By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 12/16/2005 | 5:00 pm
Rabat -- Dr. Yasser Soufiani, head of Ibn Sina hospital in Rabat, has denied the death of Omar Sadek, one of the 20 jobless protesters who attempted a collective self-burning on Thursday morning before the Ministry of Health in Rabat.
Soufiani said that Sadek was transferred to an intensive care unit as he was suffering from third degree burns and his health status is very critical. He added that the situation of four others who had burns on their faces and hands is stable.
Soufiani told Morocco Times that two women members of the unemployed group left hospital yesterday after being treated, as they had nervous breakdown and hysteria as result of seeing the protesters burn themselves alive.
Twenty members of the National Independent Group of Unemployed Moroccans aged between 25 and 41, attempted on Thursday a colletive self-burning while protesting in front of the Ministry of Health in Rabat.
Azeddine Raouchi, one of the protesters who set himself on fire, told Morocco Times “we were fed up with the government's false employment promises; that is why we have decided to burn ourselves alive so that the government may pay more attention to us, and give us our simple right, which is a job”.
Raouchi said the problem goes back to Oct. 2003 when the group of unemployed started having a series of talks with government officials to solve their problems.
“We had dozens of meetings with the government, but in vain. Last June, we reached an agreement with the government that half of our group, which includes 48 jobless, be employed at the Ministry of Justice and the other half at the Ministry of Interior,” he said.
“However”, he added, “the Ministry of Justice kept its promises and employed 27 people, but the Ministry of Interior has ignored the other 20. And considering our miserable situation and the constant meetings without results, demanding only our rights, we have decided to burn ourselves,” he explained.
Members of the National Independent Group of the Unemployed have already warned the government that they will burn themselves on Dec. 15 if the officials didn't consider their concerns.
“We were called for a meeting with the Wali on Wednesday but the discussion has reached a deadlock. So the next day we soaked our clothes in petrol while protesting. The police came in quickly and started hitting us and due to the police treatment and the psychological pressure on us, we have set ourselves on fire,” Raouchi explained.
Wali of Rabat and the region, Mohammed Ragraga, has confirmed in a phone conversation with Morocco Times that he held a meeting on Wednesday with members of the group of unemployed and promised them to find ways to solve their problems. He said, however, that most of them do not hold university degrees, which makes it difficult to integrate them in the job market.
Unemployment in Morocco was officially 10.8 % last year, Prime Minister Driss Jettou said in September, adding that among younger graduates the figure was 26.9 %.
Macroeconomic stability coupled with low inflation and relatively slow economic growth has characterised the Moroccan economy over the past several years. Overall, employment remains dependent on the agriculture sector, which is extremely vulnerable to inconsistent r
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/14/2005 | 5:28 pm
Feb. 14 of each year, the world celebrates Valentine's Day. Today, this American celebration has become more globalized. As more people communicate via the Internet, watch satellite channels, or travel frequently, ideas become rapidly widespread in the Arab world.
People around the world react differently to this special occasion. They express their affection, care and appreciation for others in their own, culturally-acceptable ways. How is St Valentine celebrated in Arab countries?
In Morocco St Valentine is special. When you go down town, you see hundreds of teenagers buying St Valentine gifts sold in most shopping malls in Rabat, Morocco's capital.
Morocco's new generation is more influenced today than its precedents by foreign cultures, traditions, and celebrations.
However, Morocco's old generation is more reluctant to change, and preserve its own values and traditions. We can say that not a great majority of Moroccans celebrate Valentine; some do not even know it; others neglect it or simply don't believe in it.
In Saudi Arabia, accepting the St Valentine occasion seems to be difficult. Saudi Arabia's morality police are on the scent of illicit red roses as part of a clampdown on would-be St Valentine's lovers in the strict Muslim kingdom.
The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14.
Florists say the move is part of an annual campaign by the committee, whose members are known as volunteers, to prevent Saudis marking a festival they believe flouts their austere doctrine of "Wahhabi" Islam.
