Saturday, December 24, 2005


THE VIEW FROM FÈS team are taking a one week break and will be back in 2006.

The coming year promises to be a wonderful one with many exciting developments in Fès.

We hope it is a prosperous and peaceful year for you and we look forward to seeing you in the wonderful old medina of Fès in 2006 - Inshallah!


Why buy a house in Fès ?

We have previously posted about restoring a dar or riad in Fès - but we thought we should share another fine essay by the owner of Dar Bennis. It was this essay that we used to start us on the process of buying Riad Zany. I doubt we would have completed the sale and begun the restoration with so much ease had it not been for following the advice in this essay.

If you are seriously interested in buying a house in Fès, then check it our here: Moroccan Magic

Here is a link to our previous comments on riads in Fès: Restoring a Riad


Whatever you are celebrating...

A message from the team at The View From Fès...



Moroccan Truth Commission Questioned

Moroccan human rights activists are claiming that the truth commission (Equity and Reconciliation Commission) investigating four decades of violations had seriously underestimated the number of victims when it said hundreds had died in arbitrary detention and government shootings.

It‘s a deception," said Khaled Bakhti, 41, a former prisoner. "They failed to establish the fate of the missing and to call for the punishment of the guilty who continue to hold senior posts." "In the 1965 Casablanca riots alone, 1,500 people were killed. We estimate as many as 3,000 were killed in riots throughout the country," said Abdullah Abdeslam of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

Government brutality was directed against an array of opponents, including leftists and Islamic activists. Prisoners were forced to sign confessions before being convicted in rigged trials. It urged the state to apologize to victims and their families, to deepen reforms and to end impunity for security officials. The commission had no mandate to punish perpetrators or even to name them.

Set up in January 2004, made up of former political prisoners and human rights activists and headed by a former Marxist and political prisoner, the 17-member truth commission heard from 16,861 people. It has recommended compensation for 9,280 victims of various human rights abuses. Some 1,499 victims received compensation between 1999 and 2003. Critics claim the period covered by the commission ought to have extended to the present. They say abuses persist, pointing to the anti-terrorism law under which an estimated 2,000 people were arrested in the aftermath of the May 16, 2003, suicide bombings in Casablanca that killed 33 bystanders.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is "interested in the Moroccan experience" embodied by the work of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) in breaking the taboo of the past human rights breaches in Morocco. The statement was made by the commission's chairman, Driss Benzekri, who said, in an interview with the Moroccan French-speaking daily "La Vérité" that IER has scheduled a number of meetings in different research institutes in Europe and America in order to bring the commission's expertise into general use.

Benzekri, who deplored the lack of archives to document the violations of human rights that took place between 1956 and 1999, noted that the commission's efforts backed by the research work made by a number of universities have allowed for "establishing large archives for future research."

He deemed that the commission’s report, which was submitted to king Mohammed VI on December 16, will serve as a springboard for future research, and help opening debates that break the taboos which used to shroud this part of the Moroccan history.

“It is, in fact, a two-fold process: establishing the truth on the facts and the contexts (of human rights breaches), and launching a contradictory debate and opening up on dialog,” he said.

The chairman stressed that IER goal was to “create a debate space for a plural, sometime controversial reading that can help stirring up, today, common values, values allowing co-existence.”

The report has shed light on the fate of some 742 victims of human right breaches, while 66 proven cases of forces disappearance still need to be probed.

The commission, set up in January 2004 to seek out-of-court settlement of the human rights violation perpetrated in what has been know in Morocco as les années de plomb (years of lead), recommended in its final report the ruling out of impunity through judicial reforms and the consolidation of laws against such violations.


Friday, December 23, 2005

Health assistance regime to cover the destitute

The Moroccan National Agency for Health Insurance (ANAM) is preparing to launch a Medical Assistance Regime (RAMED) aimed at providing health insurance to the destitute, said Chakib Tazi, ANAM director general. In an article in Thursday's (22 December) Al Bayane, Tazi said the plan will cover nearly six million Moroccans, or 20 per cent of the population, which, along with the mandatory health insurance plan for wage earners, will bring the overall number of the population benefiting from medical insurance to 50 per cent. RAMED, initially valued at MAD 1.7 billion, will be funded by the state, local communities and beneficiaries whose contributions remain unclear.


Parliamentry Protest

Opposition Justice and Development Party (PJD) deputies protest at the Moroccan Parliament on Wednesday (21 December) over a law concerning media and copyright they claim was rushed through parliament. Sign at front reads, "No to the exclusion of the media in the parliamentary sphere". Sign at back reads "No to the exclusion of media coverage of the parliamentary opposition".


UNESCO to implement ten-year Marrakech safeguard plan

UNESCO is creating a local commission to implement a ten-year plan to safeguard the city of Marrakech. The initiative is part of UNESCO's protection plan of action at the international, national and sub-regional levels, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Thursday (22 December). Since1997, UNESCO has been preserving threatened cultural languages, traditions, and monuments such as Jamaâ El Fna Square. Surrounded by small shops, the vast area teems with salesmen, acrobats, storytellers, snake charmers and fortunetellers. UNESCO proclaimed Jamaâ El Fna Square a masterpiece of the human oral and immaterial heritage in 2001. It is, of course, a major tourist attraction, but not ( in my opinion ) as sensational as the old medina in Fès.


Moroccan News Briefs - #5

Moroccan News Briefs published in The View From Fez draw on open source material, contributions from readers, as well as material from Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), Morocco Times and official Moroccan Government press releases.


  • Journalists of the state-owned Maghreb Arab Press Agency (MAP) on Thursday staged a sit-in before the Finance Ministry to protest low wages and call for reviewing their financial situation which "is deteriorating because of the government's policy vis-à-vis this institution."

    The National Union for Moroccan Press (SNMP) had called for the sit-in to "protest the non implementation of the Agency's Board of Governors of the decision on increasing the salary of journalists, made during its meeting held in November 2004."

    A delegation of the Union, led by its Secretary General Younès Moujahid, handed a memorandum to the Finance and Privatization Minister, Fathallah Oualalou. The document deplores that "many requests submitted to MAP's governing board since 1998 have been frozen."

    The memo recalls that the governing board adopted unanimously in November 2004 a decision on "the increase of salaries of journalists, awaiting a global review of the situation of MAP employees part of a new legal framework."

    SNPM called on the Finance and Privatization Ministry to speed up examining other requests on the situation of MAP journalists "whose wages are considered among the lowest in the press and media sectors."


  • Speaker of the Vietnamese House Nguyen Van An’s ongoing visit to Morocco will contribute to boosting bilateral relations, President of the Moroccan House of Representatives said Thursday.

    The visit would “lift the relationship between the two parliaments to a new height and strengthen friendship between the two peoples,” Abdelwahad Radi said at their meeting.

    National Assembly Chairman An arrived in the Moroccan capital Rabat earlier the same day on his first official visit, marking the final leg of his North Africa tour which also included Algeria and Tunisia.

    The two countries should further tap their great potential for cooperation, especially economic, An said.

    At the meeting, the leaders signed an agreement for cooperation between the Moroccan House of Representatives and Vietnamese National Assembly.

    Morocco wants to develop multi-dimensional ties with Viet Nam, Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jetou told visiting Vietnamese National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An in Rabat on December 22.

    At the meeting, the Moroccan PM expressed his admiration at what Viet Nam has achieved in its past struggle for national liberation and current renovation process.

