Category: Sufi Land of Morocco


2017-10-11

RABAT – In a country where nearly half of people with mental disabilities are unemployed, one restaurant in the Moroccan capital is part of a pilot project tackling the problem.

When a customer enters the Hadaf restaurant in the capital’s business district, nothing indicates that many of the staff are disabled in any way.

Take Amr, an enthusiastic 28-year-old in a crisp white shirt and black trousers.

He scouts the street for prospective clients as front of house staff add vases as the finishing touches to tables.

“I first learnt in the canteen,” Amr said.

“Now I take orders from customers in the restaurant — I like the contact with them, getting to know each other,” he added.

The experiment was launched by a local association created by parents to shake up prejudices and serve as a springboard for young people with mental disabilities.

The jobless rate for such people is 47.65 percent, four times the average in a country which has 2.3 million disabled, according to a study published last year by the families ministry.

Soumia Amrani is on the board of a human rights group and the co-chair of a disability-focused collective.

She believes the battle to integrate must begin at an early age.

“You can’t prepare children to be sociable and learn to join society if they stay on the margins of that society,” she said.

“They must be inside society to learn with everyone else.”

– Constitutional rules –

In the kitchen at Hadaf, 28-year-old Moed, chef’s hat perched on his head, is delighted to have a trade after spending just three years in primary school.

“I’ve learnt a lot from my colleagues. I’m very happy and my family is proud of me,” he said.

Morocco’s 2011 constitution says those with disabilities should be able to “integrate and rehabilitate into civil life”.

But things are different in reality. Just 41.8 percent of disabled youngsters aged between six and 17 go to school, and in the six to 11 range that figure falls to 37.8 percent.

Another indicator that there is a problem is that a third of homeless people suffer from some form of disability.

“This restaurant? It’s a good thing for me and the customers,” said Moed as he chopped parsley for the salad of the day, all grown from the restaurant’s own organic garden.

Other young people busied themselves at the kitchen work surfaces as skewers of meat sizzled on the flames.

The restaurant is part of the Hadaf Center — Hadaf means “goal” in Arabic — that was established 20 years ago by a group of parents and friends of people dealing with mental disabilities.

Today, it looks after 90 young people in the greater Rabat area, with more on the waiting list.

In addition to the catering business, others undergo training in such diverse areas as gardening, jewelry-making, carpentry and sewing.

Their studies have to be paid for, unless families are too badly off to afford them.

– Strength in numbers –

Amina Mesfer is the driving force behind the project. She has an adult son of 38 with mental and sight disabilities.

“It became clear to me very quickly that I couldn’t do everything on my own, but that getting a group together meant we could work on solutions,” she said.

“There were care structures in place, but only until they were 21 — as if a mental disability miraculously evaporates at that age — and then our children were left to their own devices.”

In the dining room at Hadaf, business was brisk as Fati Badi polished off her creme caramel.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here, and I’m very pleasantly surprised,” she said, having come to dine with a friend.

“Nice surroundings, the quality of the service and the food — it’s all here.

“They’ve set an example — it’s a way of empowering people with disabilities in the best way possible.”

The Hadaf Center also has a guest house that provides some income and gives the young people the chance to socialise, said Mesfer.

Since 2016, a center funded by the Mohamed VI Foundation has provided training and diplomas.

Five students trained by Hadaf have already been able to obtain certification there — basically a passport to a job.

Which is exactly what Amr hopes will happen.

“When I’ve learnt my trade well, I’d like to work in a restaurant or hotel,” he said, a great big smile on his face.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85337.

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2017-10-11

CASABLANCA – Rabat rejected Catalonia’s secession bid and expressed its commitment to Spain’s sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, according to statement issued Wednesday by Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Morocco called Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont’s decision to proceed with the secession “a source of instability and division not only in Spain but throughout its European neighborhood.”

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took the first step on Wednesday towards suspending Catalonia’s political autonomy and ruling the region directly to thwart a push for independence.

He demanded that the regional government clarify whether it now considered itself independent following a speech by Puigdemont on Tuesday night during which he said that he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

This requirement is a necessary step before triggering Article 155 of the constitution, which would allow Madrid to suspend the region’s political autonomy.

“Morocco is confident in the ability of the Spanish government to wisely manage this situation with a view to preserving the constitutional order and to act in the supreme interest of the Spanish Nation and the European Continent,” said the statement.

“Consequently, Morocco does not recognize this unilateral process which runs against the international legality,” it added.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=85347.

2017-06-07

ALGIERS – Dozens of Syrian refugees remained stranded in no-man’s land between Morocco and Algeria on Tuesday, non-governmental groups said, despite an Algerian offer to help.

Algiers said last week it would take in the refugees after the United Nations urged both sides to help the Syrians, who include a pregnant woman and have been stranded in the desert area since April 17.

