The series of scandals concerning charitable residential homes' in Morocco hit the headlines for a long period. The scandal of the Ain Chock Islamic residential home provoked concerns among the government and the media about the deteriorating conditions of these Homes. Accommodation conditions of other Charity Homes were reported to the media, including the Mohammedia Islamic Orphanage.
Some young journalists have shot a documentary on the bad conditions in which the Mohammedia Charity Home residents live. However, some officials lobbied against broadcasting the video tape on the Moroccan National channel, TVM.
If the Ain Chock Charity Home residents were relieved after the King's visit, the Mohammedia Orphanage residents are longing for another visit from the King to save them from their 'piggy' life.
Morocco Times went to the Mohammedia Orphanage and met with its desperate residents who constantly call on the government and the civil society to help them out.
'Seer Hta tabra âad aji'
It was 3 pm when we arrived at the orphanage in which 13 families and 70 single residents live. We came across a little boy next to the orphanage. He seemed so sick and desperate. After talking to him, we knew that he was one of the Mohammedia Orphanage residents, but now he found himself on the street.
“I got sick and the Orphanage administration expelled me, saying clearly : 'Seer Hta tabra âad aji' (go away until you are cured),” said the boy.
What the little boy said was embarrassing, but what we saw inside the Charity Home was more shocking.
'Baraka âyeena min el blabla'
We saw an old person smoking a cigarette, sitting next to the Orphanage door. We approached the man, trying to talk to him about the situation of elderly people in the Charity Home. However, he refused to talk to us, saying 'Baraka âyeena min el blabla' (enough please, we are tired of talking), adding that many people had already come to talk, but nobody dared to change their situation.
Ahmed Naoual, in his 70s, was among the five old people who were recently transferred to the 'Tit Mellil' centre, on the pretext that they were mentally disabled. However, Ahmed preferred to come back to the Mohammedia 'piggy House' rather than endure the horrors of that centre.
When we entered the Residential Home, the first thing we had noticed was the absence of the administration or any other official. The director's office was closed. Later, we had learnt from the residents that the administration quit the Home one year ago.
Since then, there had been nobody to take care of them. Though the Home's conditions had been deteriorating for years, the situation worsened when the administration left.
The place was closer to an animal farm than a Charity Residential Home. Rubbish was everywhere; the squalid smell makes you feel sick; sewage was running across the floor, making it difficult to walk.
We met with some residents who told us about their journey with suffering.
Jemila Hammou struggling to find a job: 'Ouled El Khayriya' can't find himself out
Jemila Hammou, 32, has a BA in law and is unemployed since 2000. He described the miserable conditions in which he and his friends live.
“We don't have the minimum facilities a residential home should have. The administration closed one year ago and left us to struggle for our living on our own. We have no income, we are unemployed, no sanitary and health facilities, and even the younger kids had to drop out of school because they don't have money to buy books or pay everyday transport,” said Jemila.
Jemila was desperate when telling Morocco Times he believed prisoners' conditions were better than theirs.
“At least in jail, the prisoners have all the amenities, from adequate accommodation to cultural facilities. The only difference is that we are free, but it doesn't make much difference. We feel like we are in a detention cell,” he added.
Jemila and other residents struggled so hard to complete their higher education, but found no job opportunities, as for them they will still be “Ouled el Khayriya” (people of the Charity Home). Jemila came in with his CV and dozens of his friends' degrees. He said that the educated residents had to put another address in their CVs to increase their chances of finding a job.
“What is frustrating is that the director of the Home and other officials are trying to spread a bad image about the residents as delinquents, which is not true,” Jemila said.
The other residents couldn't wait until Jemila finished speaking. Their hearts were broken. They wanted to speak and to tell everything about their situation. They are dreaming of a David Copperfield's spell to take them away from their hardships.
Touhami Zitouni and Abdel Haq Ramzi dreaming of Spain: “Hargo” more than 50 times.
Touhami Zitouni, 27, came to the Home in 1984. He had a very poor background with a family living in one of the shanty towns of the city of Mohammedia, about 60 Km from Rabat, Morocco's capital. He has a diploma in tailoring and other one in repairing office machines. He does informal jobs just to ensure his daily survival.
