Monday, January 21, 2013

Moroccan News Briefs #83

Maroc Telecom To Invest $1.2 Billion In Broadband Network

Maroc Telecom plan to invest 10 billion Moroccan dirhams ($1.2 billion) to upgrade the country’s broadband network. The company, which is 53 percent owned by French conglomerate Vivendi SA and 30 percent owned by the Moroccan government, said it would invest this money between 2013 and 2015 financial years.

The company will also invest 4 billion dirhams ($477 million) in other African countries where it has operations. These countries include Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Gabon and Mali over the same period.

Maroc Telecom had already invested 25 billion dirhams ($3 billion) in Morocco, it said in a statement to the French securities exchange.

The company made this announcement at the time when Etisalat ETEL.AD, the United Arab Emirates’ largest telecommunications operator, said it is interested in buying Vivendi’s 53 percent stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom.

Polygamy to reduce number of unmarried women?

Too many single women?
According to a recent report in Le Soir, estimates from the Moroccan High Commission For Planning (HCP) found the median age for marriage in Morocco was 31 for men and 27 for women.There are many reasons for this – more years spent studying, and the high cost of housing and wedding ceremonies being the most obvious. Some, it seems, now want to add monogamy to this list of reasons why young Moroccans are getting married later in life.

The idea might seem absurd at first, but in a country where rape victims have been forced to marry their rapists, it’s really not so surprising.

Abdesslam El Bouraini, the president of the National Order of Religious Notaries argues: “The median age for marriage increases more and more, while women can’t find husbands. So why don’t we modify the polygamy law to allow men to marry several women?” Supply and demand, if you will.
In Morocco, polygamist marriages are almost non-existent because of strict legal restrictions: a woman has to sign consent, and in case of divorce, assets have to be divided among the wives.

Fouzia Assouli, the president of the Federation for the Democratic League of Women’s Rights (FLDDF), says El Bouraini’s proposal is “mind-blowing. There is no scientific evidence to support this notion, and it’s a violation of human rights and women’s rights. Celibacy is also a personal choice," she says.

What if Morocco faced the opposite situation? “In Saudi Arabia, women outnumber the men, should we allow them to have several husbands?” asks Assouli. “If Islam allows it, then it’s for the good of the community, otherwise, it’s an open door to debauchery. The legal restrictions on polygamy have driven men and women to have extra-marital intercourse,” believes El Bouraini.

If we are to believe him, Morocco’s strict polygamy laws are the reason why men commit adultery. But isn’t excusing adultery and infidelity contrary to the basic principles of Islam? If polygamy was the solution, there wouldn’t be high rates of single people in the countries where it is common.

Moroccan Security - Opinion

Hassan Benmehdi and Siham Ali have written an interesting opinion piece for Magharebia on Al-Qaeda activity in Mali andf the threat it poses a threat to Morocco.

[AFP/Abdelhak Senna] Moroccan security forces recently dismantled multiple al-Qaeda linked cells

The deadly conflict now unfolding in Mali between armed Islamists and an international military coalition seems far removed from Morocco. But with al-Qaeda working to foster ties with distant extremist circles, the active recruiting of Moroccan jihadists brings the Mali crisis perilously close to the kingdom.

In late December, the Moroccan judicial police broke up an al-Qaeda cell in Fez. The group's goal: to "enrol and recruit young Moroccans who have embraced jihadist ideas, in order to send them to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) camps", the interior ministry said.

Morocco shares no border with Mali. But that has not stopped al-Qaeda offshoot MUJAO from eyeing potential fighters from afar. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other regional terror organisations have intensified activities aimed at undermining stability in Morocco, the interior ministry confirmed in December.

"AQIM and its ally MUJAO (Movement for Tawhid and Jihad) are now attractive to Moroccan youth imbued with the philosophy of al-Qaeda," the ministry said in a statement last month. Investigations by the judicial police and the Directorate General for Territorial Surveillance (DGST) had "proven" that terror groups were targeting young Moroccans, the ministry said.

The Moroccan government's comments came in response to a spate of successful security operations that dismantled several terror cells in just one month.

On December 26th, 27 suspects seized in Casablanca, Laayoune, Nador, Guercif and Kelaat Sraghna were arraigned on charges of sending more than 20 young Moroccans to join al-Qaeda and MUJAO in northern Mali. A Malian national was among the Morocco AQIM cell suspects.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its allies may well be looking to destabilise Morocco, as the interior minister said last month, but according to political scientist Sami Khairi, the country's security forces are up to the challenge.

"Moroccan security services have been stronger than al-Qaeda," he says.

It is the same story from analyst Mohamed Chaouni.

"Security policies in Morocco have been quite efficient," he says. "It is thanks to co-operation between the different services that so many terrorist cells have been dismantled."

"This security approach has been supported by other measures, such as the implementation of development strategies, the fight against poverty, and efforts in the religious field to encourage tolerance and moderation," Chaouni adds.

