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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Festivalizing Dissent in Morocco

by Aomar Boum
published in MER263

The website of Morocco’s National Tourist Office, a government organization, advertises the North African country as a land of cultural festivals and moussems (traditional fairs honoring a saint). According to the Ministry of Information, about 150 such festivals take place each year. The Ministry of Tourism describes these gatherings as occasions for Moroccans to celebrate the diverse cultural identities of the country as expressed in all artistic fields.

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Guarding Europe's Gate

Letter from Spain

by Marisa Escribano
published in MER178

One of the events planned for 1992 is to “marry” the Statue of Liberty in New York to the statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona. Although they do share a similar aesthetic kitsch style, it will be a difficult union. Consider only the 300-year span between the ages of the groom and the bride, aside from all the ideological baggage that each one of them carries.

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Andalusia's Nostalgia for Progress and Harmonious Heresy

by Khalid Duran
published in MER178

In southern Spain’s province of Andalusia 1992 is a year of controversy, not because it is the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus’ voyage, but because it commemorates the conquest of the Moorish kingdom of Granada by “foreign invaders from the North.” In other parts of Spain, and even more so in other parts of Europe and America, 1492 is also remembered as the year Spain’s Jews were expelled from that land. In Andalusia, people know it as part of a time when large numbers of Muslims were made to leave the country.

For Another Kind of Morocco

An Interview with Abraham Serfaty

by Miriam Rosen
published in MER179

On September 13, 1991, after nearly 17 years in the prisons of His Majesty Hassan II, Moroccan activist Abraham Serfaty was released and expelled to France. This was not, to be sure, out of human rights considerations, or a measure of royal clemency: According to the Ministry of the Interior, an “in-depth” -- if belated -- examination of Serfaty’s legal status had revealed that he was not entitled to Moroccan citizenship. His father had lived in Brazil for 17 years before returning to Morocco in 1923, three years before Serfaty himself was born. He was thus expelled as a “veritable impostor.”

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Cartoon Commentary

Algerian and Moroocan Caricatures from the Gulf War

by Susan Slyomovics
published in MER180

A cartoon image is short and direct and does not move when you look at it. Condensing history, culture and social relationships within a single frame, a cartoon can recontextualize events and evoke reference points in ways that a photograph or even a film cannot. Like graffiti, jokes and other genres of popular culture, cartoons challenge the ways we accept official images as real and true.

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The Challenge of Population Growth in Morocco

by Georges Sabagh
published in MER181

About 30 years ago, a World Bank economic survey mission concluded that “Morocco will continually find itself having to run faster in order to stand still.” [1] A few years later, a Moroccan demographer warned that if the population were to continue to grow at current rates, “all efforts at development, no matter how grandiose, would be inevitably jeopardized.” [2]

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Basri et al, Revision de la constitution marocaine 1992

by Darrow Zeidenstein
published in MER183

Driss Basri, Michel Rousset and Georges Vedel, eds., Revision de la constitution marocaine 1992: analyses et commentaires (Imprimerie Royale, 1992).

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Demographic Change in the Arab World

The Impact of Migration, Education and Taxes in Egypt and Morocco

by Youssef Courbage
published in MER190

Two of the most populous Arab countries, Egypt and Morocco, lie far apart in geography, in their histories and in the size of their populations. Egypt has 57 million inhabitants, more than twice as many as Morocco’s 25.5 million. [1] One thing they do share is a dramatic long-term rate of demographic growth. In the nine decades of this century, the populations of both countries have multiplied more than fivefold (from around 10 million in Egypt and less than 5 million in Morocco).