Touhami told Morocco Times that the Home administration has been treating them as if they had come from another planet.
“We have no value. These officials are stealing Orphans' money and let us live in this piggy Home, and now they are accusing us of 'invading' the Home without legal documents. Most of us have been here for more than 15 years, and now they want to expel us from here. Where will we go?"
Touhami said hopelessly: “had el maseoulin taysâw bina” (these officials were exploiting us for years to get money from the state and donors). He added that "they got billions of dirhams, but their situation is worsen".
Abdel Haq Ramzi, 24, came to the Charity Home in 1990. He said he had tried to immigrate illegally to Europe more than 30 times, risking his life.
Ramzi told us about his adventure with migration, about his friends who had died either in the sea or in the Charity Home from disease or from hunger.
Charity Home's residents took refuge in clandestine migration
Lack of future prospects, instability, poverty, and unemployment force dozens of Charity Homes' residents to leave Morocco illegally, seeking a better life.
Everyday, many of them attempt to reach Spain from Morocco's coasts, aboard makeshift boats. While some manage to achieve their dream in their “Alice au pays des merveilles”, dozens are intercepted on their way or arrested on the Spanish territory before being expelled.
Many Moroccans like Touhami and Abdel Haq want to cross the strait of Gibraltar to reach the land of promises and possibilities. They are resorting to the highly dangerous and inhuman alternative of clandestine migration, giving up their rights in exchange for a new, clandestine life.
Most of them have an idealized picture of life abroad. They are strongly influenced by images conveyed by the media about a Europe where everything is possible, and by a set of stereotype stories told by people who have returned back home from host countries - often claiming to be living very comfortably.
Their ignorance is certainly and skillfully used by expanding networks of smugglers for their own, considerable enrichment. These smugglers are encouraging immigration as they propose a “ready-made” new life, “proper” papers and promises of employment which, in most cases, mean undeclared work or prostitution. They go clandestine, stowing away on ships or lorries, or paying large sums to make the crossing in small boats called 'pateras'.
Touhami and Abdel Haq can't afford to pay sums to smugglers. So they use their modest means to immigrate, usually using vans' tires as makeshift boats. However, they have never managed to reach their dreams.
Abdel Haq said he doesn't understand how each time he came back alive. May be he was lucky to come across fishermen who brought him back to land.
In turn, Touhami said he would try again and again until he would manage to reach the other side of the Atlantic. For him dying is no longer important, since his dreams were already killed in the Charity Home.
Hard Times and Great Expectations
All of these residents have a different story with suffering and hardship, but each has one common dream, a King's visit to the Home to see the miserable conditions in which they are living.
All of them said at once “May God protect the King, we hope that he will come to save us like what he did with the Ain Chock Orphanage. We are confident that sooner or later the King will come to rescue us”.
Their situation reminded us of Charles Dickens' Hard Times when one of the novel's character, Stephen Blackpool, said with his worker's strong accent “Look how we live, an' wheer we live, an' in what numbers, an' by what chances, an' wi' what sameness; and look how the mills is awlus a-goin', and how they never works us no nigher to onny distant object-'ceptin awlus Death. Look how you considers of us, and writes of us, and talks of us, and goes up wi' your deputations to Secretaries o' State 'bout us, and how yo are awlus right, and how we are awlus wrong, and never had'n no reason in us sin ever we were born. Look how this ha' growen an' growen sir, bigger an' bigger, broader an' broader, harder an' harder, fro year to year, fro generation unto generation. Who can look on't sir, and fairly tell a man 'tis not a muddle?”
Complaints and legal suit
The Home's residents told Morocco Times they were surprised to know that the administration is suing them for 'invading' the Home, and that they have no legal documents indicating they are residents.
In turn, the residents resorted to one of outstanding lawyers in Morocco, Abderahim Jamai to help them get out of their horrible situation. They officially and publicly sued the director of the Charity Home, the governor of Mohammedia, and the city's national cooperation delegate.
The residents told Morocco Times that they had also phoned Abderahim Harouchi, Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, to explain their situation. However, they got nothing but calls from his assistants warning the residents to stop complaining.
Harouchi said earlier last month that the Accountably Office will audit, following the King's instructions, 250 charities to end the mismanagement of funds, stating that the government has allocated MAD 14 million to improve living conditions in charitable institutions.
