I was reading Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) for my daily dose of indoctrination, my mind unfocused on reality, when I came across an interestingly ironic piece of information. It jolted me the way you would be if your butt were griped in a darkened room when you thought you were alone. I had to wonder: did I just step out of the Chronic Argonaut’s time machine; had I been toasting with Henry Hudson’s crew and just woke up from a twenty-year nap. The MAP article, dated 27 Jan. 2010, quoted Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch (HRW) Middle East Director, saying, during her presentation of the HRW 2010 World Report in Rabat, that Morocco is one of the most respectful countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) of human rights. According to the MAP article, Ms. Whitson reasoned that the fact the press conference was authorized is an indicator of the country’s openness.
If we follow this line of reasoning, it would then seem acceptable for a government to drag its journalists, bloggers, and human rights activists to prison for their opinions, forcibly exile others, or restrict their travel, so long it allows it to be discussed in the open and even acknowledges it as wrong. I bridle at such crackpot notion. You might have noticed that has been the government’s strategy in the past decade. We throw journalists in jail, most of the country suffers from chronic poverty, corruption, opportunism, and nepotism are equally pervasive through government rank and file and leadership, unemployment among higher education grads is rampant, our police force is thuggish, and our officials are disrespectful of the law and consider themselves above it. But we make no bones about our transgressions; what an effulgent Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four meets Plato’s The Republic this makes.
The same day Ms. Whitson was in Rabat stroking the Moroccan government’s ego with mendacious comments as thick as Popeye’s forearms, she was cited in an article published by her organization and titled “World Report 2010: Backsliding on Human Rights” saying: “Morocco cracked down hard on those who broke the taboos against critical discussion of the monarchy, Islam, and Western Sahara.” Readers of the 612- page HRW 2009 report she presented in Rabat will find it rather caustic to the Morocco’s political leadership. It describes the government ’stand on human rights as precipitously regressive; it condemns the repressive legislations Morocco’s tendentious courts use to demonize critics and criminalize basic freedoms. I presume the Moroccan government ‘solace lies in the fact that the report is even more damning to Algeria and Tunisia. But these two countries, or any Arab country for that matter, have never been paragons of democracy. Have they?
I don’t dismiss the possibility that the MAP article is nothing more than a case of selective reporting. The news agency is notorious for such practices.
HRW’s was not the only accusatory report that was published recently. The United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published its 2010 report – A/HRC/13/30, on 15 January. Morocco is mentioned, but not for its advocacy against arbitrary detention, you might have guessed. Unlike the HRW’s, the U.N.’s is statistical and rather phlegmatic. The U.N. also published, on 26 January 2010, an exhaustive 221-page study on secret detention trends alleging that in 2002 Morocco’s government was complicit in the CIA’s rendition of at least three detainees who were held in the T’mara prison. The Freedom House, a non-governmental advocacy organization, published on 12 January 2010, a report titled “Freedom in the World 2010: Global Erosion of Freedom.” It concludes that Morocco is one of three countries in MENA where freedom is partial; the other two countries are Lebanon and Kuwait, which is risible when one considers the high death rate of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon and the plight of the “bidoons,” a segment of the Kuwaiti society that is denied most of its civil rights and freedoms to include the right to marry and to own property. That the Freedom House report deems Israel the only country in MENA where people’s freedoms and rights are guaranteed casts doubts on its objectivity.
I direct your attention to the fact that all these reports make a clear distinction between Morocco and Western Sahara. While they consider Morocco partially free, albeit with a worsening inhibitory trend; they consider Western Sahara lacking in freedoms and its inhabitants denied many rights.
Reports from renowned international organizations indicating the ubiquity of human rights abuses should trigger an internal governmental self-assessment, a concerted effort to address this intractable issue sundering the country and befouling its image abroad; acting to solve the problem will certainly bolster the people’s confidence in their government and the monarchy. Excellent recommendations to reduce human rights violations have been announced by Morocco’s King, but in the absence of an independent offsetting and regulating body, the government has been dragging its feet in implementing reforms. Its ministers and lower officials hide behind a whirlwind of filibustering, motley concoctions of deceptive slogans published by MAP and other Moroccan posts and calculated sound bites aired on television and radio broadcast. Such a course of action from Morocco’s elite politicians does not sustain democracy and hardly beguiles today’s generation; It exacerbates the problem and constitutes a long term strategic threat to the country’s national security.
A. T. B. Copyright © 2010