By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 4/16/2006 | 7:30 pm
Rabat---The Moroccan Confederation of the agricultural sector and rural development (COMADER) held its first general constitutive meeting on Saturday at the " Institut agronomique et Veterinaire Hassan II " in Rabat.
The confederation, which groups several professional associations in the field of agriculture, aims at creating a space for dialogue for agriculture professionals; providing a strong coordination body for all the operators of the agricultural sector and the rural world.
It also aims to present a dynamic and reliable communicator to all public administrations to accompany reforms in the sector; defend the interests of the people working in the agricultural field; and contribute to all the agricultural and rural development actions.
"After the natural disasters (drought, locust invasions, floods) that the agricultural sector have faced during the past years, and after assessing the situation of the sector in the light of globalization and free trade agreements, we have decided to create an organization which groups all the professional associations in the agricultural sector to face these challenges,” said Ahmed Ouayach, coordinator of the organization committee.
Several of these professional associations met last year to evaluate the situation especially the negative repercussions of the natural disasters on the income of the Moroccan farmer. The meeting was an opportunity for them to look at future prospects of the agricultural sector.
“We have noticed that things are not going on the right path. This requires that all the agricultural operators and public authorities take firm and efficient decisions to face the current situation,” stressed Ouayach while describing the problems facing the sector.
He added that the deep transformation in the global economy strongly affected other economies in the developing countries, including Morocco. These changes make the professionals put the upgrading of the agricultural sector a top priority in order to face the new international competition and to answer consumers' quality demands.
“The upgrading will certainly allow the national agricultural sector enjoy a salient economic position within the Moroccan economy,” Ouayach affirmed.
Ouayach recalled that the recent “human development report on the 50 years after the independence”, which unveiled the agricultural situation in Morocco, insisted on the necessity to involve the human capital under a new concept that will focus more on a participatory approach.
In the same vein, the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Sea Fisheries, Mohand Laenser, who encouraged the creation of the new confederation, highlighted the importance of the professional associations in the development of the agricultural sector.
Speaking at the confederation's general assembly, Laenser said that the development of the agricultural sector needs a well studied and comprehensive view of the professional work based on a state's clear strategy.
The minister said that the state's strategy is based on four axes, first of which is to encourage the creation of the professional associations in the field of agriculture for the structuring of production chains.
The state, added the minister, seeks to support the programmes of these associations within the framework of a cooperation partnership, involve them in the study and the setting up of agricultural policies in order to open a direct dialogue with them, and promote their negotiation capacities in representing the sector.
“There are currently more than 400 professional association in the field of agriculture, and more than 1000 associations of users of irrigation waters. We consider the achievements of some of them an example that is worth encouragement and support,” stressed the minister.
COMADER's meeting was attended by several professionals in the agricultural sector, members of the parliament and journalists.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/2/2005 | 3:55 pm
A square in central Paris was named on Monday after the leading Moroccan political opposition activist, Mehdi Ben Barka, who had disappeared without trace after being picked up by French police in 1965.
Bertrand Delanoe, mayor of Paris inaugurated the Ben Barka Square, during a gathering to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his abduction. His body was never found.
Paris Mayor unveiled a plaque on which Ben Barka's name was written, in the presence of his widow and four children.
Delanoe said that "Paris does itself justice when it manages to look back at its history with a concern for the truth."
Meanwhile, Bachir Ben Barka, son of the late opposition activist expressed his gratitude and pride on Monday over this tribute.
Ben Barka, who was a leading Moroccan political opposition activist, was abducted in mysterious conditions in Paris, France, on Oct. 29, 1965.
His body was never found. Reports said that the Moroccan secret services, French intelligence and the criminal underworld have all been involved in the affair, but the facts have never been fully clarified.
Ben Barka had been an active militant for 30 years. An outspoken opponent of the late Hassan II, he was twice exiled, first between Jan. 1960 and May 1962, and then in June 1963.
After his abduction, two French officers were jailed for their role in the kidnapping, but the judge ruled that the main guilty party was the then Moroccan Interior Minister, Mohammed Oufkir. A former criminal, Georges Figon, who testified to having seen Oufkir stab Ben Barka to death, was later found dead, officially by suicide.
The Ben Barka affair damaged the image of both Moroccan and French governments during the last decades. Ben Barka's family was allowed back into Morocco in 1999 after 36 years in exile.
In 2004, France agreed to release the 73 documents of the case, which were published in the French Official Journal. The first request to declassify the files relating to this affair was made in 2001, and the Defence Committee allowed only limited information of the state's secret to be released.
The issue has since then attracted the interest of Moroccan civil society actors and politicians, as well as international organizations, including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch.
Last Saturday, the Moroccan leading political party, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP) organized a national day to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mehdi Ben Barka's abduction and assassination. The event, themed “to unveil total reality”, was held in Rabat's Mohammed V theatre.
