Rabat - In spite of denials from the Ministry of the Interior, crime rules ok in Morocco.
Rabat – In spite of denials from the Ministry of the Interior, crime rules ok in Morocco.
For many citizens it seems that the police, the Forces Auxiliaires, or the gendarmes, are more interested in quelling demonstrations and fighting terrorism than stopping criminals and securing the streets. As a result, all kinds of criminals are out in the open, mugging people, snatching telephones, and threatening the citizenry at knife-point, or more recently machete-point.
Irritated by the passivity of the police and the lax sentences given to street criminals who often threaten to kill or maim their victims if they report them to the police, the population is taking to the streets of Casablanca to say “enough is enough.” And by so doing, the public is sending a clear message to the government that if nothing is done at once, people will take the law in their hands, once and for all.
The rise of petty crime in Morocco is due to many factors, some of which result from internal problems such as unemployment, poverty, school failure, and hooliganism, and others the result of external reasons such as Algerians smuggling in a hard drug in the form of pills known as Qarqoubi which have devastating effect. In spite of frequent arrests of criminals and sending them to jail for short-term sentences, the crime itself is not eradicated because the criminals, thugs and vandals, once out of jail simply resume their old habits with more vehemence and violence. The problem undoubtedly will certainly crescendo if it is not tackled the proper way.
Nobody is born a criminal, rather the environment and life situations create criminals. Therefore, a sociological study has to be conducted in the breeding areas to determine the reasons behind petty crime in Morocco and to come up with the means to combat it before it gets out of control and lawlessness becomes a major concern for the state.
Roots of crime
Unemployment is an endemic problem in Morocco; it has always been and it will always be. The lack of employment opportunities offered by the country has meant that since Morocco’s independence, many Moroccans have chosen to try their luck abroad. During the 1950s to the 1980s, Europe welcomed Moroccans, whether qualified or not, and lots of them emigrated with their families. Then suddenly this Eldorado was no more because of economic hardship that led to the rise of racism and xenophobia. And as Europe moved east and absorbed ex-communist countries, the European governments decided to grant these countries employment priority. As such, Europe closed employment opportunities for the countries south of the Mediterranean and became “Fortress Europe,” imposing stringent work conditions and extremely difficult visa conditions under the Schengen regime.
Realizing that the European Eldorado has become an impossible Eldorado, many young Moroccans, in search of employment, turned to the Gulf countries which, thanks to high oil revenues, became a real paradise, although not as good and as secure as Europe in terms of respect for human rights. Moroccan youth who wanted Europe whatever the price is, became 7raga “illegal immigrants” assaulting the European fortress on pateras, at the price of their lives.
After the 9/11 unfortunate events, it has become almost impossible to go anywhere around the globe without a visa. At the same time the Moroccan public universities were and still are pouring annually into the employment market, thousands of graduates with a generalist’s education, totally shunned by the private sector. As such, hundreds of these graduates demonstrate daily near the Parliament requesting the right for government employment.
The rest, aware that the government cannot do much to them, have either opted for a legitimate self-employment as ambulant vendors known as faracha, or have joined criminal gangs to smuggle hashish or become drug peddlers on street corners. Others have literally invaded the streets, armed with swords and machetes and have engaged in mugging and terrorizing the peaceful citizens. Emboldened by the impunity they enjoy, they recently went so far as to open several pages on Facebook that they call tsharmil (which is a cooking term meaning to marinate meat or vegetables), in which they exhibited their spoils and their weapons as if to say, beware we are after you as well as your belongings and peace of mind.
In response to this blatant challenge, law-abiding citizens have also started a page on Facebook, to counter the rise of crime in Casablanca: “Marche Contre l’insécurité Ambiante à Casa” and it seems that soon these people will demonstrate in the streets of Casablanca to pressure the government to act. However, the government has since started cracking down on criminals all over the country. The King has also instructed the Minister of the Interior to take action to allay the fears of the citizenry.
The city of Casablanca is surrounded by a belt of poverty, concentrated mainly in shanty towns of people who fled the countryside during the decade of drought in the last century with the hope of finding a job in the city and feeding their families. Some did find employment, but thousands did not and thus found themselves obliged to steal, mug and deal drugs. Lots of them were arrested and tried and served time in prison, but as soon as they get out of jail, they resume their journey in petty crime which leads them anew to prison and so on, completing a vicious cycle.
