Morocco: Women Under Attack

IGLHRC is forwarding the attached call for protest letters regarding an urgent situation in Morocco; the call originated from the Moroccan Women's Defense Front, an umbrella organization consisting of a broad range of Moroccan NGOs. The call addresses a campaign of threats and vilification directed at women's organizing in civil society in Morocco.

Similar rhetorical offensives against feminist organizing have taken place worldwide; they have often moved from verbal assault to physical violence. Without urging or endorsing criminal penalties against speech, IGLHRC asks for letters to the government of Morocco (addresses below), calling on it to affirm and to defend the rights of women to participate freely in civil society. Women must be empowered to exercise their basic rights of expression, association and assembly in the confidence that the state will defend them against violence and will guard and promote their freedoms.

----Original Message Follows----
From: []
Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2000 9:21 AM
Subject:Women Living Under Muslim Laws

Femmes sous lois musulmanes
International solidarity network
Réseau international de solidarité
BP 20023
34791 Grabels Cedex
email address:

January 27th, 2000 / 27 janvier 2000

Dear friends,

You'd probably recall our preceding alerts of July 9th and November 5th, 1999, regarding the Moroccan Government's abandoning of the Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development. We have received recent worrisome information from the Moroccan Women's Rights Defense Front (Front de Défense des Droits Des Femmes Marocaines), which is appealing for your support. This Front was formed on July 16 1999, at the initiative of the LDDF -Ligue Démocratique pour les Droits de la Femme - Democratic League for Women's Rights - and other associations, after the attacks by the Commission of Ulemas (religious leaders) and the hostile declarations of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. The Front now consists of more than 50 groups and organisations of the Moroccan civil society (women's associations, human's rights groups, political parties, trade unions, cultural associations, etc). Numerous appeals to hatred and defamatory propaganda legitimizing the use of violence against women and members and organisations of civil society who are defending this Plan of Action are taking place and we consider that the security of all female and male citizens of Morocco is no longer ensured. We have also been informed that, during a recent demonstration of the Front, one of the activists was threatened with a knife, and police had to intervene. We urgently request you to send letters and/or faxes to the Moroccan Government. Please also send copies of all your correspondence to LDDF which is the focal point of the Front, since they intend to use your support in their national campaign.

In solidarity Women Living Under Muslim Laws International Coordination Office

Chères amies, chers amis,

Vous vous souvenez certainement de nos alertes précédentes du 9 juillet et du 5 novembre 1999, dans lesquelles nous faisions état de l'abandon par le gouvernement marocain du Plan d'Action pour l'Intégration des Femmes au Développement. Nous avons récemment reçu des nouvelles inquiétantes du Front de Défense des Droits des Femmes Marocaines, qui font appel à votre soutien. Ce Front, qui s'est constitué le 16 juillet 1999, à l'initiative de la LDDF -Ligue Démocratique pour les Droits de la Femme- et d'autres associations, après les attaques de la Commission des Ulémas et les déclarations hostiles du Ministère des Habous et des Affaires Islamiques. Ce Front est désormais constitué de plus de 50 associations et organisations de la société civile marocaine (associations de femmes, associations des droits de la personne humaine, partis politiques, syndicats, associations culturelles, etc.) De nombreux appels à la haine et une propagande diffamatoire légitimant le recours à la violence contre les femmes et les membres et organisations de la société civile qui défendent ce Plan d'Action se développe et nous estimons que la sécurité de toutes les citoyennes et tous les citoyens du Maroc n'est plus garantie. Nous venons d'apprendre que lors d'une manifestation, l'un des militants a été menacé avec un couteau et la police a du intervenir. Nous vous demandons d'envoyer de toute urgence des lettres et/ou des faxs au gouvernement marocain ainsi que des copies de vos lettres et/ou faxs à la LDDF, point focal du Front qui souhaite les utiliser dans sa campagne nationale.

En solidarité Bureau de coordination internationale du réseau Femmes sous lois musulmanes

Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front (list of the Front's members at the end of this letter)

Morocco, January 21st, 2000

Dear friends,

In Morocco, reactions regarding the proposed Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development drafted in collaboration with the women's rights organisations and the Government (and then postponed by the Government) are increasing, as is the number of threats and violent declarations against women and citizens who believe in democracy, who demand the implementation of the Plan.