    “Viet Nam is a worthy example for developing countries like Morocco to follow,” PM Jetou said. He said he believed that with socio-political stability Viet Nam will advance its economy rapidly and substantively in the coming time.

    The Moroccan PM assured NA Chairman An of his country’s support for Viet Nam’s bid for WTO membership. He recalled that he and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, during the latter’s Morocco visit in late 2004, agreed to boost economic and trade ties, particularly in textiles, electronics, and electrical cables, where Morocco has great demand.

    The Moroccan PM said he would make a visit to Viet Nam next year to discuss measures to lift cooperation between the two countries to a new height.

    NA Chairman An briefed the PM on the results of his talks with House of Representatives Speaker A. Radi, affirming that the two countries’ parliaments will continue to boost their relations in all areas.

    He said that the Vietnamese NA welcomes and supports its Government’s action plan on Viet Nam-Africa ties in the 2004-2010 period, and that he wants the Moroccan Government and Prime Minister to help in encouraging its ministries and businesses to actively work with the Vietnamese side in realising the plan.

    On December 23, NA Chairman An and House of Representatives Speaker A. Radi attended the Viet Nam-Morocco Economic Cooperation Forum. Speaking at the event, which drew more than 100 Vietnamese and Moroccan entrepreneurs, the Vietnamese legislative leader emphasised that entrepreneurs themselves are the most active and effective element helping to bring the two countries closer in the current circumstance.

    “It is my belief that businessmen, with their clear-headedness and enthusiasm, will help increase the two countries’ economic ties, trade and investment,” NA Chairman An said.

    Later the day, the Chairman attended the official opening of the Vietnamese Embassy in Morocco. The Vietnamese leader paid a floral tribute to King Mohammed V and King Hassan II at their mausoleum. As scheduled, NA Chairman An will visit the ancient city of Fès before leaving Rabat for home to conclude his three-day visit to Morocco.

  • 3000 EURO PRIZE

  • The European Commission is going to hold an international competition among the journalists activate in the field of cultural heritage.

    Journalists will be asked to submit their reports about two historical sites in the Mediterranean Sea region to the commission. Tthe deadline for submitting the reports is March 31st, 2006.

    Only the reporters and journalists from Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Tunisia, and European countries are allowed to participate in this competition.

    The winner will be awarded 3000 Euro and the expenses of a trip. The best reports will be published in the bulletin and on the website of the commission.


  • U.S. President George W. Bush signed an order on Thursday to bring a free trade agreement with Morocco into force on January 1.

    "Morocco is a close friend and ally of the United States, and this (free trade agreement) sends a powerful signal that the United States is firmly committed to supporting tolerant and open Muslim societies," said a White House spokesperson.

    Under terms of the pact, completed in March 2004, the United States and Morocco agreed not to use agricultural export subsidies in each others' markets.

    Morocco agreed to provide preferential market access for all U.S. agricultural products by phasing out tariffs in installments on a product-specific basis.

    Negotiations on a US-Morocco Free Trade Agreement began in January 2003 and ended in March 2004. The Agreement passed the US House of Representatives and the Senate in July and was signed by President Bush in August 2004

    The United States is aggressively working to open markets globally, regionally, and bilaterally and to expand American opportunities in overseas markets.The Bush Administration has completed FTAs with 13 countries – Chile, Singapore, Australia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman and Peru. Negotiations are under way with ten more countries: Colombia, Ecuador, the United Arab Emirates, Panama, Thailand, and the five nations of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).


  • The national airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM) has just launched a more powerful on-line reservation tool on its site:

    We checked out the new system and it works extremely well. It is based on a series of codes: “EcoRelax”, giving special one-off offers, “EcoPromo” (year-long promotions), “EcoSemiFlexible” (advantageous prices with easier conditions), “EcoFlexible” (full economic tariff completely flexible) and “ExecutiveClass” (business tariffs).


  • Moroccan security forces arrested a man in possession of 13 Hawn rockets near Laâyoune. The man, 33, identified as J.T is a former detainee in The Polisario-controlled Tindouf camps (southwestern Algeria) who returned to Morocco before emigrating to Spain.

    The ammunition seized was destined for terrorist use in the region by a network whose members are wanted by police.

    Although they date back to the Sahara war that opposed Morocco to the separatist movement up to early 90s, the ammunition could still be used.

    A Ceasefire was proclaimed, in September 1991, between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario who lay claims to the Kingdom's Southern provinces, known as the Sahara. The former Spanish colony was retrieved by the North African country in 1975 under the Madrid Accords.

    The suspect was arrested in the desert some 26 km to the south of Laâyoune on December 19.


  • The Moroccan Government has for the first time launched a toll free number (080008888) to provide judiciary advice and protection for women and girls victims of violence. The initiative is part of a national strategy to combat violence against women, drawn up by the State Secretariat in charge of Family, Children and Disabled in collaboration with several departments and NGOs to assist the victims.

    According to a recent survey, domestic violence is increasing in Morocco where more than 60 per cent of violence cases concern married women aged 20 to 49 and 59.8 pc of cases are the consequence of disputes over child custody, divorce and alimony.

    Counseling centers will be provided by the Secretariat of State in coordination with the concerned governmental departments, including the Justice and Health Ministries, the Police and the Royal Gendarmerie. The aim is to promote judicial and psychological care for women and girls victims of violence.

    To tackle the issue of violence against women, the Moroccan Government ratified a number of international conventions banning domestic violence against women and improved the status of women thanks to a new Family Code enforced in January 2004.


  • On Friday the appellate court of Salé acquitted seven members of "Tetuan Group," who were indicted in the framework of the anti-terrorist law.

    They had been charged with "constituting a criminal gang with the objective of committing terror acts, holding un-authorized public meetings, exercising activities in an un-recognized association and inciting to commit terrorist acts."


  • The Casablanca general prosecutor has decided to sue the director and a journalist in the Moroccan weekly, Al Ayam, for the publication of an issue titled "Secrets of the Harem among Three Kings."

    Nour Eddine Miftah, director, and Meriem Moukrim journalist in the Arabic-speaking weekly will appear before the court on January 23 for "diffusing false information," and "publishing photos of the members of the royal family without prior authorization from the royal cabinet."

    According to the Press Act, the two journalists are liable for up to one year in prison and a fine that can reach USD 10,000.

    The weekly deems, in a press release, that “the problem of the press today consists in an unjustified embarrassment vis-à-vis certain margins (…) that should first be addressed among journalist before having recourse to the justice.”


    Preserved Lemon Recipe - Moroccan Preserved Lemon.

    The View From Fès has had several emails asking about Moroccan cuisine and particularly how to make Moroccan Preserved Lemons. Every woman I know in Fès seems to have her own variation of this recipe - ranging from simple salt and lemons through to a variety of added spices. The recipe here is the one Samir has used for years, The lemons last for about one year. If they get a white jelly-like substance after a few months... don't worry. The lemons will still be fine. Remember to rinse them well before using. This is important as they can be far too salty if you forget to do this.

    Also, some of my fellow cooks discard the pulp and only use the rind in recipes - up to you, but if you are doing a large leg of goat or lamb, consider using the entire preserved lemon (after rinsing).


    Take each lemon and slice it in four, but without making the cut all the way through. Then, holding the lemon open, coat each portion with salt. I know this sounds strange, but iodised salt is best as lack of iodine is causing problems world wide and a lot of so-called fancy salts lack iodine.

