After Morocco’s Earthquake, Will Amazigh Life in the High Atlas Ever Be the Same?

After Morocco’s Earthquake, Will Amazigh Life in the High Atlas Ever Be the Same?

At the king’s order, the Moroccan army was deployed to devastated mountain areas. Although the army has better resources to deal with emergencies than any other state agency in the country, the very nature of the terrain played against any rescue mission. In the rugged High Atlas, many roads were demolished by the earthquake; others were blocked by huge boulders and landslides. The lack of adequate infrastructure worsened the situation and provoked anger among those who simply did not receive assistance in time. Survivors who lost their loved ones in the rubble did not hold back their criticisms of the government. In a video posted on social media, a survivor who lost members of his family on the Taroudant side of the High Atlas condemned the slow response that led to the death of people who were not rescued in time. “Officials are not here,” he said. They only show up in these forsaken villages, he explained, when they need people’s votes during elections, before they disappear again—a practice that has plagued Moroccan politics for many decades now.

These survivors cannot be blamed for wanting to cling to any sign of hope that their loved ones could be saved. Yet this hope was running out against a long history of marginalization and territorial inequities in the High Atlas. Since Morocco’s independence from French colonial rule in 1956, the region has never received enough resources from the government to develop even basic infrastructure. The French colonial administration had divided the country into a “useful Morocco,” located in the arable plains and coastal areas rich with fisheries, and “useless Morocco,” situated east and south of the High Atlas. While the “useful Morocco” benefited from the construction of new cities and modern infrastructure, the “useless” side was mainly approached as a site of rebellion against colonial authorities and a source of mineral resources. This colonial legacy far outlasted the end of the French occupation since these mountain communities had, in many ways, been left on their own for decades by the post-independence state.

The earthquake’s aftermath in the mountain town of Moulay Brahim, Sept. 10, 2023. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

From big cities to small towns, Moroccans have rushed to donate whatever they can afford to help their fellow citizens. Caravans of aid and donations arrived from places as far as Oujda and the Rif. Despite the government’s awkward and slow response in the first hours of the tragedy, the collective mobilization of ordinary Moroccans after the earthquake created a moment of national solidarity as people discovered another part of their country that many would not have if it were not for the earthquake.

Not all of the destruction from the earthquake can be quantified. The hardest-hit regions of Chichaoua, El Haouz, Ouarzazate and Taroudant are all home to the Amazigh, or Imazighen, the indigenous people of North Africa (the Romans gave them the racializing name the Berbers). They speak Tamazight, the indigenous language spoken in a vast region extending from the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean to the oasis of Siwa in southwest Egypt. This is the Tamazgha or Amazigh homeland. The hundreds of High Atlas villages that were ravaged by the earthquake have distinctly Amazigh linguistic, cultural, social and cultural characteristics that, in the words of prominent Moroccan anthropologist Abdellah Hammoudi, formed a distinct “agrarian civilization.” Through its traditions, architectural style, agricultural culture and ecological makeup, this area has sustained a distinctly Amazigh way of life.

As a civilizational space, this area of the High Atlas has centuries-old mosques, kasbahs, shrines to Jewish and Muslim saints, and natural wonders of enormous environmental value. The mosque of Tinmel, which was the cradle of the Almohad dynasty in the 12th century, and the 19th-century kasbah of El Goundafi, were both entirely demolished in the earthquake. The earthquake also caused significant damage to El Glaoui’s historic kasbah in Telouet. These historical sites have been part of the landscape of the High Atlas for centuries, forming a crucial element in the cultural and spiritual geography of the mountain region. Their restoration is a matter of national importance. The Moroccan state should allocate funds to rebuild even privately owned sites of historical significance.

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Over 200 Organizations Demand Action on UAE Human Rights Abuses Before COP28 Climate Talks

Over 200 Organizations Demand Action on UAE Human Rights Abuses Before COP28 Climate Talks

COP28 should be used to shine the global spotlight on the human rights violations perpetrated against communities inside the UAE — especially prisoners of conscience, migrant workers, women, and LGBTQI+ communities — and beyond, over 200 organizations, including Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), said in a joint letter released today.

The 200+ organizations called on participating governments at the COP28 Climate Conference to address the UAE’s ongoing human rights crisis and to ensure that COP28 climate negotiations produce the ambitious commitments necessary to address global climate change. The letter reiterated that “there can be no climate justice without human rights, and there can be no human rights without climate justice.”

The organizations affirmed that, “We, as a global network of civil society organizations, will not be silenced by a government that has long used surveillance, propaganda tactics, and violent repression to silence critics, control public discourse, and shut down civil society organizations and movements. We will not allow for COP28 and the urgent and ambitious climate commitments needed from this process to be derailed or watered down by greenwashing efforts. We will oppose any attempt to use COP28 and our presence to greenwash this repressive government.”

Below is the full letter to participating governments at COP28 and an Appendix detailing additional information on UAE human rights violations and climate concerns.

Letter to COP28 Participating Governments Regarding United Arab Emirates (UAE) Human Rights Violations and Climate Concerns

September 13, 2023

To the Participating Governments at the COP28 Climate Conference,

We write as a global network of organizations with grave human rights concerns regarding the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), host of the 2023 COP28 climate negotiations. We support the concerns expressed by climate justice movements that allowing COP28 to be held by the rulers of a repressive petrostate, and overseen by an oil executive, is reckless,  represents a blatant conflict of interest, and threatens the legitimacy of the whole process. 

Climate justice and human rights are deeply interconnected – there cannot be one without the other. As COP28 delegates prepare to attend the talks in Dubai, it is crucial for the international community to use the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the UAE’s human rights record, and to stand in solidarity with communities on the frontlines working to stop climate change impacts and human rights violations in the UAE and across the world. 

We, as a global network of civil society organizations, will not be silenced by a government that has long used surveillance, propaganda tactics, and violent repression to silence critics, control public discourse, and shut down civil society organizations and movements. We will not allow for COP28 and the urgent and ambitious climate commitments needed from this process to be derailed or watered down by greenwashing efforts. We will oppose any attempt to use COP28 and our presence to greenwash this repressive government. Rather, we call for COP28 to be used to shine the global spotlight on the human rights violations perpetrated against communities inside the UAE — especially prisoners of conscience, migrant workers, women, and LGBTQI+ communities — and beyond. We won’t allow for our solidarity to be weaponized by wealthy industrialized countries to point the finger at the UAE and at the same time refuse to take responsibility for their historical and continued human rights violations and for their historical and continued role in creating and fueling the climate crisis.

At COP28 and beyond, we reiterate our call that there can be no climate justice without human rights, and there can be no human rights without climate justice.

As a global network of civil society organizations, we the undersigned urge you to take the following immediate steps to address the UAE’s ongoing human rights crisis and to ensure that COP28 climate negotiations produce the ambitious commitments necessary to address global climate change:

  1. Demand that the UAE not spy on COP28 attendees and end unlawful state surveillance that violates international human rights law and standards.

