Monthly Archives: June 2011

In Advance of Historic National Referendum, Leading Moroccan Reformer Holds High-Level US Meetings

Ahmed Herzenni discusses Morocco’s upcoming national referendum with top US government officials, experts, and media

Ahmed Herzenni at the Woodrow Wilson Center

Washington, D.C. – Ahmed Herzenni, who served as President of the Moroccan Advisory Council on Human Rights from 2007 through 2010, former political prisoner under the Hassan II regime, and one of the architects of Morocco’s historic constitutional reforms, was in Washington this week to meet with officials, academics, media, and Moroccan-American youth to discuss Morocco’s path towards reform.

On Monday, Mr. Herzenni first met with Zeinab Elnour Abdelkarim, Regional Director of the Middle East & North Africa Division of The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), an international non-profit that provides electoral support to countries around the world in efforts to increase citizen participation and promote democracy. Herzenni then headlined a discussion at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a nonpartisan institution engaged in the study of domestic and international affairs, where he was introduced by Dr. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Center’s Middle East Program. He spoke to a full room of attendees which included Executive Vice President and COO Michael Van Dusen as well as human rights experts and democratic reform scholars.

Monday afternoon, Herzenni met with foreign policy and Islamic studies experts at the Brookings Institution, one of the nation’s most influential and well-respected nonprofit think tanks. Herzenni then went to the U.S. Department of State, where he continued to discuss foreign affairs and the role of the Moroccan democratic process with Deputy Assistant Secretary Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick. In the evening, he attended a dinner with former Senator Robert Kasten, Jr. and Amal Mudullali, Advisor to former Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri.

Tuesday, Mr. Herzenni held a press conference to leading American media at the National Press Club with MoroccoTomorrow, a new youth-based organization of Moroccans living overseas and committed to reform in their mother country. Following the press conference, Herzenni had a sit-down with Congressional staffers, including members of the offices of Congressmen Aaron Schock (R-IL), Ed Whitfield (R-KY), Dan Burton (R-IN), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL), as well as staffers from the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (or U.S. Helsinki Commission). Herzenni then participated in a roundtable discussion at the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization. The roundtable was hosted by Dr. Hillel Fradkin, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World.

Ahmed Herzenni with Senator John McCain

In the afternoon, Herzenni met with Robert Malley, former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, and Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, an international NGO dedicated to resolving conflicts around the world. He ended his evening at dinner with Theodore Kattouf, former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and later Syria, and currently President of AMIDEAST, the leading American non-profit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.

Wednesday morning, Mr. Herzenni met with Jared Genser, President of Freedom Now, an international non-profit that works to free prisoners of conscience, before meeting with Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Herzenni’s morning ended with sitting down with members of the American Foreign Policy Council, a non-profit whose mission is to provide assistance and guidance on foreign policy issues to lawmakers. The meeting was hosted by Ilan Berman, Vice President, and an expert on foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia.

In the afternoon, Herzenni first met with staffers from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Then, he made his way to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a public educational foundation dedicated to scholarly research and informed debate on U.S. interests in the Middle East, where he met with David Schenker, Aufzien Fellow and Director of the Program on Arab Politics. Before catching a flight to New York, Herzenni had one final meeting with Michael McVicker, Lead Democratic Staffer at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Herzenni’s visit to the US comes in advance of a historic referendum in Morocco, which the people will be voting on this Friday, July 1. As demonstrators took to the streets of various Arab countries this spring, demanding the removal of their heads of state, Moroccans similarly gathered – but chanting for greater socio-political reform, not the abdication of their king Mohammed VI. Understanding the need for greater transparency, openness, and regionalization on the political level, a newly-formed constitutional committee drafted significant changes to the existing constitution. These include the recognition of the Amazigh language and heritage as essential to the Moroccan identity, the guarantee of an independent judiciary, and the election of the Prime Minister by majority rule in Parliament instead of by appointment by the King as has been the custom.

For media inquiries, please write to

About Ahmed Herzenni

Ahmed Herzenni

Mr. Herzenni, a political prisoner for 12 years under King Hassan II, Mohammed VI’s father, is now playing an active role in shaping Morocco’s transition to a more democratic future. He was appointed to the post of President of Morocco’s Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH) in May 2007 by King Mohammed VI before stepping down recently to become a member of the commission that drafted the constitutional reforms.

Mr. Herzenni has a long and distinguished career as a professional dedicated to education and the improvement of conditions in Morocco. Holding a Ph.D. in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of Kentucky and a Diploma of Higher Studies in Sociology from the Rabat Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Herzenni first worked as a teacher, and later become a sociologist specializing in rural and environmental affairs. Throughout his illustrious career, he has held a number of posts relating to resource management, sustainable environmental and agricultural development, social sciences, human development, and participatory and democratic methods.

