Teacher identity formation in the Arab region: A key to renewal

by Amin Marei* and Dr. Dan Wagner**

Abstract: According to the United Nations, the publication of six Arab Human Development Reports between 2002 and 2016 has become a “milestone” for guiding reform policies in the Arab region. These flagship reports provide recommendations for addressing the enormous challenges faced by Arab countries in the twenty-first century. In this paper, we investigate how human development policies were considered in these Arab regional reports, including various features of teachers’ professional identity in the public education system. Teacher identity formation has been defined as the “set of reifying, significant, and endorsable narratives that may self-define a teacher.” The impact of teacher identity formation has implications not only for one of the largest professions in the Middle East but also for the millions of students that teachers reach daily.


Historical perspectives

Throughout the history of the Arab region, teachers have played a pivotal role in advancing social change through education.[1] Consequently, teachers have consistently tried to navigate demanding sociocultural expectations related to their roles and responsibilities. These expectations, which were, and are, often conflicting, have significantly influenced teachers’ professional identities. Faced by a taxing school climate, often without the necessary incentives and support, many teachers have felt “oppressed” by traditional educational and social structures. Perhaps, as a result, many of these teachers prefer the convenience or comfort of classical teaching methods that adhere to a “banking education” pedagogy.[2] Following what might be called a traditional pedagogical method, many teachers see student minds as blank slates that they could mould and control through “rote” pedagogy.[3]

Encouraged by cultural norms that promote student obedience and silence, teachers following this system can be seen as “oppressors” of their students.[4] This duality in teachers’ professional identities corresponds to what Freire originally defined as the “oppressor-oppressed contradiction.”[5] In this contradiction, teachers–oppressed by the system–are themselves oppressing their students, thus becoming, simultaneously, both oppressors and oppressed. Some researchers have advocated for the critical examination of this contradiction in the teaching profession in order to promote social justice.[6]

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Arab region has experienced significant economic, social, and political challenges—as widely reported in the press. These developments have exacerbated teachers’ working conditions, employment instability, and more while at the same time elevating the role of teachers as knowledge facilitators and gatekeepers of economic success.[7] Ultimately, these circumstances have considerably influenced policies targeting teachers. To understand how these policies framed and addressed the various features of teachers’ professional identities in the public education system, we closely examined  the Arab Human Development Reports (AHDRs), an influential source of Arab education policy.[8] The AHDRs consist of six major reports published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) between 2002 and 2016 and provide policy recommendations for addressing multiple challenges confronting Arab countries in the twenty-first century.[9] In the AHDRs, there are diverse–and at times conflicting–policy narratives related to teachers’ professional identities, as discussed below.

Teacher identity formation

A teacher’s professional identity may be thought of as being continuously constructed and reconstructed through interactions with social actors (e.g., students and administrators), structures, and influential narratives.[10] n early AHDR, states “teachers [are] ‘oppressors’ of their pupils, [and] are, in turn, subject to oppression by the educational administration.”[11] Even though this quote highlights the “oppressor-oppressed contradiction,” it is much less clear how the contradiction mentioned in the AHDRs occurs or how it should be resolved. Furthermore, it demonstrates a failure to recognize teachers’ agency, especially as they  face adverse working conditions. Finally, the AHDRs frame teachers as unaware or passive oppressors who  unconsciously subjugate their students and nurture them to become potential future oppressors.

The AHDR policy recommendations, representing a top-down approach, portray teachers as largely passive and unqualified, rather than recognizing their knowledge and ability to influence change. At the same time, even though the policies in the AHDRs advocate for a “radical change” in the teaching profession that involves assigning teachers with more responsibilities, the policies themselves seem to lack a coherent plan to  foster knowledge dissemination and critical thinking skills. In other words, the AHDRs offer generic professional development policies that assume the presence of a homogenous body of teachers across the Arab region.

Yet, the Arab region spans twenty-two states with divergent histories, resources, languages, and sociocultural conditions, and thus teachers across the region come from a wide variety of backgrounds. The AHDR assumptions concerning the homogeneity of teachers’ professional identities and their respective resources operate as a structural constraint on the adaptation of teachers to local contexts, thus overburdening them with responsibilities without offering the necessary means for success. A teacher’s identity serves as a fundamental building block of their profession,[12] within which there exists three broad and significant variations: ethnolinguistic background, gender, and religion.[13] We turn to each of these now.

Ethnolinguistic diversity has influenced teachers’ identities in the Arab region. This, in turn, influences their practices and relationships with their students. For example, Iraqi and Syrian teachers belonging to the Kurdish ethnic minority and living outside of Kurd-dominated areas often experience structural and social discriminatory practices.[14] These practices require instructors to teach in Modern Standard Arabic, adopt a curriculum that may exclude their own identity, and deal with potentially antagonistic student perceptions. Contemporary ethnic conflicts happening in Arab countries, such as Iraq and Syria, have displaced millions of citizens, exacerbating the ethnolinguistic challenges endured (and perhaps also fostered) by teachers. In Morocco, there is a serious issue of teaching in Modern Standard Arabic, since many of the students only speak Moroccan dialect or Amazigh.[15] Many of these teachers are tasked with the daunting responsibility of educating students with different and sometimes opposing identities while negotiating their own ethnolinguistic identity, often with little or no institutional support.

In terms of gender, sociocultural expectations significantly influence perceptions of teachers and their ability to perform their role effectively. For example, in some Arab nations, teaching is increasingly being perceived as a predominantly female job, especially for  early grade levels.[16] This perception influences the professional and personal identities of male and female teachers and their ability to support student achievement. In Oman, many males refuse to work as teachers because it is not a “socially prestigious career.”[17] This scarcity of Omani male teachers poses limitations on the learning experience of male students who may not feel comfortable in an environment where they do not feel represented. Overall, the gender gap in educational equity in many Arab countries may be reinforced by the differences in how females and males perceive and act in their roles as teachers.[18]

Religion is a central pillar for most communities in the Arab region. Consequently, teachers’ religious beliefs deeply influence their worldviews and professional identities. As a result, teachers’ religiosity can impact teachers’ motivation, instructional practices, and interactions with the community.[19] Religion may also shape socio-cultural perceptions of teachers’ identities in a way that limits their ability to teach certain subjects. As the most followed religion in the Arab region, Islam strongly influences teachers’ views. For example, one study revealed how Egyptian science teachers preferred religious over scientific explanations when both views conflicted.[20] This type of instructional decision-making can have profound repercussions, including the way that students’ do or do not understand the compatibility of science and religion.

Even though the AHDRs mention of communal engagement iss imperative to the success of its policy recommendations concerning teachers, they tend to focus on the development of human (economic) capital without addressing the role of teachers’ social and cultural capital in advancing these same policies.[21] In a region that is heavily dominated by a collectivist culture, such policies appear to have missed an influential component of teachers’ professional identities – namely their social capital. In this regard, a study of Emirati special education teachers provided evidence that teachers with consistent social support experienced less burnout and greater achievement.[22] Based on this and similar studies, it is essential for teacher education policies to include additional ways in which a collectivist orientation can contribute to greater teacher resilience in the contested space of schooling.[23]

Conclusion

In a region where more than 200 million citizens have yet to reach the age of thirty and constitute sixty percent of the population, teachers necessarily can and will play an integral role in shaping the educational and economic futures of the Arab region.[24] Accordingly, understanding the formation of teachers’ professional identities is imperative for devising policies and practices that aim to advance the teaching profession and the prospects of future generations of students. When the initial AHDR was published in 2002, it was one of the first reports to suggest reviewing the United Nations Human Development Index by including more indicators on education and knowledge acquisition.[25] The six AHDRs have provoked important public and policy debates about education across the region over nearly two decades.[26]

Future educational policy recommendations should acknowledge the prominence of teachers as drivers of progress. Such recommendations for teachers must take into account the multiple professional identities in a diverse region, including language, gender, and religion, at a minimum. One way to do this is  to include teachers’ voices in professional development policies. Top-down approaches are insufficient. Further, the negative ramifications of leaving the “oppressor-oppressed contradiction” unresolved remains a serious source of tension in the region. The teaching profession, and its future, will necessarily be a key component of any renewal in the Middle East in the years to come.

*Amin Marei completed his M.Ed. in Education in 2017 from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, with a focus on equity in educational technology. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education, Culture, and Society at The University of Pennsylvania. Amin’s research explores the role of teachers’ professional learning communities and technology in influencing student learning in low-income and marginalized settings in the Middle East.

**Dr. Dan Wagner is a Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy, Director of the International Literacy Institute (ILI), Founding Director of the National Center on Adult Literacy (NCAL),and Director of Penn GSE’s International Educational Development Program (IEDP). Dr. Wagner received his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Michigan, was a two-year postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Fellow at the International Institute of Education Planning in Paris, a Visiting Professor at the University of Geneva, and a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Paris.


Notes:

[1] United Nations Development Programme and Arab Human Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Human Development Report: Towards Freedom in the Arab World (New York: United Nations Publication, 2004), 147.

[2] Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1970), 72.

[3] Daniel A. Wagner, Learning as Development: Rethinking International Education in a Changing World (New York: Routledge, 2018); Daniel A. Wagner, Rediscovering “rote”:  Some Cognitive and Pedagogical Preliminaries (New York: Plenum, 1983), 179-190.

[4] Sadegh Pordanjani and Laode Guntur, “Investigating the Implementation of Critical Literacy Approach in the Middle-East Education Contexts,” ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities 2, no. 3 (2019); 410-418.

[5] Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1-43.

[6] Kevin K. Kumashiro, Against Common Sense: Teaching and Learning toward Social Justice (New York: Routledge, 2015).

[7] William A. Rugh, “Arab education: Tradition, growth and reform,” The Middle East Journal (2002); 396-414; Muhammad Faour and Marwan Muasher, Education for Citizenship in the Arab world: Key to the Future (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011); Emma Dorn et al., Drivers of Student Performance: Middle East and North Africa Insights (Dubai: McKinsey & Company Publication, 2017), 8-55.

