The Moroccan Association of Human Rights Makes Waves

17 members (include eight women) of the executive board of  "AMDH" elected last May.
Washington / Morocco Board News Service - In the midst of a wave of bad press over cases of curtailment of freedom of expression by the Moroccan government, the work of a Moroccan non-governmental organization (NGO) stands out as an example of how the Moroccan authorities can” coexist with” and ” tolerate” an organism that does not espouse the official line.
The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (MAHR, it is better known by its French acronym “AMDH”) is an organization like no other in Morocco. It is brave; it fights for the protection of all aspects of human and civil rights, “the Association works for the preservation of human dignity, the respect for all human rights in their universality and their globality and for the protection, the defense and the promotion of these rights”.
What makes the MAHR different is its partiality, bravery in taking on the most controversial cases, and its commitments to the notion of the universality of the concepts of human rights. As the Moroccan political life becomes more docile and compliant than ever, the MADH continues to be a true militant organization. As more and more Moroccan politicians and social activists conform to one pro-government political stripe, the AMDH takes the most contentious causes regardless of the “political correctness” of the case.

In an age of compliance when Moroccan former Communist, Socialists and Islamist activists are willing to compromise their believes and political doctrine for the sake of a ministerial job or a position of authority for the sake of power, the AMDH militants are considered champions for their support and aid to victims of human rights abuses who are fighting the establishment. Some of the Association activists expose themselves to harassment and even persecution in the process.

The MAHR was “officially” created by the Moroccan Socialist Party (USFP) in 1979, but did not come into the Moroccan national scene until 1991. If the MAHR history is short, it works and militancy is rich and long. In Advocating for homosexuals, left wing activists, Islamists and atheist, former Military personnel or pro-Polisario separatists, MAHR has been unwavering in its stances. With such unconventional positions, the Association has attracted several supporters and many powerful detractors.

The MAHR defense of the rights of homosexuals and the organizations’ stand on the rights of Moroccan Muslims not to respect religious observances made the Moroccan human rights organism a target of criticism by the official and non-official religious establishments in Morocco.

MAHR bold activism was in display during its press conference on June 8, 2010; the human rights organization did not shy away from supporting the 72-year-old retired military officer Kaddour Terhzaz in jail for “harming external state security by having communicated a national defense secret”. The MAHR gave the Terhzaz family a platform to speak out against what MAHR and other international human rights organization considers a case of false imprisonment for political reasons. The MAHR did not mind going against the Moroccan Military establishment by supporting the Colonel Major Kaddour Terhzaz‘s campaign for his freedom.

However, the most controversial of the MAHR position remains the organization’s defense of the pro-Polisario activists. While, the Moroccan mainstream policies establishment has tolerated the MAHR unorthodox positions on social and religious matters, the MAHR received harsh criticism, in some cases from within the Association, for its defense of activists supporting the “independence of the Western Sahara”.

During the MAHR last national meeting held in May 2010, several members challenged the Association’s “cozy” relationship with the Algerian based Polisario Front and the decision to use the term “Western Sahara” in reference to the “Moroccan Sahara”. However, the harshest criticism came from no other than Morocco’s Prime Minister Abbas Al-Fassi. During a speech to the Youth of his Al-Istiqlal Party, PM Al-Fassi called the MAHR un-Moroccan and an organization foreign to the norms and the life style of the Moroccan people.

Despite its internal factional conflicts and the disagreements over the issue of the Sahara, the MAHR remains fiercely independent and intensely credible in the eyes of the world. Instead of being the target of its criticism, the Moroccan government should showcase the MAHR as an example of the freedom of expression, association and political activism that Morocco has been accused of limiting.

With the cases of Ali Amar and Officer Kaddour Terhzaz clouding the democratic image of the Kingdom, the Moroccan Prime Minister should be touting the work of the MAHR as evidence that Morocco has dissenting voices. Regardless of the ideological tendencies of the MAHR different fractions, the mere existence of the Association makes the Moroccan political discourse richer, interesting and by and large more credible.  Whether or not the average Moroccan agree with MAHR positions is an open question, meanwhile the associations’ audacious role and its militant’s zeal are appreciated by the victims of abuses and their families.


Author: Hassan Masiky is a native of Kenitra, Morocco. He graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a degree in political science in 1991. Upon graduation,Hassan joined the Washington DC based non government organization the Parliamentary Human Rights Foundation (PHRF) where he worked as a consultant for USAID democracy projects in Mexico, Haiti, Republic of Georgia and the European Parliament. After leaving PHRF, Hassan dedicated his time advising Amnesty International USA on African and Middle Eastern affairs and representing the organization in press conferences. Mr. Masiky was a host on several television shows discussing human rights and democracy. He is currently working for a Federal Agency in the Washington area.



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