By Hajar Jannad
By Hajar Jannad
Rabat – For many Moroccans, the Bouya Omar Mausoleum, located in El Kelaa des Sraghna (Morocco), had represented the height of bloodcurdling human atrocity, human cruelty, and mistreatment.
Statistics issued recently by the Ministry of Health showed that 99% of the patients suffer from mental and neurological disorders, 9.40% from affective disorders and 2.90% from personality disorders, while the rest are said to be addicts or “haunted” by an evil spirit. The patients included in the Ministry’s study differ in age, level of education, social class, and gender.
This “asylum” has over years displayed a blatant disregard for human life and well-being. Patients do not receive any health care. Rather, they live in miserable conditions, chained and handcuffed to the wall, sharing a room with four other patients at a time. At first glance, one may think that this is a prison and they are prisoners. Some patients are kept there until they die. What makes matters worse is that the patients’ families have simply tolerated the mistreatments of their beloved ones, some, even refusing to visit them. The cost of keeping someone in there is around MAD 786 per month, for housing charges, amounting in the aggregate to MAD 8 million per year in revenues to the institution.
The Ministry of Health issued an official communiqué last Thursday, after a year and a half of studying the conditions of the mausoleum and its inmates. As a result of the survey, in collaboration with local authorities, civic society, and human rights advocates, Houcine El-ouardi, the Minister of Health, has decided to close the Bouya Omar Mausoleum concluding that continued operation of the Mausoleum would constitute a flagrant violation of human rights and humanitarian law, and initiating a program to repatriate the inmates when they are released.
The initiative aims at following the former patients’ health statuses, lending moral and material support to their families, and reintroducing the patients to society. Minister El Ouardi has promised that the government will cover the full cost of treatment to the patients.
Furthermore, he affirmed that in coordination with the local authorities in El Kelaa des Sraghna, his team will take all necessary measures to close homes near Bouya Omar where psychotic patients were kept in secret.
Surprisingly, some detainees’ families have deplored the Ministry of Health’s decision. One woman said in a street interview with Hibapress that she has two sons, both “psychopaths,” who were detained in the mausoleum and who will now be released but who constitute a real threat for her and her other family members. She is not alone in denouncing the closure of Bouya Omar.
According to the same source, some families are worried about their children’s future, noting that “other asylums receive patients for only few days before they are thrown out on the street and become a threat to society.”
Other families have praised this humanitarian initiative, asserting that the health status of most of the patients is getting worse, and saying that they should receive some psychiatric health care.
The Ministry of Health has allocated a budget of MAD 40 million to purchase medication for psychological and psychiatric health care and more than 60 ambulances to transport the patients to hospitals. Further, they have recruited more than 34 psychiatrists, doctors, and nurses to provide the necessary health care to the patients.
In the light of the persistence of practices which dehumanize patients, the Moroccan authorities should impose sanctions on the managers of the Bouya Omar Mausoleum for violating patients ‘basic human rights, making them live in deplorable conditions, and mistreating the detainees.
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