[8] United Nations Development Programme and Arab Human Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab Human Development Report: Building a Knowledge Society (New York: United Nations Publication, 2003), 1-13; Randall Kuhn, “On the Role of Human Development in the Arab Spring,” Population and Development Review 38, no. 4 (2012); 649-683.

[9] “Impact of the Arab Human Development Reports.”

[10] Douwe Beijaard, Paulien C. Meijer, and Nico Verloop. “Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity,” Teaching and Teacher Education 20, no. 2 (2004); 107-128.

[11] UNDP, AHDRs: Towards Freedom, 2004.

[12] Beijaard et al., “Reconsidering,” 107-128.

[13] Khaled Asbah, Muhammed Abu Nasra, and Khawla Abu-Baker. “Gender perceptions of male and female teachers in the Arab education system in Israel,” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 10, no. 3 (2014); 109-124.

[14]Abdulkafi Albirini, Modern Arabic Sociolinguistics: Diglossia, Variation, Codeswitching, Attitudes and Identity (New York: Routledge, 2016), 39-43.

[15] Daniel A.Wagner,  Literacy, Culture and Development: Becoming Literate in Morocco (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

[16] Asbah, “Gender perceptions,” 109-114; World Bank, “Primary education, teachers (% female),” accessed November 1, 2019, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.PRM.TCHR.FE.ZS.

[17]  Ali S. Al-Issa, and Ali H. Al-Bulushi. “English Language Teaching Reform in Sultanate of Oman: The case of theory and practice disparity.” Educational Research for Policy and Practice 11, no. 2 (2012); 141-176.

[18] Elbadawy, Asmaa, Dennis Ahlburg, Deborah Levison, and R. Assaad. “Private and Group Tutoring in Egypt: Where is the Gender Inequality?” IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc, 2007.; Audrey Osler, and Chalank Yahya, “Challenges and Complexity in Human Rights Education: Teachers’ Understandings of Democratic Participation and Gender Equity in Postconflict Kurdistan-Iraq.” Education Inquiry 4, no. 1 (2013); 189-210.

[19] Kimberly R. White, “Connecting Religion and Teacher Identity: The Unexplored Relationship between Teachers and Religion in Public Schools,” Teaching and Teacher Education 25 (2009); 857-866.

[20] Nasser Mansour, “Science Teachers’ Views of Science and Religion vs. the Islamic Perspective: Conflicting or Compatible?” Science Education 95, no. 2 (2011); 281-309.

[21] UNDP, AHDR: Creating Opportunities, 18.

[22] Osamah Bataineh and Ahmed Alsagheer, “An Investigation of Social Support and Burnout among Special Education Teachers in the United Arab Emirates,” International Journal of Special Education 27, no. 2 (2012); 5-13.

[23] RosieLe Cornu, “Building Resilience in Pre-Service Teachers,” Teacher and Teacher Education 25, no. 5 (2009);717:723.

[24] United Nations Development Programme, Arab Human Development Report: Towards Freedom in the Arab World (New York: United Nations Publication, 2016), 59.

[25] UNDP, AHDR: Creating Opportunities, 15-33.

[26] Kuhn, “On the Role,” 649-683.

The JCPOA is dead, long live the JCPOA: Understanding Iranian foreign policy thinking

By Mahshad Badii*

Abstract: In her article, Mahshad Badii seeks to criticize the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy vis-à-vis Iran. She explores the tenants of the JCPOA and addresses the current US administration’s criticism and justifications for withdrawal. Because the Trump administration’s policy on Iran demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Iranian political thinking, she argues, it fails in its objectives to curtail Iranian influence. The current US policy erroneously frames American-Iranian relations as a zero-sum game, and therefore both feeds the Iranian siege mentality and strengthens hardliners at the expense of moderates.


 

The United States’ souring relationship with Iran is one of the core foreign policy issues facing the US today. From the 1980 Tehran embassy crisis to President Bush’s condemnation of Iran as a member of the ‘Axis of Evil’, American-Iranian relations have been tumultuous since the 1979 revolution. After seven years of on-and-off negotiations, the tide seemed to turn in 2015 as Iran and the P5+1 consolidated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which provided sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for nuclear restrictions and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nevertheless, since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has regularly rebuked the deal for its ineffectiveness and  supposed financial bolstering of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism. The final nail in the coffin came on May 8, 2018, when the US withdrew from the JCPOA and re-imposed sanctions.

The American decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and pursue a ‘maximum pressure’ policy with Iran demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Iranian political thinking. To the Trump administration, economic pressure on Iran will force the state to curb its regional activities and force new, broader negotiations that address not only Iran’s nuclear program, but also its ballistic missile program and aid to Hizbollah and Houthi rebels. However, such an outlook ignores that Iran’s nuclear and security policies are not solely motivated by a desire for regional influence, but also by a fear for national security which stems from the Iran-Iraq War. The international community’s silence after Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion, usage of chemical weapons, and targeting of civilian centres have shaped the Iranian belief that protecting itself from future attacks necessitates a vigilant national defence apparatus. Thus began the development of its nuclear, ballistic missile, and drone programmes.[1] The internalisation and instrumentalisation of this collective trauma is best expressed by chief-nuclear negotiator and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a 2016 op-ed defending Iran’s recent ballistic missile test:

“Our people understand that we need to be prepared to prevent that illegal and absurd threat from ever becoming a reality […] It is against this backdrop that we develop and test our indigenous defensive capabilities.”[2]

Over thirty years later, it is easy to dismiss the argument that wartime trauma drives Iran’s defence apparatus as outdated. However, an ongoing Iranian fear of attack is not without merit: a US congressional report on arms transfers to developing countries revealed that between 2008 and 2015 the Gulf Cooperation Council ordered over $162 billion USD worth of weapons, nearly 180 times Iran’s $900 million worth of arms imports over the same period .[3] This difference in weapons quantity is exacerbated by a difference in quality. Current Iranian ballistic missile technology lacks precision-strike capability, increasing its vulnerability to air-delivered counterstrikes by Gulf and Israeli air forces equipped with precise long-range missiles. In addition to a massive disadvantage in arms, Iran is also inhibited by severely inferior airpower compared to its neighbors. As of 2018, Iran had no fully modern combat aircraft, compared to Israel’s 322 and Saudi Arabia’s 266.[4] Considering the need and desire for Iranian self-sufficiency, rather than cornering Iran into negotiations, Washington’s strategy is more likely to result in Iran doubling down on military activities out of fear for national security.

In fact, an analysis of the past forty years of Iran’s behavior demonstrates that, regardless of economic pressure, Iran has always continued to pursue activities it deems necessary for its survival. While the US withdrawal from the JCPOA was intended to restrain the activities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s IRGC budget has increased over the past three years, with a budget of 154 trillion rials for the fiscal year 2017-2018 to 254 trillion rials for the past fiscal year, 2018-2019.[5] It is important to note that this continual increase in funding is offset by cuts to other items in the Iranian budget. The Ministry of Defence, for example, experienced a 51% budget cut over the last two years while the Artesh (Iranian Army) now receives less than half the funding of the IRGC. Even when one considers the impact of rampant inflation, the IRGC and its affiliates have consistently captured 50% of the official military budget over the past three years. Such official budgets fail to capture the IRGC’s other sources of funding; experts estimate that the IRGC controls somewhere between 20% to 40% of the Iranian economy via front companies in defence, oil, and construction.[6] Ultimately, while sanctions have squeezed Iran and led to an overall decline in the defence budget, the Iranian government continues to prioritise and fund the very activities that US foreign policy aims to curb, calling into question the efficacy of sanctions in the first place.

Furthermore, US abandonment of JCPOA in pursuit of a hard-line policy strengthens the position of Iranian hardliners at the expense of moderates. Since the election of President Rouhani in 2013, there has been an ongoing power struggle between the moderate Rouhani administration, including Zarif, and hardliners, including the IRGC and its elite Quds Force, led until recently by General Qasem Soleimani. With the rial losing nearly 70% of its value since the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran, much of the blame for the current economic crisis has been directed at the Rouhani administration. In October 2019, IranPoll found that Rouhani’s approval rate had fallen below 50% for the first time in his presidency, while Soleimani remained the most popular Iranian political figure among those surveyed. Soleimani’s almost cult-like status in Iran is especially important following his assassination by an American drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, 2020. With Soleimani as his martyr, Khamenei has been able to rally the nation around the flag, justify military actions abroad, and elect hardliners to office on the promise of protecting Iranians from American belligerence. This past February, Iranian parliamentary elections yielded a landslide victory for Iran’s conservatives, with a 76% increase in seats held. Meanwhile, as public approval falls for the moderates, the IRGC is predicted to profit and grow in power from the resulting expansion of the black market, which it dominates.[7] By placing the formal Iranian economy in a chokehold, US foreign policy inadvertently strengthens the IRGC, the body responsible for much of the operations that concern the US, and fails to curtail Iranian influence.

Ultimately, if policymakers wish to limit Iran’s regional and nuclear activities, they must do so with a pragmatic outlook: it is unreasonable to expect Iran, whose foreign policy draws strongly from a survivalist mentality, to agree to any deal that curtails all military activities. Instead, policymakers should seek compromises acceptable to both sides. Herein lies the difference in how the Obama and Trump administrations each defined their relationship with Iran. The Obama administration, choosing to initiate nuclear negotiations without preconditions, framed the US-Iran relationship as an arena for win-win possibilities. The Trump administration, by contrast, views the Iran relationship as zero-sum: one side’s gains are the other’s losses, and therefore the only approach to Iran is one of maximum pressure.

