dimanche 2 septembre 2012

The Moroccan Regime: Syria-ous Hypocrisy and Dangerous Political Clashes

“They blindfolded and beat me”, “So much blood was flowing from the open wound in my head”, “They took my clothes off and stuck their fingers in my anus”. “They tried to remove our fingernails when we refused to sign the falsified police reports”, “They forced us to cheer Long Live the King and plucked our eyelashes”

You may easily confuse these with excerpts from victims’ testimonies of Bashar Al Assad Agents’ infamous torture methods. However, these words depict human rights abuses in a country whose officials constantly condemn the Syrian Regime’s practices, and whose blossoming pro-democracy youth are silenced and their voice suffocated by a long 18-month dark season or repression, awaiting a Moroccan Spring the world has yet to notice. These words have resonated in a Moroccan court in Ain Sbaa, Casablanca, on September 2nd.

The horrors were inflicted on  Samir Bradelly, Abderrahman Assal, Tarek Rouchdi, Youssef Oubella, Nour Essalam Kartachi, (While Laila Nassimi was beaten then relseased). All are activists who have participated in a violently repressed Casablanca Protest denouncing high prices and expensive living conditions for the poor on july 22nd. They were plucked from the street and thrown into a van, then were blindfolded, beaten, humiliated, thrown in jail on charges of assault to police officers in duty and unauthorized public gathering. Then, torture and rape began.

These are not the only cases of arrests, torture and wrongful incrimination of young protestors in Morocco. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights reported over six hundred cases of human rights abuses related to pro-democracy protests since they began February 20th, 2011. Young prisoners of opinion and political detainees are sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and 100 000 MAD for crimes they haven’t committed. Many have gone on hunger strikes to protest against torture in prison in addition to injustice.

24-year-old Abdessamad Haidour, was sentenced in Taza to 3 years of prison and 15 000 MAD for posting videos on Youtube. He was charged with lack of respect to the sacred (The King). His right to defend himself in court has just been denied and his request rejected. Erroussi, recently released after serving 4 months in prison, is yet another bitter aftertaste of the “Years of Lead” in the not-so-new-era. He was tortured and endured a hunger strike for more than three months. And the list of young Moroccans and Horrors goes on and on, with more than a few dead.

The thing is, it isn’t at all about figures. It’s not about the death toll, or the number of the tortured, detained. In cases like this, numbers only know how to rise anyway, especially if such repression goes unnoticed. If the Moroccan people, the elected PJD (Justice and Development Party) representatives (and their limited-and-shrinking prerogatives) and coalition government allow the Makhzen (The Regime: its shadow government, King’s Advisors, Ministry of Interior, Security system and Secret Services) to continue abusing their power in an opaque confusing system of governance: we’re headed for Syria-ous trouble.

The clash between the Makhzen and the PJD-lead government is growing. The Makhzen’s security apparatus flex their muscles via the Ministry of Interior not only by violent repression of pro-democracy protests, but also by preventing the leading Party’s youth from organizing a public event altogether which the Head of the Government was scheduled to take part in beginning of September. Febrayer.com reported The PJD minister of Justice and Freedom calling the act “Unlawful”, while the minister of General Affairs and Governance, Najib Boulif, said that this will show to all PJD leaders that “repression hasn’t stopped and Morocco isn’t doing better”.

Even after all the torture Samir, Abderrahman, Tarek, Youssef, Nour and Laila endured, their message was as follows: “We are committed to the demands of February 20th Movement. We thank everyone who has supported us and ask for the immediate release of all political detainees in Morocco. We urge all activists to remain loyal to the righteous demands by protesting and challenging this suffocating repression”

The February 20th Protest Movement, named after the date of its first 2011 nationwide protests, has weakened temporarily during the Regime’s attempts to make-up democratize Morocco through the on-paper-only constitutional reforms and “Vote yes” then “Vote” campaigns, while the Ministry of Interior (the Palace’s most powerful tool and the decisive institution when it comes to delivering Morocco’s election results) remained in control. Now that the make-up powder is wearing off, the Makhzen is running out of events to “pretend” things are changing, and unable to actually change its controlling totalitarian ways. As a result, The movement is revitalized, oddly invigorated by more repression, arrests and torture from the authorities who are too eager to take revenge on activists, blind to what that will cost them and how that speeds up the Makhzen’s utter failure. 

