MESA - Middle East Studies Association

Letters on Morocco

October 13, 2015

His Majesty King Mohamed VI
King of Morocco
The Royal Palace
Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco
fax + 212 537-768515 

His Excellency Abdel-Ilah Benkirane
Prime Minister
Government of Morocco
fax + 212 537-731010/769995/768656  

Your Majesty and Your Excellency:

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to vehemently protest against the recent restrictions placed by the Moroccan Government  on, and its ongoing harassment of  Dr. Maati Monjib, Professor of History in the Institute of African Studies, Mohamed V University  (Rabat), founder and director of the Ibn Rochd Center for Study and Communication (Rabat),  and elected president of “Freedom Now”, the committee for the protection of freedom of the press and of expression.  Since August 31, when he was informed by border police at the Casablanca airport that he was “wanted for undermining the security of the State”,  Prof. Monjib has been prevented from travelling abroad and pursuing fully his professional activities and scholarship. Further, it appears that efforts are being made to defame Prof. Monjib’s name and reputation, through the publication in media sources of unfounded rumors about his person and practices. Since October 6, Professor Monjib has been on a (second) hunger strike and has insisted that he will continue until his rights are restored. 

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching of the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

On September 16, Prof. Monjib was stopped at the Mohamed V airport in Casablanca and  prevented from travelling abroad to attend an academic conference in Spain. Then, on October 6, he was informed by the authorities of the Institut des Etudes Africaines (IEA) that they would not issue a written authorization for him to travel abroad to attend two conferences in Norway on October 8-11, even though he had provided them with all the necessary documentation. After the first failed attempt to travel, Professor Monjib began a 3-day highly-publicized hunger strike (Sept. 16-19) to protest the travel ban. On September 19, the Moroccan Interior Ministry issued a communiqué stating that Professor Monjib was not being denied the right to leave the country, but rather, that he was detained because of financial irregularities. Nonetheless, the second denial suggested that he was indeed the object of a travel ban, thereby confirming the information of border police that a travel ban had been in place since August 10, 2015. 
 
On September 14, two days before the first attempt to travel, Professor Monjib had been summoned for questioning by the National Brigade of the Judicial Police who accused him of, among other things, “destabilizing citizens’ allegiance to (Moroccan) institutions”.  This accusation, and the threats, insinuations, and ongoing harassment to which Professor Monjib has been subjected – including the spread of calumnious allegations and ad hominem attacks by certain media outlets, meant to destroy his reputation, suggest to us that his current mistreatment by the government authorities relates to his work as a prominent and tireless civil society activist, especially in his capacity as the elected head of “Freedom Now”.

We call upon the Moroccan Government to cease its prejudicial treatment of Professor Monjib immediately, and restore to him without further delay all his rights as a Moroccan citizen, including the freedom to leave and return to his country as he pleases, to conduct undisturbed (and within the framework of Morocco’s laws) his scholarship and other professional and civic activities. If the accusations of criminal behavior, as in financial misdemeanors, are a strategy for impeding Professor Monjib’s civic activities and those of “Feedom Now”, they must be withdrawn. Otherwise, the Moroccan Government must clarify the specific law(s) that have been broken and produce credible, verifiable evidence. Finally, we are concerned about Professor Monjib’s well-being and insist that he receive proper medical attention.

Thank you for your attention to this pressing matter.

Respectfully,

Nathan J. Brown
President, Middle East Studies Association
Professor, George Washington University

cc:
El Mustafa Ramid, Minister of Justice fax + 212 537-726856; ccdh@ccdh.org.ma
Mohamed Hassad, Minister of the Interior fax +212 537-766861 
Mustapha Khalfi, Minister of Communication fax +212 537- 680178
Hamouchi Abdellatif, Director, Direction générale de la Sûreté nationale fax +212 537-731842
Salaheddine Mezouar, Minister of Foreign Affairs fax+ 212 537-765508/ 537-764679; ministere@maec.gov.ma
Conseil national des droits de l'Homme fax+212 537-540001; cndh@cndh.org.ma

Rachad Bouhlal, Ambassador, Embassy of Morocco, Washington, DC fax 202 462-7643

UPDATE October 29, 2015: The communique, issued today (Oct. 29, 2015) by the Moroccan national committee in support of Maati Monjib, announces that following the Moroccan government's published statement that it had lifted the ban on his freedom to travel, Prof. Monjib has ended his hunger strike (since Oct. 6). Moreover, in suspending the hunger strike, Prof. Monjib awaits confirmation that the abuse and harrassment he has been subjected to by the state will cease.
Here is the communique (issued in French):
Communiqué du Comité d’appui à Maâti Monjib
Suite à la notification à ses avocats de la satisfaction de sa revendication de levée de l’interdiction de liberté de circulation, Maâti Monjib suspend sa grève de la faim ce jeudi 29 octobre 2015 à 12 H, dans l’attente de la vérification de l’interruption du harcèlement systématique dont il fait l’objet depuis deux années. L’interruption de la grève se fera en milieu hospitalier, sur décision du panel médical qui l’a accompagné tout au long de sa grève. Cette grève, qui s’est étendue depuis le 6 octobre, est suspendue, dans l’attente de la confirmation de la cessation des vexations et abus à son encontre.
Le comité se félicite que la vie et la santé de Monjib ne soient plus exposés à des risques majeurs. Il salue l’ensemble de l’opinion nationale et internationale qui s’est dignement mobilisé pour le rétablissement de Maâti Monjib dans ses droits, et réaffirme son engagement à continuer à appuyer Maâti Monjib pour que ses droits constitutionnels soient respectés, et pour qu’il soit mis un terme aux comportements liberticides de l’Etat marocain.


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