But such a pessimistic outlook from the Trump administration overlooks that the US-Iran relationship has always been what administrations make of it. For example, in the aftermath of 9/11, Bush administration officials met discreetly with a group of Iranian diplomats to discuss attacks on their mutual enemy, the Taliban. The two countries cooperated extraordinarily well until January 2002, when President Bush included Iran in the ‘Axis of Evil.’ The impact was immediate: Soleimani blasted his American counterparts for the turn-around, reformers in the Iranian government were silenced, and the US-Iran relationship deteriorated even further.[8] From this case we can draw a greater lesson on American-Iranian relations: to label and treat Iran as an international pariah is to feed the siege mentality and give a platform to hardliners. To address Iran as a state like any other is to invite negotiations, compromise, and a path forward.

The JCPOA can and should be renegotiated. In fact, despite hostile rhetoric from the Trump administration, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified Iran’s JCPOA compliance on thirteen separate occasions since its ratification.[9] Even with Iran’s January 5th announcement that it will no longer abide by the JCPOA’s uranium enrichment limitations, Iranian officials have emphasized that all rollbacks are reversible and that they will continue to cooperate fully with the IAEA.[10] From the deal’s inception to the aftermath of the US withdrawal, Iran has demonstrated that it is willing to compromise.

Still, a new deal must also go beyond the scope of the pre-existing nuclear agreement. The JCPOA failed to tackle Iranian backing of terrorist groups and proxy groups, while American banking regulations under terrorism legislation have nullified much of the economic  relief expected from the original deal. Iran’s influence in war-torn states like Syria and Yemen means any peace settlements will require Iranian cooperation to be sustainable Furthermore, Iran’s substantial level of influence over Iraqi affairs, meticulously cultivated through ties to Iraq’s foremost political officials, suggests recognition that any escalation of US-Iranian tensions will most likely play out in Iraq — whether in the form of more strikes or public protests by Iraqis against American and Iranian influence in their country. For the US, the next battle will include bringing Iran back to the negotiating table. However, any negotiations will be impossible as long as the international community, led by the United States, continues to isolate Iran.

 

*Mahshad Badii is about to conclude her B.A. in Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. After her graduation in May 2020, she will be pursuing Middle Eastern policy research in Washington, DC.


Notes:

[1]Ariane Tabatabai and Annie Tracy Samuel, “Managing U.S.-Iran Relations: Critical Lessons from the Iran-Iraq War” (Cambridge, Mass.: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, November 2017), https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/managing-us-iran-relations-critical-lessons-iran-iraq-war.

[2] Mohammad Javad Zarif, “Zarif: Why Iran Is Building up Its Defenses,” The Washington Post, April 20, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/zarif-what-critics-get-wrong-about-iran-and-the-nuclear-agreement/2016/04/20/7b542dee-0658-11e6-a12f-ea5aed7958dc_story.html.

[3] Catherine A. Theohary, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, CRS Report No. R44716 (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2016), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R44716.pdf.

[4] Anthony H Cordesman, The Iranian Missile Challenge (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2019), https://www.csis.org/analysis/iranian-missile-threat.

[5] Plan and Budget Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Budget Bill for 1398 (Tehran, Iran: 2019) http://irandataportal.syr.edu/wp-content/uploads/budget1398-1.pdf.

Plan and Budget Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Budget Bill for 1397 (Tehran, Iran: 2018) http://irandataportal.syr.edu/wp-content/uploads/Budget-1397.pdf.

[6]CFR.org editors, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Washington, DC: Council on Foreign Relations, 2019),  https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/irans-revolutionary-guards.

[7] Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, “Tougher U.S. Sanctions Will Enrich Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Foreign Policy, October 4, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/04/irans-revolutionary-guard-corps-wont-suffer-from-stronger-u-s-sanctions-theyll-benefit-irgc-trump-sanctions/.

[8] Dexter Filkins, “The Shadow Commander,” The New Yorker, September 23, 2013, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/09/30/the-shadow-commander.

[9] On Thin Ice: The Iran Nuclear Deal at Three, (Washington, DC: International Crisis Group, 2019), https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/195-thin-ice-iran-nuclear-deal-three.

[10]  Javad Zarif (@JZarif), “As 5th % final REMEDIAL step under paragraph 36 of JCPOA,” Twitter, January 5, 2020, 11:10a.m., https://twitter.com/JZarif/status/1213900666164432900.

#Masaktach: Social Media and Sexual Violence Against Women in Morocco

By Ella Williams*

Abstract: This article addresses the issue of sexual violence against women in Morocco, including the legal, social, and cultural barriers facing women victims of sexual violence and the role of the media in perpetuating discourses of blame and shame. Drawing on fieldwork carried out in Rabat, she provides an in-depth exploration of #Masaktach, a Moroccan civil society movement that aims to break the silence surrounding sexual violence against women. An examination of the movement permits a broader discussion of the themes of social activism and social change, and the article aims to advocate for a more holistic approach to measuring social change in North Africa within the field of gender issues.


 

“Il faut que la honte change de camps”

Majdouline Lyazidi, Co-founder of Women-Shoufouch Movement, Morocco

 

1 – Masaktach: Setting the Scene

1.1 Scholarly interest in sexual violence against women in North Africa

Although Sanja Kelly, co-author of Freedom House’s Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance, argues that “gender-based violence remains one of the most serious obstacles in women’s lives” in North Africa, and despite an abundance of reports from international, national, and non-governmental organisations that promote women’s rights and gender equality through exploring gender-based violence in North Africa, there is a lack of scholarly work concerning sexual VAW in the Maghreb.[1] An interest in sexual harassment in the public sphere started to emerge during the Arab uprisings of 2011, particularly in Egypt where sexual assaults and rapes took place during protests, leading to increased scholarly activity around the topic. Despite this, the majority of information available about sexual harassment of women in Morocco remains limited to personal experiences and testimonies from women, shared via blogs, online newspapers, and social media. Amongst the few studies, Sadiqi and Ennaji (2006) examine the dichotomous relationship between private and public space in Morocco, arguing that women are frequently subjected to sexual harassment in public places that remain hostile to them.[2] El Ghazouani (2015) examines the issue of street harassment in Morocco by exploring women’s testimonies, the role of their dress as a possible reason for harassment, and the potential solutions to this phenomenon.[3] Chafai (2017) contextualizes street harassment in Morocco by exploring the relationship between the discriminatory, stereotypical images of Moroccan girls and women, and the violence that is committed against them.[4] Other research has investigated the enforcement of laws and the absence of legislation to prevent sexual VAW. Ennaji (2011) explores the legal framework regarding gender-based violence, with reference to sexual harassment in the workplace as criminalized for the first time by the 2004 labour code, arguing that although the laws are not discriminatory as such, they become so through their application.[5]

My research aims to add to this small, but growing, body of studies on sexual VAW in the Maghreb, as well as fill a gap in academic knowledge, by exploring in-depth one of the numerous civil society campaigns that have emerged in post-Arab Spring Morocco targeting violence against women. Apart from journalistic reports, these civil society movements have not been subject to academic study, with the exception of Skalli (2014) who gives an overview of social media-based anti-sexual harassment initiatives in post-Arab Spring in Egypt and Morocco.[6]

collage

Images taken with permission from the Masaktach Instagram account.

1.2 Statistics: sexual violence against women in Morocco

“If you haven’t been stalked all the way to your front door at least seven times in your life as a girl, you must’ve been the lone survivor of some kind of apocalypse that hit North Africa.”[7]

18- year-old Libyan Danya Hajjaji

Before beginning my exploration of the Masaktach movement, it is essential to provide a background to the historical and social context in which the movement operates. Sexual violence falls within the broader framework of gender-based violence. The 1993 UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) defines VAW as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”[8] Sexual violence can take many forms, including domestic violence, early marriage, forced marriage, honour killings, female genital mutilation, sex trafficking, forced prostitution, rape, and sexual harassment, taking place in both the private and public sphere. The 2011 Moroccan Constitution declares all Moroccans as equal under the law by promoting equality of opportunity and social justice and officially prohibiting any gender-based discrimination. In addition, Morocco has signed three key international documents regarding gender-based violence: the Beijing Platform for Action, the UN DEVAW, and the Millennium Development Goals, one of which involves the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women. Despite this, sexual VAW continues to be a widespread, recurrent issue in Moroccan society.

The first and only national survey carried out by the Moroccan High Commission for Planning on VAW found that nearly two thirds (62.8%) of women had experienced physical, psychological, sexual, or economic violence in the one-year period preceding the survey, and the 2018 USAID Gender Analysis for Morocco reported that nearly one quarter (24%) of women had experienced sexual violence during their lifetime.[9]  Street harassment is a prolific problem in Moroccan society. In 2008, the ADFM published the results of their second study, which showed that one third of male interviewees considered sexual harassment to be ‘normal’ behaviour.[10] Chafai argues that “frequent harassment of women by strangers in public and semi-public areas is a harsh reality facing women daily in Morocco.”[11]

1.3 Legal Framework and the 2018 Violence against Women Law

Since 2011, Morocco has made a number of legislative steps towards tackling sexual VAW. In 2013, the articles of the Penal Code that forbade the “kidnapping, hijacking and displacement of a married woman” were repealed (Penal Code of Morocco 1962, arts. 494–496). These articles had effectively criminalized shelters for female victims of violence and put those fleeing them at risk of  prosecution. In 2014, article 475 of the Penal Code (art. 475.2) was repealed, which had allowed a rapist to marry his underage victim in order to escape criminal prosecution.