Others, chose a different path, that of converting to radical Islam and have ended up being brain-washed into becoming terrorists. A case in point is the infamous group of 12 young terrorists who originated in the shanty town of Sidi Moumen and ended up simultaneously blowing themselves up at different locations in Casablanca, including the “Casa de España” restaurant, a Spanish-owned eatery in the city, the five-star Hotel Farah, a Jewish community center, a Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, and just near the Belgian consulate which is located meters away from the latter restaurant, killing two police officers on the night of May 16, 2003. This attack led to the death of the terrorists and 33 Moroccans. It was the deadliest terrorist attack that ever took place in Morocco. This inspired the Moroccan film director Nabil Ayouch to make a successful feature film of the event called “The Horses of God.”
Many people feel so much anger towards the successive governments who are unable to meet their urgent needs related to work, education and health. They believe that the politicians are vain, opportunistic and fickle and that they are simply after their own interests. While the adults express their anger through the peaceful means of political absenteeism, the youth express their disappointment through vandalism.
This state of mind of the youth is translated into acts of vandalism at soccer stadiums, where they destroy everything and later engage in violent acts against the supporters of the opposite team. These fights often lead to injuries, broken limbs and, at times, deaths. The acts of vandalism also take place after they leave the stadiums, against buses, cars and commercial property.
This anger is also vented through verbal violence and obscene language in public places. Many people with their families feel humiliated when they hear the youths scream in public and use profane words and expressions. Those who try to make them stop using such language are insulted in front of their family members and can do nothing about it for fear of being assaulted and beaten up or even maimed.
The majority of Moroccans feel humiliated by their government because they are made to pay the taxes, made to serve the country in time of need, and made to show their love and allegiance to the flag, but in return their grievances are not taken into consideration, they are never consulted on vital issues concerning the nation’s future, and their opinions, evaluations, and feedback are not even requested. In a word, they feel that they are just there as a number on a census sheet, no more. This makes them feel disenfranchised and frustrated because they don’t count to the officials.
Governments are elected by the people to carry out a given program, but once in the seat, they forget about their promises and seek to achieve their own personal hidden agendas. With the MPs (Member of Parliament), the majority of them never consult their constituency after elections; they rarely defend the urgent needs of the people who elected them in the first place.
A common joke has it that a person presented his candidacy for parliament in a rural area and promised solemnly, if elected, that he would urge the government to build a road, a school and a hospital, and provide the young people jobs. The people believed in him and thus elected him. When in parliament he sought only to get money and power for himself and as such he never went back to his power base. At the approach of the following elections, he went to his constituency in his posh Mercedes Benz while puffing at an expensive Cuban cigar. When the people saw him, they reminded him angrily of his empty promises and of his misdemeanor towards them. He acknowledged their criticism and promised that, if they reelected him this time, he would fulfill his promises. When they asked why on earth they should believe him when he had already lied to them. He said that now he is rich and will devote his efforts to their service, but if they elect somebody else he will do like he did and they will lose out again.
The Moroccan parliament is full of MPs such as this one, and Moroccans as a result feel deceived, lied to, and humiliated by the politicians who in their majority are corrupt, henceforth the anger and disbelief in the Moroccan political system that begets only deceitful people. This feeling is expressed clearly by the incredible rate of abstention in municipal and legislative elections. What is worse, the young never vote because they have lost all faith in politicians.
The Moroccan politicians in their majority seek their own personal gratification, so they use public funds for their own interest (recall the story of Minister Guerrouj and his sweet tooth for chocolate), bypass local laws and illegally take funds abroad (the case of ex-Minister of Health Badou, who bought two apartments in Paris). the politicians lie about their degrees (the case of Minister of Youth and Sports Ouzzine) and they take corruption money in any way possible whether as commission money on public purchase deals or other. The Moroccan Government, though it was elected to put an end to mismanagement, embezzlement of public funds and corruption, never put to trial a single minister for any of these. On the contrary, the Head of Government has even declared a total amnesty on all forms of deceit.
Drugs are widely available in Moroccan streets. Drugs dealers are everywhere and it seems that through corruption money they manage to do their business unmolested by the security apparatus. Many opposition figures argue quite strongly that the state is being soft on drug peddling because it serves indirectly its purposes by keeping the youth drugged and stoned and away from politics.
Drugs are responsible for the increasing sexual assaults recorded lately in the Moroccan society. They are also responsible for the rise of petty crime and serious crime in the cities and in the countryside, as well as hooliganism at soccer matches. Many law-abiding citizens argue that the country is in the hands of the drug lords and criminals.
Recently, the national newspapers have carried accounts of several drug addicts slaughtering their parents, a crime that was unheard of in Morocco some years ago because parents are venerated in the popular culture “rdat l-walidin” and held sacred in the Koran.
