Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Moroccan News Briefs #73

Abortion campaign - mixed reception

According to reports on Radio Netherlands, a boat known as the ‘abortion boat’ is setting sail for Morocco. It will be the first visit by the Dutch organisation Women on Waves (WOW) who are due to launch a campaign this week, in cooperation with local youth group M.A.L.I. (Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertés Individuelles)

The group, Women on Waves, was founded 11 years ago to offer sexual health services including medical abortions. In order not to break local laws the group works on board a Dutch ship outside the territorial waters of countries where abortion is illegal. WOW was invited to Morocco by M.A.L.I. In a petition launched last month, the Moroccan group said they want to “put an end to illegal practices that present many dangers by providing access to legal abortion, health checked to save lives.”

In most Islamic countries, including Morocco, abortion is illegal unless the life of the mother is in danger. The only exception in the region is Tunisia which has reformed its laws and now has a more liberal stance.

According to AFP, the authorities' response to the initiative remains unknown, with local daily Al-Tajdid, the mouthpiece of Morocco's ruling Islamist party, questioning whether the government would allow the ship to enter Moroccan waters.

The founder of WOW. Dr Rebecca Gomperts, says that Rabat's reaction was "hard to predict," but she argued that any attempt to block the visit would be an "illegal" intervention in the freedom of travel and the freedom of expression.

She denied it was an inappropriate time for the visit, despite religious sensitivities running high in Muslim countries after violent protests last month against a US-made anti-Islam film and the publication of blasphemous cartoons in France.

"I understand that (the visit) is seen as a provocation by some religious groups. But this is about women's health. It has nothing to do with religion."

According to unofficial estimates, between 600 and 800 women in Morocco undergo an illegal abortion every day. The World Health Organisation estimates that worldwide, some 47,000 women die annually as the result of unsafe abortions.

Spanish Government Support for Morocco on Sahara Issue Welcomed

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo
Morocco has welcomed the position taken by the Spanish government on the Western Sahara conflict and political developments that Morocco has made in recent years in order to build a democratic state. The Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said at a conference on "The foreign policy of Spain in the Mediterranean", at the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), that "Morocco has embarked on the path of reform," and about the Western Sahara conflict, he said: "the biggest challenge for Morocco will probably be the implementation of the autonomy of the southern territories. "

In this statement, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs did not refer to "Western Sahara", as is the custom among the Spanish politicians, but "the southern territories", which demonstrates a clear change in approach of the Government of Mariano Rajoyen in favour  of the stance of Rabat on the Moroccan former Spanish colony. This summer, García-Margallo called Spanish humanitarian activists working in the Sahrawi camps in Tindouf (Algerian Sahara) to leave the  territory for safety reasons, especially since they have become a favorite target of Islamic terrorism.

Morocco had feared that the arrival of the Popular Party (PP) government might mean the abandonment of Madrid's support for the interests of Morocco in the Sahara, initiated by the previous Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

The socialist leader had ignored some voices within his own party (PSOE) and implicitly backed the formula advocated by Rabat - broad autonomy within the Kingdom of Morocco.

Rajoy, who is aware of the major economic and geostrategic interests that Spain Morocco and North Africa, and who knows the Rabat's role in the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration, wants to reach a bilateral relationship slice from the past.

The Rajoy government still has a long way to go to consolidate Hispano-Moroccan relations and, as has happened in the previous Socialist government, he will face much internal opposition, including from the ranks of the PP, as well as in political and social sectors who see Morocco as an enemy that must be kept at a distance.

Royal Air Maroc adds flights

Starting on October 11, RAM will launch three weekly flights from Madrid to Tangier. The move by Royal Air Moroc will strengthen air links between Spain and the Kingdom of Morocco. A statement from the national airline says that tickets for this new route are already on sale. RAM will connect to the Spanish capital to the Northern Morocco's chief city with three weekly flights: Monday, Thursday and Sunday.

Morocco's Road Toll

According to the Moroccan Minister of Equipment and transport, Aziz Rebbah, more than 2,700 have been killed in traffic accidents during the first 8 months of 2012 an increase of 4.4% compared to the same period last year. Accidents also seriously injured 8042 (0.58%) and 59,602 minor injuries (0.73%).

Morocco's Coastal Ecology

European scientists are coming to the rescue of the country's beaches. Many Moroccan beaches are a mess. But scientists of the expedition "The Changing Ocean" have arrived in Morocco and want to "reconcile with the ocean". According to a Scottish scientist, David French, "In all countries there is a long way to go, but in Morocco, we can see with our own eyes, so much plastic waste". (Source: Yabiladi)

Moroccan Couscous a winner

Moroccan Couscous won the prize for best presentation at the end of the 15th edition of "Couscous Fest," a festival of cultural integration held for a week in San Vito Lo Capo, near Trapani (Sicily, Southern Italy ). Moroccan chefs had made the trip to this famous fishing village in Italy, to compete for creativity and originality in the preparation of couscous recipes. The resulting Moroccan dishes were judged to be more varied when compared with other competitors.

Morocco wins 2012 African Kickboxing Championship

News from Starafrica.com is that Morocco have won the 2012 African Kickboxing Championship that held in Antananarivo, Madagascar over the weekend. They gleaned eight gold medals while the host country followed behind with seven victories.

This competition has been described as the best so far as it brought together close to 200 fighters from seven countries, fourteen referees and judges from Europe. It was also the first time in the history of the championships that a computerize system has been used for points counting.

And finally...

A strange story of a hat. Over the years, millions of Fezes are purchased by tourists and taken to their home countries. The View from Fez tracked one hat that left Morocco forty years ago and is still in active use.

The Fez in question was purchased in Casablanca and then made its way to Finland. It remained with the original owner for thirty years and was then handed on to Mark Uotilla, the proprietor of Töölön Sikarikauppa - the most famous pipe and cigar shop in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

The wearing of a Fez has become traditional amongst the shop's cigar club which meets regularly to enjoy a quiet smoke and a chat.  However, as we discovered, Mr Uotilla wears it on a far more regular basis. Adding to the surprise was his Arabic language skills and depth of knowledge about Morocco. He is a worthy owner of this now elderly Fez.


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