The Makhzen is facing a giant mirror and panicking at the reflection: its unwillingness and inability to decrease its giant prerogatives after the system has worked so hard to create and pull the most ruthless and greedy to form and become its pillars. This giant system that runs on corruption and has promoted opportunism within it for too long was not built to transition nor evolve into a democracy. Its propaganda machine was told to say so, but Moroccans will be finding the opposite, the hard way too, as each pillar resists change in appalling ways such as the torture described above.

Morocco is scheduled to host the “Friends of Syria” meeting in October to support the opposition to Bashar’s Regime. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bashar Al Assad decides to hold a “Friends of Morocco” meeting just for kicks. But I guess he’s too busy killing Syrians and Moroccan officials are too busy preparing for a meeting to help save Syrians from torture similar to what happens to political detainees in Moroccan prison cells. Happy Arab Spring everyone! Cheers! 


samedi 25 août 2012

Allegiance to the King of Morocco: A Degrading Ceremony and More

My 6-year-old daughter watched the Allegiance to the Moroccan King Ceremony on National Television and asked me: “why are they bowing down to that man’s horse like that, mom?” I said: “Because they choose to, but it is wrong. A human being should never behave like that, people are born equals and should act accordingly, even if forced to do the contrary”.
Twenty years ago, I used to ask similar questions to my mother. Every year, Watching men prostrate themselves before the King’s horse as another man “blesses them” on his behalf (too important to waste vocal energy doing it himself). As he sits up on a horse protected from the sun by a red umbrella, senior Moroccan officials stand in the heat for hours before comes out, some wearing adult diapers for the circumstance, they then proceed to methodical prostration and bowing when called upon, their backs forming a 90 degree angle with the rest of their body (and the lower, the more devout, the better rewarded) as they stare at the ground, lowering themselves in degrading ways to receive blessings in rows, organized by regions of Morocco.
Every detail of the ceremony is meant to instill submissive values to discipline near slaves that were meant as the Makhzen’s subordinates and the King’s servants in his Kingdom, not as representatives of the people
These rituals were created long before the country had known recognized borders at a time Moroccan sultans sought to bend the tribes so they can govern and reign over larger chunks of the country, then were pushed to this extent as the Makhzen thought they could create and maintain myths, mixed with ideology and idiosyncrasy that would serve their interests over why they exist and are superior. They didn’t see the Information Era coming.

Young doctor, friend and fellow activist Amine El Majhad wrote on facebook today that such a ceremony is as disgraceful to keep as the old appalling Moroccan ritual of “Izar”, a ceremony that used to take place the morning after weddings and sometimes on wedding nights, forcing the bride to deliver a blood-stained sheet immediately after the celebration, proof that she remained a virgin. This horrendous practice and many more were eventually recognized as encouraging rape and, well, wrong on so many levels. They weren’t kept today just because they existed in the past. It is time to recognize that not every symbolic tradition practiced in the past is a « heritage » to be valued. Sometimes it’s a sign of weakness that people were not able to get rid of it sooner and replace it with better thought respectful symbolic traditions. If there was a list of such shameful practices (and there should be several) the Allegiance to the King ceremony would score in the top three.