Lobby group censored broadcasting documentary on residents' situation
The home residents tried to reach the media to make people aware of their situation. The Moroccan National TV, TVM, shot a documentary on the situation of the Home's residents.
Soon after the first broadcast on TV, the Home's officials stopped giving food to the residents for one week as punishement for having told the truth about their living conditions. This forced some to go on the streets to beg to ensure their daily meals.
The Moroccan TV channel came back for the second time to shoot other scenes of inhuman practices against the Home's residents. However, this time, the 'sanction' was even tougher than the first one. Some officials close to the Home's administration lobbied for banning the documentary from being broadcast on TVM. That way, their cause wouldn't be heard.
MAD 14 million to improve living conditions in charitable institutions
By Karima Rhanem 4/15/2005 | 1:50 pm GMT
Abderahim Harouchi, Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity, announced on Wednesday that a ministerial committee has been created, following the King's instructions, to audit the country's charities and to work on a bill that would restructure the work of social institutions in Morocco.
Harouchi told reporters that the previous law of social institutions was too general and did not cover the special situation of Charity Houses.
“This led to the tragedy that Moroccans have seen on TV screens, during King Mohammed VI's surprising visit to the Ain Chock Charity House a fortnight ago,” said the Minister.
He stressed that the causes of this tragedy were mainly related to the bad management and the laissez-faire policy, which characterized the work of the Ain Chock Charity House – said to be the largest orphanage in the Arab world and Africa.
Harouchi said that the Accountably Office will audit 250 charities to end the mismanagement of funds, stating that the government has allocated MAD 14 million to improve living conditions in charitable institutions.
The minister pointed out that a new interim committee is currently leading the Ain Chock Charity House, after its former members had been accused of corruption, embezzlement and forgery.
The Casablanca judicial police said earlier last week that Mohammed El Kassi, the Ain Chock House's director, his assistant, the treasurer and seven others were being held in custody and would appear soon before the judge.
Their properties, including that of their families (wives and children), and their bank accounts have been seized.
The 700 residents of the Ain Chock Islamic Charity House in Casablanca have endured harsh living conditions for years, until the visit of HM King Mohammed VI who rescued them from the piggy life they were living.
The Charity House lacks sanitary facilities, health services and drinking water. The bathrooms, showers, kitchen and dormitories became home for cockroaches, mice and several insects.
The House residents were starving. Some of them were forced to go out to sell vegetables and cigarettes in local “souks” to earn a living to survive.
Shattered dreams, lack of hope, and desperation. These are the characteristics of their daily lives.
Many of the residents, most of whom are students decided to flee hell and got on deadly pateras to cross the other side of the Atlantic – mainly to Spain – seeking a “heavenly life”. One of the House's rooms has pictures on the wall of those who managed to immigrate clandestinely to Europe.
The probe is reviewing the House's annual government aid and its expenses. Morocco Times got a copy of an official document of the Charity House, which reveals its 2002 revenues. The association received a total of MAD 8.2 million in 2002. The document also shows the House's name as a corporation instead of an association.
Last year, the association received MAD 10 million. The Ministry of Justice had also granted the institution MAD 800,000.
The scandal has sparked outrage among Moroccans, many of whom demanded a severe trial for all those implicated in this scandal.
Another charity house director was dismissed from his job, but was not legally sued for any embezzlement. A new interim director, Abdeladim Horaira, was appointed at the Tit Mellil Charity House. Assabah, a Moroccan Arabic daily, called the association “a rubbish can for humans” in its one full- page report, which explained the inhuman conditions and the hardship endured by its residents.
Assabah also reported on Friday on the case of another Charity House in the city of Mohammedia, where its residents were forced to beg in the streets to ensure their daily meals. The Charity House's kitchen was closed, but its director claimed that the kitchen was being repaired. A human right official who visited the Charity House reported the inhuman conditions of its 70 residents.
“It is high time that the Moroccan government puts fighting corruption and embezzlement high on its agenda. Without transparency, Morocco cannot progress,” claimed a Moroccan civil rights activist.