    Place a tablespoon or so of salt in the bottom of a clean preserving jar and place the lemons in - squashing them down as you go. as you fill it up, add a couple more tablespoons of salt.
    Now - for added flavour try adding a couple of cinnamon sticks, four or five cloves, a sprinkle of coriander seeds, a couple of bay leaves and eight or nine black pepper corns.

    Next, fill the jar to the top with lemon juice and seal tightly.
    Leave it in a mildly warm dark space for about five or six weeks, turning over every few days.

    Once you open it, keep it in a refrigerator or very cool space. You can add a new lemon plus salt and juice from time to time.

    See all our Moroccan recipes here: MOROCCAN MENU!



    Morocco through the lens.

    In the cascade of really bad photographs taken by tourists to Morocco, there are few that stand out. One notable exception is the work of filmaker Hans Proppe.

    While the sense of composition is not uniformly strong it is often exceptional, and Hans has a great eye for colour. The best pictures in this set are wonderful and intriguing. View the set here: Shadowplay Morocco


    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Moroccan Artists.

    Many visitors to Morocco get swept away by the history,and landscape - which is understandable - but they are missing out if they don't take time to check out Moroccan fine art.

    From time to time we will post an example, just to give you a taste.

    The work of Mohamed Cherkaoui (below) features his liking of the hot colours and is able to surprise his public as he moves from figurative to the abstract.

    Le Marché au Trésor

    Brahim Bouhamadi is a seriously talented artist and possibly the most prolific painter in watercolours in Morocco. He has a great eye for detail and can reproduce what he sees with a rare paintily touch.

    Scène quotidienne


    New Business Park for Casablanca

    On Thursday King Mohammed VI launched the construction of a large Business Park to be known as "CasaShore". According to Maghreb Arab Press it will be dedicated to Business Process Offshoring.

    This offshoring zone, to cost MAD 1.7 bn (USD 188 million), will be built on a 53ha area between the road linking Casablanca and Mohammed V Airport.

    It will allow the creation of 60,000 direct and indirect jobs and the generation of USD 555 million as a contribution to the GDP by 2014.

    CasaShore will be implemented part of the New National Industrial Strategy "Emergence," a ten-year strategy that will create 440,000 job opportunities and increase the Gross Domestic Product up by 1.6%, i.e. USD 10 million per year, and reduce the trade deficit by 50%.

    The king also inaugurated a complex for Offshoring Jobs and Information Technologies training. The project, to cost MAD 47 Mn (USD 5.2 Mn), has a hosting capacity of 3,000 students.


    Morocco gains Funds for Human Rights

    The European Union has earmarked some Euro 1.1Ml to support associations operating in the field of human rights in Morocco, according to a communiqué from the European delegation in Rabat.

    With this amount to finance projects aiming to enhance human rights in the country, Morocco has become one of the largest beneficiaries of the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights under which the fund is granted.

    The program can finance up to 90% of the projects falling under these two categories: Promoting human rights culture; and promoting the democratic process.

    Non-profit, non-governmental organizations, State-owned higher education institutions, and Morocco-based media outlets are eligible to benefit from the money, said the communiqué.

    Last September, following the first call for proposals launched by the EIDHR, 11 Moroccan NGOs benefited from subsidies totalling Euro 1Ml to set up activities meant to promote human rights.

    EIDHR is the EU's tool to support the initiatives of the civil society in promoting human rights, democracy and enhancing the rule of law in third countries. The program provides some Euro 100Ml per year, which are distributed evenly between the different world regions.


    Unfinished Buisiness: Moroccans in 'Polisario' camps

    A protest sit-in demanding the truth the "disappeared" in Polisario camps, was organized Wednesday in front of the United Nations System Resident Coordinator in Rabat.They also demand the corpses of those who perished under the torture of the "Polisario" separatists and the Algerian State,

    The sit-in was organized by the National Association of the Martyrs, Disappeared and Sequestered persons in the Moroccan Sahara.

    Since 1976, Morocco and Algeria have been at loggerheads because of the latter's support of the "Polisario Frente" separatist movement, which claims the separation of the Moroccan southern provinces (the Sahara) from the rest of the north African kingdom.

    In mid-August 2004, the Polisario released 402 Moroccan prisoners of war some of whom had spent over three decades in the Polisario-run Tindouf camps, Algeria. The separatists are still sequestering thousands of Moroccan sahrawis who they had lured into joining the camps after Morocco retrieved the Sahara from the Spanish rule in 1975 under the Madrid Accords signed with Madrid and Nouakchott.

    The Rabat sit-in also addressed a message to UN S.G. Kofi Anan through the office of the UN system coordinator in which the participants exhort the international community to pressure the Polisario and Algeria “to bring home the situation of the disappeared Moroccans, to distance the political aspect from the humanitarian one, and to bring the torturers before justice.”

    The message stresses that the issue of the disappeared Moroccans is not settled, “which has a negative psychological impact on a number of Moroccan families that are still suffering because of the blackout that shrouds this file for three decades now.”


    Free media, key to promote democracy

    Freedom of the media and freedom of expression are key elements to promote democracy, according to US and Arab panelists in a meeting organized in Rabat, by the American Moroccan Institute on US-Arab Relations Through the Media.

    Here is an interesting report by the Morocco Time's Managing editor, Karima Rhanem: Free media, key to promote democracy


    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Kuwaiti Cultural week inaugurated in Morocco

    Academic figures and Moroccan Ministry of Culture officials and Ministry of National Education, Higher Education, Staff Training, and Scientific Research officials joined in activities of the Kuwaiti Cultural week currently held in Al-Qunaitra city in Morocco.

    Moroccan figures said in the inauguration of the event Tuesday night that Kuwait has been a pioneer in supporting culture in the Arab nation.

    Moroccan Ministry of National Education Representative Abdulraheem Ali pointed out the significance of such events and the opportunities they provide for meeting with "brothers form Kuwait." In addition, Moroccan Book Union member Dr. Mustafa Yaali praised the Kuwait Cultural Office's effort in Morocco.

    Dr. Mustafa asserted that Kuwait is a model for ambitious countries and people.

    Furthermore, Cultural attach in Rabat Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi said on the occasion that this event comes as a result of the close relation between both countries.

    Al-Mutairi added that Al-Qunaitra city was chosen for this event due to its rich cultural atmosphere and heritage, in addition to the many academic and cultural institutes in the city.

    The inauguration ceremony of the Kuwaiti Cultural week that will continue till December 25 was attended by many academic and cultural figures in addition to Moroccan officials and Kuwaiti figures.

    On this occasion a book exhibition was inaugurated offering Kuwaiti publishings and publications, in addition to a panorama of the Kuwaiti press and models of the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) projects in Morocco.

    The Kuwaiti Cultural week is to include several cultural activities including a seminar titled the creative movement in Kuwait and Morocco - separate visions on common issues. Moroccan Book Union Chief Dr. Abdulhammed Al-Aqaar and the Moroccan Book Union Secretary General Abdulraheem Al-Alaam are to participate in the seminar alongside Dr. Badir Al-Khduri from Kuwait.


