In Morocco, and north Africa, there is a problem of racism towards Black people. Called “Black Africans,” they are considered descendants of slaves and labeled “hartani”—or “aâzi”. Blacks in Morocco, be they Moroccan citizens, students, migrants, from the South of the Sahara or others, are victims of discrimination...
In Morocco there is a prejudice towards people with darker skin shades. In Morocco and the rest of the Maghreb, Black people have long been subject to different forms of discrimination. To better understand this phenomenon, this reporter met African students, Moroccan citizens and an association.
A different kind of racism
According to Pierre Vermeren, a historian specialized in North African societies, there is a different degree of racism towards the Black Moroccan as against the Black foreigner.
“There are several categories of Blacks in Morocco. The first includes the endogenous Black populations who are directly descended from slaves and are now mixed with the Moroccan population. The second concerns the Black peoples of the South. They are concentrated in oases entirely populated by Black Africans and are yet to mix with Berbers or Arabs. The third includes Africans, mostly Senegalese, who come on pilgrimage to the Medina of Fez. The last category concerns students and migrants.”
For the majority of Moroccans, this anti-Black attitude is reflected in their behavior towards Black foreigners who either haven’t integrated with the general population or who aren’t Muslim. The underlying superiority complex dates back to Antiquity. At that time, there were thousands of Black slaves in Morocco. Some were part of the Moroccan military corps and the Civilian Guard, while others fulfilled various tasks given to them during the reign of Ahmed El-Mansour Eddahbi or even that of Moulay Ismail in the 16th and 17th centuries.
But, "slavery was never officially abolished. The French Protectorate at the beginning of the 20th century, simply forbid the act. But the initiative never came from Moroccan society itself,” says the historian while making reference to a book written by Mohammed Ennaji Soldats, esclaves et concubines which, according to him, perfectly illustrates this period.
"It is rare for a Moroccan woman to marry a Black man"
For Nadia, a fifty something year old Moroccan, the problem runs deeper than common racism. “It’s even deeper than that. This attitude is passed down from generation to generation. It is extremely unusual, for example, for a Moroccan woman to marry a Black man, even if he is a Muslim. It’s just not done. The only condition under which this might be ‘tolerated’ would be if the man didn’t have too obvious Black features. People worry about what their family or friends would think. The woman in question is likely to hear her mother or a friend tell her that there are ‘enough good Moroccan men for one not to have to go looking for a Black one.’”
According to Nadia, this attitude is commonplace in Morocco, and everywhere else in the Maghreb. “Even for a man who is usually freer for the fact that he is the one who passes down his name and religion to the children, to marry a ‘woman of color’ is not accepted by his family and friends. And this is even more difficult when a non-Muslim is involved. Mixed marriages are already rare in our culture—so marrying a non-Muslim or a Black Moroccan is simply unacceptable. This applies to my father’s generation, my generation, and also my children’s generation.”
“The most violent forms of racism are towards Black students. At the Cité international universitaire (international students dorms) in Rabat, it is visible. Students coming from all parts of the African continent to further their studies are regrouped amongst themselves, or even isolated. They do not share the same facilities with the ‘white’ Moroccan students. It’s all very communitarian,” says Hervé Baldagai, former Secretary-General of CESAM (Confederation of African Foreign Students in Morocco). “Black people face difficult conditions and regular abuse. We are called ‘bloody Negroes’ in Arabic, asked to leave the country, called ‘AIDS carriers’. We even have stones thrown at us. It’s unbearable. We face administrative difficulties, especially when go for our student permit or scholarships....”
Article first published at Afrik News