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Morocco Week in Review 
May 6 2017

Hassan Samrhouni, a Cultural Ambassador of Morocco in the US.

By Chaima Lahsini - May 5, 2017 , Rabat

Hassan Samrhouni, a Moroccan businessman, former soccer player, and social and cultural activist, has spent more than 30 years trying to build a cultural bridge between Morocco and the US, and his efforts are indeed paying off. As the CEO of Morocco Premier Events and President of Casablanca Travel & Tours, Samrhouni has played a key role in promoting the Moroccan culture in the American continent. Calling itself “Your open gateway to Morocco in the US”, the Moroccan Premier Events is the initiative of a Moroccan man who made his duty the promotion of the Kingdom in the US. The organization’s showroom, which combines entertainment, business, visual treats, and an overall appreciation of Moroccan cultural products, is set in the heart of Washington D.C.

Samrhouni has long been known for the role he plays in the Moroccan-American community in the US, organizing events and special productions featuring Morocco cultural displays, music, and performances. He has now established a permanent venue as the focal point of his special events services offered throughout North America. Through his travel agency, “we managed to organize many guided tours to Morocco, taking students from well-established universities to discover the wonders of our country,” Samrhouni told Morocco World News. But the CEO’s ambition to make known his Moroccan heritage did not stop there. “There’s only so many people you can take to visit Morocco, so it is time to bring Morocco to the US.”

Strategically located near Dulles Airport, the showroom is filled with intricately handcrafted metals, tapestries, leather goods and the intoxicating smell of Moroccan mint tea. From the colorful woven rugs, the handmade jewelry, to the wrought iron furniture, every piece seems to tell rich, layered stories of Morocco. Samrhouni is now taking his mission as a cultural ambassador to the next level, opening the gates of Moroccan artisanal traditions to American designers who wish to introduce Moroccan handicrafts to American homes.

“Moroccan handicrafts have a very strong and authentic identity, which, while portraying the unique culture of Morocco, can be sometimes a little outdated for the American taste.” Through a collaboration with Citizenry, a global luxury home decor brand, Samrhouni gave the American design company some insight and assistance by contacting many Moroccan artisans. “With the help of Morocco Premier Events and Permanent Showroom representatives, we have been able to discover and better understand the beauty of Moroccan handicrafts and establish a promising partnership with Moroccan artisans,” states Citizenry.

Samrhouni organized a sourcing trip to Morocco where the design company discovered the unique craftsmanship of Moroccan handicrafts. Thanks to Morocco Premier Events, Citizenry managed to contact their first supplier in Morocco, La Maison Méditerranéenne, helping them in all the steps of the production of their exclusive collection of leather poofs and wood furniture. “Our collaboration with citizenry opens the American market to Moroccan artisans,” explains Samrhouni, “this project is taking Moroccan artisanal crafts to the next level by developing the sector to meet the American market’s criteria, and [evolving] from home decor products to everyday consumable ones.” “We’re trying to act as a linking bridge between Moroccan artisans and American firms to help not only promote business between the two parties, but market Morocco as a tourist and culturally rich destination,” Samrhouni adds.

Saad Kabbaj, Sales Manager of La Maison Méditerranéenne and Citizenry’ first customer in Morocco, thanked Samrhouni for his collaboration and efforts in helping them promote their handicrafts products. “Samrhouni played a crucial role in establishing contact with our first client Citizenry on the American market.” “This partnership is an opportunity for traditional Moroccan artisans to showcase their products and creations on the site. There are currently 364 manufacturers offering their products and benefiting from Citizenry services. They are able to sell their goods at good prices,” explained Samrhouni.

Morocco Premier Events has recently moved to High Point in North Carolina. Samrhouni explained the choice of the new city for hosting the Antique & Design Center of High Point Market, a favorite destination for talented interior designers seeking exceptional, one-of-a-kind pieces for their bespoke interiors. The sheer density and concentration of antiques and vintage items in one spot makes it a phenomenal place to shop.

“High Point constitutes a real opportunity for Morocco Premier Event to promote Moroccan artisanal crafts on an international level,” explained Samrhouni, who participated in the High Point Market this last April 20, highlighting the beauty of Moroccan culture with an array of handicrafts.

Abdelah Taia: I Am Just Like All Moroccans

By Amira El Masaiti - May 4, 2017 , Rabat

From being the first openly gay Arab writer, to publishing eight internationally acclaimed novels, Abdelah Taia, has grown as an author and a film maker. He never forgot his country, his home, his Morocco, which has many things to offer and teach. Invited as the speaker in an event organized by Rabat’s Cervantes Institute entitled “Cervantes and I,” Taia attended the event to speak about his experience with the institute.

Like all story tellers, he dug into his memory to spawn stories, so interesting they left the audience consumed with curiosity. Instead of approaching the event’s theme directly, Taia chose to recall momentous events from his high school years, in a house, situated in the heart of Salé, where a married couple and their 12 children lived. The author took his audience on a walk down memory lane where his younger self could be found seated in front of TV at 6pm sharp, in anticipation of cartoons broadcast on the only Moroccan TV channel at the time.

Taia’s first encounter with the Cervantes Institute was through Cervantes, the author, and Don Quixote, the cartoon series. The author recalled the influence of Cervantes’ character on his life.
Don Quixote was a dreamer and a bibliophile, much like Taia himself. But the two were brought together by bonds stronger than their love for literature and dreams, they were both unrealistic characters forged from the real world.

During his early years, Abdelah Taia was a closeted homosexual. He discovered through Don Quixote that those who dream too much would be struck by the bitterness of reality.
In a society where homosexuality was as fictional as 6pm cartons, “I learnt that if I was openly gay, no one would protect me, not my society, not my neighborhood, not my own mother,” explained the author.

My Spanish Lover and the Spanish Language

Having spoken too much of topics unrelated to the purpose of the event, Taia felt obliged to return to his experience with the institute. But even that story left the audience’s eyes wide open in anticipation. After graduation from Mohammed V University’s French Department, “I had a lot of free time, while waiting to hear whether I was going to be admitted to a school I applied to or not.” “A Spanish man was in love with me. I told him of my family’s financial situation, and he said he would send me some money if I promised to use it for a good cause.”

The Spanish lover did indeed send Taia money. “He sent me an amount of MAD 2000, which was so much money to me. I didn’t know what to do with it.” Keen on impressing his lover and setting himself aside from those who receive money from Europe for one reason or another and make no use f it, “I thought that the most honorable way to spend money given to me by a Spanish man was to use it to study Spanish.”

“I Am Just Like All Moroccans”
Taia did, for a short while, use some of money to enroll in Spanish lessons at the Cervantes Institute, but later on invested it in watching German filmmaker, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s films screened by “Cervantes’ eternal competitor,” the Goethe Institute for German Studies. “I was left with a tough choice, I had to chose between learning Spanish or watching Fassbinder. I chose the later and ended up being like most Moroccans who receive money and spend it on entertainment.” Much like Cervantes, Fassbinder was also an influential character in the life of Taia. The filmmaker, who dealt with the theme of homosexuality in much of his films, gave Taia a sense of belonging to a community, whose issues could be seen on the screen.

My Teacher is My City
“Books are not the only thing that have made Abdelah Taia who he is today, my real teacher is the city where I grew up.” The novelist then went on to speak of how the knowledge and experience he obtained comes first from Salé, his hometown. “I don’t understand why some authors search for poetry or a good story outside of their culture. Morocco has it all, it has taught me all.” “I remember when I was a child and how my sister and I would walk around in the cemetery of Salé, weaving stories about the dead.” “I also remember watching Egyptian movies with my sisters. Their unprecedented approach to love and romance brought me closer, as a homosexual, to my sisters, who always knew of it, but never brought it up.”

Taia wrapped up the conference by asserting that his mother tongue, his city, religion, and country are what made him the author and storyteller he is now.

The Moroccan Cultural Day: Your Gateway to the Kingdom Morocco.

By Morocco World News - May 2, 2017 , Rabat

The Moroccan-American community of Revere is organizing the 2017 Moroccan Cultural Day on Saturday, May 20th, from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. The goal of this event is to promote the culture of Morocco, assist local Moroccan businesses reach out to their potential customers and encourage community business people to invest in the city. This big outdoor celebration will be open to the public and heavily covered by various media outlets. The event organizers are anticipating a large turnout at this unprecedented event. “We have invited the entire city to join us on May 20th to celebrate the culture of Morocco through food, arts and music” Rachid Moukhabir, the event coordinator, said. Indeed, the event has been advertised on TV, newspaper and social media outlets. As a matter of fact, the 16 year old Moroccan-American high school student, Chaimaa Hossaini, and her mentor VannyHuot volunteered to knock doors and invite people as the event date gets closer. All government officials have been invited. This will give all the guests an opportunity to speak in a personal way with these officials.

Local businesses and individuals, who have been promoting Morocco in the U.S., will be offered a free booth to exhibit their products and services. A special feature of this cultural event is that three non-Moroccan judges, who are familiar with the Moroccan culture and have been in Morocco multiple times, will judge everyone’s work. The winner will hold the title of the 2017 Ambassador of Morocco to the city of Revere.

How do Women’s Rights fare in Today’s Age of Turmoil?

By Fatima Sadiqi - May 1, 2017 Fez

Women’s demands in North Africa are increasingly diversified and polyvocal as new actors and agents are gaining visibility in the public sphere of authority. This diversification is, in turn, being nourished by new values (such as dignity) and new approaches (such as the use of social media and transnational networking). Women’s issues and women’s rights are at the Center of these dynamics; just as they have been before. And given the rapidity with which events are taking place we need both a diachronic and a synchronic perspective to understand what’s happening. Women’s issues are creating what I will refer to as “The Center”. A Center that holds but with diachronic and synchronic aspects that move.

I define “The Center” as an ideological middle-ground space between the increasingly antagonistic paradigms of secularism (separation of religion and politics) and Islamism (use of religion in politics) in the post-revolution North Africa. It is a space where a reconfiguration of space is taking place. This reconfiguration is based the twin dichotomies of conservative/modernist and Islamist/secular.
The conservative-modernist dichotomy in North Africa was born during the colonization period. While both trends supported nationalism they significantly differed in their reactions to the West and modernity. Conservatives opposed any influence of the West especially in family and social matters, and modernists viewed the West as progress. From the 1970s onward, and with rampant political Islamism in the background, the conservative-modernist dichotomy developed into a secularists-Islamists one. It is important to note that this new development did not supplant the initial modernist-conservative dichotomy but politicized, hence polarized, it and rendered it more complex. In politics, modernists tend to support secularists and conservatives tend to support Islamists although the latter are not necessarily against modernity and some of them may support secularists.

Theoretically speaking, the way secularism and Islamism are applied varies from country to country in North Africa (ans the Arab-Muslim world at large) because although all Arab-Muslim countries consider Islam as a state religion and legal reference (thus part and parcel of politics and religion) Islam does not play the same political role in every country.

The differences were constructed during the state-building phases when each country chose a specific madhab (Islamic school of jurispruendence) as a frame of reference that fitted its political structure. For example Morocco chose the Maliki madhab because this school acknowledges the religious authority of the ruler and hence suited a multi-ethnic and multilingual country like Morocco. In other words, the way political and religious authorities function in Muslim-majority countries, as well as the means and degrees of the application of shari’a law in their legal systems, vary. In Morocco, secularists do not in general see their stance as opposing Islam, but they see it as opposing Islamists in an overarching context where monarchy (expected to protect both trends) rules.
Indeed, the secularists and Islamists in Morocco exhibit surface commonalities and deep underlying divergences. In sum, while we all understand what secularism means theoretically, it is tailored to the specific historical and sociopolitical nature of each country. For example, within the overall Moroccan ruling system, where both the supreme religious and political authorities are prerogatives of the king, the majority of the secular and Islamist forces do not contest this reality. Of course each trend has its own moderate and extremist versions but in general both secular and Islamist forces acknowledge the position of the king as the supreme and ultimate arbiter in cases of clash between parties, as well as a source of stability.

The Center exhibits the following characteristics: it does not have a clear leadership, it transcends the boundaries of the secdularist-Islamist dichotomy, it uses conventional and social media (virtual space) and it is porous (i.e. with open boundaries that are not clearly delimited). Hence, seemingly incompatible standpoints (secularist and Islamist) may co-exist and converse without converging in this space. Subsequently, the Center is bound to be complex and multifacteous because it addresses different important facets of a complex and quickly changing reality. In parctical terms, the Center expands beyond the reform movements of the 1990s-2000s and as such, does not easily fall in the Anglo-American or Western European frameworks of what constitutes a “political center” because the base of social reform is expanded and the relations with politics is not direct.

Although the Arab Spring did not specifically target women’s issues, it is thanks to decades of women’s struggle for their rights that issues like education and health care were top on the agenda of the mass protests. Further, it was the protest culture that secular women’s activists instilled in the public sphere that opened the door to large-scale demonstrations. A number of women-related issues are now raised in the Center: Islamist rhetoric that aims at rolling back women’s achievements in terms of rights, the escalation of gender-based violence pursuant to the escalation of Jihadism in the region, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, etc. In addressing these issues, secular feminist forces are trying to gain initiative. Women’s rights are increasingly included in “mutual accountability frameworks” between donors and aid recipients in governmental institutions with the aim of regulating political dialogue, aid, trade, gender aspects, and wider economic relations.

It seems that theoretically, in the long run the Center will allow a broadening of the support base for women’s rights movements, through engaging new youth activists and women in rural and urban slum areas. Initiatives to transform development programs to embed gender equality, women’s participation. However, there is a growing feeling that the chief obstacle to these goals is the rise of fundamentalist movements in the region and the failure of political Islam to manage politics and be inclusive (governance).