The UAE is a surveillance state that uses its technology to spy on millions of people both inside and outside its borders. The UAE must end all unlawful state surveillance that violates international human rights law and standards, including the right to privacy. The UAE must refrain from conducting surveillance related to COP28 and its attendees. In addition, the UAE must also cease the use of spyware and surveillance technologies to repress peaceful critics and journalists, stop censoring and controlling Internet usage and communication networks, and allow full access to all encrypted messenger apps and virtual private networks (VPNs). 

  1. Call on the UAE to release all prisoners of conscience.

The rulers of the UAE have unjustly imprisoned numerous Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists, and political dissidents. In 2021, these human rights concerns led the European Parliament to vote to “encourage Member States not to participate” in the UAE Dubai World Expo, a decision that received international attention. The UAE must release all prisoners of conscience, stop harassing their families, close all secret prisons, and stop torturing detainees.

  1. Demand action on UAE violations of women’s rights. 

COP28 attendees must refuse to meet with UAE officials who have committed violence against women, such as Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (kidnapping of his adult daughters and spousal abuse) and UAE Minister of “Tolerance” Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (accused of rape). The UAE must investigate and prosecute these individuals, free the disappeared Dubai Princess Shamsa, and repeal laws that discriminate against women.

  1. Condemn UAE violations of LGBTQI+ rights.

The UAE must repeal all laws that criminalize LGBTQI+ individuals, end all discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and respect freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly for LGBTQI+ individuals.

  1. Call for workers’ rights reforms and reparations for forced labor.

The UAE monarchy must pay reparations to all migrant workers who built or have worked at the site of the COP28 facilities (Expo City Dubai) under conditions of abuse and forced labor, commit to protecting migrant workers from exposure to extreme heat and related occupational risks, lift the ban on independent trade unions, abolish the Kafala system of labor sponsorship, and end all sex trafficking and conditions of sexual slavery in Dubai.

  1. Urge the UAE to stop supporting human rights violators in Yemen and across the Middle East and North Africa.

The UAE must end its long history of supporting human rights violations and abuses by armed groups and governments that violate human rights, including in Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. In Yemen, the UAE must pay reparations to people harmed by Saudi/UAE-led airstrikes on civilians and the Saudi/UAE military coalition’s blockade.  The UAE must also stop supporting abuses by armed groups in Yemen that are responsible for violations of international law. In Libya, the UAE must stop violating the UN Security Council’s comprehensive arms embargo and stop supplying arms to any armed forces in the country.

  1. Publicly repudiate UAE greenwashing and fossil fuel hypocrisy:

The UAE must end its greenwashing campaign, abandon its plans to dramatically increase state oil and gas production, and rectify the profound conflict of interest created by UAE state oil company chief executive Sultan al-Jaber also serving as president of the COP28 climate negotiations.

In addition, we urge all nations to make meaningful and ambitious commitments at COP28, with rich countries taking responsibility for their historical emissions and leading the way with commitments in line with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and principles of equity. COP28 must produce a global commitment to phase out all fossil fuels and fossil fuel subsidies at the speed needed to keep global average temperature increases below 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. 

The entire world will be impacted by the agreements reached during the COP28 climate negotiations. Unfortunately, the legitimacy of the conference and the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is at risk if human rights and civic space aren’t protected in the UAE and across the world, and if major polluters and rich countries continue to interfere with the urgent and drastic climate commitments that are needed. As global civil society organizations, groups, and movements, we reiterate our deepest concern and urgent call for both human rights and climate justice to be at the center of the COP process this year and always.