In Iraq, Valentine's Day has never been widely celebrated. Some Iraqis eye it suspiciously; others say it's inappropriate or a violation of conservative Islamic values or that it simply is not possible to find an appropriate place to steal a romantic moment.
Isolated corners, largely out of sight, are too dangerous. Crowded cafes are far safer, if less romantic. And in a time when Islamic extremists are fighting alongside loyalists of former dictator Saddam Hussein, public displays of affection are risky.
In Lebanon, this year's St Valentine was bloody, as a huge car bomb killed Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and at least 12 other people in Beirut's most devastating attack since the 1975-90 civil war.
Valentine's Day Enrages Jihadists as usual. "Al Gharam mamn'uh, al Gharam kufr," screamed the self-declared cleric in al-Ansar's chat room last Friday. “Love is forbidden, love is infidel,” said the online fatwa about the “legitimacy of loving and being in love.”
A weekend before Valentine's Day, jihadist souls were not questioning the “commercialization” of romance, but inquiring about the ban on “being in love.” The “scholars” said human love is evil. The simple feeling of being attracted to or in love with someone is a terrifying sin if it is committed outside of their religious dogma, and it warrants serious punishment.
The History of Saint Valentine's Day
There are varying opinions as to the origin of Valentine's Day. Some experts state that it originated from St. Valentine, a Roman who was martyred for refusing to give up Christianity. He died on February 14, 269 A.D., the same day that had been devoted to love lotteries.
Legend also says that St. Valentine left a farewell note for the jailer's daughter, who had become his friend, and signed it "From Your Valentine". Other aspects of the story say that Saint Valentine served as a priest at the temple during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius then had Valentine jailed for defying him. In 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honour St. Valentine.
Gradually, February 14 became the date for exchanging love messages and St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers. The date was marked by sending poems and simple gifts such as flowers. There was often a social gathering or a ball.
In the United States, Miss Esther Howland is given credit for sending the first valentine cards. Commercial valentines were introduced in the 1800's and now the date is very commercialised. The town of Loveland, Colorado, does a large post office business around February 14. The spirit of good continues as valentines are sent out with sentimental verses and children exchange valentine cards at school.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/1/2005 | 4:03 pm
When you say 'Hi' to a Moroccan these days, he/she will answer 'it's freezing'. When you ask him/her 'how are you', he/she will tell you 'I'm cold'. When you want to find out about 'where they have been these days', they will answer: 'in bed, covered with dozens of blankets, coping with coughs, and bad flu'. It sounds as though Moroccans lost their minds with the freezing temperature prevailing in North Africa. The experience shows that Moroccans can not stand cold weather.
It is the first time many Moroccans have ever experienced freezing weather. Last Saturday, Casablanca recorded -1C (30F), several degrees below its average minimum. Sales of blankets, jackets, coats, and scarves topped this week, as many Moroccans went to shopping centres to buy warm clothes.
Leila, 40, a mother of four children, said that “everybody at home is sick”. She went on: “my four kids are sick; they got bad flu. There have been sick for more than a fortnight despite medication. We live by the seaside, and you can't imagine how freezing the weather is.”
She added that her sister, who lives in Canada, used to come during winter time to Morocco because she can not stand freezing weather. “And now she has to put up with this 'icy weather',” she said.
Mustapha, a young man in his 20s, was talking to his friend in front of one the shops in the shopping centre. He told his friend jokingly “I no longer think about emigrating to Europe or Canada, as I dreamt. Look what's happening in Morocco; it's so freezing, I can't imagine what the weather is like in Canada. I would die in the first day. I'd better stay at home.”
Mona, 30, a chemist in the shopping centre's pharmacy, told Morocco Times that most patients who came these days to buy medicines suffer from flu and bad colds.