“The Syrian refugee families are still blocked on the border between Algeria and Morocco. Authorities on both sides are passing each other the buck,” said Noureddine Benissad of the Algerian League of Human Rights.

Saida Benhabiles, the head of the Algerian Red Crescent, said a joint team from her organisation and the UN refugee agency have been waiting on the Algerian border since late Monday.

“There’s no obstacle on the Algerian side,” she said. “But the problem is they’re in Moroccan territory and we can’t go to get them.”

In a statement, non-governmental groups including the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights and the Algerian League of Human Rights urged “authorities in both countries to find an immediate solution”.

The zone between the two countries has been closed since 1994. The North African rivals have very difficult relations, especially over the question of Western Sahara.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83429.

2017-06-08

BERLIN – Early Homo sapiens roamed Africa 300,000 years ago, sporting modern-looking faces that would not stand out in a crowd today, according to research published Wednesday that pushes back our origins by a hundred millennia.

A groundbreaking fossil discovery in Morocco obliterates two decades of scientific consensus that our forefathers emerged in East Africa about 200,000 years ago, according to two studies published in the science journal Nature.

The findings may also re-organize the human evolutionary tree and eliminate certain extinct Homo relatives as potential human ancestors.

Two teams of researchers reported on skull and bone fragments from five ancient humans, along with the stone tools they used to hunt and butcher animals, from a prehistoric encampment at Jebel Irhoud, not far from modern-day Marrakesh.

“This material represents the very root of our species, the oldest homo sapiens ever found in Africa or elsewhere,” said palaeoanthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

“Regarding Homo sapiens, what we say is that the dispersal of the species predates 300,000” years ago.

Previously, the oldest dated Homo sapiens remains, at 195,000 years, were from Ethiopia. This led to the contention that East Africa was the evolutionary “Garden of Eden” where our species arose before spreading through Africa and beyond.

– If they wore a hat… –

The new results suggest the so-called cradle of humankind was continent-wide, the teams said.

The same types of “Middle Stone Age” tools found with the Moroccan group, and dated to roughly the same period, have been found in several spots around Africa, but were previously thought to have been made by a different Homo predecessor.

Now it seems likely that they were produced by our own species, living in separate groups spread throughout the continent.

“Long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo sapiens, there was dispersal within Africa,” said Hublin.

With few fossil remains to work with, the evolutionary history of modern humans is full of holes and relies heavily on conjecture.

It is believed that our lineage diverged from Neanderthals and Denisovans more than half-a-million years ago, but evidence for what happened since is hard to come by.

The new data suggests that an archaic version of our own species shared the planet with related groups such as Neanderthals, Denisovans, the more ape-like Homo naledi and the pint-sized Homo floresiensis or Flores “hobbit”.

Remarkably, the small, flat face and jaw shape of those ancient Homo sapiens closely resembled today’s humans, the team said.

Brain size was similar too, though arranged in a flatter, more elongated skull.

“If they would have a hat, probably (they) would be indistinguishable from other people,” Hublin told journalists ahead of the study release. “It’s the face of people you could cross in the street today.”

More likely to give them away would have been a strong, stocky, muscular body.

– ‘A more complex picture’ –

Human remains, including a skull, were first discovered at the Jebel Irhoud site by miners in the 1960s.

The fossils were initially dated to about 40,000 ago, and later to about 160,000 years.

For the new study, the teams relied on these old fragments but also newer ones dug up since 2004.

Dating was done by thermoluminescence, a pinpoint-accurate technology which measures the accumulated exposure of stone minerals to radiation generated by heat from the Sun, a volcano, or a human cooking fire.

They used the technique on burnt flint stone flakes discovered with the skull, tooth and long bone remains belonging to three adults, a teenager and a child of about eight.

The researchers said their work revealed a “rather more complex picture” of the physical evolution of our species, with different parts of the anatomy changing at different rates.

While the face shape was determined almost from the start, today’s high, rounded skull took millennia to evolve.

“The story of our species in the last 300,000 years is mostly the evolution of our brain,” Hublin said.

This fits with genetic analysis showing a series of mutations in the modern human lineage, compared to Neanderthals and Denisovans, in genes involved in brain development.

“Maybe what we see in terms of gradual change in the brain case… might be the effect of the accretion of these mutations,” said Hublin.

– What distinguishes us? –

What set our species apart, even from this early phase?

Compared to Neanderthals, early Homo sapiens had a larger cerebellum — the part of the brain that governs body movement.

“So it looks like we, our lineage, is the lineage where we started to grow a bigger and bigger cerebellum already at this stage,” said Hublin.

“It’s one of the features distinguishing us along all these hominins.”

Experts not involved in the research praised the findings.

The Jebel Irhoud fossils “now represent the best-dated evidence of an early ‘pre-modern’ phase of H. sapiens evolution,” said Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham from the Natural History Museum in London.