Defendants being tried for embezzlement, their properties seized
By Karima Rhanem 4/11/2005 | 2:11 pm GMT
Ten defendants in the Casablanca Ain Chock Islamic Charity House Scandal are being tried for embezzlement and forgery of administrative and trade documents. They are also being tried for preventing children from having adequate nutrition, leading their health to deteriorate.
The Casablanca judicial police said that Mohammed El Kassi, the House's director, his assistant, the treasurer and seven others are held in custody and will appear soon before judge Jamal Sarhan, who is specialist in embezzlement cases. Their properties, including that of their families (wives and children), and their bank accounts were seized.
Police reports revealed that the Charity House had benefited last year from MAD 10 million, a budget financed partly from a tax levied on slaughter houses' operations. The reports also revealed that the Ministry of Justice granted them MAD 800,000. The Charity House also got MAD 11 million from State budget last year.
Morocco Times got a copy of a Charity House document, which reveals the House 2002 revenues. What is surprising is that the document shows the House name as a corporation instead of an association. The revenues topped MAD 8.2 million.
During a surprising visit to the 'Charity House' last week, HM King Mohammed VI deplored the poor conditions of its 700 residents and ordered an investigation into the causes of the House deterioration, and to check the institution's accounts. The House residents were having a “piggy life.”
The House orphans felt relief when they saw HM King Mohammed VI. They decided, then, to tell him everything about their living conditions.
“Watama, watama” (there, there); they shouted pointing out to the piggy place where they were living. After the King's visit, these orphans no longer care who will visit them next. Their dream finally came true and the curtain was raised to unveil the violation practiced in the “outcast” House.
Moroccans were shocked in front of TV the “Animal Farm”, where these poor live. You cannot talk to someone these days without mentioning the Ain Chock scandal and the oppression and humiliation scenes they saw on TV.
“The prison is much cleaner than what we have seen. I call it a detention centre not an orphanage. This should be a respectable charity house. Unfortunately, there are many people in this country who have the pleasure of stealing public money, leading others in need to have a miserable life,” said Leila, a Moroccan citizen in her 30s.
“We are so happy to hear that the King came himself and saw these conditions and ordered those responsible for this catastrophe to be tried. Shame on these people,” she added with tears.
Leila's husband, Mohammed, who accompanied her to the Casa Port Railway station, joined the conversation.
“You know, the King should visit other orphanages and see where poor Moroccans live. I am sure that many charity houses are now scared of a sudden visit from the King, Allah Yinasrou” (May God protects Him).
The residents of the “Piggy House”, a word many Moroccans repeated while talking about the scandal, were looking with happiness and pride at the picture of the King on the wall of one of the House's rooms.
Teenage residents were chanting “May God protect the King who ordered these thieves to be tried”
One of the residents told Morocco Times that “they heard that the organization receives a lot of funds, but this money goes into the pockets of the director and his assistants.”
The House's residents told Morocco Times “nightmare stories” about the House's director, who turned their life into hell, and jailed their friends.
The residents accused Mohammed El Kassi of starving them, forcing them to go out to popular markets (Souks) to sell vegetables and cigarettes to make their living.
“The director and his assistants have stolen our dreams, dreams of having a decent life, a simple dream of being a human being,” murmured one of the residents.
Many of the residents managed to flee this inhuman life and immigrated clandestinely to Europe, mainly to Spain.
In one of the rooms of the House, pictures on the wall show residents who have escaped to Europe seeking a better life. The remaining teenagers told Morocco Times that they are still keeping in touch with their friends who fled to Europe.
Built in 1927, the Casablanca-based Ain Chock Islamic Charity House provides shelter for 700 children and teenagers. The monarch noted the "bad management of the institution and the calamitous consequences on the resident's living conditions and education.”
The institution, expected to provide care to children, lacks health services though it enjoys permanent financial resources notably from real-estate receipts, animal slaughtering taxes and well-wishers' donations and contributions.
After inquiring into the institution's services and management, the sovereign ordered the opening of an investigation to check the institution's accounts and to restructure its administration.
The King also gave his instructions to the state Secretariat General to work with concerned parties on amending the law governing charity associations, in order to prevent such cases and to ensure that associations hosting children, youngsters, women and old people do their humanitarian job properly.
