Moroccans without land, Moroccans without a country

Original article in french by Soraya El Kahlaoui

Today, they live under threat of eviction without compensation. It’s been 10 months since their homes were destroyed, and they are now living in hand-made plastic huts. No shelter or alternative living was offered by the government. If the authorities come and destroy their shelters and the remaining houses on Thursday, dozens of families will literally end up on the streets. On Thursday, activists are heading to Douar Ouled Dlim in Rabat to protest the eviction of its residents.

Since February 2014, the women of Douar Ouled Dlim have been demonstrating against eviction from their homes. On February 6, 2014, Moroccan security forces intervened in the morning. Equipped with shovels, metal truncheons, and vans, they rounded up everyone who tried to stop them from destroying the tribe’s property:  houses, fruit trees, stables, nurseries, vegetable stalls. For the people of Douar Ouled Dlim, this kind of aggression and violence is comparable to what the Palestinians experience on a daily basis at the hands of the Israeli occupiers.

More than 36 homes were destroyed, leaving residents of Douar Ouled Dlim homeless. Since that day, they live in makeshift camps, made of plastic sheeting held by a few pieces of wood and iron. The security forces have marked off the land area with metal sheets and it is now owned by the Riyadh Development Corporation (based in Saudi Arabia). The former residents are locked up in an open prison, monitored by the dogs belonging to a security company hired to prevent the reconstruction of their homes. Meanwhile, in March, the security forces intervened in Douar Drabka, as well as in Guich Loudaya, to destroy nurseries and stalls where people were selling vegetables and fruits from their gardens.

The people in Douar Ouled Dlim were “granted ” this land in 1838 by the Sultan Moulay Abderrahmane in return for their services. The tribe then, originally of nomadic origin, gave up travelling and started farming. Due to the expansion of Rabat, the land in Guich Loudaya is in high demand for commercial exploitation  by developers and urban planners. The take-over is effected through the Ministry of the Interior which, under a heading of  “land required for urbanization,” sells them at below-market prices to developers. According to residents, these operations are carried out in violation of a Dahir (Royal Decree) dated January 19, 1946, enacted by Mohamed V in order to protect the interests of a then powerful tribe.

The people of Douar Ouled Dlim say that they are ready to defend their land at any cost — “Our land is our identity.”  Paradoxically, in the name of “sustainable development” soon the history of the Guich tribe will be erased to make room for a park. This sustainable development means little more that the creation a place for the privileged classes who will benefit by using it as a walking area for their dogs and a natural environment for jogging. All of this is happening with the blessing of the Ministry of the Interior under the cover of an effort to eliminate slums. This so-called ‘fight against slums’ and the privatization of collective lands are creating, from day to day, ever more homeless Moroccans. Every morning thousands of families in these “slums” wake up in fear of being evicted.

In Casablanca, everyone remembers the poignant image of a slum inhabitant ready to sacrifice himself during the forced destruction in June 2014 of his neighborhood – one of the oldest in Casablanca, and one of the most unhealthy. At the same time, and in a more symbolic way, many of the heroes of the independence struggle lived there. 10552406_10204029588796472_6051881300189084350_nIs this how Morocco treats its resisters?” asked a woman in front of the rubble of her home. After a year listening to those who have been “evicted,” it seems obvious to me that this frenzied urbanization is incompatible with basic human rights and democracy.  Urbanization and the need to “catch up with modernity” is, in reality, the guise for destruction and occupation of land.

Thus, when talking about the slums in Morocco, its urban form is denied, and merely seen as an intolerable rural shanty-town. They are called “ dirty,”  and their inhabitants are often described as “germs.”  The consequence of this terminology is that we no longer speak of “restructuring” but of the “ resettlement” of people. This is how we justify the forced destruction, which in turn justifies repression, and leaves so many Moroccans homeless. In Morocco a pluralistic mode of existence must be recognized but unfortunately, in the eyes of the State, the city does not belong to everyone. In fact, they are destroying the very identity of these cities in the name of urbanism.

The new norm – developed at the highest level – blends all lifestyles together, through violence. And in so doing, both stigmatizes and causes to disappear specific individual ways of life. This exclusion mechanism left thousands of Moroccans on the sidelines, who, in the words of an inhabitant of Douar Ouled Dlim, feel “violated,” and “colonized” or, to sum it up, deprived of their right to exist.

This urban manufacturing mode is reminiscent, indeed, of the colonial policies that have, as their basis for  legitimacy, took over lands thanks to a made-to-measure legal arsenal. It is moreover no coincidence that, very often, in the testimonies that have been gathered, residents say the Moroccan State has usurped a policy of colonizers. In shaping a new form of urbanism, the colonial system continued today by national political strategy has created its new undesirables: Moroccans who are not “modern,” those whose existence does not correspond to Western patterns.

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