Strategies for fighting crime
Empowering the youth
The government and society at large must heed the call of youth and try to identify their needs because, whether we like it or not, they are the driving force of the nation. In other words, they are its future while the seniors who decide on their behalf are its past.
Long term solutions have to be found at once to the unemployment of the youth. There are several strategies for such an endemic problem and the politicians will have to accept them, even if such strategies seriously erode their excessive power.
Also, seniors have to have the courage to leave the scene for the youth by retiring prematurely from active service or allowing young people to become truly active in their domains. Many young people argue convincingly that after they graduate from the universities, because they are unable to land a job, they feel immediately as if they have aged and they are about to retire.
Overhaul the educational system
The Moroccan educational system is a national disaster. Rather than forming and developing qualified people to contribute to the development of the country, the system produces generalist graduates who are shunned by the employment market. What is needed urgently is a thorough review of the system in order to conform its output adequately with the needs of the market.
Besides the elementary subjects that are needed for educating the young and training them, tertiary education subjects ought to be changed in accord with the needs of the market.
To make education successful, the curriculum must be revamped totally, and maybe it is about time to adopt the Anglo-Saxon system because the French one has proven its shortcomings.
Besides, the government has to push for the generalization of education and create alternatives to the dropouts who in many cases end up in the street and are easily recruited by drug lords, hardened criminals, or radical Islamists.
Functional literacy programs have to be implemented everywhere to allow the empowerment of illiterate people, especially women in rural areas, and ultimately render them financially able to feed their children especially in the case of mono-parental families.
Many people in Morocco, quite rightly, feel that they are not getting their proper share of national wealth and that the big fish at the top of the pyramid unlawfully takes everything. In most Middle East countries, unfortunately, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and the gap between the two gets wider and wider. The middle class that acts as a shock absorber in sane societies has disappeared in these countries long time ago. And what adds salt to the wound is the fact that the rich not only get richer in legal and illegal ways but they also evade paying taxes through corruption.
Kin Mohammed VI, realizing the difficulties faced daily by the poor in their endeavor to survive launched in May 18, 2005, a very ambitious program for poverty alleviation: Initiative Nationale du Dévéloppement Humain (INDH). Since then, the initiative has helped thousands of Moroccan poor people start a small business or become self-employed in their own little commercial enterprise.
While it is true that the initiative has achieved a lot of success, I believe the time has come to allow external evaluation and the adoption of a novel approach to make the effort worthwhile and avoid the INDH becoming a self-perpetuating institution. Young blood is needed sooner than later for this laudable initiative.
Give the youth a chance
Morocco, and by extension the Middle East, are tribal and patriarchal systems that do not allow the youth to come to the forefront nor to dream of ruling or becoming the political elites. Indeed, the Arab uprisings took place because the youth were sick of being ruled by autocratic and corrupt leaders who ignored them and ignored their needs. But, in spite of these uprisings, events that were saluted by the West and the rest of the world, unfortunately not much has changed and, as a result, a second more violent uprising wave will, somehow, take place in the future and will undoubtedly overflow the MENA region, and will certainly be more deadly and more annihilating, this time.
The state and the government are called upon urgently to take action to listen to the needs and the woes of the youth. Those who took to the streets with knives and swords to mug and frighten the population are sending a signal to those in charge stating that they are sick of the status quo. Arresting them and putting them in jail is the traditional sweeping of the dust under the carpet. Doing this over and over will create a mound over which those in charge will trip and fall in the long run. Once the youth finish their terms in prison, they will come out as hardened and seasoned criminals full of anger and despair.
The youth have a lot of energy and stamina that ought to be channeled to creativity, sports, politics, etc. If it is not properly used, this energy becomes a time bomb that blows up in the face of everyone. So be warned.
The government of Morocco should engage in a national dialogue with the youth region by region. The outcome of this ought to be transformed into a long term strategy to empower the youth and give them the ability to use positively their energy and will.
The state and the government must wake up, at once, before it is too late.
A last word
Moroccan youth has proved that if it is given the opportunity it can achieve wonders; the proof of this is that those who have migrated to the West, where youth are encouraged to go forward and climb the social ladder, have become active politicians, successful sportsmen, renowned actors or singers and great entrepreneurs, the reason being, they had the right environment at hand to translate their dreams into reality and achieve success.
In any country the youth are the future but if you degrade them and alienate them you stop advancing and you become a thing of the past.
I believe that this Tsharmil phenomenon sounds as an alarm to society at large warning of great trouble ahead. Will the Moroccans be up to the task and respond positively to the despair of the youth?
Only time will tell.
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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