The most highly anticipated legislative reform was Law 103-13 on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which came into effect on 12 September 2018. Brought about after more than twelve years of diverse governmental and civil society efforts, the law was promoted as a progressive step forward for women. Analyses from legal experts, international human rights organisations, and Moroccan NGOs, however, have detailed numerous shortcomings and deficiencies. Stephanie Bordat, international human rights lawyer working across the Magheb, believes that “what the law basically did is create a couple of new crimes or it increased the prison time for the crimes that already existed.”[12] The law does not criminalize marital rape and provides no definition of domestic violence. In addition, it does not put in place systems and services for victims of sexual violence, such as mechanisms regarding reporting, investigation, and prosecution, or shelter, healthcare, and legal aid provisions. There are also a number of obstacles which prevent women from coming forward to make a complaint. For example, civil protection cannot be provided until after a penal complaint has been formally registered, a lengthy process during which women are left very vulnerable. Women also have to provide a medical certificate of incapacity for more than 20 days in order to start the penal process. Furthermore, charges can be dropped if a victim decides to drop them, which puts women under pressure and open to threats. Public actors such as judges and police are also under no obligation to carry out their role in taking the matter seriously and conducting a full investigation. Nouzha Skalli, ex-Minister of Solidarity, Women, Family, and Social Development and founder of the ADFM, has described the law as “a missed opportunity to achieve unanimity around the protection of women from violence,” proclaiming that “Morocco deserves better than the new VAW law.”[13]

Currently, only 3% of women who are victims of violence report it to the authorities and only 1.3% of complaints of VAW result in arrest.[14] In addition, a 2007 ADFM report revealed that the vast majority of women who had at first filed a complaint of gender-based violence with the judicial and police authorities later turned to counselling and NGO legal assistance centres due to a failure to implement laws. As a result of the vast shortcomings of the much-anticipated Law 103-03, those working within the civil society sector are not optimistic that the new law will change this current reality.

1.4 Social issues: discourses of blame and shame

“[Sexual harassment] was so prevalent that complaining about it was like complaining about bad weather. Besides, even if I had spoken about this, I would have been the one blamed, not him.”[15]

Moroccan writer Laila Lalami

Lawrence Rosen, in his numerous studies of the impact of custom on law, with an emphasis on Morocco, concluded that “custom and law are not discrete categories, but are in many instances conceptually merged,” not only in people’s minds but also in judges’ interpretation of the law.[16] In Morocco, despite the progress made within civil society and the legal framework in the last decade, a number of cultural and social norms allow for the continued presence of sexual VAW. Such norms also prevent effective reporting of VAW and support for female victims.

Moroccan society remains patriarchal; women are subject to the blame/shame logic, which in Morocco is often expressed through the concept of hchouma, a complex social phenomenon claimed to regulate social conduct for both men and women in the community. The implications of hchouma control the attitudes, activities, and reasoning of girls and women and set the limits designated by social and cultural norms. Sanday (1990) explains the myth of patriarchal societies in terms of “sexual subjectivity.”[17] In societies of male dominance, the responsibility for the desires, fantasies, and subsequent violent actions of males are projected onto the female, a process central to entitlement, a key aspect of the subjective engenderment of men in male-dominant cultures. Men are presented as the object of women’s sexual power, so that their response to that perceived power cannot be considered the action of an agent, but rather the victim of female sexuality. Conway-Long describes this as a society where “men are at the center, women are the problem […] men are freed from responsibility for their own behavior, women are burdened by their ultimate culpability for anything that men do to women. It is an odd sort of subjectification in that men are constructed to be the acting subjects of their world, yet are not responsible for their actions, or for the impact of their actions upon others.”[18] This failure to empathize with the recipient of one’s violence is a key feature of sexist masculine subjectivity. As a result, cases of sexual violence in Morocco are often accompanied with attempts to blame female victims and women as a whole, rather than the perpetrator.

Patriarchal concepts of blame and shame in Moroccan society also manifest themselves in the elaboration of gender roles via a traditional gender paradigm, with the centrality of the family, rather than the individual, as the main unit of society. Social behaviour and interaction are moderated by a ‘code of modesty,’ in which family honour and dignity rest on the reputation and good behaviour of girls and women. Skalli writes that “in societies where women’s bodies and mobility are controlled through strictly prescribed codes of ‘purity’ and honour, any violation of the women’s body is taken as a dishonour of the entire family or community for which women, and not their aggressor(s) are held responsible.”[19] Furthermore, the dichotomous relationship between public and private space in Morocco “establishes a problematic dimension that unconsciously obliges women to recognize that public space is male territory, an attitude which inculcates feelings of fear or guilt when women experience assault or rape by strangers,” leading women to accept daily acts of violence as the inevitable price for entering the public space.[20] As a result of these cultural and societal norms, social stigmas often pertain to female victims rather than male perpetrators, and many women victims of sexual violence feel that they cannot come forward without damaging their family honour and their own reputation.

Given the outspoken nature of civil society movements such as Masaktach, it is also important to emphasize that sexual violence still remains a taboo topic in Moroccan society. Žvan Elliott argues that “gendered discrimination, or indeed violence is perceived as a private matter.”[21] This has created a culture of silence around sexual violence. Skalli argues that “blaming the victim of sexual harassment, which is pervasive in North African societies as in all patriarchal societies, has condemned women to silence and, in the process, condoned violence, normalised it, and trivialised it.”[22] Laila Lalami, Moroccan author, writes that silence “is what binds all these men together. Silence is what they count on, what allows them to continue.”[23]

In conclusion, Chafai sums up the current reality regarding sexual VAW in Morocco, writing that “more than a decade later, despite the significant reforms towards gender equality and the improvement of the situation of women in the family and in employment, ignorance, patriarchal values and conservative mentalities of both Moroccan citizens and those who implement the law – such as police, judges and authority figures in general – continue to be the practical obstacles to law enforcement and to women’s justice and emancipation.”[24]

1.5 The role of the media: Saad Lamjarred and Khadija

The representation of women in the Moroccan media has been subject to numerous academic studies.[25] Morocco’s state-owned media plays a pivotal role in perpetuating discourses of blame and shame with regards to sexual VAW, and it was two high-profile media cases that provided the spark that ignited the Masaktach campaign in late summer 2018.

1.5.1 Saad Lamjarred:

Saad Lamjarred is a Moroccan pop singer-songwriter, dancer, actor, and record producer. His song, “Lm3allem” is the highest viewed Arabic song on YouTube with over 800 million views. In February 2010, while visiting the United States, Saad Lamjarred was accused of beating and raping a woman in New York. Lamjarred fled the U.S. after posting bail and the case was dropped in 2016. Lamjarred was arrested again in Paris in October 2016 on charges of alleged sexual assault against a French woman. He was released in 2017, but still faced charges. In 2017, a French-Moroccan woman accused him of sexual misconduct and abuse at an apartment in Casablanca in 2015. She later withdrew the complaint. On 26th August 2018, Lamjarred was arrested again in France on a new rape allegation. He was imprisoned in France, but on 20th November 2018, it was announced that he had been cleared of rape charges and would be tried for ‘crimes of sexual assault and wilful violence.’ In December, after spending more than two months in a French prison, Lamjarred was released on parole.

Despite three rape charges, Lamjarred remains a hugely popular, yet controversial, figure in Morocco and received substantial public support during his legal trials. When the singer was arrested in 2016, for example, the Moroccan king himself intervened to cover the singer’s legal fees. Many fans maintained that the singer was the victim of a “plot” by neighbouring Algeria, and Moroccan media even showed footage of small protests “in solidarity” with the singer during his detention. The women who came forward with accusations against Lamjarred faced insults, death threats, and a lack of public support from Moroccan society, with fans claiming that the alleged victims were seeking to benefit from his fame. Additionally, in August 2018, Lamjarred was prominently featured in a video of artists put out for the birthday of King Mohammed VI, and the first song he released one year after the alleged incident, which was dedicated to the king, gained over 140 million views, demonstrating his enduring popularity. Moroccan psychologist Sanaa El Aji explained the mentality behind the support for Lamjarred: “he’s famous, good looking, so we support him… it’s an emblematic case of sympathy for the aggressor in a society where we always find excuses for men.”[26]

The media debate around Saad Lamjarred provided the initial fuel to the fire that ignited Masaktach, and Laila Slassi, one of the campaign’s initiators, believes that “the case of Saad Lamjarred is a symbol that brings together everything connected to rape culture and impunity.”[27] Lamjarred’s case propelled sexual VAW and the way it is dealt within Moroccan society into public debate, thus providing the opportunity to launch the Masaktach campaign; however it was the case of Khadija which ultimately triggered the Masaktach movement.

1.5.2 Khadija:

In August 2018, the story of Khadija, a seventeen year old girl from Oulad Ayad, a small village near Beni Mellal, hit national and international headlines. Khadija came forward claiming that she had been abducted from her village by a gang in June and held for two months, during which she was raped, starved, drugged, burnt with cigarettes, and tattooed with swastikas. After an initial outpouring of shock and sympathy, where the family received “thousands of phone calls,” media coverage of the case in the Moroccan media turned predominantly negative, and Khadija was accused of lying, having a ‘bad reputation,’ and largely accorded the blame for the horrific ordeal that she had undergone.[28] Airtime was given by the national media to those who sought to destroy Khadija’s reputation. ChoufTV aired an interview with the mother of two of the male suspects who claimed that “she has a bad reputation in Oulad Ayad, everyone knows that she drinks, she smokes, and she even burns herself with her cigarettes.” She further claimed that “she [Khadija] wanted this, she was always knocking on my door asking if my son was home.”[29] In addition to media coverage blaming and shaming Khadija, the image below, created by Casablanca-based artist Nada Hriouil, which she claims aimed to “raise awareness of this sad reality that we’re living,” demonstrates the extent of the problem regarding media coverage of sexual violence cases in Morocco.[30] Even coverage produced by women in solidarity with Khadija, aimed at empowering the victim, ended up presenting Khadija in a sexualized and disturbing manner, to some extent glamourising her horrendous ordeal.

SOS

@artbynada_, Instagram.