By way of conclusion, I would say that whatever the constraints, In the case of NA, the use of gender as a lens through which emerging politicized identification processes within the public field are analyzed is a promising field of inquiry which brings together various intellectual voices in the region and across the globe. This approach brings to light a plurality of identity configurations at play in the post-revolution NA —ethno-linguistic and non-ethno-linguistic, Islamist and secular, that were marginalized or elided in the process of decolonization. This in turn allows a contextualization of the dominant post-revolution narratives in the region – the public role of Islam, women’s roles; recent reforms regarding women’s legal status, etc. Gender politics is crucial in forging these narratives, and hence, exemplifies how the three axes of identity—religion, ethnicity, gender— were activated during the revolution moment and nourished in the aftermath of the revolution.

These and related issues will be addressed in more detail in the upcoming 8th edition of the Mediterranean Forum which will focus on Women’s Voices in the Mediterranean and Africa: Movements, Feminisms, and Resistance to Extremisms and which will take place on May 5, 6 and 7 at Hotel Mérinides, Fez.

Moroccan NGO Tackles Disability Services at World Economic Forum

By Morocco World News - May 4, 2017 Rabat

International business, social, and political leaders are gathering May 3 to 5 in Durban, South Africa for the World Economic Forum on Africa 2017, including one Moroccan social entrepreneurship organization. Slaoui Amina, president of the organization Act, Make, Hope (AMH), has participated in one of the symposium’s sessions entitled “Rehabilitation services and products improving the lives of people with disabilities”, discussing the challenges and issues related to people with disabilities in Morocco.

AMH is focusing on a variety of projects related to disability assistance, including health issues, social services, and enterprise development. One of the organization’s more ambitious goals is to offer employment services, helping its patients with disabilties in applying for jobs. Slaoui has said that her organization is focusing on fostering independence  to promote the autonomy of individuals and reduce the need of third-party assistance. She went on to add that the second focus of her organization is to make all groups of people within a society feel appreciated, respected, and important. She also spoke about issues of education and employment.

The global symposium focuses on several challenging circumstances, including the education crisis in Africa, unemployment issues, and business trade.

Essaouira’s Gnaoua and World Music Festival to Celebrate its 20th Anniversary

By Morocco World News - May 3, 2017 By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

Each year, the beautiful city of Essaouira devotes its maze of streets, lovely beaches, and vibrant public squares to music for the annual Gnaoua and World Music Festival. This summer, from June 29 to July 1, the beach town will host the festival’s 20th anniversary. This year’s edition will bring together a mixture of Moroccan, African, and international artists to celebrate the music of the Gnaoua brotherhood on Morocco’s Atlantic coast.

Neila Tazi producer of the festival has expressed her satisfaction at the introduction of the event’s program in a press conference, held on May 2 in Casablanca. Tazi told the press that the 20th edition will provide festival goers with the opportunity to enjoy luxurious concerts offered by some of the renowned Moroccan Gnaoua artists, including Mohammed and Said Kouyou, Hassan Boussou Mustapha Bakbou and Hamid El Kasri and Houssam Guinea.

The press conference of the event has been also marked by the presence of Driss El Yazami, President of the National council for Human Rights (CNDH), Abdeslam Alikkane, Artistic Director and President Yerma Gnaoua Association. Karim Ziad, Artistic Director.

Several other international and local Gnawa bands will also take part in the festival, namely Gnawa Diffusion, Gnaoua D’Agadir and Band of Gnawa and Marsa Band and Ribab Fusion. In addition to Gnaoua masters from around Morocco, Essaouira stages will also host international stars of jazz, blues, and rock music, including Bill Laurance, Speed Caravan, Carlinhos Brown and Lucky Peterson.
The festival will also include musical concerts performed by Congolese pianist and composer Ray Lema, French multi-instrumentalist Titi Robin, and Moroccan superstars Hindi Zahra and Mehdi Nassouli.
The three-day event will also feature collaborative performances joining Gnaoua withinternational jazz and blues bands. Apart from Gnaoua music, Essaouira’s Aissawa and Hmadchas brotherhoods will also participate in this annual event.

Welcome to the Moroccan History and Civilizations Museum

By Morocco World News - April 14, 2017 By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

Following twelve months of hard work, the Museum of History and Civilizations of Rabat has re-opened its doors to the public on April 12.  The Museum of History and Civilizations has become a space that brings together a set of important historical components of Moroccan heritage, highlighting and introducing them to national and international attendees.

The city of Rabat is considered the home of important cultural buildings, including Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the History and Civilizations Museum (formerly the Archaeological Museum). The Museum of History and Civilizations provide s  visitors with the opportunity to discover a unique collection of precious treasures accompanied by material evidence from the various civilizations that have descended on Morocco from prehistoric times, to Islamic civilizations.

The museum consists of two sections. First, a historical section that showcases the history of Morocco through the centuries via the featured elements. Second, a thematic section, which focuses mainly on ancient marble and bronze collections.  The entrance hall of this area features a new interactive digital screen that shows visitors the important geographical zones of Morocco
Just behind the smart screen, there is a large marble statue of Ptolemy of Mauritania, the last Roman client king and ruler of Mauritania for Rome. The same zone is surrounded by a main hall decorated with geometrical mosaic pieces.

The left wing of the museum includes a collection of bronze and ceramic figures, and antiquities from ancient Moroccan civilizations, namely, Phoenician, Mauritanian, and Roman civilizations. These pieces are from different Moroccan archaeological sites, including Sale, Essaouira, and Volubilis (Walili). This zone of the museum includes Islamic articles, which enables visitors to discover Morocco through various ruling dynasties, from Al Adarissa to the Alawites. The museum displays architectural elements, scientific objects, measuring tools and currencies, including silver and gold coins that existed over the centuries, in addition to a small smart screen located in the corner of the upper section of the museum.

This part of the museum features some of the most essential marble statues, originating mainly from Banasah and Walili, as well as a collection of bronze artifacts that present the graphic themes of Morocco’s heritage. At the left of the same section, there is an area devoted to the old artwork of white marble, as well as Roman sculpture masterpieces found in Morocco.
This section also features one of the most important masterpieces of the Moroccan archaeological heritage, the bronze bust of Juba II, which has also been featured at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The outer garden of the museum consists of stone artifacts with Libyan and Latin inscriptions, as well as paintings and Islamic publications. Fatima Zahra Chbihi, the History and Civilization museum’s curator, told Morocco World News that “this renovation is the strategy of National Museum Foundation (FNM), which aims to improve the quality of  Moroccan museums in general and make them more attractive.”

Moroccans and Museums
Chbihi added that “there is a certain minority of Moroccan people who still having that passion of visiting museums. However, foreign visitors are unfortunately more interested in Moroccan museums than the original inhabitants.” She went on to add that some people visit Moroccan museums only on Fridays, because of the free entry offered on this day. 3rd year students at the National Institute of Archeology and Heritage,  Zineb Diouri and Hajar Bekkari, shared their opinions with MWN regarding the renovated museum.

Zineb Diouri was surprised by the changes done for the museum.  “I had a passion for archeology and its arts before choosing it as my education plan,” She said. On the other hand, Hajar Bakkar told MWN that “cultural buildings were not receiving appropriate attention before, but now the FNM is making tangible changes to save Morocco’s heritage.” “The renovation of Moroccan museums has a very positive significance. It is a symbol of the acknowledgment and valuation of Moroccan heritage, she added. The museum entry will be free for the next 13 days

Women between careerism and Islamism: Moroccan cinema features diversity

The Moroccan Film Festival in Berlin highlights films made by women or dealing with women's issues. The director of the Moroccan Cinema Center told DW what he finds most fascinating about the movies in the program.

'Rock the Casbah'

Filmmaker Laïla Marrakchi became famous in Morocco with her 2005 work "Marock," which depicted a controversial romantic relationship between a Muslim and a Jew. In the French-Moroccan drama "Rock the Casbah" (2013), a three-day mourning period after a father's death allows estranged sisters and a mother to deal with conflict issues and uncover secrets within their family.


This award-winning film from 2009, directed by Mohamed Mouftaki, brings two women together: Zineb, a psychiatrist who is assigned to Rihana, a traumatized and pregnant young woman. As the initially mumbling patient recovers speech, her story awakens haunting thoughts for the emotionally exhausted doctor.

'The Fifth String'

Two women were responsible for this film from 2011: director Selma Bargach and producer Rachida Saadi. Set in Casablanca in 1999, it tells the story of Malek, a young lute player who learns from his uncle the secret of the "fifth string," inspired by the teachings of Ziryab, a musical pioneer from the medieval Islamic period in the seventh century.

'Rough Hands'

This 2011 comedy-drama directed by Mohamed Asli depicts the struggles of different working-class Casablanca residents trying to improve their lives through devious side businesses. Zakia, the main female protagonist in this story, needs to fake having "rough hands" to pass as a temporary farm helper to get her a visa to join her fiancé, who has moved to Spain.

'Veiled Love Affairs'

This film tells the story of Batoul, a 28-year-old doctor from a conservative Muslim family. When she meets Hamza, she feels torn between her traditional values, which forbid her from dating a man before marriage, and desire. The work didn't please Islamists. "I want to provoke a debate," said director Aziz Salmy at its premiere at the Marrakech International Film Festival in 2008.

'Dance of Outlaws'

Mohamed El Aboudi's 2012 documentary reveals the depressing fate of Hind, who was raped and impregnated at the age of 14, which led to further stigmatization from her family. They punished her for shaming them by taking away her ID card. Living on the edge of legality, she struggles to survive, working as a wedding dancer and a prostitute, without being able to obtain papers for her own children.


Malika El Manoug was already an award-winning journalist before she directed this first feature film in 2013. It tells the story of a computer programmer living in France and a woman living in Morocco who meet via the internet and decide to get married. However, they discover that they're related; to uncover the past they head back to the conservative village where their parents used to live.


Diagnosed with a malignant tumor, Aïda Cohen, a Moroccan Jewish professor living in Paris, decides to go back to her hometown, Essaouira, to get back in touch with her roots and childhood memories. She finds new motivation through music. Driss Mrini's work was selected as Morocco's entry for the Oscars for best foreign language film in 2016, but wasn't among the final nominees.


Youssef Britel's film from 2014 is based on the true story of Chaïbia Talal, who was an illiterate peasant girl from a nomadic family, born in 1929. She hoped her only son would become an artist, but one day decided to use his materials to paint, too. Her naïve art was recognized by members of the Cobra avant-garde movement in Paris, turning her into an iconic 20th century painter.

'Adios Carmen'

This award-winning film from 2013 was directed by Mohamed Amin Benamraoui and was the first one to be shot in the Berber language. Set in 1975, in the Rif region of northern Morocco, it tells the story of a meeting between a 10-year-old abandoned boy, Amar, and a Spanish women named Carmen, who's fled Franco's regime and who works at the village cinema. She introduces the young boy to film.

'Raja, Bent el Mellah'

Abdelilah El Jaouhari's 2015 documentary portrays how Najat Bensalem, a young Moroccan woman, was revealed to the public after being cast in a movie by French director Jacques Doillon. Winning best actress awards at the prestigious Venice and Marrakech film festivals, her career, however, didn't take off afterwards - and the aspiring star had to go back to selling cigarettes to survive.

Just before the opening of the five-day Moroccan Film Festival, held at the Babylon cinema in Berlin from May 2 - 7, DW met with the director of the Moroccan Cinema Center (CCM), Sarim Fassi-Fihrim, who was responsible for the program. The festival's focus is "Women in Moroccan Cinema." None of the filmmakers were present at the event.

DW: How did you select the films presented during this festival?
Sarim Fassi-Fihrim: We had two very simple criteria. The first one was that we picked films directed by women, which is the case for four of the 16 movies in the program, so that was easy. The second one was that we selected movies dealing with issues affecting women. That was even easier, because there are also many male filmmakers dealing with women's issues in their films.

Which films in this program are your favorite ones and what do they reveal about the situation of women in Morocco?

When I select films for a program like this one, I am interested in the diversity they depict. I'm not sure if 100 percent of these films were state-subsidized, but I know for sure that at least a dozen of them were. Knowing that these are publically funded movies and seeing the diversity of the issues they deal with is what I find most interesting. Every filmmaker is free to deal with a topic in the way they want to. That's what's important.

I have the impression that one of the recurring themes in many of these movies is that they depict women trying to follow their professional and personal aspirations while dealing with the pressures of traditional values, am I right?
That also happens. Just like in other societies, women aim to grow and to find their way. I would almost say that this is a universal theme for women; they are trying to overcome the difficulties of society. You see the salary gap in France for a woman and a man with the same qualifications, for example. On different levels, it remains a universal issue.

The filmmaker Laïla Marrakchi, who was boycotted by Islamist militants when her film "Marock" came out in 2005, said in a recent interview that she was witnessing the radicalization of Morocco and that religion was gaining significance in society. The film "Veiled Love Affairs," by director Aziz Salmy, also sparked controversy among authorities of the ruling Islamist party. Is the rise of religious fundamentalism currently affecting artistic freedom in the country?

No, I would say that, especially in film, there was basically a counter-movement. By this, I mean that when the Islamists formed the government in 2012, most filmmakers believed that they were obliged to defend themselves even before they were attacked. In other words, as soon as they saw the Islamists arrive, they expected to be censored and to be asked to avoid certain topics or to deal with them differently. So filmmakers strongly defended themselves from the start, but there wasn't any real confrontation between Islamists and filmmakers.

Do films therefore manage to deal with topics that would otherwise be avoided in the country?

Cinema is sometimes the easiest way to say things in a country like Morocco. Cinema offers more freedom. It is a media that reaches all households through television and reaches the most people, as more of them will watch a movie than read a book.

The documentary "Dance of Outlaws" portrays a young woman's marginalized existence, banned by her family after she was raped and impregnated as a teenager. Is such a situation common in Morocco and what is being done to change mentalities towards traditional codes of honor and forced marriages?
There is no traditional code of honor in the way we hear about it in the Middle East, where women are killed after being raped. That doesn't exist in Morocco. There are laws, just like everywhere, against rape. After that, there's the weight of society, and it's sometimes heavy to carry in traditionalist societies.  These traditions make it even more burdensome in some cases.

I previously mentioned diversity. Such a film reveals a completely different world, compared, for example, with the program's opening film, "Rock the Casbah." The thing they have in common is that both films were state-subsidized, and that the filmmakers had the freedom to express themselves and to provide their point of view. We have on one hand a society that's very traditional, and on the other, that's quite occidentalized. From there, you have to find the balance.

