CASABLANCA—A Moroccan judge has ordered the dissolution of Racines, one of the country’s most active and well-regarded nongovernmental cultural organizations, after it was accused of airing political opinions.
The ruling against Racines, handed down in December, has caused consternation among those concerned with the freedom of expression and the freedom of nongovernmental associations to operate in Morocco.
“This dissolution acts as a sword of Damocles over the freedom of associations in Morocco,” Racines stated in a news release, “shedding light on the contradiction between the dominant discourse and the reality on the ground.”
Racines, whose name translates as Roots, was established in 2008 and is a key actor in the cultural field in Morocco. The organization collects and distributes data on cultural practices, lobbies for laws and policies to support artists and expand arts education, and oversees numerous projects—exhibitions, round tables, traveling theater productions that call for audience participation— to promote civic values through cultural engagement.
The association makes a point of working outside of the country’s big cities, traveling far and wide and looking for local partners. Its slogan is “Culture is the solution.”
In the fall of 2018, Racines hosted the latest episode of a popular YouTube series, “1 Dîner 2 Cons” (“One Dinner, Two Idiots”), at its offices in Casablanca. The show is the creation of Youssef El Mouedden and the journalist Amine Belghazi; each episode is a lively and often humorous discussion with about half a dozen guests gathered in an informal setting.
Since the show began in 2016, “1 Dîner 2 Cons” has been a rarity for its freedom of tone. It has also garnered a significant audience—the last episode had over half a million views.
That episode gathered Aadel Essaadani, general coordinator of Racines; the investigative journalist Omar Radi; the singer and rap artist Barry; the economist Rachid Aourraz; Jawad El Hamidi, an activist for the religious rights of minorities; and Ahmad Benchemsi, advocacy and communications director for Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. The discussion included a critical analysis of one of King Mohammed VI’s official speeches, delivered in August.