During the same day, activists of the Moroccan Human Rights association (AMDH) and relatives of disappeared political activists demonstrated in Rabat to mark the anniversary of Ben Barka's disappearance. The posters held by demonstrators read 'No to abduction. No to torture'; 'I want to know what has happened to my brother'.
Ben Berka's mysterious disappearance has been brought back to the screen by Serge le Peron, whose film was released on Thursday in France.
The French-Spanish-Moroccan production, entitled “J'ai Vu Tuer Ben Barka” (I saw Ben Barka Get Killed), sheds light on the most enigmatic demise in Moroccan history.
The directors of the film, Serge Le Peron and Saïd Smihi, chose Figon's death as a point of departure for the story, affirming that the film is not going to portray Ben Barka's life. Georges Figon, had testified to have seen Moroccan Interior Minister, General Oufkir stab Ben Barka to death.
“Georges Figon's death is considered the key of the enigma,” explained Serge Le Peron. “Thanks to him, we could figure out many possibilities about Ben Barka's death.”
The directors have chosen the French actor Simon Abkarian, of Armenian origins, to play the role of Ben Barka. The two directors want the film to be simultaneously shown in France, Spain and Morocco.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 10/6/2005 | 12:25 am
During the holy month of Ramadan, when people abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking during the day, their diet changes. Many believers ignore the physical benefits of fasting, which are numerous. However, some common health problems may occur during this period, especially when people eat too much, or eat unhealthy food.
Throughout history, fasting has been used for cleansing the mind, body and soul. Most religions believe in fasting, especially Muslims during Ramadan. Aside from the spiritual values of fasting, there are physical rewards noted by physicians. Many doctors advise fasting for patients tussling with gout, heart disease, skin disorder, or excessive eating, drinking or smoking.
Fasting is a medical procedure, restoring homeostasis, strengthening the immune system and healing many illnesses. Physicians say that fasting is good for mental discipline and it affects spiritual uplift. It is also good for the digestive organs. The stomach, liver, pancreas, and intestines are often overworked. People who have skin disorders such as psoriasis, acne, or recurrent skin infections are also often advised by their physicians to eliminate sweets and fats from their diet.
Physicians also say that a fast can be a boon to the body for anyone trying to stop smoking or drinking. By stopping tobacco, alcohol, and food intake for a time, a person helps the body return to normal. Once the body is "scrubbed clean" inside, the smoker and drinker feels so alive and alert that he does not have any desire to return to his unwise habits.
Dr Shahid Athar, a Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology in Indiana University School of Medicine-Indianapolis, said that abstinence from water for 8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health. It causes concentration of all fluids within the body, producing slight dehydration. The body has its own water conservation mechanism. Slight dehydration and water conservation, at least in plant life, improve their longevity.
Dr Athar added that the physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar levels, cholesterol and systolic pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity and essential hypertension.
Some minor discomforts are noted at times during fasting. The person who fasts may be subject to headaches. Other side effects of fasting, usually minor, such as a feeling of weakness, heart palpitation, and drowsiness late in the afternoon disappear with a little rest.
Health recommendations during Ramadan
Eat •Complex carbohydrates at S'hour (late meal before dawn) so that the food lasts longer making you less hungry. •Dates are an excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium. •Almonds are rich in protein and fibre with less fat. •Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.
Avoid •Fried and fatty foods. •Foods containing too much sugar. •Over-eating especially at S'hour •Too much tea at S'hour Tea makes you pass more urine taking with it valuable mineral salts that your body needs during the day. •Smoking cigarettes: If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadan. Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop completely.
Drink •As much water or fruit juices as possible between F'tour and bedtime so that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.
Aagaw first victim to reveal human rights violations in Tazmamart
By Karima Rhanem 12/21/2004 | 6:08 pm
The first public hearing sessions of human rights victims – known as “the Leaden Years”- will be broadcast live today on national radio and television. A source from the Equity and Reconciliation Commission told Morocco Times the hearings will be open to national and foreign journalists and non-governmental organizations. The same source added that around 200 victims, families of victims and witnesses of violations are due to participate in the hearings, which are scheduled to take place in 10 different cities, starting in the capital, Rabat, over a period of around 10 weeks.
The sessions, first of the kind in the Arab and Islamic world, will be broadcast today live on both Moroccan TV channels (2M and RTM). The hearings are organized by the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (ERC). ERC, headed by ex-political prisoner Driss Benzekri, is an independent body that was established last January to investigate abuses of human rights committed from 1956 to1999.
Abellah Aagaw, one of the victims, told Morocco Times that the commission has chosen him to speak in the hearings on behalf of Tazmamart victims and their families. He added that his group had agreed not to reveal people's names. However, he annouced that they would reveal the names of the organizations that were behind these violations.
