Thursday, August 14, 2014

Moroccan News Briefs #119

The case of the veiled woman banned from the pool in a 5-star hotel

The city of El Jadida made the news this week with a strange incident surrounding the wearing of a "burkini". According to local sources a veiled woman from Oujda was staying at the hotel and changed into her "burkini" for a swim in the pool. A few minutes later the hotel administration intervened to tell her that she must not swim.

According to one of the Arabic-language newspapers the woman tried to explain to officials from the hotel but to no avail and was told, "It is strictly forbidden to swim with the full suit."

Outraged, the frustrated bather complained to Abdelaziz Aftati a parliamentary member of the PJD He took the issue seriously and immediately met with the Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad asking him to penalize the "extremist secular" hotel group and describing its attitude as "cynically neo-colonial".

The "burkini" is a full hooded bathing costume invented by a Lebanese Australian in 2007.
Ahiida Massoud Zanetti, 41 (pictured above), who owns a company that specializes in Islamic swimwear and sportswear, says she first designed the Islamic swim suit while she was working as a hairdresser and added it was only meant to be for personal use.

"Anti-burkini" reactions are not new as we reported last year.  A similar incident took place outside of Paris and in Verona, Italy, a Moroccan woman was asked to leave a municipal swimming pool because she was wearing a ‘burkini,’ an ‘Islamically correct’ swimsuit. The reason was that she “frightened the children.”

The xenophobe right exalted, the media made comments ranging from expressing concern to amusement, while the public debated the matter. Can the ‘burkini’ really be considered a “Islamic” swimsuit? Does it humiliate women?

Morocco cracks jihadist cell

Paul Schemm, reporting for AP says that Moroccan police have dismantled a nine-person cell recruiting volunteers to fight with the radical Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Thursday.

Moroccan police detain a suspect in Casablanca

The network was operating in the Mediterranean city of Tetouan, Fez and Fnideq, a small town near the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, raising funds and sending people to Syria and Iraq, the police said. A statement from the Spanish Interior Ministry, which was involved in the investigation, said the network also operated in its North African enclave of Ceuta.

While Morocco has experienced few terrorist attacks, it has become a fertile recruiting ground for jihadi networks, sending fighters to places like Syria and Mali with authorities finding new cells every few months.

In May and June, Moroccan police dismantled two other recruitment cells, also based out of Fez and on the Mediterranean coast, while Spain has arrested dozens of recruiters in recent years, many operating out of its North African enclaves.

Some of the recruits were planning on using their training to return to Morocco and carry out bombing attacks, the Moroccan statement added.

Morocco's Interior Ministry says that 1,212 Moroccans belong to terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, including the Islamic State group. At least 100 have been arrested on their return.

Earthquake felt in the north of Morocco

An earthquake of 3.2 magnitude rocked the town of Hassi Berkani located 65 kilometers from the Spanish enclave of Melilla. The earthquake on Wednesday was the fourth in two weeks.

Hassi Berkani

The quake was felt by some Melilla, although it caused no damage or any other incident.

The quakes starting on July 31were also reported in the Moroccan town of Hassi Berkane located 65 kilometers from Melilla, 3.8 degrees, and 9 August in Al Hoceima,  with a magnitude of 3.6 degrees on the Richter scale.

Moroccan parliament debates freedom of information bill

Morocco's freedom of information bill is being touted as a move that encourages democracy, but critics say the long-awaited measure strays from its original intention.

The Moroccan government on July 31st approved the bill on the right to access information, sending it to parliament for debate.

"The draft law complies with article 27 of the constitution and embodies the goals of government programme about enhancing confidence in administration," said Mohamed Moubdii, the minister delegate for public service and modernisation of administration.

Article 27 of the Moroccan constitution states that citizens have the right to access information and that it "may only be limited by the law".

But in a statement issued on Friday (August 8th), Transparency Morocco said: "A first analysis gives the feeling of a text that rather than organising the implementation of Article 27 of the constitution, which explicitly recognises the right of access to information, the bill instead codifies inaccessibility".