From our perspective, there nevertheless appears to be a large gap between those two poles, between the part of society that's very modernized and the parts that are left behind…

Yes, between a woman who's an airline pilot and one who's living in a rural society that is still strongly influenced by tradition, there's absolutely a larger gap in Morocco than in Germany. Things have nevertheless evolved a lot, but we still need several decades of evolution. Yet the evolution is noticeable; women have access to all types of professions, for example.

Can this be felt among filmmakers as well?

Absolutely, I would say one out of four film directors is a woman. These are stronger numbers than in most of Europe.

What is the importance of promoting these films about diversity of backgrounds abroad, for example, through this festival?

It's important because it shows a part of society that's not well known in Germany. I've realized that because of the painful events that happened in Cologne a year and a half ago, Germans have an image that can lead to generalizations. It would be like thinking that just because some crazy Americans killed innocent victims, it would be normal to believe that all American citizens were killers.

Is it therefore now more important to build bridges between Germany and Marocco, after the massive arrival of refugees in Germany?

In all societies, there is good and bad, and that also applies to refugees. There are many reasons leading people to leave, not just economic ones. Some left for political reasons, for family reasons - and the mentalities of these people also differs. Not everyone is a killer, not everyone is a rapist, and not everyone is a doctor or an engineer. There's good and bad everywhere, and the diversity of the films we are showing this week demonstrates this well.

'Last African dinosaur' discovered in Moroccan mine

May 3, 2017

Chenanisaurus barbaricus
One of the last dinosaurs living in Africa before their extinction 66 million years ago has been discovered in a phosphate mine in northern Morocco. A study of the fossil, led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, suggests that following the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana in the middle of the Cretaceous period, a distinct dinosaur fauna evolved in Africa.

Almost nothing is known about the dinosaurs that lived in Africa at the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago, just before they were wiped out by the impact of a giant asteroid. At this time sea levels were high, and so most of the fossils come from marine rocks.

Among these are the phosphate deposits of Morocco—remains of an ancient seabed, laid down 66 million years ago. The phosphate is harvested from vast strip mines and is used in everything from fertilizer to cola drinks.

Last year, Dr Nick Longrich, from the Milner Centre for Evolution and the Department of Biology & Biochemistry at the University of Bath, studied a rare fragment of a jaw bone that was discovered in the mines at Sidi Chennane in the Oulad Abdoun Basin, Morocco. In collaboration with colleagues based in Morocco, France, and Spain, Longrich identified it as belonging to an abelisaur.

Abelisaurs were two-legged predators like T. rex and other tyrannosaurs, but with a shorter, blunter snout, and even tinier arms. While the tyrannosaurs dominated in North America and Asia, the abelisaurs were the top predators at the end of the Cretaceous in Africa, South America, India, and Europe.

Dr Longrich explained: "This find was unusual because it's a dinosaur from marine rocks—it's a bit like hunting for fossil whales, and finding a fossil lion. It's an incredibly rare find—almost like winning the lottery. But the phosphate mines are so rich, it's like buying a million lottery tickets, so we actually have a chance to find rare dinosaurs like this one." "We have virtually no dinosaur fossils from this time period in Morocco - it may even be the first dinosaur named from the end-Cretaceous in Africa. It's also one of the last dinosaurs in Africa before the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs.

"It's an exciting find because it shows just how different the fauna was in the Southern hemisphere at this time." Named Chenanisaurus barbaricus, the newly discovered dinosaur stood on two legs and had stumpy arms. Dr Longrich added: "Abelisaurs had very short arms. The upper arm bone is short, the lower arm is shorter, and they have tiny little hands." The teeth from the fossil were worn as if from biting into bone, suggesting that like T. rex, Chenanisaurus was a predator. However, unlike the partially feathered T. rex, Chenanisaurus had only scales, its brain was smaller, and its face was shorter and deeper.

The research project was carried out as part of an international scientific collaboration that is helping create and study paleontology collections in Morocco with the aim of conserving the country's rich fossil heritage. The specimens used for this study are conserved in the Office Chérifien de Phosphates paleontological collection in Morocco.
Explore further: Rare fossil of a horned dinosaur found from 'lost continent'
More information: Nicholas R. Longrich et al, An abelisaurid from the latest Cretaceous (late Maastrichtian) of Morocco, North Africa, Cretaceous Research (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2017.03.021

Moroccan activists move to save endangered short-tailed monkeys.

03/05 - 20:17

Morocco is battling to save its monkey economy as the species continue to suffer attacks. Harrad, like most Moroccans, spend their time crisscrossing the northern parts of the country to convince locals to protect the endangered monkeys. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has blamed illegal poaching, tourists who feed the monkeys and overexploitation of the cedar and oak forests that form the species’ natural habitat for the attacks, which has seen most leave to other places. The Barbary macaque is the only species that exists north of the Sahara, and is found only in Morocco, Algeria and a little in Gibraltar, making Morocco the most important country in terms of conservation of this species.

“If nothing is done, this species will disappear within 10 years,” Ahmed Harrad, head of a local association, Barbary Macaque Awareness & Conservation, BMAC’s four wheel drive said. “We are working on two areas – monitoring and making a census of the species in the Rif and raising awareness among locals so that they actively help rescue it,” Harrad said. Harrad has become a tireless advocate for the monkeys, whom he says are sold to buyers in Europe for between $110 and $330 (100 and 300 euros) despite laws forbidding the trade.

“The Barbary macaque is the only species that exists north of the Sahara, and is found only in Morocco, Algeria and a little in Gibraltar, making Morocco the most important country in terms of conservation of this species,” he added. According to the National Geographic, skeletal remains have been discovered “in the ashes of Pompeii, deep within an ancient Egyptian catacomb, and buried beneath an Irish hilltop where the Bronze Age kings of Ulster once held court”.

Morocco has never conducted a nationwide census of the macaque, but scientists believe its numbers fall every year. It is estimated that Morocco is home to between 3,000 and 10,000 monkeys. Three decades ago, it stood at 17,000. Authorities say they are committed to the fight to restore sanity, with awareness-raising sessions being organized for tourists and schools.

Debate: Should Morocco Say Goodbye to ‘Mama Franssa’? 

By Amira El Masaiti - April 18, 2017 , Rabat

In Morocco’s capital of Rabat, some 2,216 km away from Paris, France continues to have influence on Morocco as a current primary trade partner. But the current alarming state of politics in the republic has called into question: is France still a model for Morocco? At a conference hosted by MondeAfrique on April 17 in Rabat, Abdessamad Benchrief, a journalist, author and channel director of Al-Maghrebia, Mohammed Hmouddane, the author of “the Sky, Hassan ll and Mother France,” and “French Dream”, and Bahaa Trabelsi, the author of “Simply a Woman” and “the Concierge’s Chair,” discussed one of the questions underlying Morocco’s identity crisis: Is France still Morocco’s model?

As Western right-wing political parties are on the upswing in terms of popular support and access to governmental power, a phenomenon not experienced since fascist movements in the 1930s, for xenophobic nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia have been increasing at alarming rates. Particularly in France, the National Front, founded in 1972 by far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, is currently recovering its power under the recent leadership of one of two leading candidates in the current French campaign, Marine Le Pen, known for her imperialistic speeches filled with vows to “end immigrants in France,” give the French their “France back,” and “restore order” in the Republic. In contrast with all who argue that “there isn’t just one France,” today’s reality is that, right-wing republicans now comprise a large part of its public face.

Colonialism  to the Skin 
Moroccan historical studies have gone far to prove that a denial of French influence on Morocco would be “foolish and absurd,” according to Benchrief, a viewpoint which the rest of the speakers agreed with. But a bigger and perhaps more important question is how Moroccans’ view of France as a nation and as, according to Trabelsi, “the bringer of enlightenment,” has changed.
A discussion on this particular issue is, as Benchrief coined it, “culturally adventurous.” He went on to say that France has helped produced much of today’s Moroccan identity.

Though the official languages of the Kingdom are Arabic and Amazigh, it is well known the formal language of business and higher education is French. French is employed in all official institutions of the country, the juridical/legal, educational, economic, and diplomatic systems, as well as simply obtaining a medical prescription from a doctor and handing it to a pharmacist. Benchrief noted that these institutions echo almost identically their French counterparts. 

Goodbye ‘Frenchness’
Mohammed Hmouddane suggested that France has ceased to be a country for Moroccans but rather a concept that serves “the reproduction of the Moroccan elite.” He added that this very conceptualization of France appeals to “Morocco’s search for identity,” which many citizens are eager to fulfill. “Frenchness” is Moroccans’ ticket to prestige and a better social status, according to Hmouddane, a model, but not in the sense that it must be perceived as a phantasy.

Trabelsi’s said that her early years were a mixture of Moroccan and French culture that has led her to argue against the use of the binary “Us against the Other” discourse. Drawing from her experience as a Francophone author and a Moroccan citizen, she elucidated that Morocco isn’t one fixed entity, but rather many identities that borrow not only from France but also from all four corners of the world to construct an identity that allows Morocco to be “rich and unique in its multiculturalism.”

 Mama Franssa, a Little Attention!
Islamophobic discourse in France and the unacknowledged participation of immigrants in the growth of the business sector in the country suggested a less reassuring idea: even though Morocco celebrates its multiculturalism and acceptance of French culture as an integral part of its identity, this is not necessarily reciprocated, especially, added Benchrief, considering the rise of the far right.
The journalist avoided euphemism and spoke of unpleasant facts usually swept under the rug for the sake of national pride. He argued that even though Moroccans have treasured French culture and literature, the latter has scarcely done the same. Many great names of Moroccan literature are ignored by the French, while French names are taught in Moroccan universities and discussed among circles of intellectuals.

Trabelsi took to another approach on the issue and maintained that much like Morocco, France is confronted by an “identity crisis” – an imported Wahabist ideology that is at stake in both countries. To her, this represents a chance to recall the Kingdom’s identity, which has for decades associated religion with progress. She added that the issue of identity should not be given great importance.  Instead the public’s attention should be directed towards more sustainable issues, such as the country’s infrastructure, education, and tourism.
The conference did not provide a definitive answer of whether France is a model or not. Instead, it opened the door to future discussions.

Moroccan cleric defies taboo on women’s inheritance

Hamza Mekouar |Saturday 6 May 2017 RABAT, Morocco:

A former radical preacher is the unlikely instigator of a debate on a topic long seen as off-limits in Muslim-majority Morocco: women’s inheritance rights. The country’s Islamic family laws allocate female heirs half the amount men receive on the death of a relative. Abdelwahab Rafiki, a former hard-line cleric who served time in jail following jihadist bombings in Casablanca, says it is time that changed.

“I invite... religious scholars, sociologists and human rights actors to open a dialogue, primarily in order to uphold justice,” he said. Rafiki, also known as Abou Hafs, was one of around 100 male writers, journalists and artists who published a book in April called “Men defend equality in inheritance.” He also appeared on a prime-time television show on the popular 2M channel, arguing that the social roles of men and women had changed since the early days of Islam, meaning it was time for a debate on inheritance rules.

Since his TV appearance, he said, “I have been threatened with death and excommunicated, but I also received many messages of support.” The 43-year-old was once regarded as a leader of the Salafist-jihadist movement in Morocco. He was among 8,000 people arrested after jihadist bombings in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people.

Death threats
Sentenced to 30 years in prison, he was pardoned in 2012. Last year he stood for election to parliament representing Istiqlal, a conservative nationalist party. His efforts to spark a debate on inheritance have won him plaudits from the liberal media and condemnation from his former peers. “Thanks to 2M and Abou Hafs, a new step has been taken in Morocco: equality between men and women in matters of inheritance can now be raised in the public sphere,” local site Medias 24 said.

Weekly magazine TelQuel said he had begun “dismantling one by one the dogmas of radical Islam.” But Abou Hafs has also received anonymous death threats on social media and been expelled from a national organization for religious scholars. He has been denounced by the likes of Mohamed Fizazi and Hassan Kettani, preachers who were also jailed and later pardoned after the Casablanca attacks. “He didn’t just turn his coat inside out, he tore it up,” Fizazi said. Kettani said inheritance rules were not just a “red line” but an “impassable wall.” Islamic scholars argue that the Qur'an allocates women half the inheritance given to male heirs because men are responsible for protecting women and providing for them.

Correcting injustice
They say the rules were a major improvement on women’s rights in pre-Islamic Arabia. But Abou Hafs argues that the issue is open to “ijtihad” — the process of interpretation by religious scholars.
“The issue of inheritance must be consistent with evolutions in society” in order to “protect” Islam, he told AFP. It is not the first time the subject has triggered controversy.
In 2015 Morocco’s official National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) called for women to be guaranteed the same inheritance rights as men, arguing that “unequal inheritance legislation” made women more vulnerable to poverty.

Outraged conservatives rejected any debate on the issue and the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) slammed the organization for its “irresponsible recommendation.” But Nouzha Skalli, a former women’s rights minister, said the lines are moving.“Until recently, the question was taboo — you couldn’t even debate the subject,” she said.“As soon as you said the word ‘inheritance’ you were accused of blasphemy. Today, the debate can be held openly.”

“The time has come to break the taboo, which hides major injustices against women,” she said. “The Qur'an says that God is against injustice.” RABAT, Morocco: A former radical preacher is the unlikely instigator of a debate on a topic long seen as off-limits in Muslim-majority Morocco: women’s inheritance rights. The country’s Islamic family laws allocate female heirs half the amount men receive on the death of a relative.

Abdelwahab Rafiki, a former hard-line cleric who served time in jail following jihadist bombings in Casablanca, says it is time that changed.“I invite... religious scholars, sociologists and human rights actors to open a dialogue, primarily in order to uphold justice,” he said. Rafiki, also known as Abou Hafs, was one of around 100 male writers, journalists and artists who published a book in April called “Men defend equality in inheritance.” He also appeared on a prime-time television show on the popular 2M channel, arguing that the social roles of men and women had changed since the early days of Islam, meaning it was time for a debate on inheritance rules.