Today, he says, is all about intensifying regional co-operation and containing the expansion of terrorist activities in the Sahel. Fighting drug and weapons trafficking should be a priority.

For sociologist Samira Kassimi, however, the focus should be on Morocco's youth. Given resources such as education and jobs, she argues, young people will not be easily manipulated by terrorist groups.

Bassima Hakkaoui and the hijab

The popular Al Arabiya news site is carrying an interesting story about Morocco’s only female minister, Bassima Hakkaoui, who claimes that the media has targeted her because she dons the Islamic headscarf, the hijab.

Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development, Bassima Hakkaoui, said since taking office in January 3, 2012, the media attempted to mar her credibility by reporting false news and information about her. Hakkaoui’s husband having a second wife is among the erroneous information she rebuffed.

“The media has attacked me ever since my appointment [as minister] by reporting statements I did not say,” she told the French-language Moroccan weekly magazine, Tel Quel, in an interview. “This is because I am a hijab-wearing woman in parliament…I think this has agitated some people who tried to tar my credibility.”

The 52-year-old minister said she respects journalists despite some who do not verify their reports before publishing. “I find myself to bring more attention more than other ministers as I am the only woman minister.”

The Minister should be applauded

The most interesting insight in the article is that unlike many of her colleagues, the minister is urging for changes to safeguard women rights in Morocco. She vowed that there will be changes to article 475 in the country’s penal code that allows a rapist to marry his victim to escape prosecution. Law to protect young girls is rejected.

As The View from Fez reported earlier, the Islamist PJD had taken what many are describing as a backward step by rejecting a bill criminalizing any sexual contact with minors. In Morocco, the rapists of under-age girls are protected by law as long as they marry their victims.

There have long been calls for the repeal of Article 475 of the penal code and given the public revulsion felt at such crimes it was expected that the repeal would be past. However, the commission of Justice of the House of Representatives led by the Islamist PJD rejected an amendment which would have criminalised sexual intercourse with a minor even if it is consensual. Socialists MPs wanted to put on the same level as rape. In light of this, Bassima Hakkaoui is to be applauded for her stand in favour of changing the law.

Last year, a Moroccan court allowed a rapist to marry his 16-year-old rape victim, Amina Filali, to “preserve” the honor of the girl’s family. Filali’s case, who later committed suicide, created outrage in the country with many activists called for changes and reforms in the penal court.

“A rapist belongs to jail and not elsewhere,” she said.

In memory of a Moroccan female pioneer

Touria Boutaleb, the first Moroccan woman to obtain a certificate of aptitude for teaching Arabic. Ms. Touria Boutaleb died on Sunday in Rabat. She was the first girl in Morocco to pick up the certificate of aptitude for teaching Arabic language in public schools girls, after a competition organized in 1946 in Rabat. She has served as director of the girls' school in Fez. After moving to Rabat with her ​​husband, she served as director of the school Hassan. An a activist on the national scene, Touria Boutaleb was also one of the first women writers from Morocco to collaborate with the newspaper "Al Alam" and the magazine "Daawat Al Hak" as well as Arabic publications, including "Al Arabi" and " Al Arab ".

Morocco has 19 films in African Film Festival

According to Morocco World News, Morocco is the country with the most films on offer in the 23rd edition of the Panafrican Film and Television festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) in Burkina Faso.

The Festival, scheduled from the 23rd of February to the 2nd March, has three Moroccan feature films in competition for the Golden Stallion of Yennenga, namely “Androman mindamoua Fahm” (of blood and of coal) by Lamharzi Alarabe Alaoui, “Horses of god” by Nabil Ayouch and “Love in the Medina” by Abdelhaï Laraki.

Morocco is the most represented country in this competition list which comprises 19 films representing, besides Morocco, Guinea-Bissau, Algeria, South Africa, Senegal, Gabon, Mauritius, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Angola, Niger, Mali and Mozambique.

The edition of FESPACO 2013 is being run under the scintillating theme: “African Cinema and public policies in Africa.”

The International Marathon of Marrakech, 27th January 2013

On Sunday 27th January 2013, Marrakech will host the 23rd annual International Marrakech Marathon.

Renowned for being one of the most prestigious marathons in the world, the event accommodates up to 6000 marathonians, professional and amateur, and is arguably a prestigious meeting place for international marathon stars. The route is flat and rapid, making it one of the world’s fastest marathon routes, with the record being an impressive 2h03’59”. Time limit for the full marathon is 5.30 hours covering a distance of 42,195km, and the half marathon 3.00 which is 21,097km.

You can also register for the village marathons which take place on Friday 25th, and Saturday 26th January prior to the main event, and is also open to children and amateurs of all ages.

Runners can partake in the full or semi marathon and inscription to the event is possible until 21st January 2013. If you are interested in more details about this event, including the route, times, registration and other information, please visit this link


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