Reactionary and islamist trends in Morocco have organized themselves and created the "National group for the protection of the Moroccan family - Organisme national pour la protection de la famille marocaine". Some of its members are not only opposing themselves to the Plan but they question the current laws, which, according to them, are 'in contradiction with shari'a and religion'. Several Imams are using the mosques, places of worship (which are under the authority of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs), for a systematic campaign hostile to women and vilifying those people who are supporting the Plan and working for the promotion of women's rights. Moreover, they are seeking signatures for their own petition against the Plan of Action at the entrance of mosques and also from going door-to-door. By means of fallacious arguments the enemies of modernism and democracy are trying to set Moroccans against Moroccans in the name of religion. In addition to the articles published in the fundamentalist press, audio and video recordings as well as brochures are being massively and freely distributed; they are denouncing the Plan of Action as being against Islam and the people who support the Plan as being immoral people trying to destroy the Moroccan family. The initiators of the Plan are qualified as "damned" and "enemies of Islam" and "practically excommunicated (takfir)". Such hateful speeches which are inciting people to violence are of the utmost gravity. As regards the women's rights organisations activists, they are 'called' "prostitutes, drunkardesses, and spinsters unable to keep a house (see the enclosed article reproduced from the paper La Vie économique, No 4051, 20 - 27 January 2000) At a recent public event (Forum de solidarité féminine - Feminist solidarity forum, held until 21 January 2000) the booth of the LDDF (Ligue démocratique des droits de la femme) was assaulted daily by islamist groups who insulted and threatened the activists. Several meetings organized by women's organizations in the defence of the Plan of Action, have been very aggressively and offensively disrupted.

Considering the increase in expressions of hatred and calls to violence against women, we may fear the worst. For the time being, people are propagating verbal threats, lies and slanderous speeches, but we are really afraid they could put them into acts. These calls to hatred could quickly get out of hand if the Moroccan government does not immediately react, and if the Ministry of Religious Affairs continues to encourage them, declaring that: "the Imams have only fulfilled their religious rights, and if they are of the opinion that the Plan of Action is in contradiction with our Islamic identity, it means that this Plan is not good." We cannot wait for violence to erupt before we react ; that is the reason why we are launching an urgent alert for action and request you to send protest letters and / or faxes to the Moroccan governement:

Addresses to which you should send letters and/or faxes : King Mohamed VI, Palais Royal, Rabat, Morocco. Fax (212-7) 76 52 82

The Prime Minister, Palais Royal, Rabat, Morocco. Fax (212-7) 76 52 82

The Minister of Human's Rights, Boulevard Bnou Sina, Immeuble 47, Agdal, Rabat, Morocco. Fax (212-7) 67 19 67

What your letters should request the Moroccan governement: * to express its strong and unequivocal commitment against calls to hatred and propaganda against women, * to take the urgent and necessary measures to end the massive propagation of slanderous speeches against organisations and individuals from the civil society who are defending the Plan of Action set up by the Government itself - particularly regarding the declarations by the Imam Mustapha Leksir, who, in an audio tape widely distributed, qualifies women's rights activists as "enemies of Islam" and "takfir" (excommunicated), thus legitimizing the use of violence, * to enjoin to the Minister of Habous and Religious Affairs, who is directly appointed by the King, to react against the use of mosques for purposes of propagandist campaigns, * to ensure the security of all male and female citizens of Morocco, * to respect its commitments and take the necessary measures to guarantee the legitimate rights of the Moroccan women and to answer their aim to a Moroccan's society worthy life.

We also request you to reiterate your support to the Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development. While Moroccan civil society is awaiting for the implementation of measures provided in the Plan of Action jointly ratified the 19th of March, 1999 by the Secrétariat d'Etat chargé de la famille - State Secretariat for Family Affairs- and by citizens organizations, the Moroccan government has put on hold its implementation (see Wluml Alert for action, 5 November 1999) and has just set up a Commission chaired by the Prime minister in order to "study the recommendations of the Plan of Action", i. e. bring the situation back to square one.

Please send copies of your letters and / or faxes to: Front de Défense des Droits des Femmes Marocaines c/o Ligue Démocratique pour les Droits de la Femme 317 rue Mustapha El Maani N° 5, 1er étage Casablanca, Maroc Fax: (212-2) 29 78 84

We count on your support and action !