“This is a major extension of the evolutionary record of our species,” added Lawrence Barham, an archaeology professor at the University of Liverpool.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83441.

June 2, 2017

The Moroccan Foreign Ministry yesterday stated that King Mohammed VI has cancelled his attendance of the 51st Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) because Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also been invited.

In a statement the ministry said King Mohammed VI had planned to visit the Liberian capital, Monrovia, on 3-4 June to attend the 51st ECOWAS Summit, which was expected to examine Morocco’s request to join the regional group as a full member.

The statement added that, “During this Royal visit, a meeting with the President of Liberia, talks with ECOWAS Heads of State and a speech at the Summit were all scheduled.”

However, over the last few days, major ECOWAS member states have decided to reduce their level of representation at the summit, to the bare minimum, due to their disagreement with the invitation handed to the Israeli prime minister. The statement also noted that other member states also expressed their astonishment at this invitation.

The Foreign Ministry’s statement also mentioned that King Mohammed VI “does not want his first appearance at the ECOWAS summit to take place in a context of tension and controversy, and wants to avoid any confusion.”

During the summit, members of ECOWAS will decide on the admittance of Morocco as a full-fledged member of the regional bloc.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170602-morocco-refuses-to-attend-african-summit-due-to-israels-presence/.

2017-02-26

RABAT – Morocco said Sunday it will pull back from a zone of the contested Western Sahara that has raised tensions with Algeria-backed Polisario Front separatists.

“The Kingdom of Morocco will proceed from today with a unilateral withdrawal from the (Guerguerat) zone,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said the decision was taken by King Mohammed VI at the request of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Rabat now “hopes the secretary general’s intervention will allow a return to the previous situation in the zone concerned, keep its status intact, allow the flow of normal road traffic and thus safeguard the ceasefire”, it said.

In a telephone call to Guterres on Friday, the king called on the United Nations to take urgent measures to end “provocation” by the Polisario Front threatening a 1991 ceasefire.

Morocco insists that the former Spanish colony is an integral part of its kingdom, but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination.

The two sides fought for control of the Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat gaining control of the territory before the UN-brokered ceasefire took effect.

In the phone call, King Mohammed VI condemned “repeated incursion by armed Polisario men” in the Guerguerat district.

Tensions flared last year after the Polisario set up a new military post in Guerguerat district near the Mauritanian border, within a stone’s throw of Moroccan soldiers.

The move came after Morocco last summer started building a tarmac road in the area south of the buffer zone separating the two sides.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=81693.

2017-01-06

RABAT – Morocco has ordered the closure of schools it says are linked to a US-based Islamic preacher that Turkey blames for a failed coup last year, the interior ministry said.

“Investigations on the establishments of the Mohamed Al-Fatih group, linked to Turkish national Fethullah Gulen, showed they use education to spread the group’s ideology and ideas contrary to the principles of the Moroccan educational and religious system,” a ministry statement said.

After a series of warnings from the education ministry, “it was decided all the group’s educational establishments would be closed within a delay of one month”, it said.

The statement did not say how many schools or pupils would be affected but said the government would strive to ensure the students continued their education in other schools.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, has denied any involvement in the July 15 failed coup aimed at toppling Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The preacher heads the Hizmet group which includes schools, associations and companies.

Turkey, which calls it the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO), has embarked on a massive crackdown of the group.

Since the coup, Turkey has piled pressure on the United States to extradite Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally.

In August, an official Turkish delegation visited Morocco to convince the authorities of the danger of Gulen’s group.

A school director from the Mohamed Al-Fatih group at the time rejected any link with Gulen for seven schools teaching 2,500 students including 2,470 Moroccans.

He said 90 percent of their teachers were also Moroccan nationals.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=80692.

2017-01-05

AL-HOCEIMA – Police have dispersed a protest in Morocco’s northern city of Al-Hoceima, a rights group said Thursday, months after a local fishmonger’s death in a garbage truck sparked unrest.

Security forces broke up the protest in the city center late Wednesday as the demonstrators did not have a permit to protest, Mohamed Bassiri of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) said.

Footage circulated on social media showed police chasing dozens of protesters from the city’s main square after asking them to end the sit-in with a megaphone.

It showed protesters on the ground who appeared to have been bruised, and other demonstrators being arrested. The protesters were later released, according to the AMDH.

Mouhcine Fikri, 31, was crushed to death on October 28 in a garbage truck as he tried to protest against the seizure and destruction of swordfish, which were not allowed to be caught at that time of year.

His death in the Rif — an ethnically Berber region long neglected and at the heart of a 2011 protest movement for reform — triggered protests nationwide.

Those protests have now stopped but activists in Al-Hoceima have continued to call for a thorough investigation, alongside broader demands for an end to widespread unemployment and corruption.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=80688.