Sidi Moumen--It all happened in one night. Twelve desperate young Moroccans decided on May 16, 2003, to blow themselves up in five sites in Casablanca, killing 45 people. Inhabitants of Douar Sekouila and Thomas shantytown in the district of Sidi Moumen, in Casablanca, home to the May 16 suicide bombers, are still believed to be an easy target for extremists and terrorists.
Morocco Times paid a visit to these slums and met with the families and friends of the kamikazes, who described how they had endured the events. Some totally condemned the attacks; others still could not believe how they could have happened, but the majority said that the kamikazes were incited to commit these acts against innocents.
It was 1.00 pm when we arrived at “Karyan Thomas” in Sidi Moumen to meet the families of the suicide bombers, two years after the deadly attacks that rocked Morocco's business capital.
Sidi Moumen, one of Casablanca's neglected slums had not changed much since our last visit in 2004, except that new apartments are built roundabout, to allow the residents of Sidi Moumen's shantytowns to benefit from decent housing.
These impoverished slums have no electricity. As you go into the slum, you can see women in housework clothes coming from the 'Sakayas' (drinking fountains), carrying water in colourful buckets. Most residents of this 'Karyan' are unemployed, and many of them survive on petty theft or trafficking.
Some inhabitants gathered next to a small shop, smoking hashish; others were sniffing glue. They stared at new comers – easily spotted as strangers.
There were dozens of national and international reporters swarming into the area which had produced human bombs on a black Friday, on May 16, 2003. Rubbish was everywhere and the bad smells made you feel sick.
Children in dirty clothes, aged between 7 and 14 years, were playing around. Many of them stopped playing and went to ask for money from the strangers.
Some of the young people who were standing next to the shop came in to talk to the foreign journalists about their miserable situation. One of them said: “Hey Blondie-hair and green-eyed man, write and tell the world about the dirty place where we live.
Another came to talk to me, saying sarcastically with a strong accent “Wash tahad magalik ghayhawlou had el karyan min hon?” (Did nobody tell you that they would move away this shanty town from here?)
It was difficult to talk to these angry and desperate people. All of them were speaking loudly at the same time, using gestures and saying bad words.
At last, we were able to talk privately with a resident, who directed us to the house of one of the kamikazes. Despite his instructions, we had difficulty in finding the house as most of them looked the same in the narrow and winding alleys.
After a long search, we found the family of the suicide bomber Mohammed Mhani.
Mohammed Mhani's brother: “If my brother was alive, I would have killed him, because what he did was horrible”
We knocked at the door, but nobody answered. The neighbours were discretely looking on us from their windows, thinking we were from the police or the secret service. Nobody dared to talk and their faces were very pale as if they had seen a ghost. We knocked again.
Then, the door was half opened. A woman in her 50s or 60s was wearing an old traditional Moroccan dress. While talking to her, we learned that she was the mother of the suicide bomber Mohammed Mhani. She started crying without uttering a single word and refused to let us in. She looked utterly desperate. All she said was: “I told the police all I know; I have nothing more to say”.
She looked so miserable that we decided to let her alone, as she couldn't stop crying. We went in search for other families. On our way, we came across the same man who had directed us earlier. He asked us if we wanted to talk to Mhani's brother.
Mustapha Mhani, the elder brother of Mohammed told Morocco Times that his brother (the suicide bomber) had become very conservative, especially during the last six months before the attacks. He added that he had seen his brother on several occasions secretly watching tapes on Jihad with his friends, but he never thought that he would one day commit such a terrorist act. He also said that before the attacks, he learnt that his brother and his friends were meeting every evening, talking about something that he had never managed to know.
While asked about his opinion of the terrorist attacks, he said: “If my brother was alive, I would have killed him once again, because what he did was so horrible and unbelievable”.
Brother of the suicide bomber Adil Taich: “My brother has never been a fundamentalist. Go away from here, that's enough”.
We went looking for Adil Taich's family. We met his brother who was selling goods in a store next to his home. When we approached the boy to talk to him, dozens of neighbours surrounded us, asking who we were and what we wanted.
They were staring at us as if they were going to beat us and push us out of the shanty town. The younger brother of Adil Taich looked frightened and refused to talk.
The only thing he said was that he had no prior knowledge of what was going to happen on May 16, and that his brother was a normal guy with no political or religious affiliation.