    Morocco: From Strength to Rationale

    The moves towards a more open liberal state in Morocco are receiving support from around the globe. The fact that the country is being applauded even in the Arab press is important and will help to strengthen King Mohammed VI in his steps forward. Here is an excerpt from an opinion piece in the Lebanese Dar Al Hayat:

    The most important facet of the current Moroccan experience is that people want to know themselves and their history, hoping that it will help them in gearing to face the future. The immunization against the contagion of the unrestrained authority, as it turns into an oppression of liberties, remains essential as long as there is no recurrence of the transgression mistakes. The reading of the past, including the shadow and darkness areas, is inevitable and beneficial as long as it does not involve painful marks or effects, since being concerned with these risks hinders the discovery of the progress laws. The debate will remain prevalent in an issue that made the authority's struggle in Morocco for the last four decades effective. Even though the assessment levels may vary according to motives and positions, it included lessons, the harshest of which is that the Moroccans open their eyes to mass graves, which were uselessly hidden under the surface. Although the experience is bitter and unconceivable, putting it behind is being achieved competently and carefully without contempt.

    Read the article here: Dar Al Hayat


    Islamist Death Penalty Confirmed.

    At a time when Morocco was being quietly congratulated for not having used the death penalty for over a decade, the appeal court in Salé confirmed a death penalty against two radical Islamists, Mohcine Bouârfa and Taoufik Hanouichi, who are involved in the killing of four security agents and a Jewish Moroccan. Insiders say that it is unlikely the men will actually be executed as Morocco has moved away from implementing it in practice.

    The two fundamentalists are part of a radical group dubbed "Meknes cell."

    The court also confirmed life sentence against four members of the same group, namely Taha El Belghiti, Zine El Abidine Meskini, Mohamed Azzouzi and Tarik Yahyaoui.

    "Meknes cell" members were sued for different charges including the setting up of a criminal gang to plot and commit terrorist acts, theft, vandalism, violence, forgery, possession of explosives and threatening the interior security of the state.

    "Meknes cell" was sued under the anti-terrorism law enacted after the terrorist attacks that killed 45 people in Casablanca on 16 May 2003, including 12 suicide bombers.

    It is hoped that Morocco, which is seen as possible the most enlightened and modern thinking of the Islamic countries, will not actually carry out the death penalty. In avoiding carrying out the death penalty Morocco knows it will prevent the two terrorists becoming seen as martyrs.

    While most countries have moved away from carrying out what amounts to state murder, the United States, Singapore and China are still practitioners of state killing and condemned by most civilised countries.


    Morocco Comes Up Oranges.

    Moroccan citrus growers are reaping the benefits of Spain’s recent adverse weather conditions with some markets looking to Morocco for reliable supply.

    Fatiha Charrat, sales and marketing manager for major citrus grower and supplier, Delassus, said recent frosts in Spain were providing Morocco with a new stream of interest: “Last year we didn’t have any customers visit us, and now I’ve had two visitors from the UK. They are looking for citrus due to the problems in Spain where many varieties are finishing early – easy peelers and Navel will finish by the end of December. The problem is that we have a certain volume of citrus and we can’t please everyone,” she said.

    However, Jamal Merzouk, export manager at Les Domaines, said: “Spain has had some problems – but not a lot. They produce two million tonnes so losing 10 per cent is not a big problem for them.”

    However, The View From Fès thinks that if the climate problems in Spain are related to global warming the long term trends favour Morocco.


    Moroccan News Briefs - #4

    Moroccan News Briefs published in The View From Fez draw on open source material, contributions from readers, as well as material from Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), Morocco Times and official Moroccan Government press releases.


  • According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, tens of thousands of girls working as domestic servants in Morocco face physical and psychological abuse as well as economic exploitation. Moroccan law denies these children basic labor rights, and the authorities rarely punish employers who abuse them. The 60-page report, "Inside the Home, Outside the Law: Abuse of Child Domestic Workers in Morocco," documents cases of girls as young as five working 100 or more hours per week, without rest breaks or days off, for as little as six and a half Moroccan dirhams (about 70 U.S. cents) a day.

    "There is a myth that these girls are improving themselves by working...the reality is that far too many girls end up suffering lasting physical and psychological harm," says Clarisa Bencomo, children’s rights researcher for Middle East and North Africa.

    Here is Refusnik's take on the issue:
    refusenik: Child abuse in Morocco..alarming!!

  • Washington urges Morocco, Algeria to improve bilateral relations

  • Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Rabat Wayne J. Bush said on Monday that Washington encourages both Morocco and Algeria to improve bilateral relations for the stability of the Maghreb region. Speaking at an international conference held in Rabat on Arab-US relations through the media, Wayne Bush said the US supports a peaceful solution, through the United Nations, to the three-decade war over the disputed-land of the Sahara that opposes Morocco to the Algerian-backed Polisario.
    Read the full MOROCCO TIMES REPORT

  • Over 5 million tourists visited Morocco up to October

  • Tourist arrivals in Morocco in the first ten months of 2005 have totalled some 5,052,833, i.e. a 5% increase in comparison with the same period of 2004, according to the Tourism Ministry figures. The statistics include 2,573,552 foreigners while Moroccan expatriates compose the rest of the arrivals.

    French tourists rank first with 1,157,960 arrivals and a 16% rise in comparison to last year said the figures. The other nationalities include Spain (292,084), Great Britain (157,612), Germany (120,467, the only nationality to register a decrease - 2%), Belgium (108,239, i.e. 19% increase) and Italy (100,422).

    Morocco has set up a tourism strategy that eyes attracting some 10 million tourists by the year 2010.

  • King launches re-housing project in Mohammedia

  • On Tuesday, King Mohammed VI launched a project to re-house the inhabitants of the rural commune of Beni Yakhlef in Mohammedia (70km south of Rabat). The king also inquired about the comprehensive programme for fighting unhealthy housing in Mohammedia. Worth USD 59 million, the project will benefit a total of 11,902 families living in 41 shantytowns.

    Read the full MOROCCO TIMES REPORT

    In Mohammedia, there are 18,000 families living in shantytowns, that is 25% of the city's population. The Monarch also inquired on the project to improve the housing conditions of the inhabitants of Casablanca. Worth USD 450 million, the project will benefit some 82,000 families and is part of a nationwide programme, launched on July 22nd , 2004 by King Mohammed VI.


    Equity and Reconciliation Commission get regional thumbs up.

    The Equity and Reconciliation Commission has been in the news a fair bit in the last few weeks and we have commented on it HERE. Now, for a different perspective, here is a piece from the Khaleej Times Online. The commentator is Mohammed A. R. Galadari


    MOROCCO is sending out some good signals to the rest of the region in respect of human rights. Investigations over and cases identified, the field is now officially open there for public discussions in respect of the rights violations there in the past four decades. What is important is that these discussions must lead to positive results.

    Dear readers, the setting up of the Equity and Reconciliation Panel (IER) by the king a year ago to document cases of rights abuses under the previous dispensation, headed by his father, had drawn world-wide attention and appreciation also for the reason that this was the first effort of its kind in respect of human rights protection in some parts of the Arab world. That showed Morocco's commitment to the cause of reforms. What also gave added credibility to the investigation panel was the inclusion in it of several prominent victims of state-sponsored repression.

    The path-breaking investigations, also involving nationally televised public hearings in respect of rights abuses, showed the world how a new government can seek to investigate and rectify the mistakes of the past dispensations; and it served notice on those who, out of their personal whims, indulge in excesses and hope to get away with their acts in the name of the state interests. They do not present the right picture to those in power, and believe that their acts will never be noticed in public.