Freedom Forward (USA)
Access Now (Global)
Action Corps (USA)
Action Jeunesse pour le Développement (AJED-Congo) (Africa)
Actions pour la Réinsertion Sociale de la Femme (ARSF) (Democratic Republic of Congo )
African Coalition on Green Growth (Zimbabwe)
AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Philippines)
Agir Pour La Sécurité Et La Souverainete Alimentaire Assa (Democratic Republic of Congo )
Aid/Watch (Australia)
AIKA Alliance (Madagascar / Africa)
All Nepal Peasants Federation (Nepal)
ALQST for Human Rights (UK)
Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (Sub Saharan Africa )
Amanecer People’s Project (USA)
Amnesty International (Global)
APOC (Latin America)
Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders (APNED) (Asia and the Pacific)
Asian Peoples Movement on Debt and Development (Asia)
Asociacion Ciudadana Por Los Derechos Humanos (Argentina)
Asociación Interamericana para la Defensa del Ambiente (AIDA) (Latin America)
Asociación La Ruta del Clima (Latin America)
Association APEDDUB (Tunisia / North Africa)
Association Jeunes Agriculteurs (AJA) (West Africa )
Association of Women of Southern Europe AFEM (Europe)
Association Pour Le Développement Rural Integre De Nganda Tsundi (Democratic Republic of Congo)
ATTAC CADTM Morocco (Morocco)
Attac France (France / Europe)
Avaaz (USA)
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bangladesh)
Bank on our Future (UK)
BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights (Middle East / North Africa)
Better Brazoria: Clean Air & Water (USA)
Blue Earth organization (Kenya)
Budget Advocacy Network Sierra Leone (Sierra Leone)
Buliisa Initiative for Rural Development Organization (Uganda )
Cadire Cameroon Association (Cameroon / Central Africa )
CADTM International Network (Global)
Cameroon Women’s Peace Movement (CAWOPEM) (Cameroon / Central Africa )
CAN Africa (Africa)
CAN International (Global)
CAN Latin America (CANLA) (Latin America & the Caribbean)
Care About Climate (North America)
Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (Philippines / Asia)
Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Center for International Policy (USA)
Center for Rights And Democracy (CRD) South Sudan (South Sudan )
Central Autónoma De Trabajadores Del Perú – CATP-PERU (Perú )
Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, SAK (Europe)
Centre For 21st Century Issues (Nigeria / West Africa)
Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment & Management (CECIC) (Uganda)
Centre for Climatology and Applied Research (Botswana)
Centre for Environmental Justice (Sri Lanka)
Centre for Social Change (University of Johannesburg) (South Africa)
Centro de Desarrollo Humano. CDH/ Honduras (Latin America)
CGIL (Europe)
Chesapeake Climate Action Network (USA)
Citizen’s Network For Community Development Zambia (Zambia)
CIVICUS (Global)
Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues (USA)
Climate Action Network Australia (Australia)
Climate Action Network Zimbabwe (CANZIMBABWE) (Zimbabwe)
Climate Change Network for Community-based Initiatives,Inc (Philippines)
Collectif Sénégalais des Africaines pour la Promotion de l’Éducation Relative à l’Environnement (COSAPERE) (Senegal / West Africa)
Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (Québec / Canada / North America)
Confederación Nacional de Unidad Sindical (Dominican Republic)
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) (USA)
Destination Zero (Canada)
Dibeen for Environmental Development (West Asia)
Disability Peoples Forum Uganda (Uganda)
Eco Women Initiative (Nigeria)
Ecologistas en Acción (Spain / Europe)
Electra Energy Cooperative (Greece / Europe)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (Global)
Emmaus International (Zimbabwe)
Equidem (India)
Extinction Rebellion US (USA)
FairSquare (UK)
Fairwatch (Europe)
Feminist Majority Foundation (USA)
FIDEP Foundation (Ghana )
Fiji Youth SRHR Alliance (Pacific)
Food Sovereignty and Climate Justice Forum (Nepal)
Friends of the Earth Finland (Europe)
Friends of the Earth International (Global)
Friends of the Earth Ireland (Europe)
Friends of the Earth Japan (Japan)
Friends of the Earth Norway (Naturvernforbundet) (Norway)
Friends of the Earth Scotland (Europe)
Fundacion Plurales (Argentina)
GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Global )
GARED (Togo)
GDMR (Mozambique )
Global Justice Now (Europe)
Global Platforms (East Africa )
Global Witness (Brazil / South America)
Green Leaf Advocacy and Empowerment Center (West Africa)
groundWork (Friends of the Earth, South Africa) (Africa)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) (Lebanon)
Health Advocacy International (USA)
Health of Mother Earth Foundation South Sudan (South Sudan / Eastern Africa )
Iceland Nature Conservation Association (Europe)
IFEX (Middle East / North Africa)
Indian National Trade Union Congress-INTUC (India / Asia)
Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) (Global)
innovation pour le Développement et la Protection de l’Environnement (Democratic Republic of Congo )
Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (USA)
International Action Network for Gender Equity & Law (IANGEL) (USA)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (Global)
International Network of Liberal Women (Europe)
International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) (Global)
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) (Switzerland )
International Student Environmental Coaltion (Trinidad and Tobago / Caribbean)
International Tibet Network (UK)
International Trade Union Confederation – Asia Pacific (Asia and the Pacific)
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) (Global)
International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) (Global)
Italian Climate Network (Europe)
JA! Justica Ambiental (Mozambique)
Jordens Vänner / Friends of the Earth Sweden (Sweden)
Just Foreign Policy (USA)
Kikandwa Environmental Association (Uganda)
KIRDARC Nepal (Nepal)
KRuHA (Indonesia )
LDC Watch (Global / Least Developed Countries)
Legal Resources Foundation Trust (Kenya)
Lekeh Development Foundation (Nigeria )
Les Amis de la Terre-Togo (Togo)
Libyan American Alliance (USA)
Ligue Pour La Solidarité Congolaise (Democratic Republic of Congo / Africa)
Madagascar Gender and Climate Justice Coalition (Madagascar)
MADRE (Global)
Maison des Organisations de la Société Civile (MOSC) Anjouan (Comores)
Manica Youth Assembly Trust (Zimbabwe)
MARBE SA (Costa Rica)
MENA Rights Group (Switzerland)
Mendoza Sin Fracking (Latin America)
MenEngage Global Alliance (Global)
Migrant Worker’s Voice (Uganda )
Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) (The Netherlands)
Misereor (Europe)
National Alliance for Right to Food Nets (Nepal)
National Education Union (UK)
National Indigenous Disabled Women Association Nepal (NIDWAN) (Asia)
National Indigenous Women’s Federation (Nepal / South Asia)
Natural Justice (Africa)
Nipe Fagio (Tanzania / East Africa)
No Peace Without Justice (Global)
ODRI-Office against discrimination, racism and intolerance (Global)
Oil & Gas Action Network (North America)
Oilfield Witness (USA)
One Earth Sangha (USA)
Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (Pakistan )
Pathways for Women’s Empowerment and Development/Integrated Agricultural Training Center (PaWEDIATC) (Cameroon )
Peace Action (North America )
PEN America (USA)
People in Need (Czech Republic)
Politics4Her (Global) (USA)
Pro Natura /Friends of the Earth Switzerland (Switzerland)
Project On Middle East Democracy (POMED)
Razom We Stand (Ukraine )
Reacción Climática – Bolivia (Bolivia / Latin America)
RECODEF Sénégal AACJ (Senegal)
Recourse (UK)
Red de defensoras del Ambiente y el Buen Vivir (Argentina)
Red Ecofeminista Latinoamericana y del Caribe (Latin America & the Caribbean)
Regional Centre for International Development Cooperation – RCIDC (Uganda)
Réseau Des Associations Pour La Protection De L’environnement Et La Nature Rapen (West Africa )
Responsible Growth * NE Washington (USA)
ReThinking Foreign Policy (USA)
Rinascimento Green (Italy)
Rise Economy (formerly California Reinvestment Coalition) (USA)
Rural Area Development Programme (RADP) (Nepal)
Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN) (Nepal)
Sak (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (UK )
San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility (USA)
Saramba Initiative (Madagascar)
Seneca Lake Guardian (USA)
SHE Changes Climate (Global)
Sierra Leone School Green Club (SLSGC) (Africa)
SMEX (Lebanon)
SOBREVIVENCIA, Amigos de la Tierra Paraguay (Latin America)
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE) (South Asia)
South Durban Community Environmental Aliance (South Africa)
Southern Africa Climate Change Coalition (Botswana)
Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) (Southern Africa)
Stay Grounded Network (Global)
Sukaar Welfare Organization (Pakistan )
Terre Des Du Burundi-Transnational (Africa)
The General Federation of Workers’ Unions in Iraq/The General Union of Workers in Iraq Electricity (Iraq)
The Noordhoek Environmental Action Group (NEAG) (South Africa)
Third Act (USA)
Tierra Nativa / Amigos de la Tierra Argentina (Argentina)
TRAFFED (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Trend Asia (Indonesia)
Tunisian United Network (USA)
Turtle Island Restoration Network (USA)
UDAPT (Ecuador)
Unión General de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores de España (UGT) (Europe)
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State (Tunisia)
Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization (South Africa)
WE-Women From Indigenous Nationalities (WE-WIN) (Nepal / South Asia)
Western New York Peace Center (USA)
Win Without War (USA)
Women Empowerment Against Poverty of Nepal (WEAPoN) (Nepal)
Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (Global)
Women in Law and Development in Africa-Afrique de l’Ouest (WiLDAF-AO) (Togo)
World Friends for Africa Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso / West Africa )
World Organisation Against Torture (Global)
Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation (USA)
Youth and Environment Europe (YEE) (Europe)
YouthNet for Climate Justice (Global)
Zimbabwe Climate Change Coalition (Zimbabwe)
350 Côte d’Ivoire (Côte d’Ivoire / West Africa)
7 Directions of Service (USA)

APPENDIX:  Additional Information on UAE Human Rights Violations and Climate Concerns

  1. Demand that the UAE not spy on COP28 attendees and end unlawful state surveillance that violates international human rights law and standards.

The UAE is a surveillance state that uses its technology to spy on millions of people both inside and outside its borders. We urge you to publicly call on the UAE to:

  • cease all planned surveillance of COP28 attendees,
  • refrain from censoring communication networks, 
  • allow the free use and full functionality of all encrypted messenger apps, and 
  • stop using surveillance technology to spy on and repress peaceful critics inside the UAE and worldwide.

As documented by Amnesty International and Citizen Lab, the UAE has a long record of spying on human rights defenders, including imprisoned human rights advocate Ahmed Mansoor. Two separate Reuters news reports document how the UAE, with the support of hired U.S. intelligence operatives, spied on journalists, activists, and political leaders worldwide, including Yemeni Nobel Peace laureate Tawokkol Karman.  

In 2019, the New York Times reported that ToTok, a cell phone messaging app downloaded globally by millions, was actually a UAE mass surveillance tool, and Google and Apple removed the popular app from their online stores. Evidence also suggests that the UAE is also likely to have been behind the digital surveillance of other public figures, including government officials, human rights defenders, and journalists and editors. The UAE was also likely to be one of the customers of NSO Group, the Israeli producer of Pegasus hacking-and-surveillance software.

  1. Call on the UAE to release all prisoners of conscience.

UAE authorities have unjustly imprisoned numerous Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists, and political dissidents. We urge you to publicly call on the UAE to:

  • release all prisoners of conscience, 
  • stop harassing their families, 
  • close all secret prisons, and 
  • stop torturing detainees and holding them in solitary confinement..

For over a decade, UAE authorities have unjustly detained over 60 Emirati human rights defenders, civil society activists, and political dissidents who were arrested due to their demands for reform and democracy. Many from this group, commonly known as the “UAE94”, were subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment. As documented by the SANID human rights campaign, more than three-quarters of these prisoners remain in prison, despite 55 of them having completed their unjust sentences. Families of the imprisoned have been subjected to unrelenting reprisals.   In 2021, these human rights concerns led the European Parliament to vote to “encourage Member States not to participate” in the UAE Dubai World Expo, a decision that received international attention

  1. Demand action on UAE violations of women’s rights: 

The UAE has an extensive record of violating women’s rights, including discriminatory laws and even personal acts of violence against women by senior ruling elites. We urge you to take the following steps to push for an end to the UAE’s terrible record on women’s rights:

  • Pledge not to meet with or join events with senior UAE officials who have committed, or are accused of committing, violence against women. These individuals include Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (kidnapping of his adult daughters and spousal abuse) and UAE Minister of “Tolerance” Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan (accused of rape).
  • Call for an independent investigation and prosecution of Dubai ruler Sheikh Maktoum and UAE Minister of “Tolerance” Sheikh Nahyan for their documented and alleged acts of violence against women.
  • Call for freedom for Dubai Princess Shamsa, who has not been seen publicly since she was kidnapped in 2000 by her father, Dubai ruler Sheikh Al Maktoum.
  • Call for repeal of the UAE’s male guardianship laws and other laws that discriminate against women.

The government enforces a system of discrimination and male control over Emirati women. UAE law also discriminates based on gender in the transmission of citizenship from parent to child. All children born to an Emirati father become Emirati nationals from the moment of birth, while children born to an Emirati mother but a non-Emirati father can only be granted Emirati nationality by special permission from the government, and can only be applied for at least six years after birth.

  1. Condemn UAE violations of LGBTQI+ rights

The UAE criminalises and discriminates against LGBTQI+ individuals, including laws that infringe on the right of consenting adults to freely decide their own sexual practices. We urge you to call for the upholding of the human rights of LGBTQI+ people in the UAE and to demand that the UAE end its discrimination against, and criminalisation and oppression of, LGBTQI+ individuals 

  • Call for the repeal of all UAE laws that criminalise LGBTQI+ individuals, whether the criminalization is through explicit provisions or through the impact of vague, overly broad and legally undefined terms.
  • Call for the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in the UAE
  • Demand the safeguarding of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly for LGBTQI+ communities.
  1. Call for workers’ rights reforms and reparations for forced labor.

We urge you to call on the UAE monarchy to:  

  • Pay reparations to all migrant workers who built or have worked at the site of the COP28 facilities under conditions of abuse and forced labor.
  • Commit to protecting migrant workers from exposure to extreme heat, which can lead to potentially fatal injuries and illnesses.
  • Lift the ban on independent labor unions and allow all workers in the UAE to organize and advocate for their needs.
  • Abolish the Kafala system of labor sponsorship, which traps many migrant and foreign workers in systems of human trafficking, forced labor, and other abuses.
  • End all sex trafficking and conditions of sexual slavery in Dubai.

Approximately 90 percent of the UAE’s 9 million population are foreign nationals — most of whom are low-wage and semi-skilled workers from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere in the Middle East. Even the U.S. government, a major ally and enabler of UAE human rights violations, stated in its 2023 US Trafficking in Persons report on the UAE that “it is not uncommon for employers to subject some of these workers to conditions indicative of forced labor, such as passport retention, non-payment of wages and unpaid overtime, restrictions on movement, contract switching, fraudulent employment promises, substandard food and housing provisions, or a failure to meet other contractual agreements.” And as reported by Reuters earlier this year, sex trafficking persists in the UAE without serious efforts by Emirati authorities to end it.”

The very site where COP28 will be held was built and has been staffed by workers who were abused and subjected to forced labor. The COP28 climate negotiations will occur in Expo City Dubai, a site that was originally built for the UAE Dubai Expo 2020. As documented by labor rights organization Equidem during the time of Expo 2020, “migrant workers engaged on projects at Expo 2020 Dubai across a range of sectors — from hospitality and retail to construction and security — are being subjected to forced labour practices.” More than 40,000 workers were employed in the Expo City Dubai construction process, and thousands of additional migrant workers have performed other forms of work. The “majority of Expo 2020 Dubai workers interviewed faced forced labour practices.” Without proper investigation and reparations for these workers, COP28 climate negotiations will occur on the backs of abused workers. 

  1. Urge the UAE to stop supporting human rights violators in Yemen and across the Middle East and North Africa.

We urge you to demand that the UAE:

  1. Publicly repudiate UAE greenwashing and fossil fuel hypocrisy:

We urge you to publicly reject the UAE’s massive campaign of greenwashing, propaganda, and fossil fuel hypocrisy.  Specifically, we urge you to commit to the following actions: 

  • Demand that the UAE abandon plans to dramatically increase state oil and gas production.
  • Oppose Sultan al-Jaber serving simultaneously as COP28 president and CEO of UAE state oil company ADNOC.
  • Call for adoption of a COP28 global commitment to the rapid, equitable, and full phase out of all fossil fuels and all fossil fuel subsidies at the speed necessary to keep global average temperature increases below 1.5C.

