The remains of Imad Ben Ziaten, the 31 year old paratrooper who was gunned down by the "Toulouse Killer" were laid to rest in Morocco this past Tuesday. His family had requested he be burried in his hometown of Md'iq a short distance from the city of Tetouan in Northern Morocco. Imad is not the only victim of North African origin of this hate-filled killer, two other paratroopers Mohamed Legouad and Abel Chenouf, were gunned down by the same man near their army barrack, as they withdrew money from a bank machine.
The same gunman has since killed more people including a Rabbi at Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, his toddler sons and a seven-year-old girl. The hatred harbored by this killer definitely knows no bounds.
Faced with this horrible unfolding of events, we all stand rather dazed and confused by the very thought of how something like this comes to be. How can one make sense of something so senseless? In moments like these, most reasonable people wish for a little more time to think things over and apply reason to avoid reproducing the same hatred that the gunmen expressed in his deadly ramapage.
I do not think we are going to get that much needed time for reflection as it is an election year in France and everyone is trying to score points with this or that community of voters.
It is easy in moments like these to retreat to our own communities and their ways of looking at things; I am hoping though that this moment in history could also be looked at as a chance to see that, on many levels, we are all targets of this extreme violence. By the same token, we all share in the responsiblity of how we think through this moment in time and how we move on from here.
The case of Amina Filali has been on my mind ever since this story broke. Following the immediate sadness and shock that something like this could still happen in today's Morocco, came a sense of hope for a better future. A future where the country's women could have better recourse in front of the law when faced with extreme events that render them vulnerable to society and its harsh moral codes. The legal system should not play legal cover-up when rape happens. The legal system should be clear about who is the victim and who is the aggressor. First victimized by the rapist, Amina Filali finds herself face to face with a legal system that instead of exonerating her and punishing the criminal, pressures her into a cover-up marriage, supposedly to protect the honor of her family. Apparently the parents did not really think this strategy was protecting their honor or that of their brutalized daughter for that matter. It is no suprise that Amina decided to end a miserable day to day life filled with physical abuse, and I am sure excruciating psychological agony as well, sharing a "home" with her very rapist. So now, where do we go from here?
As tragedies go, this one could have possibly been prevented if the country's legal system did not have its thinking head far up inside its a#*, but let's agree, for the sake of argument, that hind sight is indeed always 20/20, and let's just accept the fact that we need to start thinking about how to make it impossible for a scenario like this to happen in the future. Heading in that direction would be the silver lining in this awful episode. I am encouraged by the general feeling of outrage around this tragedy and how it seems to have galvanized the citizens of Morocco to demand a total revision of penal code. Looking at photos from Saturday's demonstration in Rabat on this issue, I am feling cautiously optimistic that the message has been received and that the country will do the right thing for its citizens. May Amina Filali rest in peace, as to us, may we not rest in peace until the laws that led her to suicide are forever repealed.
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This past Wednesday, February 22nd, I had a wonderful opportunity to meet with artist Mohamed Abla in the context of a group exhibition entitled "Histories of Now: Six Artists from Cairo" hosted at the MFA School. This was a class visit with my students from a seminar I am teaching on Themes of Dissent and Resistance in North African and Middle Eastern Lieteratures and Cultures. After taking a little bit of time to see the different art installations we had a chance to sit down and chat with artist about the art scene in Cairo in light of the recent events in Egypt.
The essays we read in preparation for the meeting were useful in providing extensive background about Egypt's recent history and putting the events of the last twelve months in their broader context. The multimedia installions provided invaluable, and often intense, visual snapshots of Cairo's histories, but the stories that Mohamed Abla shared with us about his own adventures within Mubarak's police state drew a much more immediate and vivid narrative of that world. From his participation in the Kefaya movement launched in summer of 2004 against what were perceived as Hosni Mubarak's attemps to prepare his eldest son Gamal to succeed him as president of the republic. Although "Kefaya" which means "enough" in Arabic, lost a great deal of its strength as a movement in subsequent years, it is on many levels a key historic moment leading to the events that ultimately brought Mubarak's regime down.
Perhaps the thing I will most remember from my conversation with Mohamed Abla is the story of his native Island of Qorsaya and the struggles of its inhabitants to continue living on it and fight the aggressive push to developers and land grabbers. Using his artistic training and collaboration with the island's inhabitants, Mohamed Abla put together wide scale pacific protest events that brought the attention of the media to the plight of this small community of islanders. One of the protests consisted of digging a few dozen shallow graves where people symbolically buried themselves. The other event was to release 5000 red balloons to protest the military siege that Mubarak's army imposed on the islanders after their demonstrations.
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