    The present king in Morocco wanted to change this scenario, and know what was going on. He thought it was better that he investigated things himself, rather than seeing international agencies or the Western media coming up with exposes that embarrass him and the country in future. Now, everyone has to be careful about what they do-whether it be the police, the judiciary, the administrative apparatus or the so-called agents. There can be more public hearings and exposes that can put them in trouble.

    The panel, on its part, has done a job. Individual cases of some 16,000 people had been investigated and compensation recommended in respect of 10,000 cases-either for the surviving victims or to the families of those who had been eliminated in established cases of tortures and other brutalities at the behest of the establishment. Yet, it was also that those who testified before the panel had not been allowed to identify the perpetrators of the crimes. Perhaps this might have helped many to escape punishment this time. Yet, the warning against such acts is for real; public hearings can expose people and their deeds.

    Dear readers, the public discussions are bound to have a positive impact on the human rights situation in the country, as also the region as a whole. Such discussions would help the government act in a way as to make sure that such mistakes do not recur in future and take stronger measures to protect people's rights for all times to come.


    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Shouf Shouf Habibi! Yet another Maghreb Magazine.

    If Dutch is your mother-tongue, then you will be pleased to discover that there is now a Moroccan online Magazine.

    Maghreb Magazine is een Marokkaanse nieuwssite die actuele onderwerpen over Marokko, Marokkanen en andere Marokkaanse zaken in Nederland, bij elkaar brengt.

    Maghreb Magazine, onderdeel van de Marokkaanse portal Maghreb.NL, is een Marokkaanse nieuwssite die actuele onderwerpen over Marokko, Marokkanen en andere Marokkaanse zaken in Nederland bij elkaar brengt en distribueert. Dagelijks worden berichten toegvoegd binnen diverse kanalen van het magazine. Bezoekers kunnen de berichten op de site lezen, maar ook met behulp van een RSS reader binnen halen.

    Je kunt ook je eigen nieuwsbericht op Maghreb Magazine plaatsen. Heb je een bericht dat voor de lezers relevant is, voeg dat dan zelf toe via ons redactie systeem. Hiervoor moet je eerst een account aanmaken. Je ontvangt van ons een password via je e-mail en kunt daarna een concept bericht schrijven en invoeren. Dit bericht wordt door ons bekeken, indien nodig aangepast en/of ingekort en daarna definitief geplaatst.

    Meer informatie: Wil je in contact komen met de redactie, stuur een mailtje naar


    Berber Language Revival?

    The BBC is carrying an interesting item on a move to further enhance the Berber language.

    Morocco has been dominated by Arabic culture since the seventh century when the Arabs swept across the Middle East and North Africa in the name of Islam. Now the original inhabitants of this country are reasserting their influence. The word Amazigh means free or noble, but the Arabs called the Amazigh people Berbers - or barbarians. Their language, however, is still called Berber.

    Read the full story here: Moroccans learn to write Berber

    Although Moroccan Arabic and French are the languages most people associate with Morocco - there are also the Berber languages (Tamazight) such as Tarifit, Tashelhit and Amazigh.

    You will find our story on Morocco's Other Languages here: THE VIEW FROM FES: Moroccan Languages


    Amazing! But is it true?


    The Russian Pravda news reported the following story. If true, it is amazing.

    Last year, an elderly woman attended a clinic in Rabat The lady complained she was feeling heaviness in the lower part of her stomach and experienced shortness of breath.

    X-ray indicated that the lady needed immediate surgery. The surgery was conducted the next day. Surgeons made a Caesarian section and extracted a formless calcified lump. As it was later determined, this respected Moroccan woman got pregnant 46 years ago!

    She's been carrying her future baby for 7 months, when the fetus died while still in the womb. With time, the fetus has fossilized after being saturated with calcium produced by female's organism. Most remarkable of all is that this fossilized "cocoon" did not affect the overall mother's condition. The "calcified mummy" will now be exhibited at the capital's clinic of medical marvels.


    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Essential Reading before heading to Fès

    You tell me you are going to Fès.
    Now if you tell me you are going to Fès,
    that means you are not going.
    But I happen to know that you are going to Fès.
    Why have you lied to me, you who are my friend?

    One of the most interesting books set in Fès is The Spider's House by Paul Bowles.

    Set in Fès during a 1954 nationalist uprising, this richly descriptive novel may be the most evocative of Paul Bowles' many novels and stories set in Morocco. Simultaneously poetic and political, Bowles teases out the complexities of independence, focusing on issues of post-colonialism, Westernization and Moroccan identity. First published in 1955, this is considered by many to be Paul Bowles best work.

    Here is a little taste:

    Chapter One

    The spring sun warmed the orchard. Soon it would drop behind the high canebrake that bordered the highway, for the time was mid-afternoon. Amar lay beneath an old fig tree, embedded in long grass that was still damp with dew from the night before. He was comparing his own life with what lie knew of the lives of his friends, and thinking that certainly his was the least enviable. He knew this was a sin: it is not allowed to man to make judgments of this sort, and he would never have given voice to the conclusion be had reached, even if it had taken the form of words in his mind.

    He saw the trees and plants around him and the sky above, and he knew they were there. And since he felt a great disappointment in the direction his short life had taken, he knew the dissatisfaction was there. The world was a beautiful place, with all its animals and birds that moved, and its flowers and fruit trees that Allah had generously provided, but in his heart he felt that they all belonged really to him, that no one else bad the same right to them as be. It was always other people who made his life unhappy. As he lay there propped indolently against the tree trunk, he carefully pulled the petals from a rose he bad picked a half hour earlier when be had come into the orchard. There was not much more time for him to find out what he was going to do.

    If he were going to run away he must go quickly. But already he felt that Allah was not going to reveal his destiny to him. He would learn it merely by doing what it had been written that he would do. Everything would continue as it was. When the shadows lengthened be would get up and go out onto the highway, because the twilight brought evil spirits out of the trees. Once he was on the road there would be nowhere for him to go but home. He had to go back and be beaten; there was no alternative. It was not fear of the pain that kept him from going now and getting it over with. The pain itself was nothing; it could even be enjoyable if be did not wince or cry out, because his hostile silence was in a sense a victory over his father. Afterward it always seemed to him that he was stronger, better prepared for the next time. But it left a bitter flavor in the center of his being, something that made him feel just a little farther away and lonelier than before. It was not through dread of the pain or fear of this feeling of loneliness that he stayed on sitting in the orchard; what was unbearable was the thought that be was innocent and that be was going to be humiliated by being treated as though be were guilty. What he dreaded encountering was his own powerlessness in the face of injustice.

    The warm breeze that moved down across the hillsides and valleys from Djebel Zalagh found its way into the orchard between the stalks of cane, stirred the flat leaves above his bead. Its tentative caress on the back of his neck sent a fleeting shiver through him. He put a rose petal between his teeth and chewed it into wet fragments. Out here there was no one at all, and no one would arrive. The guardian of the orchard had seen him come in and had said nothing. Some of the orchards had watchmen who chased you; the boys knew them all. This was a "good" orchard, because the guard never spoke, save to shout a command to his dog, to make it stop barking at the intruders. The old man bad gone down to a lower part of the property near the river. Except for a truck that went by now and then on the highway beyond the canebrake, this corner of the orchard lay in complete silence. Because be did not want to imagine what such a place would be like once the daylight had gone, he slipped his feet into his sandals, stood up, shook out his diellaba, inspected it for a while because it had belonged to his brother and be bated wearing it, and finally flinging it over his shoulder, set out for the gap in the jungle of canes through which be bad entered.