Since his TV appearance, he said, “I have been threatened with death and excommunicated, but I also received many messages of support.” The 43-year-old was once regarded as a leader of the Salafist-jihadist movement in Morocco. He was among 8,000 people arrested after jihadist bombings in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 people.

Death threats
Sentenced to 30 years in prison, he was pardoned in 2012. Last year he stood for election to parliament representing Istiqlal, a conservative nationalist party. His efforts to spark a debate on inheritance have won him plaudits from the liberal media and condemnation from his former peers.“Thanks to 2M and Abou Hafs, a new step has been taken in Morocco: equality between men and women in matters of inheritance can now be raised in the public sphere,” local site Medias 24 said.

Weekly magazine TelQuel said he had begun “dismantling one by one the dogmas of radical Islam.” But Abou Hafs has also received anonymous death threats on social media and been expelled from a national organization for religious scholars. He has been denounced by the likes of Mohamed Fizazi and Hassan Kettani, preachers who were also jailed and later pardoned after the Casablanca attacks.“He didn’t just turn his coat inside out, he tore it up,” Fizazi said. Kettani said inheritance rules were not just a “red line” but an “impassable wall.” Islamic scholars argue that the Qur'an allocates women half the inheritance given to male heirs because men are responsible for protecting women and providing for them.

Correcting injustice
They say the rules were a major improvement on women’s rights in pre-Islamic Arabia. But Abou Hafs argues that the issue is open to “ijtihad” — the process of interpretation by religious scholars.
“The issue of inheritance must be consistent with evolutions in society” in order to “protect” Islam, he told AFP. It is not the first time the subject has triggered controversy. In 2015 Morocco’s official National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) called for women to be guaranteed the same inheritance rights as men, arguing that “unequal inheritance legislation” made women more vulnerable to poverty.
Outraged conservatives rejected any debate on the issue and the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) slammed the organization for its “irresponsible recommendation.”
But Nouzha Skalli, a former women’s rights minister, said the lines are moving.

“Until recently, the question was taboo — you couldn’t even debate the subject,” she said.“As soon as you said the word ‘inheritance’ you were accused of blasphemy. Today, the debate can be held openly.”“The time has come to break the taboo, which hides major injustices against women,” she said. “The Qur'an says that God is against injustice.”

Morocco fights to save its iconic monkey

CHEFCHAOUEN (Morocco), May 3

“If nothing is done, this species will disappear within 10 years,” warns a poster on Ahmed Harrad’s ageing 4x4 showing Morocco’s famed Barbary macaque monkey. Harrad spends his time crisscrossing northern Morocco to try to convince locals to protect the endangered monkey. The only species of macaque outside Asia, which lives on leaves and fruits and can weigh up to 20 kilogrammes (45 pounds), was once found throughout North Africa and parts of Europe. But having disappeared from Libya and Tunisia, it is now restricted to mountainous regions of Algeria and Morocco’s northern Rif region. Another semi-wild population of about 200 individuals in Gibraltar are the only free-ranging monkeys in Europe.

Today, the only native primate north of the Sahara, apart from humans, is in danger of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Conservationists blame illegal poaching, tourists who feed the monkeys and overexploitation of the cedar and oak forests that form the species’ natural habitat.

In response, Morocco has launched a campaign to save the species.  “We are working on two areas -- monitoring and making a census of the species in the Rif and raising awareness among locals so that they actively help rescue it,” Harrad said. As head of a local association, Barbary Macaque Awareness & Conservation (BMAC), Harrad has become a tireless advocate for the animal. 
He says it is often sold to buyers in Europe for between US$110 and US$330 (RM474 and RM1,423) despite laws forbidding the trade. 

“A lot of foreigners buy monkeys as pets,” he said. Seen as quiet and cute when it is young, the adult monkey can become a burden, Harrad said.  “It breaks things, bites, fights with children and climbs the curtains,” prompting many owners to abandon their pets, he said.

Macaque remains ‘in ashes of Pompeii’
But that hasn’t stopped the tailless monkeys, with their thick grey-and-ginger fur, being highly sought-after by passing travellers throughout the ages.  According to National Geographic, skeletal remains of macaques have been discovered “in the ashes of Pompeii, deep within an ancient Egyptian catacomb, and buried beneath an Irish hilltop where the Bronze Age kings of Ulster once held court”.

Zouhair Ahmaouch, an official at Morocco’s High Commission for Water, Forests and Combating Desertification, said the new conservation plan focused on tackling poaching. But Morocco “can’t repatriate monkeys released in Europe, because we don’t know whether they came from Gibraltar, Algeria or Morocco”, he said. The North African kingdom has never conducted a nationwide census of the macaque, but scientists believe its numbers fall every year.

Based on various studies, they estimate that Morocco is home to between 3,000 and 10,000 macaques today, compared with 17,000 three decades ago. They believe Algeria had around 5,500 Barbary macaques in the late 1980s. The number has since almost halved, according to the IUCN.  Algiers has also responded with plans to protect the species. While the macaques are hard to spot in the wilds of Morocco’s Rif, some individuals in the forests of the Middle Atlas are tame, attracting tourists who come to feed them.

But Ifrane National Park head Lahcen Oukennou said feeding can cause “health problems such as obesity, which affects their health and especially their reproductive capacity”. Anouar Jaoui, director of Talassemtane National Park in northern Morocco, home to several dozen macaques, said the conservation strategy includes measures to “rehabilitate and rebuild the species’ habitat”.  That requires “reducing the pressure from overexploitation of natural resources”, he added.

In the forests of the Middle Atlas, authorities are organising awareness-raising sessions for tourists to discourage them from feeding or approaching the monkeys. Pupils at local schools are also being educated about the species. Last October, the Barbary macaque was listed as a species threatened with extinction on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
That makes buying and selling the monkeys illegal except under exceptional circumstances.

Ahmaouch welcomed the move.  “It will allow Morocco and other countries to unify their efforts to fight against the illegal trade in Barbary macaques,” he said. Morocco has a “global responsibility to conserve this heritage”. — AFP

Young Traveler Shows the Beauty of Morocco’s Famous Cities.

By Morocco World News - May 3, 2017 , Rabat

A video released by a 25-year-old traveler named Nas showcasess Marrakech, Rabat, Chefchaouen and the Moroccan Sahara. The young traveler devoted each minute of his video to a particular destination. He chooses Marrakech as his first landing-place, calling it one of the most beautiful cities in all Africa. Nas dedicates the second minute of his tape to Morocco’s capital, Rabat, explaining why “all” the city’s people speak French. He talks briefly about French colonization of Morocco and some of the buildings they constructed in Rabat during the 44 years of colonization.
The third destination was Morocco’s blue city, Chefchaouen. Nas talks about the city’s walls paintings, mountains and its stunning nature ”I am in a place …where everything around me is blue, ” says Nas.

The traveler also discuss stereotypes foreigners might believe about Muslim countries. Nas refutes some rumors about Morocco as a Muslim country, including the oppression of women and bad treatment of Jews, saying that in Morocco there are many Jews who are peacefully living with Muslims in Morocco. He then claims that women of all kinds live happily without any sort of oppression.
The fourth and last stop of the traveler was the Moroccan Sahara. Nas shares his experience under the stars of Morocco’s fascinating Sahara, showing how it appears as a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere.

Ministry of Health Announces Significant Decline in Maternal Mortality Rate

By Morocco World News -  May 3, 2017 , Rabat –

2017 Morocco’s National Survey on Population and Family Health has demonstrated a notable 35 percent decrease in the maternal mortality rate in Morocco, says a Ministry of Health press release issued May 3. The survey was conducted on a modeled estimate of 121,725 urban and rural-dwelling families throughout 12 regions of Morocco (rural and urban areas). 72.6 maternal deaths per 10,000 live births were recorded nationally, compared to those of the 2010 national survey, which recorded 112 deaths per 10.000 live births. This 35 percent decline is a significant advance in the reduction of maternal mortality in Morocco, says the ministry.

”This positive development confirms that Morocco has made significant progress in improving maternal health and fulfilling its commitments made to the international community, with the view to achieve the fifth Millennium Development goal called Improve Maternal Health,” explained the Ministry of Health. This survey has been conducted in coordination with High Commission for Planning, World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)

Anger brews in Morocco's neglected Rif region.

Friday May 5 2017

Thousands of Moroccans protest against the death of Mouhcine Fikri in the northern city of Hoceima on October 30, 2016. | PHOTO | FADEL SENNA | AFP |  

In Summary

In Morocco's neglected Rif region, where outrage erupted last year over the gruesome death of a fishmonger, calls for justice have evolved into a grassroots movement demanding jobs and hospitals.
Mouhcine Fikri, 31, was crushed in a rubbish truck in October in the northern city of Al-Hoceima as he tried to protest against the seizure and destruction of swordfish, which were not allowed to be caught at that time of year. His death in the Rif — an ethnically Berber region long marginalised and at the heart of a 2011 protest movement for reform — briefly sparked protests nationwide and added to long-standing grievances in his hometown.

"We're the sons of the poor, simple people who have taken to the street to say no to tyranny. We're not asking for anything exceptional — just the rehabilitation of our devastated region," says activist Nasser Zefzafi. Broadcasting passionate speeches online in the local Tarifit dialect from his home or the street, the unemployed 39-year-old has become the face of the new movement demanding economic inclusion for the Rif.

"The martyrdom of Mouhcine Fikri, which was the consequence of years of the same state policy, was the last straw. The trial was a farce, the judgement shameful," says Zefzafi, the leader of the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or "Popular Movement". "For six months we have been resisting... And we will resist until they respond to our demands for the economic and social development of our region," he says.

With its apartment blocks hugging the mountain and its main square overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea, Al-Hoceima would seem like a normal seaside city if it were not for the heavy presence of policemen in plain clothes and uniform. Weekend protests are common in this city of 60,000 inhabitants, with police immediately moving in to contain the demonstrators and prevent them from marching to the city centre. With the exception of a high school student protest in late March, all demonstrations have been peaceful.

The demands are always the same: jobs, roads, universities, hospitals and investment. Long excluded from state development plans and with little agricultural produce, the Rif region is economically devastated. Remittances have stopped flowing in from relatives abroad, a state clampdown has made cannabis production harder, and smuggling towards nearby Spanish enclaves has dwindled.
And fishing, one of the region's main sources of income, is also in crisis. Demonstrators say a mafia controls local fishing ports. The disillusionment is tangible among the city's residents fed up with the lack of work.

In a region that has traditionally rebelled against central power, Rif residents are feeling increasingly neglected and angry with the state. "The movement is spearheaded by youth, but it resonates with many people because of the economic crisis, especially with traders and fishermen," Zefzafi says. Faycal Aoussar, a local activist with the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, agrees.
"The youth's demands are fair and legitimate. The whole Rif supports them," he says. "People are very determined... The movement will continue as long as the social and economic issues are not resolved," Aoussar says.

But, say Zefzafi and Aoussar, the movement is not fighting for independence of the region, despite protesters holding up the flag of the short-lived Rif republic founded in 1922 by local hero Abdelkrim el-Khattabi. "The Rif flag is our identity, the heritage of our region," Aoussar says. Zefzafi insists: "We're not separatists... Our demands are economic and social. It has never been about creating an independent state." The Moroccan state has struggled to respond to the demands. The governor of Al-Hoceima was fired in late March, and a flurry of ministers have visited the city in recent months, promising projects to boost the local economy.

Local state "institutions are doing their job and listening to citizens", local official Nourredine Boughrane says. "Many projects are under way. We are doing everything to attract investors. There will be direct aid for fishermen," he adds. "The province has a bright future." But a local dignitary, who asked to remain anonymous, said state efforts so far were insufficient. "The authorities are moving but it's not enough. They'll need immediate results to stem the revolt. And (they'll need) to create jobs."

Five things to know about Morocco's Rif.

By Afp , 5 May 2017

Protests in the Rif region of northern Morocco followed the death of a fishmonger crushed to death on in a rubbish truck in October, 2016. Morocco's northern Rif region has been rocked by protests since the death of a fishmonger crushed in a rubbish truck there last October. Here are five things to know about the region:

- Berber identity -
The Rif is a mountainous region largely inhabited by Berbers who speak the Tarifit dialect of Amazigh. Morocco only gave Berber languages official status in 2011. The Rif has a history of defying outsiders' attempts to control it. In the 1920s, tribes there rose up against Spanish colonial rule. Local leader Abdelkrim El Khattabi inflicted a humiliating defeat on the occupiers and proclaimed the independent Republic of the Rif. His mini-state lasted less than five years -- Spanish and French troops used mustard gas to crush the revolt and by 1926 the republic had collapsed. But with three million Berber-speaking residents, the region has retained its independent streak. Today's protesters continue to carry the Berber colours and the flag of Khattabi's short-lived republic.

- Tense ties with Rabat -
The region has long had a tense relationship with Morocco's central authorities. Just two years after Morocco won independence from France and Spain in 1956, the Rif revolted again -- this time against the Arab-dominated government of King Hassan II. The revolt was crushed in another bloody crackdown that cost between 5,000 and 8,000 lives. In 1984, protests again rocked the region, prompting mass arrests. Security forces fired live ammunition at demonstrators, described by the king as "the scum of society". The region was also at the heart of Morocco's 2011 Arab Spring-inspired uprising against corruption. But prominent local activist Nasser Zefzafi is adamant that today's protests are about economic and social issues and demonstrators are not seeking an independent state.

- Cannabis -
In a region long left out of state development programmes and with little agricultural produce, many Rif residents turned to growing cannabis. From the 1980s onwards narcotics exports and other clandestine trade with Europe became mainstays of the region's economy. Participants in recent demonstrations have demanded that the state take on a mafia that controls local fishing ports, another key local source of income.

- Marginalisation -
Residents of the Rif say they have long been marginalised by the state. "King Hassan II (wanted) to punish the Rifians for their revolts in 1958 and 1984," said historian Pierre Vermeren. The father of current King Mohammed VI left the region undeveloped, pushing many of its residents to seek better lives in Europe. The region came to depend on trade with Europe, particularly Spain. The closure of the border with Algeria in 2004 increased the Rif's isolation.

