Study warns of potential for youth violence in Morocco

Meet the neet in Casablanca. Homeless boys fight with each other amid inaction from people to intervene. (Saad Guerraoui)

2017/11/05 Issue: 130 Page: 20

The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui

Casablanca - About 2.7 million young Moroccans constitute a “time bomb” to secu­rity in the North African kingdom, a study by an independent think-tank warned.

Titled “Young People, Marginali­ties and Violence,” the study by the Rabat Social Studies Institute (RSSI) in collaboration with the Heinrich Boll Foundation said many young people who commit acts of vio­lence have been victims of physical or psychological violence within their families, schools or society.

The study, carried out in 2015-16, was led by 11 researchers and in­volved 22 focus groups totalling 220 people aged 18-30 in seven regions in Morocco.

RSSI President Saloua Zerhouni said life in Morocco for much of the younger generation was a cause for alarm. The World Bank said nearly 2.7 million Moroccans aged 15-29 are labelled NEET — not in educa­tion, employment or training.

“These young people are a time bomb that can explode at any time in the face of the Moroccan govern­ment,” said Zerhouni, who is also a political science professor at the Mohammed V University Faculty of Law in Rabat.

“Even those we interviewed and who are still in education don’t feel that they are included in the social, economic and political spheres in Morocco because they think that the educational system doesn’t al­low them to integrate either the so­cial or economic life,” she said.

The study gave a broad defini­tion of violence due to its complex aspect.

“The majority of the youth think that violence is multidimensional because it could be a direct vio­lence, which means a physical or psychological violence; a structural violence related to social inequali­ties; or a cultural violence, which means a state legitimisation of youth exclusion,” explained Zer­houni.

Ilyas, 22, is representative of the people in the study. He said his fa­ther forced him to leave school at the age 14.

“I wish I could have studied fur­ther but my father used to come home drunk almost every night and beat me. I did drugs. I was part of a gang but couldn’t keep up with this low life,” said Ilyas.

“It took me time to realise that vi­olence will take me nowhere. I de­cided to look for a decent job but it was impossible,” added Ilyas, who works in maintenance at a sports club in Casablanca.

The inequalities in treatment be­tween social classes and the lack of respect towards them in public spaces were denounced by the fo­cus groups as a form of psychologi­cal violence.

“When young people encoun­ter violence at home, schools, in their neighbourhoods and in pub­lic space, they know very well that the only way to prove themselves in society is through violence,” Mohcine Benzakour, a professor of social psychology at Chouaib Doukkali University of El Jadida, said during a television programme aired October 11 titled “The Youth: Between Marginalisation and Violence.” Zerhouni was also on the programme to discuss the study.

Benzakour warned that a lack of a sound integration strategy would push young people to drug con­sumption or religious extremism, which could have grave conse­quences for the country.

The study concluded that the state must provide quality educa­tion for youth, the necessary infra­structure to fulfil their dreams and aspirations and invest in them with sound policies.

“Tackling youth’s violence with a security approach by impris­oning them is not the solution because it will constitute a burden on the state’s coffers,” said Zerhouni.

“We need to act on what really causes violence. There should be more public policies with solid ac­tion plans to help reduce violence and exclusion among the youth.”

Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.

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