Geopolitics

Abraham Accords Unleashed: The Middle East Will Never Be The Same

The peace accords signed between conservative Arab states and Israel are the start of an inevitable opening for the Middle East, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan means a new post-American, post-oil future.

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — Days ago, passing through the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv, I could see prominent signs announcing direct flights between Israel and Casablanca in Morocco, and with Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Manama the capital of Bahrain, and Cairo. These were in addition to the dozen daily flights linking Tel Aviv and Istanbul, which have been operating for some years.

And to think on top of that, we now see the opening of Saudi airspace to flights to Israel, which would have been unthinkable just a few years back.

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LGBTQ+ In Morocco: A New Video Series To Open Minds

In a country where homosexuality is still penalized, the feminist LGBT+ group Nassawiyat launches a poetic and political video series to try to change conservative mindsets.

"My hair has never been like others, people have always described it as ugly, frizzy..."

So begins "Nouwara," the first episode of the web series Homouna (which means "they/them," in reference to the pronoun used to designate a person who doesn't use she or he pronouns).

It's produced by the Moroccan LGBTQ+ feminist group Nassawiyat (meaning "feminist") and financed by an undisclosed backer. Posted on Youtube, Instagram and Facebook, Homouna tells the story of a queer woman in a patriarchal society.

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In Morocco, A Fake Gynecologist Exposed As Online Predator

Since the beginning of the year, a fake doctor has been offering free consultations to young women on Instagram order to solicit intimate photos or incite them to commit sexual acts.

CASABLANCA — Forced outings, sextortion, revenge porn: Moroccan social networks have not been spared from this type of cybercrime. And the victims — mostly women or homosexuals — prefer to keep quiet for fear that their denunciations will turn against them. According to a report published last March by the Moroccan network Mobilising for Rights Associates (MRA), seven out of 10 victims of online violence do not report attacks "out of shame" and "fear of social rejection."

Indeed, justice is not necessarily risk-free. Recently, a Court of Appeals in the northern city of Tetouan confirmed a lower court verdict of one month in prison and a fine of 500 dirhams ($136) for Hanaa, a young mother who was the victim of "pornographic revenge" on social networks.

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How COVID-19 Put The Brakes On Moroccan Smuggling Trade

The pandemic and subsequent closing of the border with Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, put an end to the 'atypical trade' that sustained the Fnideq region.

FNIDEQ — In the middle of the dense crowd gathered in front of the great mosque of Fnideq, a small trading town in northern Morocco, Amina stands silent, as if paralyzed. Dressed in a white djellaba and scarf, she holds a picture of her neighbor in her hands. The man, in his 40s, poses with his four children in front of the sea. His name was Ahmed Bouhbou.

A few weeks ago, the Spanish coast guard fished his body out of the sea. He had tried to swim to Ceuta with two young people from his neighborhood, dragging a handmade buoy held by a fishing net.

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Geopolitics
Nina Kozlowski

In Morocco, A New Movement To Legalize Sex Outside Marriage

In the kingdom, a 'revenge porn' case revived the debate on article 490, which criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage. Activists say it's time to modernize the country on the issue of sexual freedom

RABAT — What if individual liberties could be placed at the center of the upcoming legislative elections in Morocco? This is the goal of the social movement "Moroccan Outlaws", led by author Leila Slimani and director Sonia Terrab. On Feb. 22, the "Outlaws' launched a direct appeal to political parties to finally take a stand either for or against the repeal of article 490 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual relations outside marriage.

Since Oct. 2019, the Moroccan Outlaws have been campaigning for the repeal of this article. This fight emerged during the case of Hajar Raïssouni, a journalist sentenced to prison for having an "illegal abortion" and "sexual relations outside marriage," before being pardoned by King Mohammed VI. In that year, according to figures from the General Prosecutor's Office, 15,192 persons were prosecuted under this article. On Feb. 3 2021, a distressing new case prompted the Outlaws to take action again. A single mother from Tetouan was sentenced to one month in prison after an intimate video of her was posted on the internet without her knowledge. The perpetrator, who lives in the Netherlands, was never arrested.

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Geopolitics
Alfred Hackensberger

Why Morocco Is So Much Faster Than Europe In Vaccination Race

The North African country was quick to react when COVID-19 first showed up and is now outpacing places like Germany in a rush to immunize its citizens.

TANGIERS — All they have to do is send a text, and a few seconds later Moroccans have their vaccine appointment. The country has overtaken Germany in the vaccination race. And while Europe is languishing in lockdown, life in Morocco is almost back to normal. What is the secret to their success?

Even from the street, the sign over the entrance to the Roi Fahd Health Center in Tangiers is clearly visible. "COVID-19" is written in the middle in large red letters, with pictures of syringes on either side. The pillars are festooned with flags bearing Morocco's national emblem — two lions with a shield and crown and the five-pointed star, which represents life and health.

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Sources
Ghalia Kadiri

In Patriarchal Morocco, A Push For 'Positive Masculinity'

A doctoral student in Casablanca is using a series of podcasts to help free his countrymen from one-size-fits-all notions about how men can and should behave.

CASABLANCA — Sufiane Hennani is convinced that the fight for equality between the sexes will not be won without men. And so, this 28-year-old doctoral student in medical biology has decided to shake up the codes of patriarchy by launching a series of podcasts dedicated to the debate on gender relations in Morocco.

The first episode, listened to by several thousand in Morocco and France, sparked a debate on social media and in homes. "We are pleasantly surprised by the public's reactions," says Hennani. "Even public television invited us to talk about it! "Finally," people told us. "It was about time.""

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Sources
Ghalia Kadiri

Kardashian In Casablanca? A Plastic Surgery Boom In Morocco

In a kingdom torn between the rise of Islamism and always-connected digital world, more and more women are undergoing invasive operations, sometimes risking their lives.