Morocco in the News – June 30, 2011

Ahmed Herzenni

PR Newswire (06/29) – Youth Organization Hosts Top Moroccan Reformer in Washington in Advance of Historic National Referendum

Moroccan American Policy (06/29) – Moroccans to Cast Ballots in July 1 Referendum on Constitutional Reforms, Making Historic Choice for Change with Votes, not Violence

PR Newswire (06/29) – In Advance of Historic National Referendum, Leading Moroccan Reformer Holds High-Level US Meetings

Myfoxal (06/29) – In Advance of Historic National Referendum, Leading Moroccan Reformer Holds High-Level US Meetings

MAP (06/29) – La présidente de la Commission des AE à la Chambre basse du Congrès US salue le projet de nouvelle constitution (in French)

MAP (06/28/2011) – M. Herzenni: la révision de la constitution est le couronnement des réformes entreprises au Maroc (in French)

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars(06/27) – Morocco in Transition: The Arab Spring Lives On

All Africa (06/28) – Morocco: Constitutional Reform – Civilians to decide July 1


The National (06/30) – Historic vote for Moroccans

The National (06/30) – A reader comments that Morocco would benefit from a literacy project

Google (06/30) – Morocco heads to vote on curbing king’s powers

Guardian (06/30) – Morocco’s king is destroying hope for democracy

Africasia (06/30) – Morocco heads to vote on curbing king’s powers

Trend (06/30) – Exclusive: Moroccan Constitution is unique

BBC News (06/29) – Q&A: Morocco’s referendum on reform

World Bank (06/29) – A Peaceful Face of the Arab Spring: Morocco

All (06/29) – Morocco: Constitutional Review – Civilians to Decide July 1

PR Newswire (06/29) – Moroccans to Cast Ballots in July 1 Referendum on Constitutional Reforms, Making Historic Choice for Change with Votes, not Violence

Morocco Board (06/29) – Morocco: 1st poll on the referendum

Constitutional Daily (06/29) – Arab Spring in Morocco

Humanitarian News (06/29) – A peaceful face of the Arab Spring: Morocco

Aid Resources (06/29) A peaceful face of the Arab Spring: Morocco

Ennahar Online (06/29) – Moroccans to vote in a backdrop of turmoil in the Arab world

Kidd Report (06/29) – Are you ready for the new GCC?

Khaleej Times (06/29) – UAE elected member to OIC human rights body

The Pomed Wire (06/29) – Analysts: Prospects for Reform in Morocco

Marrakesh Bombing

Forbes (06/30) – 7 suspects on trial over Morocco cafe bombing

ABC (06/30) – 7 suspects on trial over bombing in Morocco tourist cafe that killed 17

660 News (06/30) – 7 suspects on trial over bombing in Morocco tourist cafe that killed 17

Miami Herald (06/30) – 7 suspects on trial over bombing in Morocco tourist cafe that killed 17

Kansas City (06/30) – 7 suspects on trial over bombing in Morocco tourist cafe that killed 17

Mercury News (06/30) – 7 suspects on trial over bombing in Morocco tourist cafe that killed 17

The Sahara

Wikipedia (06/28) – Sahrawi Refugee Camps

Facebook – American Task Force on Western Sahara


IM Mining (06/30) – Morocco phosphates handling contract awarded to FLSmidth

Reuters (06/29) – Update 1 – Gap to open its first stores in Africa

Reuters (06/29) – EU agrees to prolong fishing pact with Morocco-sources

Golf Club Business (06/29) – One of Morocco’s Most Exciting New Resort Developments



MoroccoTomorrow Hails ‘Democratic Moment’ For Country

Ahmed Herzenni and members of the MoroccoTomorrow organizing committee at National Press Club press conference.

 Washington, DC (June 29, 2011) — Morocco is “still far from a democracy,” according to  Younes Abouyoub, lead organizer of MoroccoTomorrow and political analyst at Columbia University, but it will face a “democratic moment” on July 1 when Moroccans head to the polls to vote on a crucial constitutional referendum. MoroccoTomorrow is a new, independent group of young Moroccan professionals committed to socio-political reform in their country.

Speaking to reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Abouyoub hailed the growing peaceful political activism of the Moroccan people in the midst of the Arab Spring, and noted that the world will be watching as Morocco ushers in a new era of democratic reform in the Arab world.

“These are historic times in Morocco, where the government is allowing the people to speak more loudly and voice their grievances,” said Abouyoub. “The referendum will shape a new Morocco.”

MoroccoTomorrow’sleadership was joined at the press conference by Ahmed Herzenni, a former political prisoner who until recently served as President of the Moroccan Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH). He left this position to join the commission that drafted the constitutional reforms that will face a popular vote on Friday.