The treatment of Khadija and her case by the media sparked a public outcry. On social media, a campaign in support of Khadija was launched through the hashtag #JusticePourKhadija, and an online petition asking King Mohammed VI and the authorities to give Khadija justice and to help her family with financial costs and medical care gathered over 28,000 signatures.[31] This was an outrage shared by the group of women who initiated the Masaktach campaign. Laila Slassi explained in a roundtable conference how she was scrolling through Facebook when she discovered the story of Khadija and the way in which she had been treated by the media and the public. She immediately called her friend and fellow social activist Maria Karim, asking her: “what can we do?”[32] Shortly afterwards, the pair obtained Khadija’s mobile phone number from her father and the next day went to visit her in her hometown and listened to her story. Following this visit, Leila and Maria shared positive articles about Khadija online to fight the overwhelmingly negative coverage and also helped Khadija’s family to identify international journalists who would “cover the case in the right way.” Two other women involved in the movement, Aida Alami and Zineb Belmkaddem, also became involved as a direct response to the Khadija case. Although she is a feature reporter and doesn’t usually cover news stories, Aida decided to cover Khadija’s case when she saw the “horrific way the media covered this case, which brutalized this teenager a second time.”[33] In an effort to combat journalists that were writing about Khadija without any “due diligence,” repeating “truths and counter truths” and quoting anonymous sources without any substantiation, Aida read the full police report and aimed to give an unfiltered voice to Khadija, whilst Zineb translated the police report into English. For the founders of Masaktach, Khadija’s case made them realise that “the problem was much bigger than Khadija. In Morocco, the problem is that we accepted this because it is in our daily behaviour to just keep things silent. This silence allows rapists and aggressors to continue what they do, because nobody says their name.”[34]

 

2 – #Masaktach: the campaign begins

Chapters Two and Three are largely informed by fieldwork that I undertook in Rabat, Morocco. I have chosen in this chapter to document Masaktach predominantly through the voices of the activists behind the movement and the media reports covering the campaign. Even though giving the main stage to the activists risks presenting a biased picture of the value and impact of the Masaktach campaign, since I was not in Morocco during Masaktach’s main activity, my principal sources of information were limited to the activists themselves and media reports, many of which contained misinformation or were written by foreign journalists who had neither been on the ground nor spoken to the campaign’s founders. I attempt to mitigate this risk in Chapter Three, through an in-depth discussion of the criticisms of Masaktach.

Before examining Masaktach, it is important to underline that this is not the first social media-based civil society movement in Morocco with the aim of combatting sexual VAW. Since 2011, there have been a number of such movements as increasing numbers of female activists have employed digital technologies and online social spaces to expand upon the traditional methods of activism used by earlier generations of feminists (marches, petitions and lobbying). Significant campaigns include Women-Shoufouch, which was launched as a Facebook page by twenty-year-old Majdoline Lyazidi in August 2011.[35] Inspired by the Canadian SlutWalk campaign, the movement aimed to raise awareness about sexual harassment in Moroccan society. In March 2013, another Facebook page was launched called ‘’Denounce your Harasser,’ which appealed to women in its page description: “if you cannot knock out your harasser, if you cannot disarm him, take a picture of him and shame him.”[36] Despite the numerous civil society movements tackling sexual VAW that came before Masaktach and also used social media as a tool for activism, Masaktach, without a doubt, has gained the most attention in Moroccan society.

2.1 #Masaktach: what is it all about?

The Masaktach movement started as a hashtag launched on Twitter in August 2018. ‘Masaktach’ translates as ‘I will not be silent’ in Moroccan Arabic and is a civil society movement that aims to break the silence surrounding sexual violence in Morocco, as well as encouraging women to talk about their experiences of sexual violence and open a dialogue about sexual violence on social media and in Moroccan society. Zineb Belmkaddem describes the aim of Masaktach as “flipping the script where it should be flipped.” She believes that “women have been carrying the weight and shame of horrendous actions that are triggered by male violence. This isn’t fair. Enough is enough. We want to symbolically and literally make our voices heard.”[37] Although Loubna described the women behind Masaktach as “unapologetic feminists,” Leila Slassi was keen to point out that Masaktach is not about “women fighting men,” but rather “fighting against ideas” that are spread by both men and women, in order to educate people that this behaviour “is not normal or acceptable and it is punishable by law.”[38] Masaktach is a “spontaneous, grassroots movement,” rather than an NGO or organisation. In fact, Loubna believes that one of the main reasons why Masaktach spread is because it is a grassroots movement— “it’s not an organisation, it’s not an NGO, it’s not state-driven, it’s not affiliated, it’s not a political party, it’s just like-minded people complaining about stuff, and it’s a citizen movement.[39]

The movement started with organised Tweet sessions around predetermined topics, coordinated between the movement’s members. After the launch of Masaktach’s first ‘action’ against Saad Lamjarred, the campaign began to spread via Twitter and other social media platforms.

2.2 #Masaktach: the women behind the hashtag

The Masaktach campaign was initiated by four women, but later grew into a group of twelve people. There is no central leadership or fixed group involved in the behind-the-scenes of the campaign, and numerous people have come and gone or contributed on an ad hoc basis. The principal women behind the movement include: human rights lawyer Leila Slassi, who studied in Paris but is now based in Casablanca, and Aida Alami, a freelance journalist covering North Africa who has worked for the New York Times, Middle East Eye, and Al Jazeera English. Aida grew up in Marrakesh but moved to New York aged 18, and now lives between Rabat and France. Social activists Maria Karim, Zineb Belmkaddem, now based in Washington DC, and Loubna Rais also make significant contributions to the movement.

Three men were also highly involved in the Masakatach campaign in the initial stages, but two were forced to leave due to the harassment and abuse they received online for being involved in a feminist movement.[40]

2.3 #Masaktach: what has been achieved?

2.3.1 Saad Lamjarred

The first ‘action’ undertaken by Masaktach was targeting the music of Saad Lamjarred. Leila Slassi described how she was “shocked” to hear about the charges against the singer and that nobody had decided to “collectively say ‘enough is enough.’”[41] The women decided that “it was not appropriate for radio stations to continue broadcasting his music knowing what had happened,” and on 19 September 2018, the collective launched a coordinated Twitter campaign using the hashtags #LamjarredOut and #Masaktach.[42] Within one day, public opinion pressure led Moroccan radio station 2M to announce on Twitter that it would no longer be airing Lamjarred’s music, shortly followed by Hit Radio. Leila describes how the movement received “very positive feedback” from its first action; people expressed online that they agreed with the aims of Masaktach but had “never felt that there was an environment where they could say this.”[43] Bringing about the ban on Lamjarred’s music not only succeeded in generating an open discourse online around the way that sexual violence is treated in Moroccan society, but public opinion pressure generated by the hashtag also brought about a tangible change. After this initial victory, the Masaktach collective moved on to launch its largest campaign under the hashtag #ila_dsser_seffri.

2.3.2 #ila_dsser_seffri

Following the introduction of Law 103-13 on 12 September, Masaktach launched an awareness campaign under the hashtag #ila_dsser_seffri, which roughly translates as ‘if he harasses you, whistle.’ This campaign involved the Masaktach women going out onto the streets of Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakesh, handing out free whistles and pamphlets explaining Law 103-13. Loubna explained that the main aim of the whistle campaign was to spread awareness, since “a whole law had passed, but when we were talking to people on the street, they were not aware that there was a law.”[44] According to Loubna, when “laws involving behaviour change are passed, when it’s a society problem like drink-driving, there’s usually a PSA [public service announcement]. You have PSAs and the state is everywhere bombarding you with messages.” With Law 103-13, however, “there was nothing. The law was passed, and we didn’t hear about it.”[45] The aim of the campaign was therefore to give momentum to the law by immediately spreadingawareness that harassment was now criminalised. Leila described how they wanted to give women whistles to “make a lot of noise” and show that “we should not be ashamed; they should be ashamed.”[46] The whistles symbolised that sexual violence should not be internalized, in a declaration that: ‘I will react to this violence publicly and loudly.’ Aida believes that the whistles were particularly powerful because “men would be ashamed and afraid if you use them.”[47]

According to Zineb, who flew to Casablanca from her home in Washington DC to take part in the street campaign, on the streets the activists received an “overwhelmingly positive reaction,” and she described the campaign as “an amazing experience, nothing short of wonderful.”[48] She explained how, as a pro-democracy activist, “people used to throw stones,” but this was an “entirely different experience, we did not feel the level of danger we felt as activists when preaching pro-democracy; we felt then that we were touching a red line.” The Masaktach women also claimed to have received a positive reaction from men who they approached on the street. Loubna told me that some men approached her asking for whistles, telling her “I’m going to give them to my sister and my mother.”[49] One particular man delighted her by asking for some whistles, only to inform her that he was going to pose as pro-feminist and offer them to women as a new pick up line. Although told as a humorous anecdote, this story highlights one of the aims of the whistle campaign, which was to address the issue with men by approaching the topic with humour and a lack of aggression. The women believe that this would be an effective model for men to follow in intervening to denounce inappropriate behaviour of other men on the streets.

