30 March 2011

Morocco: Not Libya

Recently, I have been getting many emails from people back in The States about Morocco. I do appreciate that people hear about Libya and Egypt and Tunisia (and, if they’re paying attention, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, and Bahrain), and then think of me and hope that I am okay. Nevertheless, really, in the end, it is very frustrating that some of my friends and family cannot take 5 minutes to Google a map of the Arab/Muslim world. I don’t blame anyone for their ignorance, especially if they are busy working, raising a family, or going to school. Nevertheless, if someone is going to take the time to email me to ask me if there is any danger to me from missiles being dropped on Libya, they have the time to look at a map.

Morocco is a country about the size of California, and to the east is Algeria, a HUGE country (in comparison with the countries in Europe, anyway) that would take at least 2, if not 3, days to drive across. Then, much smaller, but still between us and Libya, is Tunisia. So we are really really safe here, at least from Libya.

Politically, also, there is not much going on here compared to the rest of the region. Morocco has been a parliamentary monarchy since 1956, though most of the power is in the hands of the king. Mohammed VI is a new king, relative to the other leaders or ex-leaders in the region who have recently fallen, and is known as the king of the poor, and much more of a reformer than his predecessors were. I personally do not see an overwhelming amount of concern in his actions for the poor and the working class, but he has tried through multiple reforms and development projects throughout the past 11 years.

Protests really began in Morocco in February. The educated youth of the country (of which there are much less than the other countries - Morocco is the poorest country in the region by far) started a movement they call 20 February Movement. At first, its aims were not clear - and some would say they are still not clear - but as the weeks passed, the theme of responsible governance and anti-corruption really came to the forefront. Morocco, considering how developed it is in some places, has some of the highest rates of corruption in the world. (It is somewhat ridiculous to watch how blatant it is in some places…).

There are also various organizations that are taking advantage of this time of reform and pushing harder for the reforms they have always wanted and, in many cases, desperately needed. Teachers, handicapped people, various unions, but most of all, students. Students who have MAs and Ph.Ds and who are, apparently, guaranteed by the constitution, to have first pick at government jobs.

Personally, I support these people in their protests, because I am always in support of people working for change. It feels like this opportunity to protest is the most political hope these people have had in a long time. Yet, at the same time, it feels a lot like people are expecting the government to fix everything for them, that there are unlimited jobs and the government is supposed to just hand them out. I know that many of them are being filled through favoritism and bribery, but I also wish there was some other way. The protests so far don’t seem to be doing much - then again, what do I know, I don’t read Arabic - and from what I’ve read and seen of the Moroccan government, I really don’t expect them to change all that much. They all like the power they have too much, and there is very little accountability. In the end, I try mostly to ask people questions and listen to their opinions in order to get a general sense of the problem, because it is much more complicated than I had originally thought.

In the end, there was one week where protests were followed by violence - burning cars, breaking windows, etc. - but most people were saying that these were just “young hooligans” and not legitimate protestors. After that week, police and auxiliary forces were sent out to every major city, and, as a glorified tour guide, I took the opportunity to point out these guys to my students and their teachers (mostly so that they could go home and tell everyone how safe and normal Morocco is). I am in a bind because I wish that more radical change could happen in Morocco, but at the same time I know that that would mean much more upheaval than my friends and “family” here are ready for, or really want at all in their lives. Plus, selfishly, it means I would probably have to leave.

So, don’t worry about me, really. Morocco is changing, for sure, but very much more politically stable than other countries in the region. On a cynical note, tourists and foreigners are much to valuable to the country’s economy for the government to let anything happen to us.

1 comment:

Lindsey said...

So true. Thanks for giving your perspective on the situation. I really think the corruption there just cripples their development. I ran into so many people without hope because they knew how great their obstacles were. It was so frustrating. Stay safe and keep doing a great job with those students girl!