks to the hard earned money they fed their families, built beautiful houses, and invested in businesses and real estate in their area tribal areas and elsewhere in Morocco.

But in the 1980s, the Europeans closed their borders, and the sons of the Rif turned to education with the hope of getting a job to take care of their families and make their living. Diplomas in hand, they were confronted to the harsh reality of a labor market selective and not generous, in the least. Their survival hopes were bashed on the rocks of ferocious liberalism. In the chairs of cafes they meditated at length on better days while organizing themselves in associations of defense of Amazigh/Berber culture and human rights. Soon Al Hoceima became the Moroccan capital of human rights and contestation.

To calm the region, the Makhzen proceeded clumsily to the co-optation of some local elites, but soon these elites lost their political “virginity” and credibility were disavowed by the Rifi people, if not socially banished.

Bruised by ‘Official’ Morocco
The armed uprising of the Rif of 1958-59 was not directed against the monarchy but rather against the Istiqlal Party, which wanted to seize power and establish the single party political system, as was happening in several other Arab countries. The would be-king Hassan II, at the time crown prince Moulay Hassan, anxious to take the place of the king, saw in this uprising a golden opportunity to assert his political and military authority and get rid of both the disturbing Rif movements and the usurper Istiqlal political party. Against the advice of his father Mohammed V, who was instead inclined to political dialogue and social intermediation, Moulay Hassan crushed the Rif uprising militarily in blood.

At the end of January 1959, the uprising was suppressed by a military force of 30,000 men commanded by crown prince Moulay Hassan and placed under the orders of General Oufkir. After the end of the uprising, the Rif was subjected to a military regime for several years. The most ruinous legacy of this uprising was the complete neglect and marginalization of the region by the Moroccan authorities in the following decades.

This marginalization was to become even more pronounced after the popular uprising of 1984, which was also repressed in blood because, the Rif was still militarized and, for Hassan II, the region was still openly opposed to the monarchy and the state.Upon his accession to the throne in 1999, Mohammed VI begun a process of reconciliation with the Rif, making several trips to Al Hoceima and Nador and inaugurating a number of large-scale development projects, but not sufficiently meeting the urgent needs of the population: employment and dignity. The good intentions of King Mohammed VI for the development of the Rif were totally exasperated by administrative delays, bureaucratic sluggishness, corruption of elected officials and poor choice of local elites.

Men’s three life stages: a lion, a donkey then a dog

By rachid khouya - October 22, 2012 , Smara, Morocco

One of the reasons that will never let Arabs develop is the way they view themselves. We think of ourselves as animals all the time. We compare our children and students to dogs, monkeys and donkeys. We describe our neighbors and friends as scorpions, serpents and cobras. Our leaders are treated as lions, foxes and tigers. When we blame ourselves or regret something, we say to ourselves “I am the donkey. I deserve what happens to me”. This perception of the self as animals has affected, directly or indirectly, the way some men in our countries see themselves and their life stages.

In Morocco, for the moment, many uneducated and even educated people think of their lives in terms of passing from the stage of being a lion, to the stage of being a donkey arriving to the stage of being a dog. This appears so strange in fact. But some men think of it as a truth and they accept it the way it is and use it as a fatal justification to give legitimacy to living their lives the way they should not in fact.

As a teacher, I have spent many days and night reading many philosophers and psychologists ‘theories of being and their stage of children and humans’ development like Freud, Jung and Piaget. These men spent their lives studying children and humans before they end up writing their stages of development based on research, theory and science. On the other hand, a friend of mine lately shocked me by his theory of man’s life when he departmentalized a man’s life into three stages.

My friend said that the first stage of a man’s life is the stage of being a lion. This is the stage that precedes marriage. Before an Arab marries, he thinks of himself as a lion in the jungle. He is the king of the forest. He has the right to do whatever he wants, the way he wants, when he wants without anyone’s interference in their lives. At this stage of his life, the man can fall in love with whomever he likes, go wherever he wants, comes to his home whenever he wishes, and wear what he wants. This is the stage of total freedom.

Secondly, when one marries, he changes from being a lion to being a donkey. My friend and many of this theory’s followers believe that when a husband has children and a wife, he is doomed to spend his time working hard to earn more money, more food, and more clothes for them. He works as hard as a donkey to satisfy and afford their basic needs. He forgets about his own needs. He doesn’t take care of his look, his clothes and his food. All what matters for him is to see his children eat and wear the clothes they want and grow up the way they want.

Fathers and husbands forget about their own life. Their lives stop at that point. All they think about is their children and their future. Those fathers stop dreaming of better lives for themselves, of studying, travelling and enjoying life. For this category of fathers/donkeys, their only duty is to work as a donkey to serve their offspring and wives.

When they become old, time comes to move to the third stage of their lives: being a dog. Meaning that the old men spend their whole days and nights barking like dogs at home. They shout at everyone and everything. They criticize their children’s style of clothing, eating, and their friends. They comment on their wives’ every single deed no matter how small or big, good or bad. They have always something to say about the food their wives cook. When the kids open the doors, the old parents ask them to close the windows and when the kids close the windows, the old men ask them to open the doors. It is never easy to satisfy their desires. That is why our theorist describes them as dogs. They keep barking and screaming all the time.

Writing about these stages of some men’s lives has to push us to ask ourselves if this is the right life we deserve to live. Why should we not see ourselves as humans moving from childhood, singlehood, adulthood and marital life and stop viewing ourselves as lions, donkeys then dogs. Investments in people’s minds should take place before we invest in infrastructure. We should see ourselves as humans and citizens who have the right to lead a life of humans not a life of animals because we are living and we are born to live at home not in a zoo

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