Sounds of sneezes and coughs are invading Moroccan streets and homes. You hear them at work, in the train, in coffee shops, in conferences, at home, everywhere. Even in public phone boxes, most telephone conversations are about cold weather, flu and medicines. Words like “Smikli”, “Sam”, “Bard”, “Asamid (in Berber)” (different names describing cold weather) are also commonly used. Some even call it “mout”, which refers to death.
People in Morocco's remote village are currently cut off by heavy snow heaps which has paralyzed traffic and blocked roads.
Moroccans have now found a new way of breaking the ice. It is “how are you doing with the cold weather?”
Naughty boys chatting up girls in the street are using freezing weather expressions to open a conversation. This cold weather is an unusual event in most of Morocco. It is total hysteria, Moroccans do complain whether be it cold or hot. The experience showed that Moroccans are so "fragile" that they can't stand a below -1C, which is normal in winter times in European and North American countries.
In neighbouring Algeria, the situation is even worse. The heaviest snow in more than 50 years has fallen on the Algerian capital, paralyzing traffic, killing more than 13 people and isolating nearly a third of the North African country's provinces.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 3/8/2005 | 2:53 pm
Women in Morocco and their counterparts in the rest of the world celebrate today the International Women's day. March 8 in Morocco is very significant, because it commemorates the first year of the adoption of the new Family Code on January 23, 2004 by the House of Advisors.
The new Family Code, which promotes equality between men and women, is considered an important legal asset in human rights. This reform, in harmony with the teachings of Islam, was seen as “revolutionary” and was largely welcomed in Morocco and worldwide. The law was also seen as a model in the Arab World.
Specialized jurisdictions have been set up in Moroccan courts to implement the new Code.
Justice Minister, Mohamed Bouzoubaa, said that “the government is keen to meet all the necessary conditions for a successful implementation of the Family Code, and make sure the law meets the aspirations of all Moroccans.”
A´cha Lakhmas, a lawyer and a president of the NGO “Union of Women Employees”, said that the Family Code, generally known as “Mudawana” brought essential and fundamental changes in comparison with the former code, known as the “Code of Personal Status”.
“The Family Code brought fundamental changes, especially at the judicial level. It guarantees both the rights of married and divorced women. It's needless to mention the rights of children and the mother's child custody,” said Lakhmas.
The Family Code sparked controversy in the past six years. This led to a massive protest in 2000 against any change in the Mudawana. In response to the intense public debate on women's rights, and the failure of the special committee in charged of looking into the controversial aspects of the reforms, King Mohammed VI stepped in, setting up a Royal Commission, made up of Islamic scholars and women's representatives. After several consultations, the monarch announced the new reforms when addressing the parliament on October 10, 2003.
The King said he wanted to prevent society from splitting apart over this issue. He stated that the aim of these reforms was to draw up a modern family law consistent with the spirit of Islam. “I cannot make licit what God has forbidden, nor forbid what he has made lawful,” the King said.
The new reform placed families under the joint responsibility of both spouses. The family law is not considered as legislation devised for women only, but rather as a code for the family: father, mother, and children. The Code aims to free women from the injustices they endure, in addition to protecting children's rights and safeguarding men's dignity. Women now have the right to ask for divorce; the legal age of marriage for girls is raised from 15 to 18; polygamy is not outlawed but is made practically impossible; and child custody in the case of separation is given as a priority to the mother.
The Family Code was the Millennium revolution of both the King and the people. The sovereign had made it clear that a society cannot move forward when half of its members is lagging behind and denied the most basic rights guaranteed by Islam and the Koran.
Several efforts have been made by the Moroccan society to preserve the rights of women at all levels. Today, 33% of Moroccan women are active, 22% are supporting their families and an increasingly high number of them have access to top positions.
While the Moroccan government includes only two women and the parliament three women, political parties have agreed that 30 women will sit in the coming legislature. However, despite this impressive headway, there is still the need for a considerable educational effort, particularly in girls' schooling.