    Outside on the road the sun was warmer and the wind blew harder. He passed two small boys armed with long bamboo poles, who were bitting the branches of a mulberry tree while a larger boy scooped up the green berries and stored them in the hood of his djellaba. All three were too busy to notice his passage. He came to one of the hairpin bends in the road. Ahead of him on the other side of the valley was Djebel Zalagh. It bad always looked to him like a king in his robes, sitting on his throne. Amar bad mentioned this to several of his friends, but none of them had understood. Without even looking up at the mountain they had said: "You're dizzy," or "In your head," or "In the dark," or had merely laughed. "They think they know once and for all what the world is like, so that they don't ever have to look at it again," he had thought. And it was true: many of his friends bad decided what the world looked like, what life was like, and they would never examine either of them again to find out whether they were right or wrong. This was because they had gone or were still going to school, and knew how to write and even to understand what was written, which was much more difficult. And some of them knew the Koran by heart ...


    Looking up in Fès.

    An unusual view from inside a dar ( Dar Seffarine ) in the Old Medina of Fès


    New Maghrebi Magazine in France

    A new magazine which takes in indepth look at the Maghreb has been launched in France. Sézame, includes news updates and analysis, and articles dealing with geopolitics, society, sciences, religion and culture.

    Hakim Ghissassi, director of the magazine, said Sézame is designed to reflect on cultural exchange.

    “Every month, journalists, researchers, experts, intellectuals, and decision makers, each in his domain, will freely express their views on cultural exchange,” he said.

    “The magazine aims at asking the right questions within a spirit of openness,” he added, noting that it will be distributed in Morocco as well.

    The cover story of the magazine's first issue dealt with “Moroccan Islam”. Moroccan journalists and intellectuals, including Mohammed Tozy, Malika Zeghal, and Aziz Iraqi, presented their views concerning the religious field in Morocco and its relation to politics.

    Another Moroccan intellectual, Abdelkhalek Cheddadi, dealt with the artistic dimension of Islam in Morocco, and the relationship of Islam and music.

    You can also find it online here: Sézame


    Two-thirds of Moroccans to own their dwellings in 10 years

    Two-thirds of Moroccans would own their houses in the next 10 years, against 36.4% in the 60s and 56.8% in 2004, according to a housing ministry official.

    Charif Tahiri, who was speaking in Cairo at a regional meeting on upgrading Arab cities, ascribed this rise to the public authorities actions aiming at increasing and diversifying housing opportunities that target medium-income categories, and at creating two new satellite cities and other urban groupings.

    The official also said that the MAD 17.71Bn (USD 2Bn) Slum-free cities program includes 70 urban centers and some 218,000 families. He said a guarantee fund has been set up to enable limited-revenue persons or those with an unstable source of income, two categories that represented 33% of city populations, to obtain bank loans at preferential conditions.


    Death of Moroccan Cinema Pioneer

    Cinema pioneer Mohammed Ousfour died in Casablanca on Saturday. He will be remembered for such great movies as “Al Ibn Al Aaq” (The cursed child) and “Le trésor infernal” (the infernal treasure).

    His body was buried in Achouhada's cemetery in Casablanca. The burial was attended by his relatives, his friend directors and other figures from the 7th art and media.
    “Mohammed Ousfour had become a filmmaker by watching films and befriending with international producers and directors. He then became a real teacher for young filmmakers,” Nourredine Saîl, the director of the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre, told MAP news agency, evoking the friendship and complicity that he shared with Ousfour.

    Ousfour's films were not devoid of patriotism, since he directed a number of documentaries which featured scenes of oppression against Moroccan resistants. The documentaries served as a background for Moroccan negotiators to internationally plead for the national cause of independence.


    Filmgoers outcry over "Marock".

    Laïla Marrakchi's new film Marock has received harsh criticism in Morocco during its screening at the National Film Festival held last week in Tangiers. Several film directors and critics have attacked Marock and even went further to question Marrakchi's nationality as a Moroccan.

    Mohammed Asli, director of “In Casablanca, Angels don't fly”, started a ferocious campaign against the young director, saying that her film ‘should not have been screened in the festival.”

    Marock, which is an autobiographical meditation on the director's own late teen years, spotlights the age when insouciance of adolescence gives way to first anxieties of adulthood.

    The film tells the story of 17-year-old Rita and her handsome boyfriend Youri. They are from the same social milieu. The only difference is that he is Jewish.

    Rita comes from a liberal Muslim family, but they have their limits. Her brother (Assaad Bouab), who has returned from Europe much more a Muslim devout, is now a constant shadow of disapproval.

    Laïla Marrakchi describes her intentions: "Marock is a wordplay on "Maroc", the French name for Morocco. For me, the title illustrates my portrait of this group of young people, privileged but also kind of messed up and schizophrenic. They live according to Western ways but they're still very attached to their country and traditions. The opening scene in which a kneeling man prays outside a parked car where inside two teenagers are making out: that's Marock."

    After the screening of the film, Marrakchi expected to be questioned on the film, but she was surprisingly astonished by the avalanche of accusations, pointing the finger at her nationality.

    Nourredine Sayel, the director of the Moroccan cinematographic centre, reacting to the accusations against the young director, affirmed that the film is “a Moroccan film, directed by a Moroccan filmmaker, shot in Morocco starring many Moroccan actors, regardless of their religion.” He added that “the film's director is one of the most intelligent female directors. The film, despite ideological differences, is a ‘Moroccan reality'.”

    The film was accused of serving Zionist purposes, mainly because of the scene which shows a Muslim girl making love with a Jewish boy.

    Marrakchi told Morocco Times that despite the accusations of journalists, directors and critics, the film was warmly applauded by many viewers, including Touria Jebran.

    “The screening of Marock in Casablanca was successful. It was applauded by those attending the 1st festival of Casablanca. In Tangiers, only a small category of journalists, filmmakers and critics assaulted the film, as they did not handle it in its artistic context,” Marrakchi concluded.


    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Moroccan News Briefs-#3

    Moroccan News Briefs published in The View From Fez draw on open source material, contributions from readers, as well as material from Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), Morocco Times and official Moroccan Government press releases.

  • Five People Smugglers Captured.

  • Five Moroccans have been arrested on people-smuggling charges after the drowning of 10 people seeking to illegally enter Spain.

    The 10 dead were among 41 people who sailed in a makeshift craft from a beach 70 kilometres north of Rabat on November 19. It ran into trouble off the Spanish port of Cadiz where a Spanish frigate rescued most of the passengers.

  • Bush Senior in Morocco

  • Former US president George Herbert Walker Bush, father of the current American leader George Bush, arrived in Morocco on Friday for what is understood to be a private visit scheduled to last less than a week.

    The 81 year old ex-president, who, on Friday, was named by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as UN special envoy to co-ordinate response to the earthquake in Pakistan, was invited to a luncheon in Rabat with King Mohammed VI.

  • More World Bank funds

  • Morocco has obtained a US$200 million World Bank loan to finance its development plans and strengthen the kingdom`s financial sector

    The Moroccan minister of finance and privatisation, Fathallah Oualalou, and Farid Belhaj, the head of the WB office in Morocco, who is in charged of the Middle East and Northern Africa announced on Saturday that the lastest loan will be disbursed in two phases.