- Large diaspora -
Decades of marginalisation, poverty and political unrest -- as well as a devastating 2004 earthquake -- have pushed many Rifians to emigrate. Thousands headed to Europe in the 1950s for work in coal mines, and today northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands have significant Rifian communities. Vermeren said around two million people with Rifian roots now live in Europe.

Educational Facilities and Classes Launched for Children with Autism.

By Morocco World News - May 5, 2017 Rabat

The association Overcoming Autism association has launched treatment units with specialized classes for children with autism. The initiative, undertaken in partnership with Rabat’s Regional Education Department,  is part of the new Futuroschool Rabat for children with the mental condition. “The concept is an unprecedented initiative, developed with the support of a specialized scientific committee. Its objective is to structure, democratize, and professionalize behaviours of autistic children,” Overcoming Autism told the Maghreb Arabe Presse agency.The project is aimed at answering to the needs of autistic children’s parents, who suffer from the lack of care facilities and trained professionals, added the association.

With the hope of improving the condition of autistic children, the association has proposed theoretical and practical training courses for parents of autistic children and professionals working within institutions and associations for autistic children. Autism currently affects one in 50 births in Morocco, resulting in more than 600,000 individuals with the mental condition in the country. In Morocco, autism is rarely mentioned in the press and media, except for a few annual articles published on April 2 to celebrate the international day of autism.

Germany to build orphanages in Morocco to deport minors.

Germany's migration office is considering plans to build homes in Morocco where they can send deported underage migrants, according to leaked documents. The plans have been criticized by opposition lawmakers. Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is planning to build homes in Morocco as places to deport underage unaccompanied migrants who have broken the law, or who want to return voluntarily.

A BAMF document leaked to the "taz" newspaper shows that two homes have been planned for now, each with 100 places, at a cost of 960,000 euros ($1,050,000) per year. The orphanages would include medical facilities, as well as some sort of schooling and vocational training, the plans said, and would also be available to local homeless children and young people. Though they are still in the early stages of planning, building on the homes is expected to begin this year, with a test phase set for 2020. "Appropriate NGOs" would be sought to build and run the facility, with "appropriate EU states" helping with the funding, "taz" reported. Sweden has already been asked to help, and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is named as a partner in the enterprise.

Another legal taboo broken
The BAMF referred DW's request for comment to the interior ministry, whose spokesman would not confirm the details of the plan printed in "taz," but sent a government answer to an official Green party question, dated from March, which confirmed that such homes were being planned. Germany has accelerated deportations over the past year The homes are supposed to "create prospects for staying and prevent potential illegal migration to Europe," the government answer said.

The plans have already been condemned by the political opposition - though with some cautious caveats. In response to the government, Green party Bundestag member Luise Amtsberg, who submitted the official question, welcomed the idea of "helping disadvantaged minors in Morocco on the ground," and said offering schooling was the "right approach." "But if the support on the ground is at the same time coupled with the aim of deporting young people from Germany to the supposedly safe Morocco, then these well-meaning ideas cannot be successful," she said. "Once again, this shows: What the government labels as fighting the causes of fleeing is guided neither by human rights or in this case the well-being of children, but unfortunately serves only to shut people out."
Stephan Dünnwald, of the Bavarian Refugee Council, was even more scathing about the idea, and questioned whether it was even legal. "This would break a taboo," he told DW. "At the moment, minors can only be deported if they're put into the care of a legal guardian - that is, if the parents are standing at the airport to pick them up. If they're going to build homes there, it's legally and morally a very questionable business."

Dünnwald, who has observed how migrants are dealt with when they are deported to Kosovo, also wondered which NGOs could be found to run such homes. "It's very difficult to monitor such projects at all, regardless of who is found to run them," he said. "If it's Moroccan NGOs - the better ones will probably not want to participate, and so they'll find some NGOs who are interested in the good financing. And you won't have any control over what happens, how the young people are treated, and how you ensure that they stay there - if it's not supposed to be a closed home."

Deporting kids
According to BAMF figures, 35,939 unaccompanied minors - defined as anyone under the age of 18 - applied for asylum in Germany in 2016, of whom only 124 were from Morocco.
The Green party's Luise Amtsberg criticized the plan The government also runs programs for voluntary emigration, called REAG/GARP (Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum-Seekers in Germany/Government Assisted Repatriation Program), under which 170 unaccompanied minors left Germany in 2016 - though none of these were Moroccans. Though asylum applications are assessed individually, Moroccans generally have little chance of staying in Germany - of the 3,999 Moroccans who applied for asylum in 2016, all but 174 were rejected.

But legal hold ups, health issues, bureaucratic problems and the occasional refusal of airlines and pilots to cooperate if they believe a deportee might disrupt a flight, have all delayed deportations. As a result, around 100,000 rejected asylum seekers are currently living in Germany in legal limbo. In August 2016, NRW and the federal government created a joint "task force" aimed at speeding up deportations to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

The issue has become a sticking point because those countries have been reluctant to accept the return of migrants thought to be criminals and whose nationality can often not be proven, and have consequently been slow to issue the necessary papers. That problem appears to have played a part in delaying the deportation of Anis Amri, a failed Tunisian asylum seeker who carried out an attack on a Berlin Christmas market last December, killing 12 people. The federal government last year tried to reclassify Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia as "safe countries of origin" in asylum law, which would make it easier to put blanket rejections on asylum applications from people from those countries. However, the legislation was blocked in March by the state governments in the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat.

How Will Morocco’s Economy Fare in 2017?

By Morocco World News - May 6, 2017 , Rabat

Morocco has proved to be strong in the face of economic adversity, having nurtured a stable and steadily growing economy throughout the global financial crisis. This could well attract investments and potentially see Morocco thrive in the coming months and years. Here is a short look at the current state of the economy.

The first quarter of a financial year can be a tentative time for many economies, and a good start to the year can be a major advantage. Morocco’s economy grew by 4.3 percent in the first quarter, up from 1.7 percent the year previous, perhaps showing signs of a strong year to come. A large portion of the economy is made up of the agriculture sector, and this quarter’s growth was largely a result of higher output in this area. This bodes well for the agricultural industry, which suffered from a debilitating drought in 2015.

World Bank
The World Bank, which combats poverty worldwide, has also predicted a good run for the economy, provided macroeconomic policies are pursued and improvements to the overall structure of the economy are made. These suggested improvements include greater access to public transport as well as the modernising of public administration, which would cultivate a strong economic environment through greater efficiency and empowerment in the system. Rising world oil prices are unlikely to affect the overall growth of the economy, as Morocco has low levels of external debt. The biggest risk to the economy as it stands is conflict in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, which has had significant implications on all economies in the area in the past.

The current economic climate in Morocco could attract a good level of investment as opportunities to have a share in the growing industries become increasingly lucrative. Those investors trading on the global markets or involved in their own enterprise have a variety of choice for investment, including tourism and renewable energy. More investment in these areas should translate to even more growth further down the line, and it is likely that most industries will see decent growth of their own if the right investors are attracted.

As an incredibly popular tourist destination, much of Morocco’s trade benefits from people visiting the country. Although relatively untouched by the global financial crisis, many of the home countries of tourists are still suffering, impacting on tourism numbers. Despite this, conflict in neighbouring countries has caused an increase in Moroccan tourism, which is now seen as one of the safer options in the MENA region while having a similar climate and culture. Further investment in this sector, therefore, will bring with it a high chance of prosperity and may encourage further growth.

Morocco looks to be in a very strong position economically, making leaps towards decent economic growth. After the drought in 2015, the government now has the opportunity to focus on improving the various different sectors of the economy through investment and ensuring that Morocco’s good run continues throughout this year and into the next.

Laroui: We, Intellectuals, Are Responsible for Social Problems in Morocco

By Youssef Igrouane - May 6, 2017 , Rabat

Moroccan historian  Abdallah Laroui says that Morocco’s intellectual elite hold responsibility for holding back social, political and economic progress in the kingdom. “My position in this issue has brought me much criticism,” Laroui said inn interview with Emirate Channel Abudhabi. “Rather than always blaming the officials, who have constraints [on public speech], I blame the intellectuals like me, who are free because they have a pen and papers to write whatever they want.”Laroui stressed the need for nuance when assessing the socio-economic condition of the kingdom.

“Contrary to what some people say, I view that we have progressed in some economic social and fields… However, we have regressed in other fields.”Laroui, who was recently named “Cultural Personality of the Year” in the 2016-2017 Sheikh Zayed Book Awards, scolded Moroccan intellectuals for not playing an adequate role in guiding the kingdom. In his appearance on the show, he emphasized the need for an educational and intellectual approach based around contemporary issues. “Modern culture that needs us and need our work. We should not live based on what our ancestors have written,” Laroui said.

The author of many canonical Moroccan history texts added that this should be combined with the incorporation of the Moroccan Arabic dialect into schools. “The use of [colloquial Arabic dialects] from the second grade to the sixth is possible throughout the whole Arab world,” noting that it is necessary to learn foreign languages in high school years.

A road trip along Morocco’s green north coast - in pictures

April 29, 2017

With only four days to spare before having to head to Marrakech, Samar Al-Sayed travelled across the country’s plush northernmost plains to Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains, stopping by the capital, Rabat, on the way back down in an impromptu road trip that proved to be the highlight of the trip.
Check it here:

Moroccan Liberalization Making Progress

Sunday, April 30, 2017

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

The Index covers 12 freedoms–from property rights to financial freedom–in 186 countries.  Algeria, OPEC member, ranked 47th in Africa and 162th in global standings. The Index of Economic Freedom enables investors and decision-makers to track over two decades of the advancement in economic freedom, prosperity, and opportunity and promote these ideas in their homes, schools, and communities.

In its analysis of the Moroccan economy, the document says the policies adopted by the government to facilitate competitiveness and diversification of the productive base contributed to economic expansion averaging around 4% annually over the past five years. Morocco is a strong reformer in the area of private sector development, adds the document. The 2011 constitutional amendments, which were approved by referendum, increased the power and independence of the prime minister (Saad Eddine El Othmani) and provided greater civil liberties, says the analysis.

In addition to a large tourism industry and a growing manufacturing sector, Morocco’s nascent aeronautics industry has attracted foreign investment, the document adds. In the Arab world, the region has been suffering in recent years from low economic growth and plagued by a high level of unemployment. Since early 2011, many countries in the region have experienced socioeconomic upheaval or outright conflict, and outcomes have been far from certain. The lives of many ordinary people have yet to change for the better.

Of the Arab Spring economies, Tunisia and Egypt have shown the most encouraging results over the past year. However, Bahrain continues to be on a downward path in terms of economic freedom, and grading of economic freedom for Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen remains suspended because of ongoing violence and unrest. The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are the region’s two “mostly free” economies. The majority of the Middle East/North Africa region’s 14 economies graded by the Index continue to be rated only “moderately free” or “mostly unfree,” with the Algerian economy categorized as “repressed.”

Structural and institutional problems abound throughout the region, and private sector growth continues to lag far behind levels needed to provide adequate economic opportunities for growing populations.

Morocco’s Salwa Akhannouch Wins New African Woman Award in Business.

By Morocco World News - April 14, 2017 , Rabat

Moroccan businesswoman Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch won the New African woman Award in business, given by pan-African magazine “New African Woman magazine,” at a ceremony that took place in Dakar. Gambian vice-president Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajan won New Woman of the Year Award.

The Awards, now in their second edition, recognise, celebrate and honour African women who have made exceptional impact and change in their countries or communities in the past 12 months.
Nigeria’s Amina J. Mohammed – the new United Nations Deputy Secretary – took home the New African Woman in Politics and Public Office. Winners have been selected by a special panel of judges from 68 shortlisted candidates across 12 categories.

The Award for Women in Health, Science and Technology went to Namibia’s Dr. Helena Ndume – a pioneering ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon, who has to date, performed over 35,000 sight-restoring surgeries on Namibians, completely free of charge. Zimbabwean philathropists and educationist Tsitsi Masiyiwa, received the New African Woman Award in Education for her work with Higherlife Foundation. Over 250,000 children have benefited from the work of Higherlife Foundation. The much-talked about New African Woman on the Rise (The Next Generation) – a category which received the most nominations – went to the Kenyan girls rights activist and UN Women youth advisor Vivian Onano. The New African Woman in Civil Society Award was given to Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, who annulled over 300 child marriages in her village in Malawi, a feat that played an important role in forcing the government to ban child marriages in the country all together.

Morocco Eyes More Japanese Investment

May 4, 2017

Japanese companies operating in Morocco have quadrupled in recent years in light of the investments opportunities offered by Morocco, notably in the sectors of car making and electronics, said Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shunsuke TAKEI, who is leading a Japanese business delegation on a visit to Morocco. “Japanese enterprises can contribute to the investment momentum in the Kingdom in multiple sectors,” he said, adding that numerous companies are looking forward to grabbing the business opportunities offered by Morocco where the number of Japanese companies has grown fourfold in recent years.

The Japanese delegation was received in Rabat by Morocco’s Industry, Investment and Digital Economy Minister, Moulay Hafid Elalamy. On this occasion, light was shed on cooperation prospects between the two countries. In this respect, the Moroccan Minister highlighted the results of Morocco’s industrial acceleration plan and its beneficial impact on the sectors of car industry, aeronautics and electronics. He said that Morocco, as a stable country with a strategic location, is forging ahead to strengthen its regional stand as a financial hub with a growing high-tech industry geared towards exports to emerging markets. Alamy added that fifty Japanese enterprises are investing in Morocco in the fields of car parts, citing Sumitomo Wiring Systems as an example of a largescale Japanese investment employing 19,000 people.

In 2016, trade between the two countries reached 6.86 billion dirhams, representing 1.09% of Morocco’s foreign trade. Japanese FDIs, for their part, stood at 81.5 billion dirhams, that is a 0.2% of total investments in Morocco and 0.67% of Japanese FDIs in Africa.

