Academics in Algeria and Morocco say the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research’s decision this month to ban Algerian scholars from attending conferences in Morocco or publishing research in Moroccan journals is an affront to academic freedom.
But the decision will have little impact on knowledge production, they say, because research collaborations between the two North African countries were already limited.
Algerian-Moroccan relations have been tense for decades, over the issue of Western Sahara in particular. Morocco claims sovereignty over the territory, but Algeria and many other African countries support the Polisario Front, a movement seeking to establish an independent republic in Western Sahara. This tension escalated to the point that Algeria severed diplomatic ties with Morocco last year.
In justifying its decision to ban academic contacts, Algeria’s Ministry of Higher Education cited the publication of “anti-Algerian articles” in the Moroccan journal Al-Bahit, which publishes legal and judicial studies. The ministry called on Algerian scholars to immediately withdraw from the journal, accusing it of defending “Moroccan narratives about Western Sahara” in its articles.
Al-Bahit has an academic committee of scholars from several Arab countries, including eleven from Algeria.