A´cha Lakhmas sees these reforms as pioneering and fundamental. However, she said that there are still some problems preventing the effective implementation of the Code. Lakhmas thinks setting up suitable facilities for the administration of family justice in all courts of the Kingdom, and ensuring that court staffs are trained, at all levels, and qualified to shoulder their future responsibilities is a basic necessity. “Efforts must also be made to reach deadlines laid down in the current civil procedure act to expedite family matters,” said Lakhmas.
The lawyer also demands that the government should provide the court with the necessary infrastructure as well as human and financial resources.
What do Moroccans think about the new Code?
Morocco Times discussed with several people about the new family code. Some claim it is for the benefit of women; others think it is against the culture and traditions of the country.
Sanae, 25, student: I am so glad we have the new family code. There thousands of cases of women on hold in the court regarding divorce and child custody. Now, with the new code, men will think three to four times when he thinks of violating a woman's right. I feel secure with the new law. At least, I will not waste time in court if I ask for divorce or the right of my future kids.
Amine, 27, a banker: I am so happy that women in Morocco have at last their guaranteed rights. I am a man, but I am telling that men sometimes become abusive. The new code will prevent them from harming the dignity of women.
Maria, 26, a dentist: The new code is a good step towards securing the right of women, and it is an asset in human rights in Morocco. However, I would like to say that the law will be ineffective if the mentality did not change. Men should change their behaviour and attitude towards women; they should learn how to respect women, not because the law said it.
Meryem Bennani, 34, mother of two kids: I am for improving women's situation. However, the idea should not contradict with our culture and traditions. I don't agree with the fact that a girl has the right to choose her own husband with the consent of her guardianship. We, in Moroccan society, refused to marry our daughters to men who didn't have their parents' approval. So, how come we accept our daughters' marriage without our consent?
Mohamed Amine, 30, single: I am afraid to marry a Moroccan woman now. She will use the rights the new Family Code granted her against me.
By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 3/6/2006 | 12:35 am
The Marrakech court of first instance sentenced on Friday night a group of 13 people involved in making homosexual pornographic films in the southern city to a total of 30 years imprisonment, ranging from 6 months to 6 years in prison for each of the defendants, reported the Moroccan partisan daily, al-Alam.
The Marrakech court sentenced 13 defendants including 11 Moroccans and two French, and acquitted four others, involved in the pornographic scandal that shook the southern city. The defendants have also to pay fines ranging from MAD 1,000 to MAD 30,000.
The group is accused of producing gay pornographic films, inciting prostitution, and holding drugs.
MAP news agency reported that the court has sentenced the main defendant in the sex scandal case, J.A, a French national of Moroccan descent to six years in prison and a fine of MAD 30,000.
The court has also sentenced J.J.R, a French tradesman to one year in prison. It acquitted another Frenchman, manager of a guest house in Marrakech, but decided to close his establishment.
The majority of the defendants, arrested on Feb. 17, came from a popular neighborhood located at Sidi Youssef Ben Ali prefecture. Aged between 18 and 20, these impoverished Moroccans found themselves involved in a very dirty adventure, risking their reputation for a very insignificant sum of money and a promise of immigration to France.
They were only paid MAD 500 each a film. Others got MAD 250 for helping shoot in a sports club, which is considered very insignificant money in the porn industry.
The films were broadcast in an internet site, which has about 500 members, who pay a monthly tuition fee of Euros 42. The porn production company, which runs the website, earns more than Euro 20,000 a month. The site is now inaccessible in Morocco, after being blocked by the Moroccan authorities.
The Wali of Marrakech, Mounir Chra´bi, held an extraordinary meeting with different departments and the city council to investigate the matter. He declared that all the necessary measures have been taken to combat the phenomenon of sexual tourism in Marrakech.
Earlier last week, several local associations in Marrakech staged a sit-in before the city's court of first instance to denounce sex tourism.