Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Natbakh halawiyat al-Maghreb

Today we baked traditional Moroccan cookies at the language center. The preparation was very simple and only involved a few ingredients:
1. Start with enough butter to make Paula Dean blush.
2. Add a glassful for vegetable oil.
3. Add flour.
4. Add nuts and miscellaneous spices, etc.
5. Mix by hand in a large shallow bowl.
6. Have overeager college students shape them into cute shapes (stars, hearts, etc.)

We took the platters of raw cookies to a nearby building that held an enormous stone oven. A guy took our platter of cookies and placed it on a wooden tray attached to a ten foot pole that he used to insert the tray into the oven. We studied for a little while back at the center and soon they were done and DELICIOUS. Also some of our Moroccan professors served us shay binana (mint tea) which really helped in getting through the homework we had to do.

Earlier in the day I saw a small demonstration organized by Matkich Bilady ("Hands of my country"), a political group that supports the new constitution. They were chanting outside a government office near my home stay, though I don't know exactly what the purpose of the demonstration was. I didn't take pictures because the police presence was heavy and they looked uneasy.

So it looks like political unrest continues in Morocco, as confirmed by my study abroad office in another scary email they sent yesterday (included below).

Morocco: Further rallies likely as anti-government gatherings to demand greater political reforms persist
Thousands of people on 10 July participated in rallies organised by the 20 February Movement in the capital Rabat and Casablanca to demand greater political reforms and social justice. A significant riot police presence was reported at both the gatherings, which took place at Bab al-Had Square in the capital and in Casablanca's Oulfa neighbourhood. Similar protests were held in several other cities, including Tangiers, Oujda, and Agadir. A pro-regime demonstration was held on the same day in Rabat; however, the police managed to keep the rival activists separate.
The 20 February movement rejected a constitutional referendum, which was held on 1 July as part of the reforms proposed by King Mohammed VI in a bid to create a constitutional monarchy with a democratic parliament, and vowed to continue with its anti-government protest campaign. Further gatherings can therefore be expected in the coming weeks; recent events indicate that these are most likely to occur on Sundays. Demonstrations are likely in the capital and other major cities such as Casablanca, Tangier, Fès, Marrakech, Agadir, Imzouren, Mohammédia, Salé and Khémisset. Precedents suggest that the security forces are not averse to using uncompromising crowd-control measures to disperse unruly protesters. In addition, government supporters may attempt to stage rallies to denounce the persistent anti-regime protests, raising the risk of unrest, particularly if rival gatherings are held simultaneously and in close proximity; bystanders face incidental risks in the event of disturbances. There is also a high risk of unrest incited by youths from low-income areas in the hours following such gatherings, particularly in northern cities such as Tangiers.
Pro-constitution posters proudly displayed
Thousands of protesters associated with the 20 February Movement on 3 July demonstrated in cities across the country, including in Rabat, to protest against the result of the referendum. In the capital, the security forces restricted the movement of the demonstrators to the outskirts of the city. One person was injured in Rabat by a stone allegedly thrown by a government supporter, and several similar incidents were reported in Casablanca. Prior to this, thousands of protesters on 26 June staged marches in Rabat and other urban centres as part of demonstrations both for and against the constitutional reforms. In Casablanca, at least two people were injured in scuffles between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the low-income neighbourhood of Hay Mohammedi.
More than 98% of the voters approved the new constitution, which introduced significant changes, including paving the way for the prime minister to replace the king as the head of government, though the latter would continue to wield considerable control over the administration. The 20 February Movement claims that the changes do not amount to a true separation of powers and is demanding more substantive reforms. While Morocco shares a number of socio-economic traits with neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt – where protest campaigns in late 2010 and early 2011 led to the ousting of those countries' long-serving presidents – such as the high youth unemployment rate, its political climate differs from these countries and an uprising is unlikely in the near term. However, demonstrations calling for political and constitutional reform should be expected to persist.

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