Morocco tightens university security
By Siham Ali in Rabat for Magharebia – 15/05/2014
Local law enforcement authorities in Morocco now have authorisation to enter universities in the event of a threat to security or public order.
The May 6th decision, which followed the murder of a student at the University of Fez on April 24th, stirred up a big controversy in Morocco.
Security problems are affecting Moroccan universities in Agadir, Marrakech, Fez, Kenitra and Martil. Other towns that have suffered security lapses are Taza and Settat.
But this joint decision by the interior and higher education ministries did not garner the support expected.
National Higher Education Union Secretary-General Abdelkrim Madoun stressed that a security-based approach could not solve university problems and would only stir things up.
There needs to be a national dialogue to ensure that universities are places of discussion, knowledge and learning, he said.
This view was shared by sociologist Chada Balimi, who said that "militarising" universities was not a solution to the problem of violence and that instead, the focus should be on awareness-raising and dialogue in order to understand the real issues behind this phenomenon.
For his part, political analyst Jamal Farhani said that the government must react to the rise in violence in universities in order to curb this complex problem. Interventions must be targeted in co-ordination with university officials to ensure that forces are not excessively heavy-handed, he said.
But many students are opposed to the idea of law enforcement agencies intervening in universities altogether.
Karima Bahri is one of them. She disagreed with the new approach, saying universities were places of dialogue and education. Bahri underlined that alternatives should be identified in order to tackle the insecurity, especially since it only concerned a few universities in Morocco.
"The real issue is the need to foster a culture of dialogue and acceptance of difference," she told Magharebia.
On May 13th, parliamentarians expressed concern about the intervention of law enforcement agencies in universities and called on the government not to merely settle for a security-based approach to dealing with violence in universities.
The government is giving assurances.
According to Communications Minister Mustapha El Khalfi, the measure was adopted to maintain security in universities.
It will be implemented in strict accordance with Morocco's international commitments and constitutional provisions, which guarantee human rights and freedom of expression, El Khalfi added.
"Rigour will be the order of the day when it comes to acts of violence in universities and residence halls, and student groups responsible for violence on university premises will be dealt with firmly," Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad told lawmakers this week.
But local authorities must co-ordinate their efforts with campus officials, "in order to foster a university culture of tolerance and desire for knowledge", the minister reassured MPs.
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