Ahmed Herzenni speaks at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

In his remarks, Herzenni laid out the manner in which the reforms will solidify rights across cultures and genders in Morocco, limit the absolute powers of the king, and promote stronger and more distinct political parties to accurately represent the will of the Moroccan people.

“The demonstrations this year helped speed up the process of reform in Morocco and revived the public’s political interest and activism,” said Herzenni.

International lawyer with the World Justice Project and expert on North African jurisprudence Leila Hanafi, another MoroccoTomorrow leader, called in from Morocco to discuss the importance of enhancing the rule of law in the country.

“Morocco has the potential to be a guide for other countries in the region,” Hafani said, “but we must improve in areas like due process and actually enforcing the laws that we enact.”

“Taboos have been broken,” added Abouyoub. “Politics are no longer something to be feared.”

Ahmed Herzenni and members of the MoroccoTomorrow organizing committee at the press conference.

On Friday July 1st, the Kingdom of Morocco will hold a national referendum on constitutional reforms that will mark a new era in Morocco’s political development, including instituting stronger limitations on the power of the Monarchy and guaranteeing that members of Parliament be democratically elected and its Prime Minister chosen from the party with a majority of seats. If passed, this October Moroccans for the first time will vote for a truly representative government, making the reforms some of the first concrete steps towards democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring.

For more information, please write to

About MoroccoTomorrow

MoroccoTomorrow is a new, independent group of young Moroccan professionals committed to socio-political reform in their country. MoroccoTomorrow, a 501(c)3 organization, provides a forum for all those who believe in the future of Morocco. It provides a source of clear and unbiased information about Morocco, and seeks to act as a bridge between Moroccans at home and abroad, between friends of the country and all those eager to learn more.

MoroccoTomorrow was created by a group of young Moroccan professionals in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Europe — participants in a robust and global social network. They are just a few of the 4.5 million Moroccans who live outside of their homeland, and who want to share their love and knowledge of Morocco with the world, and help shape its future.

MoroccoTomorrow wishes to give a voice to all those who care about Morocco and want it to succeed. MoroccoTomorrow belongs to no party or movement, and welcomes the participation and contributions of all who want to help Morocco to become a more transparent place for its citizens and its partners.

Voter Turnout Key to Passage of Constitution

Analysts are saying that voter turnout will be instrumental in determining the passage of the new Moroccan Constitution presented earlier in the month by Moroccan King Mohammed VI. A low turnout could be a sign of dissatisfaction with the scope of the proposed reforms. Some elements of the pro-reformist February 20th Movement have been pressing for a boycott of the referendum.

Campaign for Constitution Enters Final Day

By Michael Mainville (AFP) – 10 hours ago

RABAT — Morocco entered the final day of campaigning Thursday for a referendum on curbing the near absolute powers of King Mohammed VI, who has offered reforms in the wake of pro-democracy uprisings in the Arab world.

Faced with protests modelled on the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted long-serving leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, Mohammed VI announced the referendum this month to devolve some of his wide-ranging powers to the prime minister and parliament.

Under a new draft constitution to be voted on Friday, the king would remain head of state, the military, and the Islamic faith in Morocco, but the prime minister, chosen from the largest party elected to parliament, would take over as head of the government.

Mohammed VI, who in 1999 took over the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty, offered the reforms after the youth-based February 20 Movement organised weeks of pro-reform protests that brought thousands to the streets.

The reforms fall short of the full constitutional monarchy many protesters were demanding and the movement has urged its supporters to boycott Friday’s vote.

The reform plan has been hailed abroad, however, with the European Union saying it “signals a clear commitment to democracy”.

The country’s three biggest political parties — the Justice and Development Party, an Islamist formation; the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP); and the conservative Istiqlal party — have also urged their supporters to vote “yes”.

The February 20 movement has continued to hold protests, organised through websites such as Facebook and YouTube, since the reforms were announced and maintains they do not go far enough.

The movement has already called another demonstration for Sunday.

Analysts say there is little doubt the new constitution will be approved and the brief referendum campaign has been dominated by the “yes” side, with few signs of an organised “no” vote movement.

Thousands of supporters also took to the streets in major cities including Rabat and Casablanca on Sunday to back the reforms.

Along with changes granting the prime minister more executive authority, the new constitution would reinforce the independence of the judiciary and enlarge parliament’s role.

It would also remove a reference to the king as “sacred”, though he would remain “Commander of the Faithful” and it would say that “the integrity of the person of the king should not be violated.”

The new constitution would also make Berber an official language along with Arabic — the first time a North African country has granted official status to the region’s indigenous language. According to the 2004 census, 8.4 million of Morocco’s 31.5 million people speak one of the three main Berber dialects.

Related articles

%d bloggers like this: