Maghreb Voices – A.T.B.: A Blogger on Blogging on Morocco, Part II

A.T.B. is an award-winning Moroccan-born blogger who writes one of the net’s most insightful blogs on Morocco: A Morroccan About the World Around Him. A.T.B. diligently disseminates relevant information to the English-speaking world regarding the struggles of a region where human rights are upheld in theory but where exercises of these rights are sometimes violently suppressed. A.T.B. often praises the bloggers of Morocco for their perseverance in spite of official silencing. He is also a poet of extraordinary insight and sensitivity.

Recently A.T.B. spoke with Wanda Waterman St. Louis about freedom, oppression, and the temerity of the Moroccan blogging community.

On Human Liberty

I am not a dyspeptic critic of the Moroccan government; I stand by its efforts to defend the country’s integrity from foreign threats. But I abhor its use of national security as a means of subjugating those who criticize the inefficiencies and transgressions of its officials.

I grew up in Hassan II’s Morocco, where politics were discussed in hushed tones if at all. Arbitrary jailings and the disappearances of dissidents were frequent; the silencing of opposition voices was ruthless. People feared for their lives and for the lives of their loved ones.

Things have changed noticeably, of course, but the traits of oppression are still there even though they’re masked. Those who express their opinions are still aggrieved. The independent media is still persecuted, the political parties are puppets of the Royal institution, and there is no genuine representation of the people. There are multiple standards of the law. Everyone in Morocco, from the parking lot attendant to the Prime Minister, is a servant of the King.

Why Human Rights?

My devotion to human rights started as a by-product of my attempts to reconcile my Moroccan heritage with my American spirit. My allegiance to the democratic principles of the US Constitution proscribes my support for political practices prohibitive to human rights, such as those employed by the Moroccan government.

Speed Bumps

The two largest inhibitors of the progress of human rights in Morocco is the Moroccan government’s total lack of accountability to the Moroccan people and its inability to accept and value dissent.

The two main things slowing down Morocco’s evolution as a just society are illiteracy and Moroccan’s unassertive and uncritical political mentality.

The monarchy strives to present Morocco as a just society because a veneer of democracy is critical to the government’s foreign relations with Europe and the US and the flow of foreign capital into the country.

On Blogging

I started blogging in Iraq. It was my third visit to that war-torn country and I was then working for an NGO.

I’m motivated by the temerity and ingenuity of the Moroccan blogging community. It has been instrumental in affecting positive change in the way Moroccans think and the way the international community thinks about Morocco. It plays a pivotal role in drawing attention to human rights violations. It is indeed a force to be reckoned with and I am proud to be part of it.

Maghreb Voices celebrates the art, culture, and struggles of the peoples of Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, in northern Africa.

Notes From the Front:

?Je suis prête à donner deux ans de ma vie en prison pour que les choses changent au Maroc. Je peux même donner quatre ans, dix ans ou toute ma vie pour que les conditions du peuple marocain s?améliorent.?

Zahra Boudkour, speaking from prison August 3, 2009

Arrested during a student protest on May 28, 2008, Zahra Boudkour and nine other students were accused of having attempted murder and of setting a fire during the demonstration, both of which charges they deny. As in the later demonstration in Taghjijt on December 1, 2009, the students were simply demanding better conditions for university students when the police violently dispersed them. Zahra and a number of other students were beaten and tortured while questioned for several days.

The prison cells are overcrowded and unsanitary and the medical care is deficient. Zahra and a number of other women in the cell suffer from numerous ailments that are going untreated.

An appeal trial is scheduled for March 19. To sign a petition for Zahra’s release go here.

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