Here are the names of the organisations and associations from the Moroccan civil society which joined first the Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front. The Front is campaigning for the Plan of Action to be implemented.

L'Association Marocaine pour les Droits de l'Homme - The Moroccan Association for Human Rights L'Organisation d'Action Démocratique Populaire - The Popular Democratic Organisation for Action Solidarité Féminine - Feminist Solidarity L'Association Marocaine des Femmes Progressistes - The Progressive Women's Moroccan Association La Jeunesse de l'Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires - The Youth of the Popular Forces' Socialist Group Le Secrétariat National des Femmes de l'USFP - The National Secretariat of Women from the USFP La Jeunesse du Parti de l'Avant Garde Démocratique Socialiste - The Youth of the Socialist Democratic Avant-Guard Party La Jeunesse du Parti Istiqlal - The Youth of the Istiqlal Party Le Mouvement pour la Démocratie - The Movement for Democracy ANAHJ Démocratique - The Democratic ANAHJ Le Front des Forces Démocratiques - The Front for Democratic Forces La Ligue Démocratique pour les Droits de la Femme - The Democratic League for Women's Rights L'Organisation des Droits des Femmes et des Enfants - The Organisation for Women's and Children's Rights Le Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine - The National Union of the Moroccan Press L'Association de Développement, de l'Enfance et de la Jeunesse - The Association for Development, Childhood and Youth L'Association Attaouassol - The Association Attaouassol L'Association Awrak pour le Théâtre et la Culture - The Association Awrak for Theatre and Culture L'Association de l'Amitié - The Association for Friendship L'Association Marocaine des Diplômés Privés D'emploi - The Moroccan Association of Qualified Unemployed Oum Fama Abdelkader Laktâa (cinéaste - film director) L'Union Marocaine du Travail - The Moroccan Labour Group Le Comité de Défense des Droits de l'Homme - The Human's Rights Defence Committee Le Centre d'Etude Maro-Tamasna - The Study Center Maro-Tamasna L'Association Amna pour la Protection des Femmes Victimes de la Violence - Tanger - The Amna Association for the Protection of Women Victims of Violence - Tanger Le Groupe Annaouras (musique) - The Musical Group Annaouras L'Association Achoula pour l'Education et la Culture - The Association Achoula for Education and Culture La Commission des Journalistes Professionnelles - The Commission for Professional Journalists Le Syndicat National de l'Enseignement Supérieur - The National Trade-Union of Higher Education Employees Le Mouvement de la Jeunesse Démocratique - The Democratic Youth Movement L'Association Amal - Section Mohammadia - The Association Amal - Mohammadia Section L'Association des Professeurs du Centre Hospitalier Aviroes - The Association of the Doctors of the Aviroes Hospital Center Le Centre d'Ecoute et d'Orientation Juridique et Psychique des Femmes Victimes de Violence - The Center for Counselling, Legal Aid and Psychological Support for Women Victims of Violence L'Union d'Action Féminine - The Union for Women's Action La Confédération Démocratique du Travail - The Democratic Confederation of Labor Le Mouvement de l'Enfance Populaire - The Movement for Popular Childhood Le Club d'Action Cinématographique - The Cinematographic Acting Club Les Démocrates Indépendants - The Independant Democrats La Ligue des Droits de l'Homme - The Human Rights League Le Théâtre Lamalif - The Lamalif Theatre

Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front Regional Commission's Secretariat Kalaat Seraghna January 6th, 2000



A fallacious campaign against the Plan of Action by people who consider themselves guardians of Islam and Muslims consisting of using mosques for political propaganda is taking place in several places in Morocco; As part of this campaign the Imam at Imlil mosque, speaking on behalf of one of the Islamists, has attacked our local secretariat and the Plan of Action during the Friday prayer, on December 31, 1999; He deemed the Plan of Action and its initiators to be 'anti-religious' and called on people to oppose this Plan, and to refuse to sign the supporting petitions... At the same time the 'adepts' of the Imam were distributing their own communiques against the Plan outside the mosques and in public places. The same Iman has accused the Front de Défense Des Droits des Femmes Marocaines (Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front) of being a bunch of plotting traitors and other similar accusations, very unsuitable for a man of God speaking from inside a mosque. Furthermore, women from Islamist groups have launched the same slanderous and deceitful campaign towards women in the mosques and are also falsifying the contents of the Plan of Action to dissuade women from supporting it. Similar events occurred in a small mosque in the Palmiers area, the evening before 'Id Al Fitr' (end of Ramadan).

