Morocco’s military traditions are closely linked with the country’s history and are influenced by its extensive political and cultural heritage. Morocco’s history, and thus its military history, began in the Medieval Islamic period, 12 centuries before the end of the French and Spanish protectorate in 1956, which is often represented as the year Morocco became independent. Moroccans, however, consider 1956 the year the country regained its independence after 44 years of foreign rule. Although foreign rule profoundly transformed Morocco’s economy and infrastructure, Moroccans view the post-protectorate period as a reversion to independent rule by the reigning Alawi or Filali dynasties, which had held power in the country since 1660. Mohamed V presided over this independent rule and military modernization for 34 years (1927–1961). Moroccans inherited a modernized state, albeit with surviving traditional institutions, from their former European rulers, and the dynastic continuity under the protectorate ensured the prominent re-emergence of indigenous influence in many areas, including the military.
Moroccan culture uniquely combines aspects of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is a Muslim country with close ties to other Arab countries in the Middle East, but its proximity to Europe has given it a more Western feel. Morocco experiences many of the economic hardships seen in other African nations, such as a lack of economic diversity, high unemployment, and widespread poverty.
This handbook provides basic reference information on Morocco, including the geography, history, government, military forces, and the communications, and transportation network Morocco. This information is intended to familiarize military personnel with local customs and area knowledge in an effort to assist them during their assignment to Morocco.
As the Moroccan regime has cracked down recently on traditional media, the increased availability of high-speed Internet and Internet-enabled mobile devices has allowed Moroccans to take otherwise unreportable stories and grievances online. So far, the government has been relatively hands-off with regard to Internet content, though a few cases directly involving the royal family have resulted in arrests and trials. As social media use becomes more widespread and available within Morocco, the monarchy risks reaching a tipping point beyond which only draconian filtering would enable it to control the media message, a step it seems unlikely to take given its sensitivities regarding its international image.
In the wake of Fouad Mourtada’s conviction for impersonating Prince Moulay Rachid on facebook.com, Moroccan bloggers have voiced concern that his arrest sets a precedent for repressing bloggers who were formerly allowed to flourish. In contrast to the outpouring of sentiment on the Internet, Morocco’s mainstream press has thus far displayed only limited attention to the case. Moroccan security services arrested Fouad Mourtada, 26, an IT engineer from the southeastern town of Goulmima, on 6 February for creating a facebook.com profile in the name of King Mohammed VI’s brother, Prince Moulay Rachid on 15 January. Mourtada’s defenders argued that he clearly had no malicious intent since he used his home IP address instead of a cyber cafe and also argued that he did not expect his posting to be taken seriously since there are so many false celebrity profiles on facebook.com (French President Sarkozy has 41). Nevertheless, on 22 February, Mourtada was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams (approximately $1,350) (helpfouad.com). Beginning with prominent French-language blogger Larbi el Hilali on 7 February, Moroccan bloggers have charged that Mourtada’s arrest and conviction portends a government crackdown on Internet free speech.