The Makhzen may be overly stubborn in holding on to inappropriate rituals, but Moroccans are more critical about them today. They are also more aware of how it is religiously forbidden to bow to anyone other than God as the Makhzen has tried to use this argument through Palace-molded-and-shaped Religious Clerics. Moroccan Minister of Islamic Affairs even tried to compare this allegiance to the one Prophet Muhammed’s companions experienced more than 1400 years ago, comparing the King’s red Umbrella to the tree under which the Allegiance took place.  But today’s information availability through Satellite TV channels and the net are quick to deny such claims. It is noteworthy to mention that the Allegiance to the Prophet himself is reported to have been crowned with each companion shaking his hand. So when I heard Mr. Toufiq try to link the two, it made me feel like he was insulting Moroccans’ intelligence and uttering what sounded like a blasphemy/joke.

Things are changing, not only is This Allegiance Ceremony watched by non-Moroccans on the net, creating an uneasy feeling about this among Moroccans, but the repression of a Protest titled “Allegiance to Liberty and Dignity” organized the next day in front of the Parliament in the capital to criticize the Makhzen’s humiliating practices was covered by several Press Agencies. An AFP Journalist was beaten while several activists were hit by police. The Minister of communication apologized to AFP but failed to do the same to Moroccan Reporters and Activists, stirring even more anger among people. These rituals and the repression will soon be more than unacceptable to the majority of Moroccans when the feeling of ridicule and humiliation will overwhelm fear.

Back when I was my daughter’s age, asking the questions she’s been asking me, my mother would panic, look at me with wide terrified eyes and would shout-whisper: “SHHHHT!!!!!!!!”. I understand that today, having read about all the torture that went on during what is known now as the Years of Lead, and all the people who have been killed and those buried alive by the late King Hassan 2nd. But I sure live in a different, less isolated world and hope for a much better future for Morocco and its people. I would rather teach my daughter that we must hold our heads high and be proud citizens, and that Moroccan officials must become the proud people’s representatives, not the submissive King and Makhzen’s subordinates. This must be reflected in new symbolic ways and traditions.

Today, it is true that we are past the Years of Lead, and that activists are only victims of fake trials, with teenagers imprisoned for up to 5 years for protesting, tortured but never beyond broken bones and a few deaths. Morocco is certainly progressing since its unfair practices and rotten justice system now operates out in the open, and information is available regarding such individuals, their location and even the names of their weak/corrupt judges that have become one with the Makhzen in ways that kidnappings are no longer needed to sanction individuals for practicing their civil liberties.

Today, our king has revolutionized Morocco without shedding a single drop of blood (except for a few liters by the rotten security system, and all the torture that’s been outsourced to our secret detention centers where alleged terrorists received special treatment,  but what’s a few liters and bottle-raped men compared with, say, Bashar Al Assad’s practices). We now have a newly palace granted constitution drafted and finalized and dropped on Moroccans in a smashing top-down manner, approved through a referendum that was preceded by Makhzen lead campaigns of “Vote YES to the new constitution”, with many yelling outright “Vote yes to the King’s constitution”. We have a new oblivious fake government and ministers with virtually no prerogatives beyond bureaucratic mediation and attempts at conflict resolution between directors from different political parties within each ministry.

In brief, we have a constitution that begins with :
« Morocco is a constitutional, democratic, parliamentary and social democracy. » And article 22 goes on to emphasize that « The physical or moral integrity of anyone may not be infringed, in whatever circumstance that may be and by any person that may be, public or private. No one may inflict on others, under whatever pretext there may be, cruel, inhuman, [or] degrading treatments or infringements of [their] dignity. »

They must have forgotten to put P.S:  Senior representatives from all Moroccan regions have to physically bow down to the King(‘s horse) and prostrate themselves yearly while a man sanctifies them on his behalf and approves of them as representatives in our shiny democracy.

In today’s hybrid and confusing archaic-wannabe-modern Morocco, owned and run by the Makhzen the way a control freak would, more than half the population is illiterate, with the only revolutionary measures being taken to relieve the current and future intellectual hemorrhage are the King’s Speeches: words. They keep him on top of all-things-good while the Makhzen around him proceeds to choking all initiatives that would strengthen civil society or instill dignity in the people beyond the King’s institution and King-Lead projects. The regime is resisting change, pretending to be the leader of the democratic transition and promoter of Human Rights whilst officials bow down to the king and go on to beat reporters and the very breath of freedom in Moroccan Youth celebrating dignity and liberty in a demo the next day.

