Sheesha Crackdown in Morocco
By Hassan Al Achraf
Casablanca, August 8, 2012
Police in Casablanca, as part of a growing campaign against hookah bars during Ramadan, finally carried out raids on a number of cafes that provide sheesha to their customers, leading to the arrest of their clients, many of them female, for questioning.
The cafes’ owners deny setting up their establishments up as hookah bars and places for customers to behave immorally, as some claim. An official in Casablanca’s city council believes that the police operation targeting hookah bars has been following orders from the federal and regional governments. According to the official, the campaign was not aimed merely at smoking but other activities that are potentially harmful to public morality and health as well.
“Tom and Jerry”
The crackdown, which lasted until last Thursday, targeted 12 cafes. The raids and arrests of sheesha smokers, many of them underage girls, were considered justified, as was the seizure of dozens of water pipes and other sheesha related paraphernalia.
The recent operations focused on sources providing water pipes, which are produced outside of Morocco. If a cafe’s owner was unable to produce the paperwork indicating that his water pipes were imported legally, it meant that his materials were smuggled, which is subject to punishment under Moroccan laws pertaining to contraband goods.
Hamouda, a cafe manager in Sale, said in statements that many cafes provide sheesha, among their regular fare, to customers who want it. He continued, saying that anyone who denies sheesha’s prevalence is lying to himself, before adding that at times police turn a blind eye to sheesha, while at others they organize crackdowns.
Hamouda continued, saying that cafe owners who serve sheesha do not put the water pipes in the front of their shops so as to not ‘disturb’ police. Rather they serve smokers discreetly, in private areas far from the public gaze and with respect to the public conscious and social customs. In describing the relationship between cafe owners and the police he said that it resembles the cartoon “Tom and Jerry”.
Minors and Health Risks
Mostafa Al-Haya, a member of Casablanca’s city council and the fifth representative of the city’s major, commented on the hookah bar crackdown saying, that though the law banning sheesha smoking was approved by parliament years ago, it’s remained unenforced. He emphasized the necessity of truly enforcing the law.
Al-Haya explained, in statements to Hespress over the telephone, that the police operations against sheesha are responding to federal and regional commands for Casablanca, indicating that authorities are relying on such orders to organize campaigns to curb the spread of hookah bars.
Originally published on the View From Fez