He pretended to look for something in the store and told us “My brother has never been a fundamentalist. Go away from here, that's enough”.
Zahra Echarif, mother of the suicide bomber Abdelfattah Bouliqdan: “This was a horrific crime, but my son was mislead and tricked.”
Zahra Echarif, mother of the suicide bomber Abdelfattah Bouliqdan, on the other hand, received us and let us in. She looked serious, cold and desperate. Echarif has lost everything in life. Her husband died when her son was a kid. She had also recently lost her parents and then her son who blew himself up in one of the five sites. She has lost even her chance to work after the death of her son.
“We suffer more than the families of the victims, because what our children did was horrific. The shame will follow us wherever we go for all our life.”
Echarif started crying saying: “my son was a nice person. He was religious and polite, but he was tricked. He has never been a delinquent or a violent person.”
Relative of the suicide bomber Khalid Benmoussa: “I'm just a guest; there is nobody at home and I can't say anything”
Khalid Benmoussa's house was next to Adil Taich's. We weren't so lucky talking to these two families, as they were too scared to say anything that would be used against them – or at least that's what they thought. A woman in her 40s opened the door. She pretended to be a guest and that nobody was at home. She refused to talk as dozens of residents stared at her as if they were telling her 'don't say a word.'
What do friends of the kamikazes in Karyan Thomas have to say about them?
Z. Mohammed, 20, pedlar: The kamikazes were nice people, they helped us, even giving us money to buy beers, but what they did was horrible.
A. Hamid, 30, mechanic: They were very weird during the last six months before the attacks. They were also trying to recruit people and influence them with Salafiya Jihadiya ideology.
F. Houriya, 25, housewife: these young people were tricked. What they did was against Islam and humanity.
K. Rabiaa, 21, tailor: what they did was horrible and they assumed their responsibility.
Fatima Ezohra Tarikhi, wife of Mohammed El Omari, the only surviving kamikaze: “My husband was forced to participate in the attacks and it was Abdelfattah Bouliqdan who got him involved in this affair”
After talking to the families and friends of the kamikazes, we went to Douar Sekouila, where the only surviving suicide bomber lived, Mohammed El Omari, a car watch guard.
Omari is facing a death penalty. Fatima Ezohra Tarikhi, Omari's wife received us in her house. She was covered up from head to toe. Tarikhi and Omari have one son, Zoubeir.
Tarikhi said that she and her family denounced the attacks, and that they sympathized with the victims.
“We know that Islam is a religion of peace, which forbids killing innocents. We really want to know where this terrorism comes from, because it is not an intrinsic part of our society,” she said.
Asked about her husband, Tarikhi said that when she visited him in prison, he told her that it was Abdelfattah Bouliqdan who got him involved in this affair.
“One day Bouliqdan came to ask El Omari about a car which was on sale. Since then, Bouliqdan started inviting my husband to 'Karyan' Thomas and filled his head with extremist ideas,” said Tarikhi.
“When planning the attacks, El Omari asked to consult a religious scholar before doing anything. However, Bouliqdan had threatened to harm his family, especially our son Zoubeir, if he refused to take part,” she added.
Tarikhi went on: “They had rented an apartment in the 'Tacharok' neighbourhood in my husband's name. Bouliqdan had brought explosives to the apartment and threatened him if he spoke to anybody about this affair, his home would be blown up.
Mohammed El Omari and two others – Rachid Jalil, and Yassine Lahnech, who had changed their mind during the attacks – claimed, during their trial, that they had been threatened by another bomber.
The three men and a fourth, Hassan Taousi, 26, considered to be a leading member of Salafiya Jihadiya, all received death sentences.
Nearly 300,000 people live in Sidi Moumen shantytowns, most of them illiterate and unemployed. They had become an easy target for recruiters of the Salafiyah Jihadiya and remain so, two years later.
These desperate people, if they didn't go aboard makeshift boats, risking their life on clandestine migration, they would fall into the influence of the Salafiya Jihadiya ideology which will turn them into human bombs.
“The civic neighbourhood”
After the bombings, the government promised to have illiteracy eradication, unemployment and proper housing high on its agenda.
Some new housing is under construction, new roads are being built and electricity expanded. The police constantly maintain a heavy presence.