As host of COP28, the UAE has repeatedly issued climate-friendly statements while simultaneously pursuing a dramatic expansion of its oil and gas production. Ninety percent of the UAE’s government revenue comes from its fossil fuel industries, and the UAE monarchy uses this vast fossil fuel wealth to fund internal repression and regional interventions that violate human rights. Furthermore, the UAE has appointed the very individual in charge of its fossil fuel expansion — ADNOC chief executive Sultan al-Jaber — to preside over the COP28 climate negotiations.  In early 2023, Climate Action Network and Amnesty International called for al-Jaber to step down as CEO of the UAE’s state oil company. Over 450 climate organizations have  declared that “No COP overseen by a fossil fuel executive can be seen as legitimate.” And in May of 2023, over 130 Members of the European Parliament and U.S. Members of Congress called for al-Jaber’s removal as COP28 president.

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Lawrence Wright on Why Domestic Terrorism Is America’s ‘Present Enemy’

Lawrence Wright on Why Domestic Terrorism Is America’s ‘Present Enemy’

Biden had said that he would make a pariah of Saudi Arabia before he came into office, but in the past three years, there appears to have been a shift in Washington’s stance towards the kingdom. Critics argue that the Biden administration has, in fact, gone to great lengths to accommodate Saudi interests, at the expense of human rights and democratic principles. However, it seems that this has not yielded significant results for the U.S. so far. What, in your assessment, might be the repercussions of the Biden administration’s policy approach toward Saudi Arabia?

Well, I worry a lot about Saudi Arabia. And I think sometimes, if you’re wondering about the future of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he seems to be walking in the footsteps of Vladimir Putin, and he has massive amount of wealth on his hands. So, he’s a dangerous entity. Speaking as a person who was a friend of Jamal Khashoggi, the idea of justice—it’s just not present.

We have to adjust to a world in which, as with Russia, you have hooligans or criminal elements that are in charge. And in the case of MBS, one has to admit he’s a visionary leader in a country that has never had one. Jamal and I had this in our last discussion. I didn’t understand MBS in the way that he did. To me, he was a reformer that Saudi Arabia badly needed—and I still feel that way. I think many of his reforms are great. But on the other hand, he’s prone to highly irrational actions, like kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister, like starting a war in Yemen that he didn’t need to, or that absurd thing with trying to eliminate Qatar as an independent entity. I could go on and on, about the massive number of people rounded up and put in the Ritz-Carlton, and one was killed. Just shake them down—that turns out to have been a very popular action in Saudi Arabia.

But all of this is evidence that this is a person who doesn’t acknowledge any kind of limitations and is prone to making freshman mistakes. Maybe he’s learned a little bit in his tenure in office. He’s still a young man. He’s going to be there for a long time. And so we have to adjust to the fact that Saudi Arabia is a powerful country, and made more powerful by MBS. And if we want to participate in helping to shape the future of Saudi Arabia, we have to have a relationship with it.

It’s a difficult marriage. Saudi Arabia is, in many respects, a creature of American foreign policy. And it has been a great success. But now, that creature is off the operating table and walking on his own. And we don’t have very much control over the future of Saudi Arabia, and nor should we control any country. But we need to have alliances and relationships that are productive for us and for the citizens of those countries. It’s a tricky equation in Saudi Arabia right now.

Is Saudi Arabia a reliable ally for the United States, like Japan or South Korea? Because the way the U.S. is treating Saudi Arabia is like an ally, especially if the U.S. agrees to provide security guarantees for the kingdom the way it does its NATO allies.

The examples you cite are not really good examples, because Saudi Arabia is not like Japan or South Korea. Both of those countries have democracy at the base of their political system. There’s no democracy in Saudi Arabia. I remember when I was living in Jeddah, and I was mentoring these young reporters at the Saudi Gazette, and one of my female reporters, I asked her, what was her ambition? And she said, I want to be a politician. And I said, how would you do that in a country that has no political system?

That’s just a very small example of how the aspirations of ordinary Saudi citizens are choked off by the fact that they live in a tyrannical society. It’s a far more progressive society than it was when I was living there in 2003. And it’s made a lot of advances. And most of them have been at the urging of MBS. So, it’s a complicated scenario. I think we all are looking at it, and I wish the Saudi people the best.

I think it would be up to his family, MBS’s family, to make a change. But in the history of that family, there’s never been a great reformer until MBS came along. So it’s a very complicated question, and it’s been heartbreaking for me not to see justice done in the case of Jamal Khashoggi, and it’s upsetting to me to see that their threats against Saudi citizens living elsewhere continue. It’s very dangerous. The idea that there would be a kind of Saudi dragnet to pick up any of the dissidents that might be out there and deal with them in the ways that they’ve shown that they will—that can’t be tolerated.

Why did Jamal Khashoggi’s murder have such a significant impact? What was unique about his murder, do you think?

He lived in America, had a green card, and worked for The Washington Post. He was not an American citizen, but he was under our auspices, in a way. But the other thing is, Jamal was a wonderful personality and a brave man. One thing I’ve learned from spending a lot of time in tyrannical societies is that dictators create cowards. People are afraid to speak up for good reason. Jamal was not afraid. And that really set him apart. That’s one of the reasons when I was there and went to see him, he was a magnet for foreign journalists like me because he wasn’t afraid to analyze the situation.

There were no doubt things that he didn’t want to say. An example was when I had one of my reporters ask why there are all these sewage trucks in Jeddah. These brown Mercedes tankers would go around and empty the septic tanks. Every afternoon, there was a parade of these stinky trucks going through the streets. I asked one of my reporters, looks like there’s a lot of sewage in the street. And so he found out that there were manhole covers in Jeddah. The sewage system looks like it was… there were just holes in the ground. There was nothing there. The guy delegated to create the sewage system in Jeddah took some money and built a mansion in San Francisco and another in Jeddah with a discotheque. That was where the money went, and nothing happened to him.

Jamal knew that story. Many people in Saudi Arabia knew that story but were not allowed to publish it. And they told me because I could publish it. Once it’s been published internationally, then it becomes acknowledged in Saudi Arabia. The free press is something I really believe in, in every part of my being. So we started writing stories about it. Then we were told, by the way, there’s a prince in charge of making a new sewage system—which was why no other newspaper in the kingdom had been writing about this—and we were directed to stop.

It was not just the sewage system and the trucks—the destination of those trucks was up the hill to this big lake of sewage. I mean, massive. And it was held together by a sand dam. Just a hole in the ground—and on top of an earthquake fault. So if a breach in the dam occurred, Jeddah would be buried under six feet of shit. It was like, the worst possible end to a thriving city. The story came about because the sewage truck drivers were being charged an extra rial to unload their sewage into the lake, and they couldn’t afford it. So they went on strike, and that’s why it came to our attention. Hepatitis and other diseases were also spreading.

This is an example of why we have a free press. And I will judge Saudi Arabia as a freer society when I feel like the press has been allowed to speak.