Although the reactions on the street were predominantly positive, the online reactions to the campaign were entirely different. The Masaktach activists, women, and girls pictured on the campaign’s Instagram account with the whistles received a lot of abuse, trolling, and threats. A large number of girls who had agreed to have their pictures taken with the whistles or who had tagged their pictures to the Instagram account contacted the page asking for their photos to be taken down to stop the abuse they were receiving.[50] After a period of time, when the women wanted the public to be able to read the type of comments they were receiving online, they made the decision to turn the comment function off on their Instagram page.[51] Despite this, the controversy the campaign created can also be viewed in a positive light, since it helped to create a buzz and send the campaign viral in Morocco. Zineb told me that she didn’t mind the negative comments since, “that’s how everything starts. Any change starts with people questioning these breakthrough ideas, it’s a part of the process.” She saw this as “a very positive sign” that “this society is ripe for these discussions.”[52]

The ila_dsser_seffri campaign became the most well-known aspect of the Masaktach campaign. Videos and memes that were created to mock the whistle campaign paradoxically helped to spread awareness of the campaign around the country. Consequently, the whistles are more known than the Masaktach hashtag or the campaigning done around Lamjarred and Khadija.[53] Travelling as far north as Tangier and Tetouan, Loubna asked people on the street if they had heard of Masaktach, and many of them replied to her: “oh, you mean the whistles?”[54] She also told me the story of a housekeeper, who was on a bus to work when a man boarded and announced to the bus: “hey women, stay away, I don’t want no whistles, and I don’t want no problems here. Just don’t get too close to me.”[55] In addition, when Aida was carrying out journalist work in a “very working-class neighbourhood of Casablanca,” she wore one of the whistles and had people recognise the symbol, including men on the street.[56] These personal anecdotes, however micro-level, indicate the possibility that awareness of the campaign may have spread beyond the central urban areas and across gender and class boundaries.

2.3.4 WhatsApp campaign

Running in parallel to the high-profile social media and street campaigns, the Masaktach collective also launched a lesser-known WhatsApp campaign which aimed to target women from lower social classes and from underserved regions. This involved spreading awareness about the new law and encouraging women to talk about the issue of sexual violence through the creation of WhatApp groups. Leila, for example, created a WhatsApp group for domestic workers in Casablanca, which started with 60 members and has since become much larger. To overcome the issue of illiteracy, she communicates mainly via voice-memos. Women in these groups also share memes, jokes, and empowering quotes translated into darija that challenge patriarchal and misogynistic attitudes. This campaign was more grassroots and more popular but didn’t receive any media attention. Despite this, Zineb believes that the WhatsApp groups were one of the main ways that Masaktach went viral, since “everyone has WhatsApp, even your housekeeper.”[57] The difficulty with attempting to evaluate the reach of these WhatsApp groups or substantiate claims that Masaktach has spread to “many millions through Whatsapp” is that WhatsApp groups are both private and encrypted, so it was not possible to gather any data regarding this aspect of the campaign.[58]

 

3 – Criticisms of Masaktach

Aside from online abuse and trolling, the Masaktach movement has received a number of criticisms regarding the way in which it goes about achieving its aims, both from the public as well as from local NGOs and advocacy groups.

3.1 Targeting the wrong segment of society

The Masaktach campaign has been criticised for targeting the wrong segment of society, since its use of social media platforms like Instagram appeals mainly to young girls. Girls and women in Morocco are defined as part of a wider family network; parents, male family members, and older relatives play an important role in cases of sexual VAW, and the whole family, not just the female victim, are victims in the case of sexual violence. Khadija’s family, for example, felt unable to leave their home, and Khadija expressed that “my father is no longer the same. His life has changed. He no longer works; he no longer goes out. We all never leave the house. They are all hurting.”[59] It is therefore possible to question whether Masaktach can bring about effective change if the campaign only targets young girls. When I discussed this with the activists, Zineb pointed out that it was inevitable that Masaktach received the most engagement from young girls, since they are the most affected and, therefore, naturally care more about the issue.[60] However, the women do not believe that Masaktach exclusively targets young girls. Although young girls are the ones who predominantly share images and posts related to Masaktach online, when out on the street, the activists claimed they talked to and engaged with both women and men across all age ranges. Loubna also believed that Masaktach was starting to have a ‘trickle down’ effect in society: young girls had contacted Masaktach’s Instagram and Facebook page, as well as spoken to activists in person, to tell them that after engaging with Masaktach themselves, they had decided to talk about the issue of sexual violence with their families, such as during family meals. Loubna expressed that “if this happens, that’s all we want.”[61] Although a ‘trickle down’ effect could theoretically result in Masaktach having a positive impact at the wider family-unit level, given the taboo and shame still associated with sexual violence, the expectation that this would begin with young girls taking the responsibility to initiate the change is perhaps overly optimistic.

3.2 A middle class, urban movement only

The most common criticism that Masaktach has received is that it is limited to a middle class, urban movement, thus ignoring segments of society that are most in need of sexual violence advocacy and awareness initiatives. This accusation is a recurrent one directed at women’s advocacy and NGO work in Morocco. Women’s organisations in Morocco have often been criticised for being elitist structures for the middle-to-upper-class urban few.[62] Žvan Elliott argues that after the NGO-ization of women’s rights issues in the mid-1980s, which saw the establishment of organisations such as the ADFM and UAF, the number of women’s rights organisations continued to flourish to the extent that in 2011, “one Moroccan activist quite rightly concluded that establishing a women’s rights association has become a form of (family) business enterprise for middle to upper class women.”[63] The proliferation of women’s organisations, however, “doesn’t always translate into the movement’s wider recognition among the Moroccan general public, particularly by women, their supposed subjects.”[64] The majority of women’s organisations operate from the main urban centres (in the 1990s, 80% of officially recognized NGOs and women’s organizations in Morocco operated from Rabat) and often do not prioritize outreach to rural areas or grassroots level mobilization as part of their strategies.[65]

In her chapter on women’s NGOs in Morocco, Fatima Sadiqi argues that the information and knowledge produced by women’s organisations usually remains locked within closed circles and does not reach the grassroots level such organisations are supposed to address, benefit, or represent.[66] She criticises women’s organisations in Morocco for not being able to “penetrate the lower social strata to explicate to them their organization’s vision and mission in the appropriate medium.”[67] Rabat and Casablanca based NGOs and associations often do not establish regular connections with women from lower social classes or women living in rural and underserved areas, and poor, working-class, and rural women are not often invited to participate in urban-based conferences and roundtable discussions.[68] Sadiqi concludes that women’s organisations often “fall into the trap” of reproducing mechanisms of exclusion whereby only the educated and the initiated participate in debates and actions for gender equality.[69] The shortcomings of Moroccan women’s associations and NGOSs has led Bohdana Dimitrovova to argue that Moroccan civil society is elitist and as such has a weak social impact.[70]

In many ways, Masaktach could be seen to perpetuate the rural vs. urban and class divide already inherent within Moroccan women’s activism. The movement’s founders are all urban-based, foreign-educated, upper-middle-class women, and outside of the social media campaigns, all the action that the collective has undertaken has been in Rabat, Casablanca, or Marrakesh. Although Zineb described this criticism as “legitimate,” both Aida and Zineb underlined that Masaktach is not an NGO or organisation, but rather a collective of women running a campaign on very limited resources, whilst at the same time having full-time jobs. Zineb explained that the idea was to “put the idea out there,” so that NGOs and women’s associations operating throughout Morocco could take advantage of the momentum generated by Masaktach to “take the idea and run.” This sentiment was echoed by Aida, who pointed out that “the idea was only to get the media and people talking about the issue, not to solve sexual violence in Morocco.”[71] Additionallys, Loubna believed that Masaktach received an unfair amount of criticism for being “bourgeois,” since many people were not aware of the grassroots work that the women were carrying out behind the scenes that specifically targets women from more underserved segments of society, work which is not covered by the media or publicized online. She explained that “online, we have to keep it short and sweet, so that it’s controversial and it goes viral.”[72]

The issue with refuting this criticism is that there is no concrete way to measure the impact of Masaktach across class and geographic boundaries. Since Masaktach is not an NGO or organisation, no impact surveys have been carried out. Although the organizers  could analyse the data related to the age, gender, and geographic location of engaged users on their Facebook and Twitter posts, this would not be possible with WhatsApp, which the activists claim is the platform that has most successfully engaged with women outside of the urban, middle-class environment. In July 2019, whilst travelling back to Rabat from Tangier, I ended up sitting in the first-class compartment of the new Al-Boraq bullet train. It is perhaps quite revealing, or maybe just a coincidence, that this is the only time I have heard the Masaktach movement being discussed in public.

 

4 – #Masaktach and Social Change

4.1 Social change and non-change

Social change: “changes or variations in the structure of social relationships and organisation of a society that leads to social transformations.”[73]

Social non-change: “‘changes’ that are applauded by international and national actors but which in fact are non-changes, such as long-announced but not enacted laws related to women’s rights.” Can also cover change that appears “‘good’ on the surface, but that, on closer inspection, represents a non-change.”[74]

Morocco has a reputation in the Middle East of being relatively modernized, moderate, progressive, and liberal. The Moroccan state is praised on the international stage for its self-professed, model legal reforms and its reformist King Mohammed VI, particularly in the realm of women’s rights. This is a discourse promoted in state-controlled domestic media and the international press. This image of Morocco, however, stands in stark contrast to the reality facing many women in Morocco and Žvan Elliott argues that “Morocco fails to live up to its reputation as a progressive and liberalizing state and society.”[75] In reality, Morocco’s seemingly progressive legal reforms in the sphere of gender equality largely remain “ink on paper,” and fail to achieve genuine reform. Gagliardi argues that such legal reforms have had “little to no impact on the daily lives of women.”[76] As discussed earlier, this is due to persisting social and cultural barriers in addition to ineffective laws, which are often explained by the lack of real commitment by the state. Young Evrard argues that legal reform in the domain of women’s rights is a “symbolic gesture” only and that the state employs a “double strategy regarding women’s status and women’s rights: extending symbolic support of women’s rights while making few concrete changes at the political level.”[77] Likewise, Gagliardi sees empty legal reforms regarding women’s rights as a “rhetoric used to thwart international criticism and domestic opposition.”[78]As a result of the disparity between Morocco’s self-professed progressive reforms in women’s rights and the stark reality facing many women, many researchers working on gender issues in Morocco conclude that despite nominally progressive legal reforms, social change is not occurring in society.