I’m writing this in respect of article 25 of the new constitution: “The freedoms of thought, of opinion and of expression under all their forms[,] are guaranteed.”  Hoping that will suffice, waiting for prisoners of opinion to be released. But given all of the above, I’m not holding my breath.

Hopefully, my 6-year-old daughter won’t have to write similar articles whist future officials bow down to Hassan the 3rd’s horse.


jeudi 9 août 2012

Le Régime et le Gouvernement Marocains légalisent l’avortement… de toute tentative de changement

Depuis qu’une partie de la société civile Marocaine a inondé les rues le 20 Février 2011, répondant a un appel lancé sur Youtube et Facebook par les jeunes du Mouvement de contestation, plusieurs indicateurs démontraient déjà que Abdelilah Benkirane, Leader du Parti de Justice et de développement et chef du gouvernement Marocain actuel, avait fait le choix de ne pas participer aux manifestations dont les revendications légitimes ne faisaient que refléter  les demandes du peuple Marocain.

Parmi ces revendications on pourrait citer parmi d’autres un système judiciaire indépendant, constitution démocratique, monarchie parlementaire, séparation de pouvoirs, liberté d’expression, libération des détenus politiques, combat contre la corruption, poursuite en justice des "grands" corrompus, généralisation de l’éducation…

Le mouvement du 20 Février, démocratique, ouvert et sans Leader, soutenu par des dizaines de milliers de Marocains qui se sont multipliés dans les rues le 20 Mars- même après le discours du roi- était un mouvement aussi fort par sa diversité que vulnérable aux infiltrations du Makhzen, et ses jeunes militants a la propagande, la pression et la mesquinerie des services secrets. Entre les campagnes violentes de matraquage et l’endoctrinement du peuple contre le M20F, les rangs des manifestants se sont retrouvés radicalisés et réduits a des minorités d’ultra activistes dans certaines villes, tandis qu’une tranche beaucoup plus grande et diverse a continué a participer aux manifestation dans d’autres villes comme Taza, El Hoceima, Casablanca et Marrakech.

Par ailleurs, des villages avoisinant Taounate et Larache ont récemment connu des bouillonnement plus intenses pilotés par la majorité de leur population militant pour des revendications de justice sociale et pour la répartition équitable des richesses dans leur région. 

En effet, la région d’Al Hoceima compte a elle seule 49 cas d’abus des droits de l’homme recensés par l’Association Marocaine des Droits de l’Homme dont 15 activistes auraient été relâchés quelques heures après leur arrestation, 14 ont déjà complété leur sentence, et 20 sont toujours incarcérés avec des peines qui varient entre 5 mois et 5 ans en plus d’amendes allants jusqu'à 100 000 dirhams, nous rapporte Youssef Raissouni, Président de la section Rabat de l’AMDH.

L'intervention des soldats dans le village de Chlihate contre les 3000 habitants révoltés a fait plusieurs blessés dont des femmes et enfants, en plus de dizaines de maisons saccagées par les autorités. Des bombes lacrymogènes utilisées lors de l’intervention dont la date d’expiration était dépassée ont causé des  éruptions cutanées purulentes chez les villageois.

Aussi, plusieurs jeunes activistes ont entamé des grèves de la faim lors de leur incarcération dans des conditions déplorables. On pourrait citer le cas Erroussi qui avait dépassé les 90 jours de grève de la faim suite a son arrestation lors d’une manifstation d’étudiants a Taza, et dont la sœur nous a raconté en détail des abus multiples et torture physique allant de bouts de chiffons imbibés d’essence dont la police lui a rempli la bouche jusqu'aux coups qui ont causé des fractures et autres blessures dans son corps.  