CASABLANCA — The dress code is strict: thigh-length evening dress, plunging neckline, fifteen centimeter-high stilettos. It is essential to carry a designer bag (if not a knock-off), to wear sunglasses with rhinestones and a watch wider than your wrist, preferably gold-plated. Fadela* adds a last coat of mascara to her false eyelashes before getting out of the cab. The driver took care to drop her off a few meters from the main entrance to the exclusive restaurant and club La Corniche.

In front of this new meeting place for the Casablanca elite, customers arrive in luxury vehicles and large 4×4 cars with tinted windows. But Fadela prefers to walk the rest of the way rather than be spotted getting out of a taxi, a cheap means of transportation in Morocco. She is willing to walk despite being in pain. Fadela is recovering from a surgery called "BBL," Brazilian Butt Lift.

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Geopolitics

Open Or Close Borders? The Impossible Choice Isn't Going Away

Viewed from the proverbial (and literal) 30,000 feet, the most stunning consequence of the coronavirus pandemic may have been the sudden closing of national borders. In an increasingly open world, the past six months of severe international travel restrictions continues to disrupt lives and hobble the global economy.

Last week, the six-months-long closure of the world's longest land border, between the United States and Canada, to "discretionary" travel was extended to at least until Oct. 21. Leaders of these two neighbors face the same impossible dilemma as other countries pondering the reopening of their borders, between saving lives and saving the economy.

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Society
Ahmed Eljechtimi

A Female Voice Busts Into 'Man's World' Of Moroccan Rap

With edgy lyrics and an attitude that's too legit to quit, rapper Houda Abouz — aka Khtek — is pushing against the grain and gaining a substantial following.

RABAT — In a rap scene dominated my men, women's voices are starting to make waves in Morocco.

Houda Abouz, a 24-year-old who majors in film studies at a university in the northern city of Tetouan, has long been fascinated by hip-hop. Encouraged by friends, she finally decided to picked up a mic, and from there began to perform.

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Geopolitics
Parastou Hassouri

Refugee v. Migrant? What We're Missing In Immigration Debate

By distinguishing between refugees and migrants, international law underestimates the plight of people displaced by poverty and climate change.

-Analysis-

CAIRO — Last December at a summit in Marrakesh, Morocco, 164 countries adopted the Global Compact on Migration, a United Nations-led agreement that aims to forge cooperation on managing migration around the globe. The compact's supporters hail it as a landmark, the first step towards creating an international legal framework that addresses migrants generally, and not just refugees.

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Geopolitics
Charlotte Bozonnet

On The Road To Europe: Morocco Cracks Down On Migrants

Since this summer, Morocco is the theater of an unprecedented wave of arrests and forced displacements of Sub-Saharan Africans forced to hide.

TANGIER — They came at 5 A.M, in the Boukhalef neighborhood in Tangier, pounding at the doors and ordering the residents to come out of their homes.

Donatien, a 35-year-old Cameroon native, who today is sheltered in the south of Morocco, recalls the arrival of several vans with policemen and paramilitary forces that report to the minister of the interior. At the bottom of the apartment building, around 50 men, women, and children were piled into a car and taken to the central police headquarters. They would wait there for more than 12 hours without food or water.

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Sources
Ghalia Kadiri

How The Digital Dating Revolution Is Changing Morocco

Social media and dating apps have revolutionized the way young people live, and given women the right to seduce.

CASABLANCA — Facebook is the only place Nadia* is allowed to go out in the evening. From her tiny, windowless bedroom, with the fan on full blast, she allows herself a breath of fresh air. Social media has revolutionized her life – that of a young bank employee who, at 23 years of age, has led an unremarkable life, suffocated by the traditions that her parents still adhere to. In the room next door, they have no idea what is happening inside Nadia's head, beneath the multicolored veil which covers her long, brown hair. It is made from "high quality silk from Saudi Arabia," boasts the pretty Moroccan with large, black eyes.

Every morning, when she walks into the bank, she puts her veil in her desk drawer. "There is a time and place for everything," she says. Nadia puts her veil back on before returning to her parents' apartment, in a working-class area of Casablanca. On the way home – on the bus, along the endless road as she walked, and in front of her apartment block – Nadia meets several people. "I didn't know if you can call that meeting people," she says. "Maybe in a one-sided way."

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Sources
Ghalia Kadiri

Potent New 'Rambo' Drug Finds Fertile Ground In Casablanca

Young, poor Moroccans, desperate for a fleeting sense of power and control are turning to a nasty chemical cocktail called 'karkoubi.'

CASABLANCA —​ Invincible. Fearless. That's how Hicham feels as he dangerously weaves a stolen motorcycle through the streets of Casablanca, a knife tucked in his pocket. The people he flys by are "as small as ants." It's like a video game, where consequences and danger are only virtual. As if to earn points and advance to the next level he slows to grab bags and phones as he goes.

Only now the game is over. "Open your eyes, you dirty scoundrel!" an officer shouts. At Hay Mohammadi police station, Hicham remembers nothing. The effects of the drugs have faded and the ants have turned back into people. He trembles, speaking too fast to be understood. A thick layer of saliva has formed around his pasty mouth.

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blog
Bertrand Hauger

Memories Of Mechanics Past

This photograph of a mechanic working in the rain in the coastal Moroccan city of El Jadida was shot from the hip. Discovering this image also takes me back to a trip 20 years earlier in Tunisia, one of the only times I ever needed to get my car repaired in 60+ years of travels.

blog
Bertrand Hauger

The Way To The Oasis

Our various road trips through North Africa almost always included encounters with caravans of Berber nomads and their camels, making their way to bigger cities to resupply.

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