A source from the Commission told Morocco Times that the hearings will be an opportunity to achieve reconciliation in the Moroccan society and to definitively close the file of the “Leaden Years”. The same source added that this event is “an encouragement for the state and the society to be more aware of the need to respect and protect human rights.”
Speaking at a meeting held by the Commission and the Institute of Amazigh Culture on "Hearings and oral history", Driss Benzekri said “victims who will testify at public hearings, will be totally free to express themselves.” However, he added, “ they won't reveal the names of the individuals they accuse of being the authors of the violations.”
A member of the “Truth and Justice Forum” NGO criticized the choice made by the Commission not to reveal the names of the authors of these violations. The same opinion was expressed by another human rights activist, Abdelhamid Amine, leader of the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH).
Answering criticism over the decision not to reveal names, Benzekri explained that “if the Commission allows such names to be revealed, it will have to guarantee the accused the right to defend themselves,” adding that in 90% of cases accusers do not have convincing evidence.
Benzekri also added that “public hearings do not seek to resemble the South African or Ghanaian experiences where they turned into a sort of trial.” He argued that in Morocco, “the truth is known in its generalities and the hearings will rather be a means to freely express sufferings so as to usher in a new vision of the relationship between citizens and the state.”
Political parties, trade unions and professional associations also joined the IER approach, by insisting that the hearings were not not a trial but rather a message to preserve memory and convey educational values so that such practices do not occur again.
This initiative was also welcomed by Moroccan Human Rights Organizations as well as by other international organizations such as Amnesty International (AI). For AI, the initiative is designed to give victims and relatives of victims the opportunity to present, for the first time before the Moroccan public, testimonies of "disappearance" and arbitrary detention.
A set of criteria will be observed to ensure that these hearings are objective and transparent and that they are representative of all forms of violations and all historical stages. The IER has analysed cases related to human right abuses in the Tazmamart, Agdz, Tagounit, Kourbis and Dar Bricha centres and raised questions on collective redress of harm and reconciliation.
The hearings will be open to national and foreign journalists and non-governmental organizations and will be broadcast on national radio and television. Around 200 victims, families of victims and witnesses of violations are due to participate in the hearings, which are scheduled to take place in 10 different cities, starting in the capital, Rabat, over a period of around 10 weeks.
Participants will have about 20 minutes each to present their testimony and will be allowed to use their own narrative style, speak in the language of their choice and be accompanied by family members or friends for moral support.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/24/2006 | 6:11 pm
The spouses of the US and Bangladeshi ambassadors to Morocco, Nancy Riley and Nina Al Haroon, respectively, have recently organized a Bangladeshi evening at the Tazi palace in Rabat to raise funds on behalf of the Red Crescent Social Educational Center (RCSEC) in Rabat.
At the evening, silks, saris, and Bangladeshi Arts were open to sale. The evening was attended by several members of the diplomatic corps, an association of spouses of Ambassadors in Morocco.
The guests enjoyed Bangladeshi food at the sounds of 'Les Frères Akkaf' band and Aissaoua music Group. Bangladesh is famous for its distinctive traditions, and delicious food, snacks and savories. Boiled rice constitutes the staple food, and is served with a variety of vegetables, fried as well curries, thick lentil soups, and fish and meat preparations of beef, mutton, and chicken.
Sweetmeats of Bangladesh are mostly milk based, and consist of several delights including Roshgulla, Sandesh, Rosmalai, Gulab Jamun, Kalo Jamun, Chom Chom.
Some of the young girls from the Red Crescent Social Educational Center made the “hors d'oeuvres” and helped serve the dinner. The girls expressed their happiness and enthusiasm to be a part of raising funds for their own center.
Nancy Riley, who visited the educational center few months ago, said that it is an excellent example of teachers and students working well together to train young men and women for good jobs and great futures.
Impressed by the center's work, Nancy Riley invited other spouses of ambassadors in Morocco to pay a visit to the center.
Visiting the secretarial, nurse, computer and language classes, and watching hairstyles being created, the visiting VIP's noticed that the center needed some supplies, equipment and a little push to progress in their work.
“So we decided to have the fundraising event,” Riley told Morocco Times.
“The spouse of the Bangladeshi Ambassador, Nina Al Haroon is a fabulous cook, and agreed to prepare the food for a gala 'Evening in Bangladesh', making the guests travel to Bangladesh and get to know some aspects of this culture through the evening," she added.
The Social Educational Center is a project of the Moroccan Red Crescent, a non governmental organization created in 1957 by HRH Princess Lalla Malika to assist and improve the lives of vulnerable people at risk from situations that threaten their survival, or their capacity to live with an acceptable level of social and economic security and human dignity.