The ministry has amended the draft law twice, and the second amendment was approved by many of the stakeholders. However, they expressed their surprise over the ministry's approval of the amended version.

"The new draft law involves a significant retraction from the previous bill, which was previously posted on the government secretariat website," Said Essoulami, an expert in the defence of freedom of expression, told Magharebia by phone from London.

While the bill gives Moroccan citizens and foreign residents the right to request information, "it should have opened the door for all, like the case of Tunisia", he said. "In addition, article 14 of the bill states that information shall be obtained only by those who have a direct interest."

The head of the Moroccan Network for the Right to Access Information (REMDI), Abderrahim Foukahi, said: "The previous draft law was widely accepted, complied with international standards, and included a partial response to the recommendations of national debate and civil society proposals. As to the current draft law, it is completely rejected."

"The government has cancelled some sections that punish blockers of information and those hiding it, and replaced them in the new version with new sections punishing those who apply for information," he added. "The dangerous thing about these sections is that they refer to criminal law."

Prepare for a Moroccan Heatwave

Morocco should experience temperatures around 50 degrees Celsius on Friday in the southern part of the country. According to the National Weather Service temperatures will rise over the weekend in the rest of the country. The service has issued a special weather alert.

This gradual increase in temperature will start first in the cities of the south before reaching the east and then north. According to the National Weather Service, several regions of Morocco will experience higher temperatures during the same period. Temperatures may vary between 40 and 43 degrees in Al Haouz, Kelaa Sraghna Kasba Tadla, Beni Mellal, and Essaouira.

For Sunday temperatures from 41 to 44 degrees are expected in Assa Zag, Tata and Zagora and 39-42 degrees at Al Haouz, Kelaa Sragna,  Kasba Tadla, Beni Mellal, Khouribga, Sidi Slimane Sidi Kacem, Ouezzane and Taounate.

The cities of Assa-Zag, Tata, Zagora, Smara and Taroudant show temperatures between 43 and 47 degrees Friday and Saturday. The hot air mass will continue to grow toward the centre and north. This weather will by driven by a phenomenon known in Morocco as the Chergui - a very hot wind from the Sahara.

Tourist cities such as Fez and Marrakech will not escape the heat. Fez should reach 38 on Saturday and 40 on Sunday before returning to 37 on Monday and a cooler 32 in Tuesday. Marrakech will stay around 40 degrees until after the weekend.  However the coastal cities such as Rabat and Casablanca will peak at 30 degrees and head down to 25 degrees by Tuesday

Algerian police crack down on illegal fuel smuggling

Since the beginning of the year, some 500,000 gallons of fuel are estimated to have been  smuggled from Algeria to Morocco.

"In the first seven months of the year, the amount of fuel foreclosures are on the order of about 500,000 liters against 320.000 liters in the same period last year," said a police spokesperson.

Using donkeys smugglers manage to cross the land border between Algeria and Morocco that has been closed since August 1994.  To fight against the fraudulent export of fuel, the Algerian authorities have dug trenches and erected barriers along the border and the activity has "become a real adventure" for traffickers in Algeria called "hallabas" (those who milk service stations). The latest crackdown is expected to do little to stem the flow as long as the cost of petrol in Morocco remains higher than Algeria.

Meanwhile... lets play games across the border!

Young Algerians and Moroccans, who are tired of seeing their borders closed, decided to act. They plan to organize a volleyball match on October 31 between citizens of the two countries on the border.

Launched three days ago on Facebook, by three young Moroccans and a young Algerian, the event was a resounding success. More than nine hundred people showed their willingness to participate in "a match of volleyball on the border between Algeria and Morocco."

The objective of this initiative is to "jump the barriers and build bridges and roads harmonious dialogue," the organizers said "A game of volleyball is another way to express the alliance between two peoples who share the same concerns and a common destiny. The initiative wants a 'borderless' existence with Algerians and Moroccans united in the pursuit of harmony, well-being and peace".

And finally --- music and a swimming pool

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