    The World Bank has approved two sectoral development support plans since the endorsement in May this year of the 2005-2009 co-operation strategy aimed at improving competitiveness, investment climate, boosting growth and job creation.

    These plans, which are estimated to cost $350 million, are aimed at boosting the kingdom`s finance and housing systems.

    The sources said that the latest loan, which was approved by the World Bank board of directors on Thursday, is "the result of a many years of committed dialogue" between the Bretton Woods institution and the Moroccan government.

    The new loan will help improve the infrastructure, transparency and integrity of the financial sector by modernising payment systems, strengthening anti-money laundering and terrorism financing measures, and enhancing the quality of financial information.

    "While some challenges remain, the loan approved today represents an important step in the establishment of a more efficient financial sector, one with greater capabilities to play a role in the financing of growth," said a World Bank statement.

  • Morocco Still Popular Destination

  • Despite the gloomy predictions of some tour operators, Morocco is among the main medium haul destination for French tourists. The French Tour-operator Association listed Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt as being popular, even though there had been some terrorism related concerns.

    Recently the French weekly "L'express" reported in an article titled "Where to without fear?" that Morocco is one of the countries at a moment where traveling has become a real danger because of weather hazards, terrorism, bird flue and air-travel risks.

    The Dominican Republic, French Antilles, and the United States rank first in terms of the long-haul which suffered a slight decrease, according to the Association.


    Breaking News - Truth Commission,Public Release Possible.

    An unconfirmed report received by The View From Fes suggests that King Mohammed VI will order that the report of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission be made public. If true, this will vastly increase confidence in the approach Morocco is taking to an new era of Human Rights. The public dissemination of the report will mark a crucial stage in the course of the Commission's work.

    We will try and verify this report from Rabat as soon as possible.

    Our previous report is here: Equity and Reconciliation Commission.


    Marathon Des Sables- World's toughest Marathon

    The Marathon des Sables - a grueling seven-day foot race that takes place in the Sahara Desert of Morocco, is possibly the greatest test of endurance I have ever seen. Sitting in a hotel in Ouazazarte last year, I watched the survivors limp in and (surprisingly) most of them reached for cigarettes and beer! Some of them could hardly walk and one of them was a blind man. Amazing.

    Why this IS the toughest footrace on Earth

    It covers 243km/151 miles (made up of legs of 25, 34, 38, 82, 42, 22 km) run over 6 days (7 for some) - equivalent to 5 1/2 regular marathons. That's a speed of between 3 and 14 km an hour for competitors aged between 16 and 78). In addition to that, competitors have to carry everything they will need for the duration (apart from a tent) on their backs in a rucksack (food, clothes, medical kit, sleeping bag etc). Water is rationed and handed out at each checkpoint.

    You will have to prepare all your own food throughout the race and I warn you that there is not a chain of Tesco stores or corner grocery shops dotted around the Sahara. You will experience mid-day temperatures of up to 120°F, of running or walking on uneven rocky, stony ground as well as 15 - 20% of the distance being in sand dunes.

    The heat, distance and rubbing will trash your feet and may cause severe trauma if incorrect shoes and equipment are not used. Mental stamina probably constitutes at least 50% of whether you will complete the distance or not. Physical fitness is important but don't underestimate the mental stress that you will need to endure. Even if you have run dozens of 26 mile marathons, this does not mean that you will automatically find the MdS easy.

    On the 4th day, you will set off across the barren wilderness to complete a 45 - 50 mile stage. Few people complete this before dark that evening and some will not come in till after dark the next night. This is followed by the 42km Marathon stage!! Its tough, so don't say that nobody warned you in the strongest terms.

    The Marathon des Sables (or "Marathon of the Sands") was founded in 1986 by a Frenchman, Patrick Bauer. This year's race takes place between 6 -12 April 2003, somewhere in the vicinity of Ouarzazate, Morocco. The exact location of the event changes each year, and the details are kept secret until a few days before the race.
    According to the official website, the rules state, "Competitors must carry all their own food and personal gear for the entire race.

    The Event Organization only provides a ration of water each day (about 9 liters, depending on the length of the stage) and an open-sided tent. Competitors are required to carry a minimum kit including 2000 calories/day of food, a sleeping bag, an anti-venom pump and a survival kit." Facing temperatures of up to 120-degrees Fahrenheit, the event describes itself as "the world's toughest footrace", and includes a 'corpse repatriation fee' to the price of entry.

    But 'failure is not an option' in this race and harder to stand than the blisters, swelling, chaffing and heat is to have your name ignominiously slapped on the 'quitters' board. This might explain why last year only 40 runners drop out from a field of 600. Clearly sun damage isn't the only hurdle to be faced in this race. Heat exhaustion, severe dehydration, and a Saharan specialty, personal psychodrama, are all on the menu (indeed, that vulture circling overhead may or may not be part of the hallucination.) Under these severe conditions, the competitor doesn't have to debate whether to bother with sunblock or not - it is part of survival.

    In addition to the immediate threat of sunstroke, there are the long-term effects of skin damage to consider. Almost one million cases of skin cancer are now identified in the U.S. alone each year, and with the depletion in the ozone layer, this is an issue we can no longer afford to ignore. Modern hi-tech sports clothing for this kind of event will probably already be UV protective, but SPF cream should also be applied and a hat that covers the forehead, ears and neck is a given.

    Another potential health risk is retinal degeneration and cataract formation. Sand reflects 17-percent of light and some form of eye protection should always be worn.

    The 21st Maraton takes place in 2006 from the 7th to 17th of April. And you will find the official website here: MARATHON DES SABLES


    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Aljazeera spreads its wings.

    Al Jazeera is to open a bureau in Rabat and, according to managing director Waddah Khanfar, it will be the second center of regular news bulletins after Doha.

    Speaking at a study day on "freedom of expression and defining responsibilities," Khanfar said that the channel will extend the activities of Rabat bureau through building new studios to further focus on issues of Morocco and the Maghreb region.

    Waddah Khanfar also recalled the attacks against the Qatari channel, quoting the article published by the British newspaper, "Daily Mirror" which reported that the US was planning to bomb Al Jazeera's Qatar headquarters.

    He noted that Al Jazeera is attacked because its staff consists of persons who are armed with know-how and who attached to their objectiveness, and because it offers a free information service, seeks universality, respects professionalism and looks for the truth.

    On the channel's relation with the United States, he said that the period from 1996 through 2001 was marked by "announced satisfactions" in favor of Al Jazeera as "a democracy and reform project." These relations have changed since 2001 because of the channel's coverage of conflicts where international powers were involved.

    In this perspective, Al Jazeera bureaus in Baghdad and Kabul were bombed and its journalists were arrested for their professional activities, he said.

    Underlining that Arab media is going through “a serious transition stage," Khanfar called for expressing solidarity and a spirit of communication in order to create a pan-Arab media school, which would be able to deal out justice to journalists and preserve their dignity.


    Truth Commission Findings.

    There has been wide coverage in the world media of the Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation Commission. One thing that almost all reports have failed to point out is that such commissions are a rarity and that Morocco and King Mohammed VI is to be congratulated on taking a brave step towards truth and transparency.

    The tasked of investigating more than four decades of human rights abuses in Morocco runs the danger of awakening old wounds and raising ghosts from the past. Yet, Morocco has gone down this path and in doing so uncovered nearly 600 disappearances and the deaths of about 500 people during street riots or while in police custody.