Lawrence Wright receiving an award during the Arab American Institute Foundation’s 17th annual Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Gala in Washington, April 29, 2015. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

In such circumstances, what’s your take on discussions about the U.S. providing security guarantees to the kingdom in return for Saudi-Israeli normalization?

Basically, I’m not in favor of America guaranteeing the safety of countries around the globe. It has worked, though; NATO is an amazing accomplishment. But NATO’s not just America. It’s a union of other democracies for mutual protection. But it’s a high-risk thing [with Saudi Arabia] because you’re forming an alliance with an irrational actor who’s not accountable. That concerns me.

And is the payoff worth it? This is ostensibly a tradeoff for Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel. This comes at a time when Israel is devolving into maybe what it was always going to be: a one-state entity, that is, a Jewish entity from the sea to the Jordan River. Well, that’s not America’s program. There will have to be a reckoning with the change in Israel and its demography, and what appears to be just continuing ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. That has to come to a head at some point.

And are we willing, maybe, to make a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel if there was a chance of granting the Palestinian people some kind of franchise, a right to exist without being controlled by the Israeli army? That would be an actual two-state solution or a one-state solution in which the Palestinians are fully invested as citizens? Neither one of those things seems likely to happen. And so, it reflects back on what we’re trying to achieve with Saudi Arabia, because we want to have some influence with Israel, and we haven’t exerted that recently.

Saudis and Emiratis have invested enormously in the U.S. economy in the past decade. Are there risks involved that they are buying influence in the U.S.?

It’s good for Saudis to come to the U.S. and become more invested in American society. For one thing, it reflects back on their own country. They get to experience what freedom really is. As messy as it is, it may be horrifying right now, but it’s what it looks like. And I don’t oppose them buying property. I mean, we’ve dealt with this for years. Remember when Japan was the great threat, and they bought Rockefeller Center and stuff like that? That’s all in the rearview mirror. America is an international marketplace, and that’s what gives us strength.

But I do object to doing things like planting Saudi spies inside Twitter and vacuuming up all the messages that Saudi dissidents have exchanged. We can’t endorse that. We have to find a way to operate these… we’ve never really figured out what social media is. It’s not the press; it’s something else, but it is an aspect of our society that’s very dynamic. We want to keep those kinds of things. But when it’s being used to threaten people, especially people who are fighting for democratic changes, then we have to step in and do something about that. If they want to buy Rockefeller Center, or Wall Street or whatever, that’s a good investment. And the more good investments they make in America, the more they will want to have America be strong and resilient. They’re not buying it to destroy America; they’re buying it to hedge their bets in Saudi Arabia.

If the rest of the world is invested in America, they have a reason to want to see America as a stable entity. I think that’s true, even of China. We are each other’s major trading partners. The solutions to our economic problems, and theirs, largely lie in each other’s countries. A brake that you put on, when things get heated up diplomatically, is that we need each other economically.

Let’s speak about your trip to Hebron earlier this year in February. With all that is happening in Israel regarding the judicial overhaul and the protests, how do you describe the situation in Hebron and in Israel in general? What was the mood in the West Bank?

I was in Hebron not as a journalist, but as a novelist. I chose Hebron as the setting for the novel, because it’s the most concentrated amount of hate I’ve ever seen—and I covered the civil rights movement in the U.S. In some respects, I felt a kinship to that, but it was far worse. I’m the same age as Israel. I’m 76. And in my lifetime, I’ve seen things change that will “never change.” Apartheid in South Africa, the civil rights movement, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and the election of a Black president in the United States. These were things that were never going to happen, and they all happened in my lifetime. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hasn’t changed a bit. And it is the most durable conflict on the globe.

What exactly happened in Hebron? You tweeted a video of the incident, which received many conflicting responses.

Yeah, it was horrible. I was with Issa [Amro], and a Belgian photographer [Barbara Debeuckelaere] who was with Issa, and he was giving me a tour of the Old City. He showed me his neighborhood. All the shops in the Old City are practically closed. His house still stands, but the doors have been welded shut. He showed me where the barbershop was, where his teacher lived, and so on.

We came to Al-Shuhada Street, and there’s a long portion where Arabs are not allowed. So he said, you go ahead, and I’ll meet you 100 yards up the way. He went into what was actually a Muslim cemetery. Barbara and I were walking up the street and there was an outpost with this one Israeli soldier. He was a very tall and powerful-looking young man. Although I knew it theoretically, one of the big surprises to me is how young these people are in the IDF. The soldiers, they’re their high school kids. They just got out of school. They’re 17, 18, 19 years old, way too young to be policing people. But anyway, here was one of these guys. And we nodded to him, and walked on by.

Then he caught up with us and started talking to us. The cemetery was elevated, and there was a wall. So Issa was walking along here, and he looked over the wall, and he saw this soldier questioning us, and he said, they’re foreigners, they’re Westerners, you have no right to. He was getting in the face of the Israeli soldier, and then the soldier said, okay, go on. But while Issa and the soldier had been talking, Barbara filmed it.

And the soldier had second thoughts. He catches up with her, and as we’re coming to the end of the cemetery line, the soldiers says, delete that. Issa appears and says, you have no right to ask that. And he’s totally right about this. So he comes down, and then the two of them are having this face-to-face confrontation, and Barbara is filming it. She had deleted the original video—as it turned out, it was in her trash, and she retrieved it later. But she filmed this confrontation between Issa and the soldier. And Issa is saying, call your commander, you think you’re right, but you’re wrong. He’s very forthright about this, and the soldier did call. He says, we have some liberals here.

He hangs up the radio, and he and Issa have a few more words. And then he grabs Issa by the collar, drags him around, and puts him down on a bench. He’s standing right in front of him, the soldier is, a very hostile situation, and I’m alarmed. I told Barbara to continue shooting. That was right across from the IDF barracks, where there were other soldiers. And I guess I’m going to negotiate. So I talked to the one soldier that seemed to be most in charge. I said this is getting out of hand, and he said I think you’re right. I said, yeah, you’ve got to get between these guys. It became very clear to me the other soldiers were afraid of their own soldiers. He was a fearsome-looking guy.

And then something went off in his mind. He picked up Issa by the neck—he was a very strong guy—and he hurled him into the street. Issa’s head missed the curb just by a fraction. I mean, he could easily have been killed by that. And then the soldier kicked him so hard that he almost fell.

Well, then, some of the soldiers start to come forward. And I thought it was really clear to me that this soldier wanted to finish the job. We were standing where just a month or so before—I’m not sure, maybe more than a month—a Palestinian had been killed in that very spot by an Israeli soldier, when he was lying on the ground, unconscious. This soldier just shot him in the head. And so the precedent was there. And I thought it was going to happen. It was happening in front of us, and we were filming it. It was bizarre.

