Morocco issues pre-emptive ban on renowned French feminist group
By Naoufel Cherkaoui for Magharebia in Rabat -- 26/02/09
The Moroccan government said it would ban the French association "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" (Neither Whores nor Submissives) from opening offices in Morocco, if and when the association requests permission to do so.
The early ban was based on the association's approach to women issues, a government statement said on Friday (February 20th).
"The trend of that association, which is engaged in respectable work in France, does not conform with the approach adopted in Morocco for dealing with issues related to the situation of women," the Interior Ministry said. "According to Moroccan law, it will be banned."
As Hassan Daoudi, a member of the General Secretariat of Morocco’s Islamist Justice and Development Party, noted to Magharebia, the association "must respect the Moroccan particularities".
The association has not yet requested permission to work in Morocco, founders said, which made the ministry's statement a surprise.
The group's president, Sihem Habchi, characterised the ban as a consequence of "the debate started by Islamists and some old-fashioned women's associations". She noted that some have accused the association of bringing France's problems to Morocco.
"Ni Putes Ni Soumises" is a feminist group founded in Paris in 2003 by French-Algerian Fadela Amara (now the French Secretary of State for Urban Affairs) to fight violence against Muslim women in France's suburbs. The association also fights for women's rights and against social maltreatment, such as the pressure to wear hijab, drop out of school or enter into early and arranged marriages.
"The coercion of girls to marry is considered a Euro-Mediterranean issue, as well as girls' education, and they are among our priorities in Morocco," Habchi said.
The ban may have come as a reaction to what Zeineb Zulfakar, one of the founders of the association, said in late December. She said that the association intended to open a branch in Morocco by March 8th, International Women’s Day, given the persistent problems "related to women, in spite of the efforts made by Moroccan associations".
"The goal of the establishment of a branch for the association is to support the Moroccan dynamism that has made women’s situation a key issue," Habchi said. "I understand that the name of the association is hard to use in Morocco, but it reflects the tough reality that is violent in itself."
Banning Ni Putes Ni Soumises "was not a wise move", said Moroccan Association of Human Rights President Khadija Riyadi. At a time when there are branches of several international associations in Morocco," Riyadi said she cannot see why "Neither Whores nor Submissive" should not have a Morocco office. "
That decision is meaningless," Riyadi added, "because the association has yet to submit an application for the establishment of a branch in Morocco. Thus, it is part of the trial of intentions that the ministry has recently started to do. How can the ministry know which approach the association will adopt in Morocco and whether it is the same one it adopted by in France or different from it?"
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