Morocco: Scrap Prison Terms for Nonviolent Speech: Harsh Penal Code Undercuts Press Law Reforms


Morocco’s recent overhaul of its speech laws leaves intact the country’s famous red lines on critical speech, as well as other provisions that could land people in prison solely for peaceful expression, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The 36-page report, “The Red Lines Stay Red: Morocco’s Reforms of its Speech Laws,” compares the new laws with those they replaced, and urges Morocco’s recently formed government and the parliament elected in October 2016 to adopt legislation decriminalizing all nonviolent speech offenses. Restrictions under the country’s penal code undercut the positive features of the new laws, Human Rights Watch said. Notably, the revised penal code maintains prison as punishment for speech that harms the monarchy, the person of the king, Islam, and Morocco’s “territorial integrity” – the “red lines” that limit critical discussion of some of the key issues in the kingdom.

“Taking prison terms for peaceful speech out of one law and dropping them into another is not persuasive reform,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Morocco needs to eliminate prison terms for peaceful speech across the board.”

Moroccan courts have imprisoned journalists and others, including rappers, in recent years solely for peaceful criticism of the authorities, under both the press and penal codes. The new Press and Publications Law maintains most of the speech offenses in the previous 2002 law in the same or a slightly altered form, eliminating imprisonment as a punishment, while maintaining fines and court-ordered suspensions of publications.

The penal code, by contrast, in addition to the new provisions imposing prison or a fine as punishment for “red line” offenses, maintains prison terms for a range of other speech offenses. Those include defaming state institutions, insulting public agents who are performing their duties, praising terrorism, inciting hatred or discrimination, and denigrating court decisions with the intent to undermine the authority or independence of the judiciary. Many of these offenses are defined broadly, increasing the risk that judges will use them to suppress speech.

Moustapha Khalfi, who served as government spokesman and communications minister from 2012 to 2016, developed and promoted the Press and Publications Law. In responding to a letter from Human Rights Watch, Khalfi, who continues in his role as government spokesman, rightly presented as advances a number of the legal reforms governing speech. These include making prison time for many speech offenses optional instead of mandatory, reducing some penalties, narrowing the definition of certain offenses, eliminating the government’s authority to seize or suspend publications without a court order on the basis of political content, and making it easier for a person accused of defamation to present evidence in court of the truthfulness of an assertion. In addition, the new laws eliminate prison altogether as a punishment for the offenses of defaming individuals and offending foreign officials and diplomats.

He also defended the penal code provisions that continue to impose prison as punishment for nonviolent speech, saying these are consistent with international or comparative law. He said, for example, that other countries also penalize insulting state institutions.

Human Rights Watch rejected that argument, however, based on requirements under international law. For example, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which interprets the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which Morocco ratified in 1979 – has stated: “In circumstances of public debate concerning public figures in the political domain and public institutions, the value placed by the Covenant upon uninhibited expression is particularly high…States parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”

The Moroccan authorities should abolish laws that are indefensible under international conventions that affirm the right to freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said. These include the penal code articles criminalizing the defamation of state institutions, and “causing harm” to Islam. For speech restrictions that do have a basis under international law, such as those related to glorifying terrorism and “inciting against territorial integrity,” Moroccan authorities should clarify and narrow the definition of the offense so that it meets a need in a democratic society, such as to prohibit incitement to violence.

“The government of Morocco is presenting its new press law as big news,” Whitson said. “But only if parliament fixes the penal code so that Moroccans will no longer face prison for nonviolent speech – and better yet, if it decriminalizes speech acts that shouldn’t be offenses in the first place – will Morocco’s press law deserve to be a front-page story.”

Tourist Visits to Morocco Increase by 3.7%: Ministry of Tourism. 

By Youssef Igrouane - May 3, 2017 , Rabat

The total number of tourists who visited Morocco in March was 762,562, an increase of 3.7 percent compared to the same period last year, said the Ministry of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicraft and Social Economy in a communiqué on Wednesday. This increase was underpinned by the surge of the French tourists in the visit to Morocco, which marked the increase of six percent, according to the Ministry. The visits of Dutch tourists increased by four percent, and Americans by 24 percent.

The ministry said that  nightly stays in high-class residences reached approximately 1.76 million, marking an increase of 18.1 percent compared to the same period of last year. The ministry went on further to note that the major beneficiaries of the increase are the usual go-to cities: 25 percent for Fez, 22 for both Marrakech and Casablanca, to 21 percent for Tangier and Rabat, and 20 percent for Agadir.

Morocco’s revenues from foreign currency exchange  amounted to MAD 4.7 billion, said the ministry, marking a decrease of 6.5 percent compared to the same period of last year. Over the past few years, Morocco has stepped up its efforts to grow the number of tourists visiting the country. The Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) said in April that Morocco is counting on an additional 600,000 tourists in 2017, meaning that the kingdom would host nearly 11 million tourists by the end of the year.

In 2016, Morocco attracted 10.33 million tourists, marking a slight increase of 1.5 percent from 2015. This growth was linked to the diversification of the issuing markets, notably China, Russia, and the United States.

New Murals For Jidar-Toiles De Rue Festival in Rabat, Morocco.

Sasha BogojevMay 4, 2017

After successful inaugural event last year, the organizers behind Jidar – Toiles De Rue festival (canvas of the streets), just completed another successful edition of the project. Taking place from 21st until 30th of April, The City of Lights hosted a list of various events related to urban art and produced an impressive series of 12 new murals through the city.

The international festival included artists from such places as Greece, Germany, Italy, Colombia, Mexico and of course Morocco, who showed their skills on the facades and other structures in the city. The full list of participating artists include Fikos, Aryz, Daniele Nitti, Waone, David Rocha, Liqen, Low Bros, Gleo, Antonyo Marest, Saddo and Mohamed L’Ghacham. One of the pieces that stood out from other works is the large project by the Spanish artist Antonyo Marest who collaborated with 6 local artists and painted the entire Rabat skatepark. Other stand out works include still life composition by Aryz, social commentary by Liqen, or the hip design by German brothers, Low Bros.

Check out the photo report captured by the local photographers after the jump and stay tuned for more fresh updates from around the world.

Mounir Mahjoubi, the Moroccan Techie Behind Macron’s Surprise Campaign.

By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq - May 4, 2017 Rabat

If French presidential candidate Emanuel Macron is elected, you can at least partly thank Mounir Mahjoubi, the campaign’s young French-Moroccan digital communication expert. Mahjoubi has caught the attention of many Moroccan and French news outlets curious to know more about the man behind Macron’s digital campaign.

Bright and successful
Compared to many young French-Moroccans, Mahjoubi had an exemplary higher education. Graduating from the prestigious Sciences Po in Paris and Columbia University in the US promised high prospects for his professional career. The young French-Moroccan then joined cosmetics giant L’Oréal for a brief period before embarking on his own enterprising adventure, according to Le Monde.
One by one, Mahjoubi founded three companies: a communication agency Mounir & Simon, a community network for purchasing local productions, La Ruche qui dit oui, and a digital support network for start-ups in London and Paris, Le Bridge. Later on he moved to BETC Digital, a Havas Group advertisement agency affiliate, before founding French Bureau, a business incubator, in 2016.

A political geek
Born in 1984 to a Moroccan working class family, Mounir Mahjoubi grew interested both in computer and politics. As a young activist in the Socialist Party, the Moroccan digital geek used his knowledge to promote Ségolène Royale, the former Socialist candidate, in her bid for the presidency in 2007, by developing her campaign website. Three years later he joined François Hollande for his successful 2012 presidential run, using the digital space to garner support for the current president of France. Hollande then appointed him head of the National Digital Council (CCNum), a government advisory body on modern technologies. As head of CCNum, he had a spat with the then-Minister of Interior, Bernard Cazaneuve, over data enumeration.

En Marche
In January 2017 Mahjoubi resigned as CCNum president to join “En Marche”, the movement founded by the current front-runner in French presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron. His previous experience as a digital communicator in Royal and Hollande’s campaigns made him a highly coveted expert. As Macron’s digital man, Mounir Mahjoubi successfully blocked many attempts to hack the e-mails campaign staff. While supporting the candidate’s bid for the presidency, Mahjoubi has also set his eyes on having a political career of his own.

In June he will be running for MP in the general elections. “We are trying to promote him. He is one of our major new figures”, a leading member of “En Marche” told the French-language magazine Jeune Afrique.

Why Climate Action is About Fighting Poverty.

By Aziz Mekouar - Morocco’s Ambassador to the US from 2002 to 2011 on May 02, 2017

This month, world leaders will converge in Bonn, Germany for the Bonn Climate Change Conference, just a few weeks after millions of people around the world participated in Earth Day activities, planting trees, cleaning up public parks, and mobilizing for stronger environmental protections. The timing is fitting, for what started out in 1970 as a strictly American effort to raise awareness of environmental issues has become a global phenomenon, just as the gravity of climate change is felt more and more each day around the world.

And nowhere is it felt more than in developing countries. The World Bank estimates that without action, “climate change could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.” It will expose millions to climate-related diseases like malaria and diarrhea, and result in massive food shortages as desertification and flooding destroy crops. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the World Bank predicts, will bear the brunt of the devastation.

My country, Morocco—located at the crossroads of Europe and Africa—is no stranger to these challenges. While we have made great strides in diversifying our economy and in attracting foreign investments over the past fifteen years, agriculture still accounts for roughly 15% of our GDP (by comparison, agriculture accounts for about 1% of the US economy). A drought can still cost tens of thousands of our citizens their livelihoods, with ripple effects reaching across the continent and beyond in our highly globalized world.

That is why Morocco has been promoting climate action since the beginning of the movement to do so. Morocco participated in the very first United Nations Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, which saw the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In 2001, Morocco became the first Arab and first African country to host a Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention; and reprised the role of COP host in November of last year in Marrakesh.

In a speech to attendees, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI urged participants at COP 22 to move beyond promises to “tangible initiatives and practical steps,” and to respect and support the priorities and resources of developing countries. “Holding this conference in Africa,” he said, “is an incentive for us to give priority to tackling the adverse repercussions of climate change, which are growing worse and worse in the countries of the South and in insular states whose very existence is in jeopardy.”

Morocco views its role as host of COP 22 with a strong sense of pride and responsibility. Morocco is African, first and foremost, and we are determined to leverage our experience—building the world’s largest solar power plant, for example, to capture the clean energy of the hot Sahara sun—to help our neighbors defend against climate catastrophe.

In Marrakesh, we made historic progress on the road to a more sustainable future. The nations of the world unanimously joined the Marrakesh Proclamation, reaffirming their resolve to work towards the effective and timely implementation of the Paris Agreement (COP 21). Marrakesh was also an unprecedented platform for non-state actors, among them businesses, NGOs, cities, regions, coalitions and many others, who were not there merely as observers but rather as essential actors. The Marrakesh Partnership for Climate Action has successfully captured this collective drive and desire for concrete action and further strengthens this historic momentum.

Since November, the Moroccan Presidency of COP 22 has hosted a series of events to keep COP 22’s legacy of action. For example, we were the first Presidency to host a post-COP event with civil society to reflect on the outcomes of COP 22 and plan the road ahead. We have hosted events on the NDC Partnership (a partnership launched at COP 22 assisting countries to deliver on their Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs), workshops on climate finance, and meetings of the UNFCCC bureau. We sent a delegation to the World Bank Spring Meetings as climate finance is a central element of the COP 22 Presidency roadmap. And our team is hard at work preparing for the May Climate Change Conference in Bonn, in close collaboration with the incoming Fiji COP 23 Presidency and the UNFCCC Secretariat.

Sustainable development is a key aspect of the Kingdom’s vision for an ever more inclusive and egalitarian society, and Morocco has been able to align our sustainability efforts with economic development. At the same time, there is more and more understanding among donor countries that the most accurate grasp of challenges faced by recipient countries and solutions to those challenges are on the ground, at the recipient level. If the attitude shift results in greater support for development efforts, we will have gone a long way not only toward helping Mother Earth, but helping all her children, too.

Aziz Mekouar was COP 22 Ambassador for Multilateral Negotiations. He served as Morocco’s Ambassador to the US from 2002 to 2011.

Ahwach Meets Jazz: a ‘New Global Rhythm’

By Morocco World News - May 2, 2017 ,By Alexander Jusdanis Rabat

‘Any country that forgets its heritage has nothing’: One Moroccan Saxophonist’s Quest to Make Ahwach a ‘New Global Rhythm’ Moroccan saxophonist Abdel Mabrouk’s latest album, “Ahwach Jazz” isn’t just a unique experiment in fusion — it’s an attempt to make one of Morocco’s lesser-known musical traditions “go international.” MWN sat down with the Ouarzazate native to uncover his memories of ahwach and his big plans for its future.

Abdel Mabrouk grew up in the town of Ouarzazate, the so-called “door to the desert” south of the High Atlas mountains. The region is the home of ahwach, a tradition of collective performance of music, dance, and poetry. Performances can involve anywhere between a dozen and a hundred participants, so it’s not surprising that Mabrouk saw a lot of them as a kid. If you ever have a chance to take part in one, he says, “You’ll go far! You’ll understand a lot of beautiful things — friendship, beauty, laughter.”

His own upbringing drew him to jazz. His father played the saxophone in a military band, and from him he learned the rudiments of the instrument. Mabrouk went on to study with other teachers in Ouarzazate before moving west to Marrakech to work as a professional musician. But ahwach’s call-and-response choruses continued to echo in his ear, and he recently made his way back to his hometown to rediscover the soundscape of his youth.

When he began to really dig into the traditions and music of ahwach, he realized it was “something big,” more than the simplistic “folk” tradition he and his jazz musician friends had imagined it to be.
“I found a lot of things in the music,” he says. “I found rhythm, I found culture.” But most importantly, “I found jazz in it! I found that it was jazz, already jazz.”
Mabrouk realized that, even if jazz and ahwach sounded worlds apart, they shared the same foundation. In its essence, he explains, “jazz isn’t something complicated. In the beginning, it was a traditional rhythm,” like ahwach.