In the absence of studies of recent 2018 legal reforms regarding sexual violence, the large body of scholarly work examining the impact of the 2004 Mudawwana (Personal Status Code) reforms serves as an example of this. In her study of gender law reform in Morocco, Žvan Elliott argues that despite the seeming progressive nature of the Mudawwana reforms, which were promoted as a great step forward for women by the Moroccan state, the legal framework does not represent the social reality for women.[79] She examines Article 25, which grants women of legal majority the right to get married without their wali, as an example of this. Despite the legislative reform, official statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that less than a quarter of all brides of legal age conclude their marriage contracts by themselves.[80] In addition, these statistics do not disaggregate data to show how many of these brides did not have a legal guardian, either because they were orphans or because their father was deceased or absent. Žvan Elliott found that although, traditionally, the inability of legal reforms to bring about social change has been attributed to widespread illiteracy amongst women and a lack of awareness of legal change, women in her rural field site were aware of the reforms, but persisting traditional and conservative attitudes inherent at the societal and judiciary level inhibited social change.

Studies which only measure social change taking place in the legal sphere, for example through using statistics related to women utilising Article 25 in the case of the Mudawwana reforms, often reveal a lack of significant change. This leads academics to conclude that social non-change is occurring in Morocco with regards to women’s rights and gender issues. Although legal advocacy groups and NGOs are still in the process of gathering, monitoring, and documenting statistics regarding state and local actor performance, such as police, hospital, and justice systems, with regards to the reforms enacted by Law 103-03, it very likely that such statistics will also signal a social non-change due to a combination of social and cultural barriers as well as shortcomings within the law that prevent women from bringing forward cases of sexual violence. Such conclusions are based upon a focus on social change solely within the legal sphere and potentially overlook social change occurring in other spheres.

That social change is most commonly measured in terms of change within the legal sphere can be explained by the fact that such changes are most easily and concretely measured, for example using data from court proceedings. In addition, national and international funders demand ‘results’ from their grantees and subsequently place pressure on NGOs and women’s organisations “to demonstrate indicators of progress towards change.”[81] NGOs financed by grants are required to submit regular reports to donors justifying the use of funds, requiring quantitative data at the output level or statistics related to outcomes, such as the number of women who have filed a court case. In an effort to fit donor formats and meet demand for instant results within the limited timeframes of the one- or two-year life of a standard project grant cycle, NGOs “assess change by reporting outputs, that is, the immediate and countable products of their activities, rather than looking for more subtle but foundational changes in conditions of people’s lives.”[82]

Challenging this traditional and limited analysis of progress is essential to obtaining a more holistic and accurate picture of social change occurring with regard to gender issues in Moroccan society. In their edited collection, Women and Social Change in North Africa, Doris Gray and Nadia Sonneveld attempt to challenge this view of social change by lending “legitimacy to alternative methods for understanding social changes that defy standardized assessments.”[83] They believe that through detailed ethnographic and micro-level analysis of the aspirations and everyday realities of women, we can better understand and capture “subtle, yet sustained transformations that occur in human behaviour and relationships” and the “dimension of real life transformation that is often missed when discussing legal and policy changes.”[84] Stephanie Bordat and Saida Kouzzi, co-presidents of MRA, are putting this vision into practice by measuring social change within their organisation and promoting a multifaceted approach in measuring social change in four outcome areas. Although MRA focuses especially on legal advocacy, this holistic approach is guided by a broader vision of the law “beyond just legislation and court decisions.”[85] Bordat and Kouzzi advocate for measuring social change within four outcome areas: content outcomes, including changes in written laws and policies; structure outcomes, such as change in local actors’, NGOs’, and public institutions’ procedures, operations, systems, resources, knowledge, skills, capacities to effectively implement written law and policies; culture outcomes which involves changes in public knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, practices, and behaviours; and finally relationship outcomes, or changes in current hierarchical power relationships among people and institutions based on gender, age, socioeconomic status, education, ethnicity, and geography, consistent with human rights principles.[86] Furthermore, “these four domains do not necessarily change at the same pace, or even in a similar direction.”[87] Recent studies have revealed the value of this holistic model. O’Donnell (2018), for example, through her focus on social change in relationship outcomes, challenges the progressive image of domestic violence shelters in Morocco, revealing that the purpose of these shelters, to protect and empower women, is rarely achieved due to the reproduction of hierarchical power relationships within the shelters by the very actors supposed to be challenging these power relationships; a stay in the shelter reinforced women’s dependence on women running the establishments. Through employing a holistic model of measuring social change, O’Donnell revealed a social non-change that might otherwise have been overlooked, and has the potential to shape future NGO and government policies regarding the creation, operation, and funding of shelters.[88]

4.2  Masaktach and cultural change

Although the outlook of key legal advocacy groups and international human rights organisations on social change related to sexual VAW in Morocco within the legal domain is bleak, evaluating social change regarding sexual violence through this holistic model indicates that potentially overlooked social change may in fact be occurring in Moroccan society. The achievements of Masaktach, however limited in their scope, serve as proof of social change within the ‘culture outcomes’ area outlined by Bordat and Kouzzi. Cultural changes can include: “increased public dialogue on previously sensitive or taboo subjects, greater articulation by women of their problems, active solicitation of information and advice and challenges to previous gender-biased behaviours and practices within communities.”[89] There is no doubt that Masaktach has created an increased dialogue around the subject of sexual VAW, even if only in restricted sectors of society. Masaktach has opened up a discourse around the issue of sexual violence on social media, through the campaign’s response to the Saad Lamjarred and Khadija cases, the negative controversy that Masaktach has generated, in national and international media thanks to coverage of the movement itself, and the street campaigns carried out by the Masaktach collective and projects inspired by the Masaktach campaign, such as the day of street art, which forced people on the street to confront the issue of sexual violence. Skalli argues that “despite the persistent social silence around sexual harassment and in spite of the resilient logic of blaming the victim, the innovative anti-harassment initiatives that are emerging across North Africa seek to specifically interrupt these trends whilst creating broader societal debates about the issues,” adding that “questions that were unheard of only a few years ago, are now debated within homes, on radio stations, television programmes and increasingly in public gatherings.”[90] One profound example of this came from Zineb, who encountered a group of thirty to thirty-five older women who worked in a textile collective, and who, as a result of Masaktach, had decided to incorporate discussions around the questions Masaktach raised in their twice-weekly Quranic studies group.[91]

It could also be argued that Masaktach has also brought about changes in previously unquestioned “gender-biased behaviours.” One tangible result of this was the ban enforced on Saad Lamjarred’s music as a direct result of public opinion pressure generated by the Masaktach campaign. The issue of promoting the music of a public figure embroiled in multiple sexual violence claims had not previously been questioned on the public stage. Furthermore, Loubna believes that she is seeing changes in previously unquestioned male behaviours via “small things that I can see on the street” and that more and more people, both women and men, are intervening when they see aggressive behaviour.[92] She claimed that the awareness-spreading campaigns carried out in Rabat around the law criminalising harassment have brought about a change in male behaviour, adding that sexually aggressive behaviour “was just accepted before, but now they [men] know that it’s wrong. Just that is a great advancement.”[93] Cultural outcome changes, such as those brought about by Masaktach, can go undetected unless the possibility of social change outside of the legal sphere is both acknowledged and evaluated.

Through this research, the problems associated with promoting a more holistic approach to measuring social change, particularly within the ‘culture outcomes,’ becomes clear: cultural change outcomes are difficult to measure. Apart from large-scale public opinion surveys, which are in themselves problematic methods of measuring cultural and attitude change, there is no quantitative way of measuring cultural change, and ‘results’ tend to take the form of ethnographic or micro-level analysis, such as the anecdotes that the women activists told me about cultural changes they were witnessing. These “micro-level achievements” are not likely to satisfy donor expectations, which still demand quantitative results.[94] In addition, it is important to acknowledge that even the founders of Masaktach themselves are aware that the scope of cultural change brought about by the movement is still very limited. For example, despite everything achieved in sensitising public opinion to Saad Lamjarred’s case, a day before my interview with Loubna Rais, Moroccan model, actress, and TV presenter Leila Hadioui posted a video on Instagram with Saad Lamjarred, which Loubna described as receiving a “predominantly positive reaction,” rather than outrage that Hadioui, who had previously come forward expressing support for the Masaktach movement, could be promoting a figure who is so symbolic in the battle against sexual violence. In addition, during my 10-day stay in Rabat, two cases of rape appeared in the national headlines: on 14 July, Moroccan police arrested a man suspected of raping and murdering a ten-year-old child in Meknes, and on 18 July, police arrested eight suspects regarding a video documenting the murder and violent rape of a thirty-four-year-old woman in Rabat in June, which had gone viral on social media. These three incidents, occurring during my short stay, very much put the progress achieved by Masaktach into perspective against the monumental struggle that women in Morocco still face in the battle against sexual violence. The women behind the Masaktach campaign are realistic about this but remain positive; Loubna told me that “we will just go on and try to change one mentality at a time.”

 

5 – Conclusions

In conclusion, this article has provided an in-depth examination of Masaktash, one of the numerous civil society movements combatting sexual VAW that have emerged since 2011, an area that has not previously been subject to academic study. Exploring Masaktach has permitted a broader discussion of the context of sexual VAW in which the movement operates, including the legal, social, and cultural barriers facing women victims of sexual violence and the role of the media in perpetuating discourses of blame and shame. An evaluation of the criticisms of Masaktach revealed that, in many ways, these criticisms reflect common criticisms and issues inherent within Moroccan women’s organisations and NGOs, most notably the elitist nature of women’s advocacy work in Morocco.