Monday 31 October 2016

Our story starts with a 31-year-old Riffian man named Mohsin Fikri who lives in the city of Hoceima in northern Morocco.

Like the majority of Moroccans, Mohsin was extremely poor. He was Riffian, meaning that he was both an Amazigh and also from the Rif, a mountainous region in the north where many Amazigh live – and one of many non-Arabised zones in Morocco that the government has completely marginalized to the point that some cities still don’t have electricity, water or hospitals.

On Friday, Mohsin, who was a fisherman, was caught by the makhzen (the Moroccan police) trying to sell swordfish that he obtained illegally. They confiscated the fish.

Like the government, and every other institution in Morocco, the police is a corrupt organisation. Motivated by the low salaries they get from the government or just simply by the greed in their hearts, they usually make citizens pay an amount of extra money in order for them to act like they didn’t see anything out of place.

As we said, Mohsin was a humble man who barely had any money for himself or the rest of his family. His job as a fisherman was his only source of money to stay alive and survive in a country where it is almost impossible to find a job.

When police asked for money in exchange for letting him sell the fish, obviously, he couldn’t afford to pay.

The police then proceeded to throw all the fish he was going to sell into a nearby garbage truck. Mohsin, who along with four friends watched all of his work tossed into the trash, attempted to jump into the truck and save some of the fish so he could sell it and at least get some money for him and his family members who all depended on him.

The police, surprised by his actions, reacted in a really cruel way: they went to the back of the garbage truck, and saw the four men in there, looking for the fish.

They all jumped out in time – except for Mohsin, who was still there when, as a video released shows, the police told the garbage truck driver to press the buttons and crush the trash while saying t’han mo (‘crush him’ in Darija, a language derived from Moroccan Arabic).

It was too late to stop the machine. Even as they screamed for it to stop, Mohsin Fikri was already dead.

‘It could happen to any of us’

Events like this happen all the time in Morocco, but they don’t get recorded like this one.

And even if they do get recorded, the manipulated media in Morocco won’t show them, and that’s one of the reasons why so many Moroccans are clueless about some topics in our country: the government won’t show anything that goes against them or King Mohamed Vl.

This Amazigh man’s death has opened the eyes of an entire nation and has made them say “enough”.

On Sunday, thousands of people in Hoceima left their houses and marched in the streets together to protest the incident.

“If it happened to him, it could happen to any of us, this must stop, this is not fair,” one of the protesters could be heard saying in the live streaming video of the march.

They marched from their city to a village called Imzouren which was 22km away, to attend Fikri’s funeral, and to show his family support. Every store in Hoceima closed. Taxis offered to carry people to the funeral for free in solidarity.

The Amazigh struggle in Morocco is alive, the government’s pan-Arabist ways have affected all the Amazigh population in Morocco, treating the people, the language, and the culture as “savage traditions”.

The incident in the Rif region – the killing of Mohsin – was just the last straw, the thing that made people fed up with the situation here in Morocco.

Even though it tends to happen more in marginalized regions, police brutality can happen everywhere in Morocco. No one is safe, and that’s one of the reasons why every city in Morocco is now protesting in front of government buildings, demanding and asking for change.

Very important cities have shown solidarity with Mohsin Fikri and the Rif, and they have asked the government to care for the people.

Fearless and ready to fight

Meanwhile, the king, Mohamed Vl, is enjoying a tour of Africa. People have seen him in jewelry shops, obviously spending the Moroccan people’s money, while some can’t even afford to pay for medicine to stay healthy or send their kids to school.

And, of course, he has not said a word about this whole situation.

People have been waiting for a revolution in Morocco to start, but the oppression and the fear has always been an obstacle on their way to freedom. But this time is different. This has never happened in Morocco before.

People are fearless and ready to fight for what they want: a democratic Muslim republic, not a corrupt monarchy like the one we have right now. Not a Moroccan monarchy formed by the dynasty of Alaouites, who were the symbol of traitors during the colonization, who sold our country to the colonizers and, to this day, keep doing it for their own benefit. Not a dynasty that always took the West’s side.

With all this said, we hope that Mohsin’s death brings the change to the beautiful country that Morocco is.

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/last-straw-why-revolution-morocco-has-started-1900174284.

October 09, 2016

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco’s national election observer body says voting last week was largely free and fair, though it is investigating sporadic cases of vote-buying and expressed concern about low turnout.

The moderate Islamist Party of Justice and Development won Friday’s legislative election, beating out a party with close ties to the royal palace. The PJD, which first won elections in 2011 after Arab Spring protests, is now working on building a coalition government.

The National Council of Human Rights, which oversees election monitoring, released a preliminary report Sunday noting sporadic irregularities. Council president Driss El Yazami told reporters the elections took place in a “serene and transparent climate.”

However, he expressed concern about the 43 percent turnout rate. Some Moroccans see voting as futile because ultimate power rests with the king.