And in both ahwach and jazz, that rhythm backs up melodies made of the five-note pentatonic scale. “The pentatonic scale is international,” says Mabrouk. “You find it in jazz, in blues, in Asian music, in gnawa, and also in ahwach.”

The similarities are not just in music theory, Mabrouk is sure to clarify, not just a matter of scales and rhythms. It’s the spirit of the musicians themselves. “It’s a jazz, what [ahwach performers] play — spiritual. They play with hysteria, something not normal, something amazing.”

Having discovered this strange affinity, Mabrouk became driven to bridge the two styles. “It was my dream, le reve!” After studying the music in Ouarzazate, he returned to Marrakech, bringing together together a group of international musicians with backgrounds in jazz, ahwach, Western classical music, and various other genres. In the studio, they began to make his dream a reality.
As Mabrouk suspected, it worked. When he’d first told people about his plan to mix ahwach and jazz, he said they’d all imagined “something crude, just boom-ba boom-ba.” But once the musicians started working together, it became clear that he’d discovered “something beautiful! Wow!”

The trick was to find the right balance, to make it neither a jazz record with some token ahwach sounds, nor an ahwach record with a smooth saxophone on top. It took some practice to find some middle ground between the musicians’ different performance approaches, but in the end Mabrouk says they created an “equilibrium — 50 percent ahwach, 50 percent everything else.” But, he clarifies, this doesn’t mean that any of the music was watered down. “I respected the norms of ahwach. The rhythms aren’t changed, the drums aren’t changed.”

Sharing Ahwach with the World
While the group was recording in the studio, Mabrouk says some foreign musicologists came to listen in. They liked what they heard. “They felt something unusual, something new, something beautiful,” says Mabrouk. “They asked, ‘Why don’t we know this music?’” The saxophonist was left asking himself the same question: if jazz and ahwach mixed so well, how come no one had ever done it before?

The problem, according to Mabrouk, is that Moroccan musicians often look for inspiration beyond their borders before they look within. In his experience, this led to creative stagnation. For twenty years, he says, “I imitated rock, jazz — you always just repeat other people. […] You play other people’s music. But when I did the album, I played my own music, and I felt like I did something. The other musicians said ‘Wow! Bravo Abdel!’ They respected it, because it’s a new rhythm. I brought them something new.”

He’s not saying that Moroccans should exclusively play Moroccan music, but he doesn’t like that some have completely forgotten it. “It’s not bad to play what others play — it’s bad that you never work with what’s yours. You’re a musician, but you don’t have your own carte d’identité. You’re a Moroccan musician, you go to the US, and you play their music, jazz, blues — that’s theirs! And it’s good! But it’s theirs! It’s good to play, but show them your music, your rhythm!”

Mabrouk began to wonder: how, like so many Moroccans far from the US, did he end up loving jazz? “Because [jazz musicians] worked hard. They got their music out there.” But he didn’t see that happening with ahwach. “Some Moroccans tell me, ‘We don’t have our own culture.’ We do! Al hamdulillah! The problem is that we don’t have people who look for it.”
Why? “The researchers are sleeping! They’re not researching this music, so when you talk about ahwach, musicians say, ‘Oh, that’s just blah blah blah, whatever, get out of here!’ They call it ‘folklore’, they say ‘Oh, that’s just folk music.’ This is your heritage! Do you want it or not?”

Mabrouk sees his project as a call to arms, not just for musicians, but also for researchers and even the Ministry of Culture. They all must work together to give ahwach, and Morocco’s other traditional genres, the kind of attention and prestige he believes they deserve. “Folk music is like your mother, like your father, you know what I mean? Any country that loses its traditional dance, its folklore, its patrimony — it has nothing.”

What started out as a personal project, with Mabrouk simply following the musical memories of his childhood in Ouarzazate, has now expanded into a much more ambitious quest: to bring ahwach to the world, and in the process to open Moroccan musicians’ ears to their rich national heritage. Ahwach is a “new global rhythm,” he insists. “I want Moroccan heritage to become international. Like we hear blues in Morocco, we hear jazz, bossa nova, swing — one day I want to hear ahwach, us too, in the United States, in England. […] That’s my dream. I want it to become international.”

Moroccan Woman Awarded by the World Bank at the WeMENA Competition

By Chaima Lahsini - May 2, 2017 Rabat –

Moroccan Woman Awarded by the World Bank at the WeMENA Competition

The World Bank payed tribute to women entrepreneurs who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields by acting for a resilient future in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) in an awarding ceremony held on Sunday in Casablanca. The final of the Women Entrepreneurs of the MENA region (WeMENA) contest, a regional initiative launched by the World Bank, and supported by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), selected four winners from Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt, among the 200 women entrepreneurs in the region who participated in the contest, sharing a $ 150,000 prize.

Selma Ben’akcha, Moroccan founder of Alternative Solutions enterprise, was awarded third place in the competition, collecting a $ 20,000 prize for her social project which “fights deforestation and climate change, producing and marketing palm branches based on wood and fodder,” explained the 21-year-old student at the Tanger FST. Ben’akcha’s projects aim to “reduce and minimize the greenhouse gas emissions produced by burning branches that are abandoned in nature, while they are very valuable resources to the farmer,” she explains, “as well as minimizing deforestation through the commercialization of wood, all this by creating employment opportunities.”

The WeMENA competition rewards innovative projects designed to address the major urban development challenges facing the MENA region in the areas of transport, energy, infrastructure and sustainable development.

In Casablanca, the last 30 finalists had the opportunity to meet with World Bank investors, mentors and staff, who will be able to guide, promote and financially support their projects. By 2015, the WeMENA initiative had already given a boost to seven women-run enterprises in Beirut, Cairo and Djibouti.

In 2016, the WeMena context was extended to include eight cities in the MENA region: Byblos and Beirut (Lebanon), Amman (Jordan), Ramallah (West Bank), Cairo and Alexandria (Egypt), Tunis (Tunisia), and last but not least, Casablanca, marking an evolution and development which was accompanied by a considerable increase in the number of participants.

The WeMENA initiative aims to provide solutions to three major challenges facing the MENA region. First, it seeks to promote women entrepreneurship and women-owned enterprises in a region where the female participation rate is still very poor, reaching half that of the world. It also seeks to create new pathways to employment through entrepreneurship in a region known with high unemployment rates and to support climate change preparedness strategies and strengthen the resilience of cities in a region exposed to multiple shocks and tensions, including natural disasters, floods and droughts, blackouts, migratory crises and social unrest.

Religious Prejudice Still Prevails in 'Moderate' Morocco

By Felix N. Codilla III , May 1, 2017

Morocco is slowly opening up to Christianity, but deep-seated norms and traditions continue to limit the movements of its members. The government has been credited for passing laws to protect minorities, but the social stigma attached to converts compromises their safety. Estimates by the American State Department put the number of Christians between 2,000 to 6,000 — most of which are Protestants. The growth of Christianity is attributed to the drafting of its 2011 Arab spring-inspired Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and favors tolerance and coexistence.
While Moroccans have become open to other people's faiths, this rule is limited to foreigners as locals who converted to Christianity are viewed with disdain. This is the reason why many Christians prefer to keep their newfound faith a secret and meet in small groups to worship, so as not to attract attention.

One such Christian who experienced persecution is Mustapha, who didn't want to give his full name. He talked about his faith in an online video sometime in the middle of 2015 after keeping it to himself for two decades. "Family and close friends turned their backs on me, I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school," he said.

Last month, Mustapha and other Moroccan converts petitioned the National Council of Human Rights to end the persecution of Christians. "We demand the right to give our children Christian names, to pray in churches, to be buried in Christian cemeteries and to marry according to our religion," Mustapha said. While the Constitution assures religious freedom, Article 220 of the penal code prescribes a punishment of six months to three years in prison to "anyone who employs incitements to shake the faith of a Muslim or to convert him to another religion." This prohibits evangelizing to Muslims.

"The people do not accept converting from one's religion and are opposed to it," Hussein Daoudi, a deputy in the Islamic Development and Justice Party said. For him, "as long as [Christianity] remains on a personal level, then there is no problem. The problem arises at the social level. Problems arise when proselytizing occurs or when children or teachers come to school wearing crosses. Clearly this cannot be tolerated."

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Moroccans Who Secretly Converted to Christianity Demand the Right to Openly Practice Their Faith.

By Suzette Gutierrez-Cachila May 04, 2017

Catholics pray in Saint Pierre Cathedral in Rabat November 12, 2008. A new breed of undercover Christian missionary is turning to Muslim north Africa in the search for new converts, alarming Islamic leaders who say they prey on the weak and threaten public order. Reuters/Rafael Marchante

Christians in Morocco, where the state religion is Islam, are speaking out and demanding the right to freely worship according to their faith. "We demand the right to give our children Christian names, to pray in churches, to be buried in Christian cemeteries and to marry according to our religion," Mustapha, who converted to Christianity in 1994, told AFP. He, together with other former Muslims who have embraced Christianity, wrote a request to the official National Council of Human Rights to end the persecution of Christians in Morocco.

Christianity is a religious minority in the country. Muslims comprise 99.6 percent of the Moroccan population, while evangelical Christians only make up 0.4 percent and professing Christians 0.2 percent, according to the Joshua Project. A tiny fraction of the population are Jewish. However, even though the state religion is Islam, Morocco's 2011 Constitution allows for freedom of religion. The authorities claim to practice only a moderate form of Islam that leaves room for religious tolerance. Yet, in reality, Moroccan Christians still suffer from persecution.

For two decades, Mustapha kept his faith in Christ secret. He said he first got attracted to the Christian faith because he got "tired of the contradictions of Islam" and he was looking for something to "fill a spiritual void." Eventually, he got connected with a religious group in Spain, with whom he maintained correspondence. He became a Christian and began to study courses through distance learning programs from the U.S., qualifying him to become a pastor.

Less than two years ago, Mustapha decided to come out in the open and declare his faith in Christ. He published an online video about his conversion to Christianity. Despite the state's supposed promotion of religious tolerance, Mustapha was greatly persecuted by family and friends, who "turned their backs on me," he said. "I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school," he said.
The "penal code, political parties and society" did not follow the direction of the 2011 Constitution with regard to freedom of religion, Mustapha said.

Some provisions in the penal code contradict the Constitution in this aspect. For example, proselytizing or converting a Muslim to another religion is considered as a crime in the penal code. Educational institutions, orphanages and health centers that attempt to proselytize Muslims through the services they offer, if proven guilty, can be closed down for up to three years.
Yet, things are looking better for Christians in Morocco these days, according to Rachid, who is a convert to Christianity and is also now a pastor like Mustapha. He learned about Jesus by listening to a radio program broadcast from Paris in 2004. "The arrests have almost stopped, which is a big step," he told AFP. "Harassment has become scarce."

He openly practices the Christian faith in the midst of his Muslim neighbors in Agadir. And unlike Mustapha, Rachid enjoys a pretty normal life. "I am Moroccan before being Christian," Rachid said.

Pope’s Representatives in Morocco amid Debate over Local Christians.

By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq - May 4, 2017 Rabat

Moroccan officials have met with representatives of Pope Francis amid controversy over Moroccan Christians’ right to worship. A conference was held on Wednesday in the Moroccan Royal Academy in partnership with the  Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to discuss under the theme “Believers and Citizens in a Changing World”.

High Moroccan officials took part in the conference, including the Academy’s Permanent Secretary Abdeljalil Lahjomri; King Mohamed VI advisor Omar Azimane; Head of the Constitutional Court Driss Dahak and the Secretary General of the Moroccan Rabita Mohammadia of Ulamas (official body of religious scholars) Ahmed Abbadi. During their lectures, both Lahjomri and the President of the Pontifical Council, Cardinal Jean Louis Touran, quote the King Mohammed VI’s message to the Conference onThe rights of Religious Minorities in Islamic Lands,” held in Marrakech in January 2016.
As Commander of the Faithful and defender of the faith, I am committed to protecting the rights of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The religious rights of Muslims and non-Muslims are protected in accordance with the aforementioned immutable principles, and their rights as citizens are guaranteed by the Constitution; there is no difference or distinction as far as the ultimate goals are concerned,” read the royal message.

The visit of the Catholic Church representatives came amid growing debate over the Moroccan Christians’ “emergence from the shadows.” More and more Christian converts are speaking up, calling for their rights to worship, marry and be buried according to their adopted faith. After a meeting with the Secretary General of the National Council for Human Rights, these converts addressed a letter to the Head of Government Saad Eddine Othmani, to draw attention to their situation as Moroccan Christians trying to live their faith in their country. While a near official recognition of Moroccan Christians might not be on the horizon, the King’s message to the rights of minorities in Muslim countries and a recent revision of the state’s religious standpoint on reversion from Islam can be taken as indicators of possible change with the way Morocco will deal with its own Christians.

Morocco's Christian converts emerge from the shadows.

By AFP 30th April 2017

Islam is the state faith of Morocco but the country's 2011 constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Moroccans who secretly converted to Christianity are demanding the right to practise their faith openly in a country where Islam is the state religion and "apostasy" is condemned.

At an apartment in a working-class part of the southern town of Agadir, Mustapha listened to hymns emanating from a hi-fi under a silver crucifix hung on the wall. The 46-year-old civil servant, son of an expert on Islamic law from nearby Taroudant, was once an active member of the banned but tolerated Islamist Charity and Justice movement. He said he converted in 1994 to "fill a spiritual void". "I was tired of the contradictions in Islam," said Mustapha. "I became interested in Christianity through a long correspondence with a religious centre in Spain in the late 1980s."

He went on to qualify as a Protestant pastor and received a certificate from the United States after taking a correspondence course. Mustapha kept his faith secret for two decades, but a year and a half ago he published a video online in which he spoke openly about his conversion. The reaction was immediate. "Family and close friends turned their backs on me, I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school," he said.

Converts to Christianity form a tiny minority of Moroccans. While no official statistics exist, the American State Department estimates their numbers at between 2,000 and 6,000.


