Talking about truth and reconciliation in Morocco

Two members of Moroccan’s truth and reconciliation commission will talk about the North African nation’s attempt to confront four decades of state oppression, at a special lecture tomorrow at York.

Salah El Ouadie (right), a former political prisoner, poet and author, and Mohamed Berdouzi, a human rights activitist, will speak through a translator about their experiences and perspectives. Here to give the John S. Saul Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar, they are co-sponsored by the Moroccan Association of Toronto (Association Morocaine de Toronto) and York’s Centre for Refugee Studies.

The seminar, Talking About The Truth And Reconciliation Commission in Morocco: Experience and Perspectives, takes place Tuesday in the Master’s Dining Hall (Room 015A), Founders College from 2:30 to 4pm.

Ouadie has been a professor at the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Management in Casablanca since 1996. He is a founding member of Morocco’s Forum Vérité et Justice and of the Organisation Marocaine des Droits de l’Homme. He is known for Al Ariss, the first work published in Morocco about political detainees.

Berdouzi is a professor at the Université Hassan II in Morocco and a public policy and institutional development consultant. He has advised government ministers of public works and agriculture.

The Moroccan state sent thousands of dissidents and political opponents to prison from independence in 1956 through the 1990s, wrote anthropologist Susan Slyomovics, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an article published last April in the Middle East Report online. During these decades, known to Moroccans as the “black years,” the act of expressing an “unauthorized opinion” could earn years of arbitrary detention. Political opponents of King Hassan II’s regime, many of them leftists or Islamists, were often “disappeared” in the manner of dictatorships in Chile and Argentina and tortured or killed while in state custody.

In 1990, Hassan II established an Advisory Council on Human Rights to begin the rehabilitation of his regime’s reputation for repression. These official efforts intensified after the king’s death in 1999. Anxious to burnish Morocco’s new image as a developing democracy, and pushed at every stage by vocal and organized survivors of the prisons, as well as Morocco’s vibrant community of human rights activists, King Mohammed VI has endeavored to fulfill his father’s 1994 promise to “turn the page definitively” on the rampant abuses of the past.

About John S. Saul

In the fall of 2004, York played host to a rare grouping of leading Africanist political economists and grassroots practitioners from around the world for a two-day roundtable on Africa. The occasion celebrated the career of political scientist John S. Saul (left), who retired from York in 2003. Educated at the universities of Toronto, Princeton and London, Saul taught for the best part of a decade in Tanzania and Mozambique and has written and edited 10 books on African political developments. These include Essays on the Political Economy of Africa with Giovanni Arrighi, The Crisis in South Africa with Stephen Gelb, Socialist Ideology and the Struggle for Southern Africa, Recolonization and Resistance: Southern Africa in the 1990s and Namibia’s Liberation Struggle: The Two-Edged Sword with Colin Leys. He is also a founding member of the Toronto Committee for the Liberation of Southern Africa, established in 1972, and is on the editorial working group of Southern Africa Report magazine. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004.