    Driss Benzekri, chairman of the Commission

    The commission is not only a rarity worldwide, but notable as the first of its kind in the Arab world. And it appears to have tackled the task without fear or favour. Already it has called for a major reform of the country's judicial and security sectors, along with constitutional guarantees of human rights, presumption of innocence, and fair, open trials. This is brave stuff. And don't expect it anytime soon in Iran, Iraq or Saudi.

    The findings of the two-year investigation were submitted to King Mohammed VI, who established the Equity and Reconciliation Commission to examine alleged abuses during the reign of his father, King Hassan II.

    The commission has no mandate to punish perpetrators or to name them. Human rights activists and some Moroccans have criticized that policy, but commission members argue that naming perpetrators violates their rights.

    The Equity and Reconciliation Commission has recommended compensation for 9,280 victims of various human rights abuses over the decades or which some 1499 victims had already received compensation between 1999 and 2003.

    The criticism, by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, centres on their claim that the commission should have openly named the perpetrators. The group does have a list of those it wants prosecuted. They also question the figures provided by the commission and say that the number of victims is much higher. While this is possibly true, the commission and the King should be given the chance to present their findings and then move on to the next step. It is a difficult road that Morocco has headed down and they should be encouraged to continue - one step at a time.

    See our update here: THE VIEW FROM FES: Breaking News - Truth Commission,Public Release Possible.


    Update on self-immolation incident

    Dr. Yasser Soufiani, head of Ibn Sina hospital in Rabat, has denied the death of Omar Sadek, one of the 20 jobless protesters who attempted a collective self-immolation on Thursday morning.

    Soufiani said that Sadek was transferred to an intensive care unit as he was suffering from third degree burns and his health status is very critical. He added that the situation of four others who had burns on their faces and hands is stable.

    Soufiani told MOROCCO TIMES that two women members of the unemployed group left hospital yesterday after being treated, as they had nervous breakdown and hysteria as result of seeing the protesters burn themselves alive.

    Twenty members of the National Independent Group of Unemployed Moroccans aged between 25 and 41, attempted on Thursday a colletive self-burning while protesting in front of the Ministry of Health in Rabat.

    Azeddine Raouchi, one of the protesters who set himself on fire, told Morocco Times “we were fed up with the government's false employment promises; that is why we have decided to burn ourselves alive so that the government may pay more attention to us, and give us our simple right, which is a job”.

    Raouchi said the problem goes back to Oct. 2003 when the group of unemployed started having a series of talks with government officials to solve their problems.

    “We had dozens of meetings with the government, but in vain. Last June, we reached an agreement with the government that half of our group, which includes 48 jobless, be employed at the Ministry of Justice and the other half at the Ministry of Interior,” he said.

    “However”, he added, “the Ministry of Justice kept its promises and employed 27 people, but the Ministry of Interior has ignored the other 20. And considering our miserable situation and the constant meetings without results, demanding only our rights, we have decided to burn ourselves,” he explained.

    Unemployment in Morocco was officially 10.8 % last year, Prime Minister Driss Jettou said in September, adding that among younger graduates the figure was 26.9 %.

    Macroeconomic stability coupled with low inflation and relatively slow economic growth has characterised the Moroccan economy over the past several years. Overall, employment remains dependent on the agriculture sector, which is extremely vulnerable to inconsistent rainfall.



    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Moroccan News Briefs - #2

    Moroccan News Briefs published in The View From Fez draw on open source material, contributions from readers, as well as material from Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), Morocco Times and official Moroccan Government press releases.

  • King Mohammed VI appoints new head of Internal Intelligence

  • King Mohammed VI yesterday appointed Abdellatif Hammouchi to the position of head of the Direction Générale de la Surveillance du Territoire - DGST.

    Hammouchi replaced Ahmed Harrari who served in this post since July 2003. The DGST, (the equivalent of the British MI5), is the security service responsible for protecting Morocco against threats to national security.

  • King Calls on pilgrims to be 'worthy ambassadors' for Morocco

  • King Mohammed VI called on Moroccans who are about to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca to be "worth ambassadors" of their country.

    "Try to be worthy ambassadors for your country, and to act in a way that commands other people's esteem and fondness for this nation, which deserves special affection and consideration, as well as strong support for its causes and its aspirations", the monarch who bears the name of the "Commander of the faithful"

    Addressing the first delegation bound for Hajj (pilgrimage), King Mohammed VI quoted the holy Koran as saying: "Addressing His servant and Prophet Abraham, Almighty God said: "And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways, that they may witness the benefits provided for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed"."

    He reminded the pilgrims that, according to the Holy Book and the Sunna, "that the harder an act of devotion and its requirements, the greater the reward."

    The monarch also quoted Prophet Sidna Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying: "He who comes to this House and refrains from obscene or immoral acts will be cleansed of his sins, and be as pure as a newborn child". He also said: "There is but one reward for a valid pilgrimage, and that is Paradise".

    Every year, up to 30,000 Moroccans perform the pilgrimage which is one of the five pillars of Islam that include, the Chahada (testimony of faith), the Salaat (daily five-time prayer), Sawm (one month fasting during the holy month of Ramadan) and the Zakat (almsgiving to the needy).

  • 30% of Moroccan children under 5 suffer from Anemia

  • Speaking at the presentation of the 2006 report on children's situation in the world, UNICEF Representative in Morocco, Maie Ayyoub said that 300,000 babies suffer from iodine deficiency, notably due to malnutrition and shortage of drinking water.

    She noted that 7% of Moroccan children under the age of 11 (250,000) are unschooled and 10% (60,000) are not vaccinated.

    State Secretary in charge of Family, Children and Disabled, Yasmina Baddou (pictured left) noted that the government has set up an action plan to fight AIDS, promote a qualitative education and protect children against all forms of exploitation and violence.

    The government has also launched a project to build children protection units to follow up children victims of violence and exploitation, she noted.

    The project, baptized SAMU Social, also includes to offer judicial, listening, diagnosis and integration services. Two pilot units will be operational starting early 2006 in Casablanca and Marrakech, targeting for the first six months children under 18 and girls under 25 living in the streets.

    The first project, worth USD 525,000, will allow persons living in the streets to benefit from free and professional medical, psychological and preventive care.

  • Four-month suspended sentence to ten university students

  • Following up on our story about the unrest in Fès. A court in Fès sentenced ten students of the city's Mohamed Ben Abdallah University to a four-month suspended sentence.

    The students were sued mainly for unauthorized assembly in the public way, belonging to an unauthorized association, and damaging public property.

    The court had on Monday acquitted five students arrested on December 5, with the same group following a demonstration to protest against the urban transport company that wanted to raise the price of the monthly subscription to its services.

  • Over 250 would-be immigrants arrested in Morocco

  • Moroccan authorities have arrested some 261 candidates to illegal emigration during operations conducted from December 8 to 14 in different regions of the country.

    211 of those arrested are Moroccans while the remaining 50 others are from different nationalities, according to a press release of the Ministry of the Interior. Thousands of wannabe emigrants risk their lives every year attempting to cross to the northern shore of the Mediterranean for a better life. Over 26,000 attempts of illegal migration were aborted in 2004, including 4,989 in southern Morocco. 423 human smuggling networks were also dismantled during the same year.