Around 20 % of residents have moved into new homes, but many of the remaining residents in the shantytowns say they can't afford to pay the new apartments. Residents of the shanty towns have extended families with so many children. Many of them prefer to stay in the slums rather than moving to confined apartments. “Sidi Moumen and Hay el Walae associations, a network of 21 associations, launched a programme called “The civic neighbourhood” for Sidi Moumen residents, whose number reach 289,253 people, including 70,549 children and 57, 275 young men and women.
The project aims at making the residents aware of environmental issues in their area; reinforcing the principles of sustainable development and civic responsibility among the residents; and helping develop the residents' cultural, artistic and sporting talents.
Danger of fundamentalism on Moroccan youth
Some analysts have related the issue of fundamentalism to lack of education and faith, but said that it is mostly due to the economic conditions in which extremists are living. Poverty is one of the main reasons that leads people to embrace the fundamentalist doctrine.
The trial of the Moroccan fundamentalists has shown that most of those arrested in the May 16 attacks grew up in poor areas, such as Sidi Moumen and Thomas slums.
Extremists groups such as Salfiya Jihadiya and others take advantage of this situation to recruit desperate young people and transform them into ready bombs.
Extremist movements use teenagers as weapons to destroy societies thus discredit the image of Islam. They give themselves the right to punish people and tell them what to do and what not to do.
Most of them agreed that people who are likely to be attracted by these movements are the ones who rebel against bad social and economical conditions; those who have a weak educational background; those who lack religious knowledge; and those who have problems in dealing with the outside world.
By Karima Rhanem and Dris Aissaoui | Morocco TIMES 2/8/2006 | 6:45 pm
“The US and Maghreb countries have to work closely together to exchange information to prevent attacks and criminals from preying on our people. Therefore, associations and friendships between our countries are exceptionally important,” said visiting FBI director in an exclusive interview with Groupe Maroc Soir.
You have met with several Moroccan officials and you have been received by HM King Mohammed VI. What was your message to the Moroccan officials and what are the conclusions of your talks?
I came to discuss international cooperation in the fight against terrorism. My message is to say that no country or agency in the world can be successful without cooperation. Countries have to work closely together in an era of globalization and technology to exchange information to prevent attacks and criminals from preying on our people. Therefore associations and friendships between our countries are exceptionally important.
I have discussed with King Mohammed VI the fact that the War on Terror addresses certainly those few individuals who would undertake terrorist attacks. But this also means that we have to work with the social structure, developing the jobs and opportunities that King Mohammed VI has in his vision over the last several years. My discussion indicated how it is important to congratulate him on addressing these issues.
I have also met my Moroccan security counterpart and discussed ways in which we continue to cooperate together in the area of exchanging expertise on fingerprints, fingerprint databases, on giving assistance and developing a DNA database structure so that in the future we can exchange these forensic tools and be able to address those threats that we see now and in the future.
You have announced for the first time to the Moroccan press that you have a legal representation in Morocco.
Yes, our legal attaché in Morocco is Lauren Anderson. She is an exceptionally experienced FBI agent, has been our legal attaché in Paris for a couple of years, and a longtime FBI agent in Washington DC. The purpose of her role in Morocco is to liaise with our counterparts' services in exchanging information, training opportunities, forensics expertise, and assisting on international investigations. Her investigative efforts here are done in conjunction with the counterpart services. We have no independent investigative capability.
For example a recent case where we worked corporately was the “Mytob” and “Zotob” computer viruses, the effect of which was seen in the US; the investigations led us to Morocco and Turkey and to arrests in both these countries. This is the type of international investigative efforts that requires us to work closely together.
Recently, there have been a couple of visits by high-ranking US officials, including Congressman Lantos and others, your current visit and the coming visit of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield. Does this indicate that the US is willing to play a more active role in finding a final solution to the Sahara issue?
I believe that everyone is interested in resolving this three-decade issue and helping the parties to do so. My primary purpose is to continue to build on the very strong foundation we currently have of trust and friendship between ourselves and our Moroccan counterparts.
Morocco, along with other countries in the region, has called the UN's attention to the danger of some suspected armed groups operating on the borders between Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria. Does your agency have any evidences that these groups had links with al-Qaida?
