States of Emergency

The Riots in Tunisia and Morocco

by James Paul
published in MER127

A crisis had been building in Tunisia for many months. By the end of 1983, the economy was in serious trouble, support-for the regime had been eroding and the International Monetary Fund had proposed austerity measures. Within the government, corruption and personal luxury were rampant. President-for-life Habib Bourghiba was intent on preparations for a lavish celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ruling Destourian Socialist Party, while ministers vied with each other over the succession to the 81-year-old leader.

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Jordan, Morocco and an Expanded GCC

by Curtis Ryan | published April 15, 2014 - 4:04pm

A recent report suggests that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) may be looking to expand…again. The report says that, during a March summit, the group of six Arab petro-princedoms extended invitations to both Jordan and Morocco to join a pan-monarchical military alliance. And there is a chance, at least, that the GCC states would include a nominal republic, Egypt, in a broader regional military and defense pact (although it is not clear if Jordan, Morocco and Egypt would need to join the GCC or the military bloc would be a separate entity).

Morocco's Bourgeoisie

Monarchy, State and Owning Class

by Jean-Francois Clement
published in MER142

From the elegant office towers of downtown Casablanca to the palatial villas on the outskirts of every major city, evidence abounds of Morocco’s owning class. The luxury cars of the bourgeoisie fill downtown streets. Nightclubs, posh restaurants and expensive boutiques flourish even in a time of national austerity. But all this should come as no surprise. Unlike many countries of the region that lay claim to “Arab socialism,” Morocco has always had an official commitment to capitalism and a clear policy of promoting capital accumulation in local hands. “Morocco has chosen the path of liberalism,” announced Finance Minister Mamoun Tahiri at a World Bank conference in the late 1960s.

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American Magic in a Moroccan Town

by Hannah Davis
published in MER159

Fatna held up the knot of hair. It was a magic spell. “But what does it mean?” I asked, looking suspiciously at the neatly-tied brown square knot. “And whose hair is it?”

“Why do you think Khadija has been coming over every day? She wants me to marry her brother Muhammad. This is probably her mother’s hair. The mother’s hair is the most powerful.”

“You mean it's to make you fall in love with him?”

“Or to keep me from falling in love with anyone else.” Fatna took back the hair-knot and disappeared into the john, emerging a few minutes later smiling mysteriously. “I pissed on it," she told me.

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Human Rights Briefing

by
published in MER163

Since the regime of King Hassan is a long-time ally of the United States, what little attention Morocco’s human rights record receives in this country is usually hidden under a haze of comparisons with egregious violators like Iran and Iraq. Yet Morocco detains hundreds of political prisoners. Some have been held incommunicado since 1972. Arrests of student activists continue, and judicial and legal proceedings remain perfunctory at best.

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Toward a World Literature?

A Conversation with Tahar Ben Jelloun

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER163

The Prix Goncourt, always the biggest literary event of the year in France, became even more so in 1987, when the venerable Goncourt Academy named Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun as its eightieth laureate. In French literary circles, reaction to the selection of Ben Jelloun’s novel, La Nuit saerde, contained an unmistakable current of relief, as if to say that the situation of the Arab community in France really could not be so bad if a North African received the Prix Goncourt. Within that Arab community, the optimism was somewhat more guarded (about the book as well as the prize), but certainly no one regretted the increased visibility that the award brought to French-language North African literature.

Western Sahara Conflict Impedes Maghrib Unity

by Yahia Zoubir
published in MER163

In early 1989, the movement toward Maghribi integration, coupled with signs of a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Western Sahara, generated a great deal of optimism. The reality a year later is far less rosy. The major factor is Morocco’s procrastination in moving forward with the UN peace plan which it, along with the Sahrawi independence movement, Polisario, agreed to in August 1988.

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State and Gender in the Maghrib

by Mounira Charrad
published in MER163

Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco constitute a geocultural entity. They all went through a period of French colonization and they became independent during roughly the same period in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Despite the similarities, though, the three countries engaged in markedly different policies in regard to family law and women’s rights from the time of national independence to the mid-1980s. Tunisia adopted the most far-reaching changes whereas Morocco remained most faithful to the prevailing Islamic legislation and Algeria followed an ambivalent course.

North Africa Faces the 1990s

by Joe Stork
published in MER163

The startling changes that have transformed the political landscape of Eastern Europe in 1989 may have no equivalent in the Middle East exactly, but that region has seen some remarkable developments nonetheless. The Arab versions of perestroika, or restructuring, while less profound in comparison with those of Czechoslovakia or Poland, reflect certain realignments of political forces. No regimes have toppled -- yet. But from Palestine and Jordan in the Arab east (the Mashriq) to Algeria in the west (the Maghrib), a phenomenon of intifada, or uprising, is challenging the static politics of repression that have prevailed for many years.

Protest Song Marocaine

by John Schaefer
published in MER263

A familiar song accompanied the massive protests that began on February 20, 2011 in Morocco.

The song, “Fine Ghadi Biya Khouya” (Where Are You Taking Me, Brother?), was first released in 1973 by Nass el Ghiwane, the venerable folk-pop group that continues to dominate Moroccan popular music -- its aesthetics and social conscience. It resurfaced in a 2003 cover by the band Hoba Hoba Spirit. And it was broadcast again in the background of the 2011 demonstrations that had much in common with the uprisings across the Arab world, but which in Morocco never became a revolt.

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