This gross misuse of mosques has resulted in a deep anger amongst the majority of faithfuls and has harmed the dignity of the activists who defend the women's cause; considering the misuse of religious feelings for political purposes, the regional secretariat of the Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front met and issued the following statement to the local and national public opinion:

  • We strongly protest against the misuse of mosques for political purposes, in the name of Islam, and the misappropriation of places of worship, used for political propaganda;
  • We condemn the way in which the concerned Imam is behaving, as we condemn all attempted misuses of the women's cause for petty political purposes, detrimental to religious feelings;
  • We protest against the silence of the political leaders regarding the numerous violations of the mosques;
  • We reaffirm our commitment to the Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development, which is a minimal set of women's demands, and we exhort the government to immediately implement the Plan in accordance with its previous declarations;
  • We are determined to continue our struggle on a regional level in accordance with the national programme supporting the Plan of Action, and ready to resist all plots against Moroccan women.


Press clipping

La Vie Économique -The Economic Life, No. 4051, January 20-27 2000

Politics intrudes the mosques

Virulent and aggressive sermons against the Plan for Integration of Women in Development. "La vie économique" has listened to a recording which is terrifying - and anti-democratic. The campaign against the Plan for Integration of Women in Development has gained increased speed in recent weeks; even mosques have been invested much to everybody's surprise. This utilization of mosques, the places of worship, for political purposes is on several accounts a worrying and dangerous phenomenon. Firstly, all of the people who usually come to mosque to fulfill their religious duties do not necessarily share the political views expressed by Imams close to Islamists or obeying instructions from the Ministry of Religious Affairs - or do the two things at the same time. The simultaneous happening of attacks against the Plan, which were launched in several cities at the same time, is backing up this hypothesis. And the Ministry definitely denies the facts. Secondly: whoever is doing such things is playing the sorcerer's apprentice and opening the Pandora's box of the politicizing of the mosques. As we may recall, that is the way the Iranian revolution began... These Imams, in their Friday sermons, are targeting the Plan, its authors, the people who support it, and the women's rights organisations. According to the people in charge of the Front de Défense des Droits des Femmes (FDDF - Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front) the Plan was singled out at Assalam mosque, at Imlil mosque (Kalaât Sraghna), and other mosques in Rabat, Arrachidia, Beni Mellal, Hoceima, Marrakech and others cities in the Kingdom, during sermons delivered on December the 31st, 1999, and January the 7th, 2000.

Put a stop to this dangerous drift

In a communique dated 6 january, 2000, the Front de Défense des Droits des Femmes Marocaines (FDDF- Moroccan Women's Rights Defence Front) accuses the Ministry of Religious Affairs of bringing about the intrusion of political debate inside the mosques; the FDDF expresses the view that "it is illegal, dangerous and irresponsible to act this way." People who oppose the Plan are very actively working in front of the mosques, in the cafés, in the buses, and are even going from door to door, with a petition asking for the withdrawal of the Plan "whose western and secularist references" would destroy the Islamic basis of Moroccan society, and thus opening the route to moral degeneration and to implosion of the Family and would give a free licence to depravity and prostitution. The Parti de la justice et du développement (PJD) is using as its war-horse, the national campaign for petitioning against the Plan; the campaigners are working in front of the mosques, in public areas, and are even going from door to door. They are also using a media they are familiar with, that is audiotapes and even videotapes, not to speak of an uninterrupted media campaign. We happened to listen to the audiorecording of a sermon recently delivered by Imam Mustapha Leksir in Mouaâskar Zerkoun mosque. (Diour al Kachla, Hay Mohammedi in Casablanca). The entire sermon exudes uttermost populism and demagogy. The initiators of the Plan are characterized as "damned", "enemies of Islam", and are practically excommunicated (takfir). As regards the women's rights organisations activists, they are qualified as prostitutes, drunkardesses, and as spinsters unable to keep a house. The worst of it is that in this sermon, the same Imam calls on the 'believers' to sign petitions against the Plan and to struggle against a project "promoted and financed by international financial institutions which aim at wrecking the basis of society". Public authorities should urgently intervene to stop these excesses.

Chafik Laâbi