Overall, this research aimed to advocate for a more holistic approach to measuring social change, both within academic studies and NGO work, by adding micro-level data that supports the four-outcome area model of measuring social change outlined by Bordat and Kouzzi, in particular with regards to the cultural outcome area. In doing so, the challenges of measuring social change as a cultural outcome became apparent, specifically in relation to the difficulties of obtaining concrete, measurable indicators of cultural change within society that would satisfy both academic studies and donor-driven NGO reports. Given the lack of studies concerning civil society movements tackling VAW in Morocco, further research into movements like Masaktach could provide additional evidence to support the adoption of a more holistic approach. The implications of adopting a more holistic approach to understanding and measuring social change with regards to gender issues could have wide reaching consequences, both for international funding allocations, local NGO priorities, and scholarly conclusions regarding the existence, or non-existence, of social change in North Africa.

 

*Ella Williams completed her MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at Wolfson College in 2019 and has since been living in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. In October, she will start an AHRC funded DPhil, focussing on girls’ education in the High Atlas region.


Notes:

[1] Sanja Kelly and Julia Breslin, Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance (Washington DC: Freedom House / Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010), 3.

[2] Fatima Sadiqi and Moha Ennaji, “The Feminization of Public Space: Women’s Activism, the Family Law and Social Change in Morocco,” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 2, no.2 (2006): 86-114.

[3] Abdellah El Ghazouani, Les Femmes dans L’espace Public: le Harcèlement sexuel (Casablanca: Afrique Orient, 2015).

[4] Habiba Chafai, “Contextualising street sexual harassment in Morocco: a discriminatory sociocultural representation of women,” The Journal of North African Studies 22, no.5 (2017): 821-840.

[5] Moha Ennaji, “Violence Against Women in Morocco: Advances, Contentions, and Strategies to Combat it,” Gender and Violence in the Middle East, ed. Moha Ennaji and Fatima Sadiqi (London: Routledge, 2011), 200-217.

[6] Loubna Hanna Skalli, “Young Women and Social Media Against Sexual Harassment in North Africa,” The Journal of North African Studies 19, no.2 (2014): 244-258.

[7] Danya Hajjaji, “Addressing Harassment Now,” Libyan Youth Voices (6 April 2013) Available at http://lyvoices.org/addressing-harassment-now/.

[8] UN General Assembly, Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (20 December 1993) A/RES/48/104. Available at https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f25d2c.html.

[9] Haut Commissariat au Plan, La femme marocaine en chiffres: Evolution des caractéristiques démographiques et socioprofessionnelles 2018 (Rabat: Haut-Commissariat au Plan, 2018), 119;

United States Agency for International Development, USAID/Morocco Gender Analysis 2018 (Washington DC: Banyan Global, 2018), 29.

[10] Skalli,”Young Women,” 253.

[11] Chafai, “Contextualising,” 822.

[12] Safaa Kasraoui, “Historic Law on Violence Against Women Goes into Effect September 12,” Morocco World News (12 September 2018). Available at https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2018/09/253413/law-against-violence-women-morocco/.

[13] Nouzha Skalli, “Le Maroc mérite mieux que la nouvelle loi contre la violence envers les femmes,” Middle East Eye (27 February 2018). Available at https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinions/le-maroc-m-rite-mieux-que-la-nouvelle-loi-contre-la-violence-envers-les-femmes-48295014.

[14] Mobilising for Rights Associates, Pourquoi faut-il amender le projet de loi 103-13? (19 January 2018). Available at https://mrawomen.ma/wp-content/uploads/doc/Maroc%20103-13%20Fiche%20de%20plaidoyer%20janvier%202018.pdf.

[15] Laila Lalami, “On sexual harassment,” Available at https://lailalalami.com/writings/opinion-pieces/.

[16] Lawrence Rosen, “Law and Custom in the Popular Legal Culture of North Africa,” Islamic Law and Society 2, no. 2 (1995): 206

[17] Peggy Reeves Sanday, Fraternity gang rape: Sex, brotherhood, and privilege on campus (New York: New York University Press, 1990).

[18] “Sexism and Rape Culture in Moroccan Social Discourse,” The Journal of Men’s Studies, 10.3 (April 2002): 366.

[19] Skalli, “Young Women,” 245.

[20] Chafai, “Contextualising,” 828.

[21] Katja Žvan Elliott, Modernizing Patriarchy: The Politics of Women’s Rights in Morocco (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015), 177.

[22] Skalli, “Young Women,” 245.

[23] Laila Lalami, “On sexual harassment. Available at https://lailalalami.com/writings/opinion-pieces/.

[24] Chafai, “Contextualising,” 827.

[25] Sadiqi, “The Feminization of Public Space”; Skalli “Young Women and Social Media Against Sexual Harassment in North Africa”; Khadija, Mohsen-Finan, L’image de la femme au Maghreb (Paris: Barzakh/Actes Sud, 2008), Žvan Elliott, Modernizing Patriarchy; Chafai, “Contextualising”; Mohammed Debbagh, “Discourse Analysis of the Representations of Women in Moroccan Broadcast News,” The Journal of North African Studies 17.4 (2012): pp.653–670.

[26] Quoted in “Saad Lamjarred’s case reopens Morocco violence against women debate,” The National (23 September 2018). Available at https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/music/saad-lamjarred-s-case-reopens-morocco-violence-against-women-debate-1.772980.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Leila Slassi, Empowering Voices, round table held at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (7 November 2019).

[29] Quoted in Zoubida Senoussi, “‘Khadija Wanted This’: Suspects’ Parents Speak about Rape Charges,” Morocco World News (28 August 2018). Available at https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2018/08/252721/khadija-wanted-this-suspects-parents-speak-about-rape-charges/.

[30] Nada Hriouil, _artbynada_ Instragram page (24 August 2018). Available at https://www.instagram.com/p/Bm4H9wsDCrU/.

[31] Ruqaya Izzidien, “Support for Moroccan teen intensifies as alleged captors deny wrongdoing,” The National (29 August 2018). Available at https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/support-for-moroccan-teen-intensifies-as-alleged-captors-deny-wrongdoing-1.765008.

[32] Leila Slassi, Empowering Voices.

[33] Aida Alami, Empowering Voices.

[34] Leila Slassi, Empowering Voices.

[35] ‘SlutWalk Morocco.’ Available at https://www.facebook.com/pg/SlutWalk-Morocco-132681343491773/about/.

[36]Efda7 Mota7resh.’ Available at www.facebook.com/efda7.mota7resh.

[37] Zineb Belmkaddem, Empowering Voices.

[38] Interview with Loubna Rais (Rabat, 23 July 2019); Leila Slassi, Empowering Voices.

[39] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[40] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[41] Leila Slassi, Empowering Voices.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Leila Slassi, Empowering Voices.

[47] Interview with Aida Alami (Rabat: 27 March 2019).

[48] Interview with Zineb Belmkaddem.

[49] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Interview with Zineb Belmkaddem.

[53] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Interview with Aida Alami.

[57] Interview with Zineb Belmkaddem.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Quoted in Anais Bremond and Rebecca Ratcliffe, “Morocco rape victim urges women: never remain silent,” The Guardian (26 November 2018). Available at https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/nov/26/morocco-victim-khadija-masaktach.

[60] Interview with Zineb Belmkaddem.

[61] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[62] Daoud, Féminisme et politique au Maghreb; Deneoux and Gateau, L’essor des associations au Maroc.

[63] Žvan Elliott, Modernizing Patriarchy, 3.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Loubna Hanna Skalli, “Women, Communications and Democratization in Morocco,” in From Patriarchy to Empowerment: Women’s Participation, Movements, and Rights in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, ed. Valentine M. Moghadam (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2007), 123.

[66] Skalli, “Democratization in Morocco,” 134.

[67] Fatima Sadiqi, “Morocco,” in Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance, ed. Sanja Kelly et al. (Washington DC: Freedom House / Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010), 135.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Bohdana Dimitrovova, “Reshaping Civil Society in Morocco: Boundary Setting, Integration and Consolidation,” CEPS Working Document No. 323 (15 December 2009). Available https://ssrn.com/abstract=1604037.

[71] Interview with Aida Alami.

[72] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[73] Doris H. Gray and Nadia Sonneveld, Women and Social Change in North Africa: What Counts as Revolutionary? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 3.

[74] Gray and Sonneveld, Women and Social Change, 6.

[75] Katja Žvan Elliott, “Morocco and Its Women’s Rights Struggle: A Failure to Live up to Its Progressive Image,” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 10, no.2 (2014): 3.

[76] Silvia Gagliardi, “Violence against women: the stark reality behind Morocco’s human rights progress,” The Journal of North African Studies 23, no.4 (2018): 576.

[77] Amy Young Evrard, The Moroccan Women’s Rights Movement (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2014), 114-115.

[78] Gagliardi, “Violence against women,” 575.

[79] Žvan Elliott, Modernizing Patriarchy.

[80] Ministry of Justice 2010, 2011.

[81] Stephanie Willman Bordat and Saida Kouzzi, “Capturing Change in Legal Empowerment Programs in Morocco and Tunisia,” in Women and Social Change in North Africa: What Counts as Revolutionary? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 22.

[82]  Ibid., 24.

[83] Gray and Sonneveld, “Women and Social Change,” 2.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Bordat and Kouzzi, “Capturing Change,” 21.

[86] Bordat and Kouzzi, “Capturing Change,” 26.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Megan O’Donnell, “Safe Havens and Social Embeddedness: An Examination of Domestic Violence Shelters in Morocco,” in Women and Social Change in North Africa: What Counts as Revolutionary? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 45-68.

[89] Bordat and Kouzzi, “Capturing Change, 30.

[90] Skalli, “Young Women,” 245.

[91] Interview with Zineb Belmkaddem.

[92] Interview with Loubna Rais.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Bordat and Kouzzi, “Capturing Change,” 39.

Abbreviations

VAW – Violence against women

ADFM – Association démocratique des femmes du Maroc

UAF – Union de l’Action Féminine

LDDF – La Ligue Démocratique Pour Les Droits De La Femme

MRA – Mobilising for Rights Associates

FLDDF – La Fédération des ligues des droits des femmes