Fez - Many countries, both developing and developed, have made history by conducting unprecedented research, inventing new technologies, and participating in the advancement of humanity thanks to their high quality researchers whose names have since become attached to their historic discoveries. They have added new names — verbs, in fact — to world dictionaries. The countries of the Arab Spring have invented new phenomena and given birth to new springs as a result of their outcast and disadvantageous youth; Tchermil is one face of a multifaceted phenomenon spreading like wildfire throughout Morocco's social fabric.
Fez – Many countries, both developing and developed, have made history by conducting unprecedented research, inventing new technologies, and participating in the advancement of humanity thanks to their high quality researchers whose names have since become attached to their historic discoveries. They have added new names — verbs, in fact — to world dictionaries. The countries of the Arab Spring have invented new phenomena and given birth to new springs as a result of their outcast and disadvantageous youth; Tchermil is one face of a multifaceted phenomenon spreading like wildfire throughout Morocco’s social fabric.
The growing riots inside stadiums, the high numbers of thugs and robberies and the dissemination of news and pictures via social networking sites showing young men taking pride in carrying dangerous weapons [knives and machetes] and displaying stolen money [booty] is worrisome and alarming. This feeling of instability pushed Moroccans to launch online petitions to demand safety and security. The new phenomenon started by Tchermil activists gives the impression that there is a real issue of insecurity and anxiety among citizens. Security officials acted quickly and arrested a handful of teens with weapons and stolen property. Yet, the crackdown on criminals took on serious dimensions only after king Mohammed VI demanded that security officials address this lack of security in Morocco.
According to a communiqué by the Interior Ministry, King Mohammed VI gave his instructions to the Interior Minister, Mr. Mohammad Hassad, and the Minister Delegate of Interior, Mr. Charki Drais to hold working sessions in various places all over the Kingdom “to discuss the security situation in the country with governors, mayors and security officials, and to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of citizens and their property,” reported state agency MAP.
This campaign initiated by King Mohammed VI to address the security chaos reminded me of a similar campaign, to some extent, launched by the late king Hassan II in March 1997. The latter noticed the escalating rate of waste and filth scattered all over the country. King Hassan II then sent a letter to the Interior Minister, the late Driss Bassri, urging him to exert “urgent and effective measures” to mobilize urban and rural municipalities and communities to contribute to the cleanliness and hygiene of their cities.
Soon after the king’s letter, people were mobilized, campaigns were launched, high level meetings were organized and money was spent. Garbage cans bought and put in place, billboard highlighting the importance of cleanliness were fixed. People were ordered to supply their neighborhoods with all the tools needed for clean cities. Yet, the grassroots of the problem were left untouched. Public schools, youth houses, sports stadiums and underprivileged neighborhoods were kept out of the equation. And a vertical approach was adopted focusing on the formalities, neglecting the essence.
17 years after the royal letter, we can see with clear lenses how clean our cities are. A tour of Fez or Casablanca or other cities will be enough an answer to the poor urban planning, if any, the absence of gardens and sport fields for youth, and the disappointing results of the so-called cleanliness campaign. Sadly, there are systemic dysfunctions within our governmental institutions to the point of paralysis: corruption is one symptom within a labyrinth of a broken system. The situation is only getting worse as we fail, time and time again, to remedy the core [human resources].
‘You reap what you sow’
To some, this phenomenon is an intrusion into Moroccan society and thus is a passing storm. To others it is a hidden tsunami with the power to shake citizens’ trust in society and transform their livelihoods into complete disorder; a scenario that prompts some individuals to be nostalgic for the area of the iron Interior Minister, Driss Bassri, who was known for his severity. Yet, thanks to this severity and to the adoption of a crude security approach during the 80’s and the 90’s Morocco, nowadays, suffers from lawlessness and civil disobedience, vulnerability and scarce opportunity for a big portion of its youth.
It is not by chance that Morocco is undergoing unemployment, inequity and disparity between the poor and the rich. In fact, Morocco’s socio-economic troubles are directly linked to decades of failed policies and mismanagement of public affairs. Still, incompetence of officials at the helm of important Ministries such as Education, Culture and Youth can be the source of low achievement, ignorance and moral dissolution.
Now the outcast and the downtrodden underdogs are finding solace in glorifying crime and criminality. Also, the unskilled youth, understood the power of technology and are using it creatively to intimidate. They are reacting to the counterproductive neglect of passed governments and revolting against the social contracts that had offered them no justice.
Tchermil, in this sense, is a cry against the fear of authority. It is a voice of the voiceless, the destitute segment of society with a clear message: we also exist. When despair runs deep into the psyche of individuals, when attempts for landing a job to secure one’s well-being and live with dignity are shuttered for lack of opportunity, and when concerns of underserved areas are unaddressed, frustration takes over and resentment towards society as a whole reigns. At this stage social norms and religious inhibitions vanish, giving vent to the use of arbitrary force.
With the new security measures taking place all over the country, the intensity of crimes may gradually decline. But unless long term proactive policies are put in place to tackle the problems of disenfranchised youth, and unless all responsible sectors join in their efforts to enhance the quality of education, offer vocational training, empowerment and a second chance for a better future, Morocco might witness a déja vu of another failed campaign.
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