Finally, the smallest person on the IDF side—he wasn’t a soldier, he was dressed in a red sweatshirt—he was a little guy, but he actually started fending off the soldier. Issa was demanding medical attention, and they did bring out a guy who claimed to be a medic and said there was nothing wrong with him. We helped Issa back up the hill to his house.

I posted [on Twitter], and I said, one of the things that really disturbed me was the absence of humanity in the face of this Israeli soldier. Somehow that was taken as my expressing sympathy for the occupier. I don’t understand that at all. I’m the guy that posted the videos. I showed what happened, and when the IDF issued a statement about the soldier responding to Issa being provocative and disobedient, I said they’re lying.

But honestly, if Barbara hadn’t been there filming it, I’m not sure that Issa wouldn’t have been killed, even with me standing there. Having two Westerners observe, you would think would be enough to stop that assault. And having Barbara filming, you would think, are you crazy? Then the only reason that this story got any amplitude is that we did post it [on social media].

Things like this happen all the time. It’s just that we were there that this particular episode got any notice at all. The IDF asked me to come in and they wanted me to know that they don’t approve of this. And okay, glad to hear you don’t approve of it. But these kids should never be put in this position. You know, it’s humiliating to be occupied to start with, but also to have the judgment of an 18-year-old boy who has been fed, perhaps, on a lifetime of lies and hatred. It’s a very volatile, humiliating experience.

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Israel Continues to Violate Rights of Palestinian-American Human Rights Defender Ubai Al-Aboudi

Israel Continues to Violate Rights of Palestinian-American Human Rights Defender Ubai Al-Aboudi

On Wednesday, August 30, Ubai Aboudi, Director of the Palestinian civil society organization Bisan Center for Research and Development, was stopped by Israeli authorities from leaving the occupied West Bank to Jordan for work-related meetings. He has faced unjust restrictions on his freedom of movement since 2022.

Israeli authorities have denied him the right to travel without cause or due process and disregarded repeated requests to clarify whether a travel ban was issued against him. These actions not only violate his basic civil and human rights but also hinder his vital work in defending Palestinian human rights, promoting civil society, and advocating for justice.

On Tuesday, September 5, Ubai appeared at the Shabak (Israeli General Security Services) base near Ramallah as demanded by the authorities. He was subjected to degrading treatment and ultimately told to leave without being questioned. The entire process was meant to harass and intimidate the human rights defender and to send a wider message to Palestinian civil society.

On Thursday, September 7, DAWN sent this letter to members of Congress and officials in the Biden Administration outlining the Israeli government’s abuse of this U.S. citizen and Palestinian human rights defender.


September 6, 2023

Dear Member of Congress,

We are contacting your office about American citizen and human rights defender Ubai Al-Aboudi, Executive Director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development. Israeli security agencies have persecuted Mr. Al-Aboudi for his work for several years now, including denying him the right to leave the West Bank in the occupied Palestinian territory and arbitrarily imprisoning him without charge or trial.

Mr. Al-Aboudi, born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, is a Palestinian-American resident of the West Bank and a civil society leader who has worked to document human rights abuses by both Israeli and Palestinian governments and their security forces. In the latest incident of intimidation, harassment and abuse, Israeli authorities prevented Mr. Al-Aboudi from leaving the West Bank to attend a conference in Jordan and summoned him to an Israeli General Security Service (Shabak) base in the occupied West Bank, where they subjected him to inhumane and degrading treatment. Israeli authorities released him without conducting any questioning, taking any investigative steps, or informing him of any other reason for his summons. We urge you to contact the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. to inquire about Mr. Al-Aboudi’s case and why this American citizen is unable to travel freely, particularly at this time when the U.S. is in the final stages of reviewing Israel’s admittance to the Visa Waiver Program.

Mr. Al-Aboudi is globally recognized for his human rights work. It is for those efforts, particularly advocating for Palestinian rights while demanding accountability for Israeli perpetrators, that the Israeli government and its security agencies have repeatedly targeted him. The Bisan Center, established in 1989, is one of seven Palestinian civil society organizations that Israel falsely declared to be “terrorist” organizations despite the lack of any credible evidence. The U.S. and European governments have asked the Israeli government for additional evidence to support those claims, only for the European countries to reach the conclusion that no such evidence had been presented and reject the “terrorist” label, while the CIA reportedly “was unable to find any evidence to support Israel’s decision to label six prominent Palestinian NGOs as “terrorist organizations.”” And despite the designation, Bisan and the other organizations continue to operate openly, including holding meetings with diplomats, Israeli organizations and visiting delegations of parliamentarians.

Mr. Al-Aboudi was also targeted by Israeli spyware, most likely by an Israeli state actor, as reported in a Front Line Defenders forensic investigation in 2021 and verified by technical investigators at Citizen Lab and Amnesty International. The investigators found Pegasus, spyware produced and distributed by NSO Group, a company that was placed on the U.S. Department of Commerce Entity List, on Mr. Al-Aboudi’s phone as well as on the phones of other individuals associated with the targeted Palestinian organizations. In November 2019, Israeli authorities put Mr. Al-Aboudi in administrative detention, a practice that Israel uses to indefinitely imprison Palestinians without charge or trial. The United Nations Secretary-General later determined that Mr. Al-Aboudi’s imprisonment was a case of arbitrary detention.

The Israeli military authorities governing the occupied West Bank have refused to answer Mr. Al-Aboudi’s questions as to whether there is a travel ban against him or for how long it may last. Under the rules of Israel’s occupation, all Palestinians need permission from the Israeli military to leave the territory and the decision to deny an individual an exit is completely opaque to Palestinians with few if any channels for appeal. Israeli forces have prevented Mr. Aboudi from leaving the occupied West Bank for several years now, most recently when he attempted to travel to Jordan on Wednesday, August 30, 2023. The Israeli military also banned him from traveling to Jordan in June 2022, where he was to provide testimony to a United Nations human rights body.

Mr. Al-Aboudi is available to provide additional information or answer any questions about his case. 

DAWN has invited Mr. Al-Aboudi to Washington, DC for meetings on Capitol Hill in October 2023, and we are concerned that Israel’s arbitrary measures against him will impede his ability to brief members of Congress and other policymakers. 

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or to connect with Mr. Al-Aboudi.


Adam Shapiro
Director of Advocacy, Israel/Palestine

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Young Women DJs Are Changing the Face of Morocco’s Music Industry

Young Women DJs Are Changing the Face of Morocco’s Music Industry

A vast majority of Moroccan electronic music DJs and music producers are men. In a lineup of DJs for an electronic music club or festival, it is common to see just one woman, if any, among a long list of DJs.

“I think I know all the women that are actually working professionally as a DJ, and they are not more than 10 people,” Soumaya Laghiti, who performs as “DJ Stranger Souma,” told me. A successful music producer and DJ in Morocco, she is also a member of SATAT, an electronic music band and self-described “powerhouse of female energy.”