Over the Easter weekend, Mustapha and a dozen fellow converts met for an "afternoon of prayers" in the living room of Rachid, who like Mustapha did not wish to give his full name. Rachid, who hails from a family of Sufis -- a mystical trend of Islam -- embraced Christianity in 2004 and eventually became a Protestant pastor. A father of two, Rachid said he became interested in Christianity when he was a teenager after listening to a programme broadcast by a Paris-based radio station. He researched Christianity at a cyber-cafe, contacted a specialised website and they sent him a copy of the Bible. "I read the entire thing, studied the word of God, took courses," he said. "At the age of 24, I was baptised in a Casablanca apartment."

In April, Mustapha, Rachid and other Moroccan converts submitted a request to the official National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) calling for "an end to persecution" against them. "We demand the right to give our children Christian names, to pray in churches, to be buried in Christian cemeteries and to marry according to our religion," Mustapha said.

Islam is the state faith of Morocco but the country's 2011 constitution, drafted after it was rocked by Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations, guarantees freedom of religion. Foreign Christians and the country's tiny Jewish community -- of about 2,500 people -- practise their faiths openly. Moroccan authorities boast of promoting religious tolerance and a "moderate" form of Islam, and the country's penal code does not explicitly prohibit apostasy -- the act of rejecting Islam or any of its main tenets.


But in Morocco proselytising is punishable by law and anyone found guilty of "attempting to undermine the faith of a Muslim or convert him to another religion" can be jailed for up to three years. "The subject is ultra-sensitive because it relates to the history of colonisation and to the idea that Christianity constitutes a danger to the unity of Morocco," a sociologist of religion told AFP. But Rachid said the lines are shifting. "The arrests have almost stopped, which is a big step," he said. "Harassment has become scarce." Rachid, who says "I am Moroccan before being Christian, practises his faith openly and lives a normal life in a working-class district of Agadir alongside his Muslim neighbours.

Most Moroccans who have converted to Christianity live in Agadir and the central city of Marrakesh, and the majority have said they are Protestants. With the exception of local Jews, Moroccans are automatically considered Muslims and King Mohamed VI holds the official title of Commander of the Faithful. Mustapha said the 2011 constitution and actions by the king "in favour of tolerance and coexistence" have helped bolster human rights in Morocco. But "the penal code, political parties and society have not followed suit", he said.
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Africa as capital city: Celebrating African art and culture in Morocco.

By Isabelle Dana Bilal   |   30 April 2017

Rabat, Africa’s Cultural Capital For One Month. An unprecedented Panafrican cultural and artistic festival took place for one month in Rabat, Morocco (28 March-28 April) to celebrate the Kingdom’s reintegration in the African Union: a symbolic event, which aimed to go beyond politics and business in order to promote contemporary African art and culture to Moroccan citizens and the world.
‘Afrique en Capitale’ (Africa as Capital City) honored the continent’s creativity and artistic expression with all its diversity through plastic arts, sculpture, street art, concerts, film projections and conferences about African identities.

Under the umbrella of the National Foundation of Museums, the main public and private institutions in Morocco have been mobilized to contribute to the success of this first-time event designed to advance the African art scene globally. There were in total 9 exhibitions in 6 different locations across the city, 8 concerts, 8 film projcetions, 4 conferences and a series of murals that could be discovered on the capital’s walls and its tramway, including the work of the Ivorian artist Mederic Turay.

Looking At Africa: A Variety Of Style, Textures And Techniques
Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, officially inaugurated in October 2014, presented three distinctive exhibitions including plastic arts, sculpture and photography.
‘Looking at Africa’ (Un Regard sur l’Afrique) explores African talents from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali and Congo among others. This selection showcasing famous contemporary African artists reveals a variety of style, textures and methods. Visitors could thus discover art works designed with different painting and collage techniques, and created with pearls, copper, weaving, textiles, magazines, and objects.

Nigerian artists were predominant in this exhibition with the work of Nike Okundaye, Nidi Enefiele, Kunle Adegboioye, Johnatan Mavua Lessor, Moyo Okediji, Diseye Tantua and Rom Isichei.Ghanaian artists were also prevalent with paintings from Ablade Glover, Almighty God (Kwame Akoto), and Bissi Fabunmi. Ivory Coast was represented with the notorious Aboudia and Yeanzi.
The very original style of Senegal-based Guerresi Maimouna made a significant impression on the public at the start of the exhibition, while Cheri Samba and Cheri Cherin’s paintings from Congo open a window into Africa’s urban and pop art.

Tribute To Three African Photographers
On the ground floor, a dedicated space paid tribute to the work of three African photographers who died in 2016: the eminent Malian Malick Sidibé and the two talented Moroccan photographers Leila Alaoui and Othmane Dilami. These passionate artists leave a tremendous vacuum behind them and the snapshot of their work here intended to honor their contribution to photography in Africa and worldwide.

Abdoulaye Konaté : blending African arts and crafts
The CDG Gallery presented Abdoulaye Konaté, the internationally acclaimed Malian artist who took residency in Cuba for many years and is known for manipulating textiles with grace in his unique pieces made from “bazin”, a traditional Malian textile. Abdoulaye Konaté also worked with craftsmen from Fès in Morocco to create an exceptional blend between Moroccan and Malian textiles. His work mixes western modernism with African symbols and inspires itself from nature. Visitors can only feast their eyes and be amazed at the way he fuses textiles to come up with original color compositions.

Revisiting And Rethinking African Heritage And Identity
It’s been all about Africa for one month here in Rabat with the “Gold in Africa” exhibition which retraces the ancient history of Morocco-African relations or the exhibition “Flying over Africa” which explores 14 African countries via diverse artistic mediums. This festival was also an opportunity to initiate a conversation about socio-cultural topics at Panafrican level via a series of conferences about African heritage, inter-African migration, the role of African women writers and Leopold Senghor’s legacy in intellectual and literary movements, with the participation of scholars, intellectuals and artists from all over the continent. Morocco celebrated the continent’s art and culture with an impressive Panafrican festival that could be organized in other capitals of the continent, and why not in Lagos in the coming year?

Camping for Tech Lovers in Morocco

By Morocco World News - May 1, 2017 ,By Ravinder Sahu New York –

Camping is an outdoor recreational activity which everyone enjoys whether they are nature lovers, geeks or technology lovers. People love to stay in a tent or motorhome overnight and enjoy the beauty of nature. Camping technology has developed a lot in recent years and many innovative gadgets have been designed to help tech-loving campers. Today it is possible to integrate technology in the midst of the wilderness in ways that were unimaginable only a decade ago.

Wild camping is possible and safe in Morocco provided you take necessary precautions, and there are many campsites and guarded parking available. Morocco is considereda very camping-friendly country by tourists, irrespective of which campsites you would like to explore. Certain campsites like L’escale De Ouarzazate, Tifina Caravansérail D’arfoud, Camping Parc Oued Boufekrane, and Camping Flamants Loisirs are very popular and well equipped, but if you wish to explore the mountainous regions, you should arrange all your camping needs in advance since basic facilities like toilet and water are relatively non-existent.

You can find a lot of leisure activities at various campsites in Morocco like windsurfing, sailing, hiking, water skiing, kayaking, and canoeing.  Some places like the Atlantic coast north of Agadir can be quite dangerous and the local police will likely move you away. Some campsites at Taghazout have reported break-ins to vans parked nearby, so you should careful about the locals in the campsite you chose. It’s always good to ask suggestions from other travelers about the place before camping in any specific location.  Morocco is famous for its tourism, and even big celebrities like Cristiano Ronaldo come to visit this beautiful country every year. This year Ronaldo visited the Moroccan city of Marrakech along with his family.

When you are planning to camp in the countryside of Morocco either in tents, motorhomes or caravans, you should also plan in advance how you can protect your gadgets from any possible natural dangers like rain, dust, heat and wind. You should consider the type of protection based on the camping location you choose and what type of recreational activities you will be involved. For example, traversing the Australian outback will have substantially different protection needs than floating down a river in the Amazon.

When you start camping in Morocco, you should first ensure your favorite iPhone 6 case is up to the challenge of the new environment in the wilderness of your campsite. Even if you have a perfect case, you should be able to carry your phone to all places safely. You should have a proper backpack which is padded, water resistant and has enough space to hold all your important gadgets safely. Exterior compartments must be easily accessible so that you can place your frequently used items like food items and water.

Apart from safeguarding your laptops, you should also ensure enough power to charge your phones, tablets, laptops and any other gadgets you carry during your camping trip. It can be challenging to power all your technology gadgets, but with advanced alkaline and rechargeable batteries with extended capacity, it has become more feasible to power all your gadgets for a longer time without having to depend on any external power source. You can also find recharging equipment based on solar power which will fit into your backpack easily. It’s advisable to carry some power banks for your smartphone or tablet and also have a set of alkaline/rechargeable batteries in your backpack. You can use power banks or external battery packs to recharge any smaller devices once or twice during your trip. One of the most exciting innovations to come about is using a campfire to charge various electronic devices. That’s right, you can roast marshmallows and create an Instagram Story about it at the same time while charging your battery.

If you are using gadgets while camping in Morocco, connectivity is very important, especially when you are traveling in the wilderness of the forests. It’s of no use carrying your laptop or tablet without having Internet connectivity. Even many of the apps installed on your smart phone won’t be functional if you don’t have a mobile network in the area you are camping.  You also won’t be able to make any urgent calls during an emergency if there is no signal.

Hence, you should check for ways to get connected with the external world even when you are enjoying nature. You should check the coverage map of your mobile carrier and check if they have good coverage in the area where you plan to camp. You can probably switch to a different carrier or get a temporary SIM card from a carrier that has better coverage in campsites at Morocco. You can also get a contract phone and use that as a hotspot during your trip. You can also try using a satellite or any device which can boost your phone’s signal strength. The first option can be quite expensive, and you can use a signal booster only if you have some minimum signal in that region.

Having Fun while Camping
Some gadgets are really cool and especially helpful while camping in remote places. You can buy a water resistant wireless Bluetooth speaker to chill out and listen to your favorite songs during night. You can also carry some portable projects to showcase interesting movies in the middle of nowhere. Night vision goggles and binoculars can be really helpful during while camping in the Moroccan wilderness. You should also carry a powerful GPS in your backpack to know your exact location. Even though your phone might have inbuilt GPS, it will not work in case of poor signal.
Camping with technology helps you to stay connected while you are enjoying nature. It helps you have a great experience in the wilderness of the forests without disturbing the social interactions needed for your day-to-day life.

As per the reports from Ministry of Tourism, Morocco is expected to attract more than 11 million tourists in 2017. More than 500,000 families in Morocco live from tourism and you can find a huge number of campsites with excellent facilities that attract tourists from all over the world. Even airlines like Royal Air Maroc have come up with various offers like cheaper round-trip air tickets at $440 for American Tourists.

Syrian shoemaker achieves business success in Morocco.

By: Malgorzata Bratkrajc   27 April 2017    CASABLANCA, Morocco

Shoemaking is a craft handed down from father to son in Syria, and Diyaa and his family had been making footwear for decades when the war drove him from his home in the capital, Damascus.
Forced to start over in exile as a refugee, he founded a workshop in a tiny street in Casablanca, Morocco’s bustling coastal city, where he has settled with his wife and two children. He started from scratch, putting in long hours to make sandals, clogs and lace-up shoes.

“At the beginning, I worked for 18 to 20 hours a day and lived 20 kilometres away from Casablanca,” he says. “Each day, I had a two-hour ride one way to get to work.” “Little by little, things improved. Today, I employ four Moroccan workers.”

Gradually, Diyaa’s perseverance paid off and his determination to succeed won him loyal customers and more orders with the help of a grant from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which allowed him to buy his first sewing machine. “At the beginning, I worked alone. Then I received from UNHCR the first sewing machine as part of an income-generating activity for refugees. It was a real boost. Little by little, things improved. Today, I employ four Moroccan workers.” Diyaa, 37, has chosen to employ Moroccans, whom he regards as “brothers”. “Moroccans have always inspired confidence in me,” he says. “As an employer, I feel reassured working hand in hand with them”.

More than six years of fighting have displaced more than six million people inside Syria and driven over five million to flee abroad. Most have sought safety in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and beyond, while Morocco hosts about 3,500 Syrian refugees.   In recognition of his efforts as a refugee entrepreneur making a contribution to his host country, Diyaa was awarded a prize by the Moroccan Association for the Support and Promotion of Small Enterprises, known as AMAPPE for short, in January 2016.

Hesitant at first, he said while receiving the prize: “I did not expect to be given awards. I came to Morocco with empty pockets. I had to start, not from zero, but from minus one hundred.” He continued: “This acknowledges my efforts and hard work against all odds. Thanks to my work, my family and I were able to progress and regain some objectivity in life. Whenever I had difficulties, I was telling myself to never let go, to go forward with my head up and to get up every time I fell down. At the end of the day, it is my family’s welfare that kept me going.”

In its evaluation, AMAPPE noted that Diyaa not only employed young Moroccans from a poor neighbourhood, but also helped other Syrians to open a second shoe-making shop nearby.
“It is part of our vision in AMAPPE to generate collective projects because they have a high potential for sustainability,” says Mohammed Anwar, AMAPPE entrepreneurship and cooperation adviser.
“There is no place like home.”

“Diyaa really convinced us of his entrepreneurial spirit and this is a model which can be institutionalised in the future with other new beneficiaries.” Diyaa and his wife, who came with him to Morocco from Syria, have two children – a four-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. Both go to a private Moroccan school in Casablanca. He decided not to go to Europe with his family because “Moroccan people are very hospitable and welcome Syrians in their country with open arms”. However, he would like to return to Syria when things improve. “There is no place like home,” he says, with a sigh.   
Previously, Diyaa had no car and, with a small income, could afford little. Today, he finds Morocco  comfortable. He can provide for his family and rents an apartment closer to his work.

In recent years, thousands of Syrian refugees have not only found safety, but also a breathing space in Morocco. “People here do not consider us as refugees but as human beings,” says Diyaa, from his market stall in Casablanca. “I no longer feel like a foreigner, but I am happy among Moroccans.”

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