Well, there have been reports of this and it is important that we and the countries of the region work together to eliminate these threats.
You are paying a visit for the second time to the Maghreb region and you have decided to start with Morocco. Does it have any specific significance?
Well, Morocco has been a good friend to the US. We have exchanged information and intelligence since I have been an FBI director. I know that Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya are working together to address terrorism. So, we have to continue building friendships and the mechanism for exchanging information quickly that will help us together to prevent future terrorist attacks.
International and Moroccan media reported that the US is illegally transferring prisoners from Guantanamo to other countries, including Morocco, to be tortured. To what extent this is true?
I will go back to what Condoleezza Rice said the United States conforms to the international law and respects the sovereignty of the any of the countries with which it deals.
You have a long experience in the fight against terrorism, public corruption, organized crime, financial fraud, narcotics conspiracies, and international money launderers. It has been known that terrorists all over the world use the same techniques and technology and “know-how” to implement their strategies. How do you deal with that? Have you adapted a different strategy to crack down on these terrorists?
Ten to twenty years ago, if you are a police officer and you look at domestic challenges within the country and the very rare cases that take you outside the country. If you are a CIA official or from another intelligent agency, you will be looking outside and the information will be gathered abroad and then looked at back home.
But because of globalization, information today has to flow from the domestic to the external agency. For us to be successful in the US, we have to break down the walls between our intelligent services and others and exchange data to prevent attacks.
International terrorists make money from narcotics traffic, fraud, smuggling. So it is very difficult to differentiate now between what is criminal and what is international terrorism. We also have to be wary of domestic terrorism.
In the fight against terrorism or any organized crime, bodies like the FBI are usually investigating on a specific criminal or terrorist or enemy. However, in the so-called war on terrorism, there is no physical enemy. How can you conduct your investigation in this regard without facing a specific target? Don't you think that there is a risk of generalization and state power abuse?
I think that you have to weigh effective intelligence gathering against assuring the civil liberty of your people. And with technology changing so swiftly, it is important that the intelligence community have the tools to be effective while keeping in mind the US constitution.
We have to know that it is people who commit terrorist acts not machines. So we have to identify the group of people who intend to commit terrorist attacks, but without neglecting the context in which they operate.
Several people in the Arab and the Muslim World generally feel humiliated and disgusted over the US foreign policies in the Middle East. Do you think that any change in these policies will alleviate the burden on your agency in terms of investigations, because people who feel humiliated may resort to violence or terrorism as a protest against these policies?
There might be a number of reasons why certain people may feel this way, but I do not tend to generalize. You are generalizing and I hope you don't feel humiliated talking to me.
Of course not. We are just giving you a wide picture of how people in the Middle East feel about US policies, and you can read that in the press.
Widely spread? Where? I read the Moroccan press in Morocco, and I don't feel it is the case.
Maybe in the Middle East?
Well, what's the Middle East? You see you are generalizing. I think countries which harbor and support terrorism should be dealt with harshly. When you talk about countries such as Morocco and you walk down its streets today, I would think people would be happy to see us. So I reject generalizations. There are polls conducted there and it really depends on one's experience.
I would like to see Moroccans and Americans exchange visits or to study, and understand what the people like. So, I oppose generalization and the perception that the US is humiliating others around the world. I just don't think it is accurate. Those of you who have been to the US know that it is not the case.
Bush has recently admitted spying on Americans in the name of protecting the homeland security. We would like to know if the FBI was involved in this affair. Do you think that spying on Americans is necessary to protect them from any terrorist threat?
I am not going to go into details of that. But I will say that your characterization is not the appropriate one. There is an entity to intercept conversations of those associate with al-Qaida inside and outside the US, knowing that we are at war with al-Qaida.
You are a New Yorker before being an FBI head, and since you were appointed just one week before the tragic 9/11 attacks, could you tell us how you lived the event both at the professional and the personal level?
I think everybody in the US was very much affected by September 11. You are losing 3,000 of your citizens. I worked on the Lockerby (PanAm 103) case some time ago, and I spent a great deal of time with the families of those who had lost their loved ones. That had a huge impact on me. And when you work on a case such as this and you see what happened on 9/11, you want to do every possible thing to prevent Americans such an attack.