Les autorités Marocaines, a present a court de distractions et de pompes a espoir, ont accéléré le rythme de répression et le nombre d’arrestations des jeunes activistes. En effet, ni la nouvelle constitution ni le nouveau gouvernement n’ont réussi a relever le défi et installer un sentiment de changement positif ces 12 derniers mois. Le régime en place et les "grands" corrompus sont sortis indemnes de l’année des révolutions Arabes, encouragés par des personnes telles que Abdelilah Benkirane. Ce dernier a fait pression sur la jeunesse et les membres du PJD et a par conséquent contribué a former un bouclier protecteur au lieu de grossir les rangs des manifestants en appelant soutenir et noyer les minorités par la majorité du peuple auquel appartiennent les revendications de dignité et de justice sociale.

Les déceptions des personnes ayant choisi de voter durant les législatives du 25 Novembre 2011 se succèdent. Les dettes s’accumulent entre FMI et les milliards empreintés aupres des Pays du Golfe récemment. Le prix du Gasoil a fait un bond incompréhensible. Le gouvernement de Mr Benkirane est noyé dans  l’engrenage intra-gouvernemental, le tourbillon supra-gouvernemental royal et makhzenien, et puis la collection impressionnante de virus ambulants de moufsidine et les cancers intra et inter-ministeriels.

Mr. Benkirane pensait-il a tort pouvoir vaincre les forces du mal en les protégeant ? Nous étions dans une conjoncture favorable au changement durant laquelle sa présence et celle de la majorité auprès des manifestants et du peuple aurait arraché de vraies acquis et aurait offert au gouvernement suivant des vraies avancées en termes de prérogatives dignes d’une réelle transition démocratique.

Au lieu de cela, nous sommes en présence d’un chef de gouvernement frustré, s’excusant au roi officiellement pour une phrase simple ne contenant aucune atteinte a quiconque et ne reflétant que la réalité du Maroc : Aujourd’hui, l’homme qui détient le pouvoir dans ce pays est le Roi (enfin… par son biais, plusieurs hommes autour de lui).

Et la confusion nationale continue dans une approche qui ne peut être qualifiée que de «Mediation & Damage Control »

Nous pouvons citer parmi les raisons derrière ce chaos national : La guerre froide (qui s’embrase) des partis formant le gouvernement de coalition, la soif du pouvoir et les conflits d’intérêts des responsables. De plus, la rigidité bureaucratique et les restrictions et nominations makhzano-royales ainsi que les corrompus qui continuent a combattre toute initiative pouvant les placer derrière les barreaux ne risquent pas de faire avancer les choses. Sans oublier le système sécuritaire, la DST/ ministère de l’intérieur qui –dans un élan de stupidité ultime - ont décidé de « se venger » d’une jeunesse de patriotes a peine florissante en s’alliant a des juges pour les incarcérer alors que le nouveau ministre de la justice, Mr Ramid, ne pouvant admettre ces faits, choisit de poursuivre le cheminement de ses prédécesseurs en niant l’existance de détenus politiques au Maroc.

La nomination de Jettou a la tête de la Cour des Comptes vient couronner cette mascarade de résistance au changement. Comment un financier ayant géré les affaires du Roi peut il devenir a la tête de l’instance qui rend compte des finances publiques sans que cela n’indigne la majorité des Marocains?

Ah oui… Ils ne savent pas. Mais certainement, grâce au démenti de Mr. Daoudi, ils bénéficieront tous de formations supérieures gratuites de qualité qui les aideront a comprendre la chose publique pour ensuite recevoir des promesses d’emploi et des centaines de positions ouvertes pour eux, occupées a présent par les familles et proches de responsables dans lesdits ministères et administrations publiques.

Nous sommes a Allah, et a lui nous retournons… Mais en attendant, nous sommes a la rue, et a elle nous retournerons.

W Mamfakinch