Laghiti brings a collaborative spirit to all of her musical projects. Growing up in Morocco with few models of successful women DJs, she freely shares her musical expertise and industry knowledge with aspiring women musicians, to elevate them alongside her in their careers. She calls her generosity toward younger women artists her “pacific feminist battle.”

“I’m doing it very pacifically by sharing what I know and teaching girls how to produce and mix,” Laghiti said. “Even when the boys are blocking things, they will be surprised that even if they didn’t share anything, some people got to learn.”

With this ethos, Laghiti became a mentor in a program called the FeMENA residency, which is dedicated to empowering women in electronic music and digital arts in Morocco. It was founded by 4S’, a nonprofit organization that supports cultural actors in music and digital arts. FeMENA has hosted artist residencies for women and non-binary DJs to learn about music production and management and advance their careers.

Fadoua Rasmouki is one of the success stories to emerge from the FeMENA residency. One night in June 2022, a year after completing the residency, she was hanging out at the SottoSopra and noticed that the bar had a DJ booth but no DJ. In her characteristic boldness, she approached the manager and asked if he would hire her. She was offered a residency that month and has performed at the SottoSopra every Friday night since. Rasmouki, or “DJ DramaDrama,” has become a celebrated DJ in Rabat’s nightlife.

“I just went straight forward to make my own scene,” Rasmouki said. “I had to walk into that place and ask the manager if they needed a DJ, and I had to convince them that they needed one and that they need me.”

Women trying to get booked as DJs often encounter men who are only willing to hire male DJs or collaborate with male producers. As a result, women, who are already underrepresented in electronic music, are barred from opportunities to perform and produce. Rasmouki says that even though more women DJs are appearing in lineups, typically only one woman will be booked in a longer lineup of male DJs—to offer the appearance of inclusion without creating real equality.

“I’m not going to do that thing where, ‘Let’s call a female DJ,'” Rasmouki said. “I’m not going to be a female in their lineup. I’m going to be a whole event, if they want to call me on my own. Just ‘Drama.'”

The crowd during Dutch DJ Martin Garrix’s performance at the 17th international Mawazine Music Festival in Rabat, June 23, 2018. (Photo by Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Meryem Makhchoun had a promising start in music. She started to DJ five years ago and hit her stride in the summer of 2022, when she was booked for a party every weekend. Yet her constant encounters with sexism from other male DJs and producers gradually eroded her passion and motivation to stay in the industry. At the end of the year, resolving to prioritize her mental health and wellbeing, she quit.

“When you see a lineup in a party, it’s only men. It’s very rare to see women getting booked. It’s always the same names,” Makhchoun said. “So I was like, why am I doing all of this?”

Women DJs and producers of all levels of experience, ranging from beginner to veteran artists, are targeted by sexism in their everyday work. Women DJs are frequently belittled by their colleagues, and their musical expertise discredited.

While working as a DJ, Makhchoun had several experiences when men from the audience would interrupt her set to give her advice on how to mix properly. Once, an audience member approached her while she was performing and started playing with the buttons on her mixer. During another performance, a male DJ approached her during her set and asked if he could play instead of her.

“I am doing my job here. Why are you bothering me? And you feel like if it was a guy [performing], he wouldn’t even have the courage to do that,” Makhchoun said.

Makhchoun was conscious of being treated differently from her male counterparts. She says the men she collaborated with would frequently talk down to her or speak to her in a rude way. Her ideas were regularly dismissed during joint musical projects.

“It makes me feel like I am useless. I felt demotivated. To feel like someone underestimates you or makes you feel like you are not enough,” Makhchoun said. “Especially when it’s something that you really love, and you want to share something that you love with people, and then someone just comes and destroys this ambition and motivation you have. You feel like you just don’t want to do this anymore and that you have no value.”

Laghiti, or “DJ Stranger Souma,” says that she started her “pacific feminist battle” after a sexist encounter at her first ever DJ set in Morocco. She was opening for a male DJ and good friend, yet he abruptly ended her set early.

“He saw that the public was on fire, and then he came up to me and told me, you need to shut it down. It was the first time I encountered misogyny directly,” Laghiti said. “I think maybe he felt unsafe or threatened.”

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Egypt Must Close “Foreign Funding” Case Targeting Civil Society Groups and Rights Defenders

Egypt Must Close “Foreign Funding” Case Targeting Civil Society Groups and Rights Defenders

Egyptian authorities must comprehensively close the civil society Foreign Funding Case and cease their targeting of independent civil society organizations and human rights defenders, DAWN and eighteen other human rights organizations said in a letter published today.

While Egyptian authorities dismissed charges against some organizations and individuals in this case, which originated in 2011, ten organizations remain under investigation, and more than 20 human rights defenders belonging to the organizations most critical of the human rights record in Egypt remain under punitive measures imposed through the case, including asset freezes and travel bans.

The letter calls on Egyptian authorities “to immediately and comprehensively close Case 173, bring Egypt’s law on civic associations to conformity with international standards, and stop targeting human rights defenders through other draconian legislation.”

On 22 August 2023, the Egyptian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) issued a statement announcing the dismissal of criminal cases against 75 of the organizations investigated in the infamous civil society “Foreign Funding” Case 173 of 2011, with ten other organizations remaining under investigation. The MoJ’s recent statement, however, does not indicate any change to the status of the case since 2021, when the Egyptian government made the same announcement on closing the investigation against the same 75 predominantly developmental and charity organizations. Currently, more than 20 human rights defenders, belonging to the organizations most critical of the human rights record in Egypt, remain under punitive measures imposed through the case, including asset freezes and travel bans. The undersigned organizations demand that Egyptian authorities comprehensively close the civil society Foreign Funding Case and cease their targeting of independent civil society organizations and human rights defenders.

Case 173 emanated from a 2011 decision by the Egyptian Cabinet delegating the MoJ to initiate an investigation on the foreign funding of civil society organizations. In June 2013, 43 international NGO workers, including American citizens, were convicted to prison terms ranging from one to five years, and were later acquitted in a retrial in 2018 after pressure from the United States. In 2016, Case 173 was expanded to include Egyptian civil society organizations, and subsequently more than 30 Egyptian human rights defenders were banned from traveling. After seven years, despite the government’s closure of the case against some Egyptian organizations, the majority of those banned from traveling in 2016 remain on the ban list, including some of those for whom investigations have been closed. Additionally, the assets of some of those who are no longer on the travel ban list remain frozen Their situation remains unaffected by the recent statement of the MoJ, which seeks to ease international criticism of Egypt’s human rights record.

Closing Case 173 is a matter of political will, as exemplified by the acquittal of 43 international organizations’ staff in a retrial in 2018. If the Egyptian authorities genuinely intend to end restrictions imposed on independent civil society, they should immediately and comprehensively close Case 173, bring Egypt’s law on civic associations to conformity with international standards, and stop targeting human rights defenders through other draconian legislation. Egyptian authorities should also release imprisoned human rights defenders, including Ibrahim Metwally and members of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms. 


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