Hosni Ouazzani :
Ville de Tétouan
The most fundamental concern of the Tetouan Asmir Association is to maintain a positive approach to the problems facing the city of Tetouan despite the fact that the city has known a progressive decline at the social, cultural, economic and environmental levels. Our members do not share the same political inclinations, they belong to different walks of life and professions, and they often have different and even contrasting opinions concerning the same problems. Yet we have so far managed to tolerate our differences, to criticize each other frankly and constructively and to maintain a united front when the interest of our city has been at stake.
We know that our association cannot solve such problems that have plagued the city as mass emigration, the brain drain, poverty, underdevelopment, drug dealing and drug consumption, smuggling which drains our economic potential, stagnation, redtape, corruption, etc…Our goal is simply to arouse the awareness of the population of some of these problems, to collaborate whenever possible with the authorities and the elected bodies as well as with independent associations in order to understand, analyze and suggest possible solutions for these problems.
We intend to achieve our objectives by revaluating our past which we believe should inspire our future. We are aware of the importance of the city’s history, culture, natural environment and resources, both natural and economic, but most importantly, human, all of which have been wasted or simply ignored. We believe that we have a duty to revive our memory of our past in order to build a better future. We stress the original features of our city as a fundamental fabric of our national entity.
The magnitude of the problems of the city of Tetouan have reached such enormous and alarming proportions, that it is impossible to face them piece meal. Rather, it is important to identify them and to formulate a global strategy for facing them. Having done this, we believe that we should contribute to create a general consciousness of their gravity through our different activities and projects on the one hand, and to contribute directly either alone or in collaboration with other official and private entities to solve them on the other.
Given the nature of the educational and professional background of most of our members, we have orientated our basic efforts towards two basic areas. The first is the cultural sphere and the second is the social. The economic area should follow.
Our decision to stress the cultural dimension is basically due to the fact that Tetouan is extremely rich culturally, but its cultural heritage has been largely ignored. The Medina of Tetouan has been declared by U.N.E.S.C.O. as a Cultural Heritage of the World. The Ensanche or Spanish section of the city is one of the rare cities which were built by Spaniards during the early part of this century. There is no other city in Africa where a Spanish city has been so well preserved without much serious damage or demolition. This is the reason why the Junta de Andalucia has been involved in conservation projects involving the Medina and the Ensanche.
The other areas of the city of Tetouan have been characterized by a chaotic urban development that is the result of an absence of serious planning which has accumulated over several decades since Independence in 1956. It is the result of overcentralization and may be summed up in the word underdevelopment.
Even though our association is involved in numerous problems of the city of Tetouan, we stress the importance of our five century old Medina and hope that by promoting this jewel, its history, culture and society, we will eventually conserve this cultural heritage on the one hand, and promote it nationally and internationally.
We have started by organizing numerous conferences on the medina and in the Medina. We have published over twenty five books in Arabic, French and
Spanish which are in a variety of ways, related to the Medina. Our publications are now well known in Morocco and abroad, and it is basically thanks to them that we now have important contacts with different government institutions and N.G.O.’s in Morocco and abroad with whom we hope to carry out projects of a cultural and social nature related to the Medina.
The Medina of Tetouan is of great historical and artistic value. It has a five century old history that is unique and which has been totally ignored by historians who have overstressed the imperial cities of Morocco exclusively. The history of Tetouan as well as other cities of Northern Morocco like Chauen and indeed others in other parts of Morocco like Sale, remains to be discovered. Tetouan is full of documentation related to the city s history which has hardly been explored by historians. Hence our projects which are intended to promote research on the city’s history, culture, social life and architecture.
These include a cultural C.D.ROM of the Medina in Spanish which will be ready in a month s time, a cultural guide of the Medina, a project to install signs in the Medina indicating directions, names of historical monuments, etc… and symposiums related to the city s history and culture. In this context, we have organized guided cultural tours to the Medina for numerous Moroccan, Spanish and American groups of scholars and university students.
Another interesting cultural project of our association is that of cataloguing Tetouan’s private and public libraries by computer. In the context of the Centre of Documentation for Northern Morocco which we created with the Ecole Normale Superieure of Tetouan, we have catalogued more than twenty private libraries of the Medina and surpassed 50000 titles. Yet this project is not completed due to our limited budget.
We are also involved in activities and are preparing projects for a more direct action in order to promote the Medina. For example we are an official partner of the Urban Agency and are directly involved in a national project to restore and revive the traditional cities in different regions of Morocco.
We would very like to collaborate more positively and to be more seriously involved in projects related to the Medina in collaboration with the local authorities of Tetouan.
We also plan to get involved in projects related to cultural and rural tourism. Our mountain climbing committee has a yearly program for climbing mountains in the regions of Tetouan and Chaouen and the Rif as well as some of the highest peaks in the Atlas Mountains.
Other sports activities which are promoted by our association include organizing races and other competitions.
Our involvement in some projects related to social affairs has also been fruitful such as our efforts to help other associations like the Charity Islamic Tetuani Association which was created more than sixty years ago and which we have helped orient and which now runs a successful elementary private school of 600 students the profits of which are used to finance a dormitory for 60 orphans and a residence for the elderly adding to about 40 aging and sick men and women.
Our social activities and projects include combating hunger and undernourishment, poverty and illiteracy and other serious problems hindering the normal development of our youth. The women in our association are as active as the men and with our 500 members in Tetouan, Rabat and Casablanca, we have been active in all three cities.
Our social projects are basically aimed at improving the living conditions of children, the elderly and women as well as promoting education and combating illiteracy. We try to achieve this goal by feeding the poor, distributing books and other materials in order to encourage school children not to drop out, not only in the city of Tetouan, but in the rural areas. We also organize activities aimed at improving the health conditions of children. The importance of these activities resides in the fact that social conditions have reached a high degree of deterioration in many areas of Tetouan. Another unfortunate social group that we have tried to work with are prisoners in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice because the conditions in the prison of Tetouan are deplorable.
However, we would like to believe that we have achieved much during our five years of existence, even though we are fully aware that we fell short of achieving our objectives basically because of our financial limitations since we are neither supported by a state institution nor by regular private sources. We have maintained our independence which we cherish and have preferred to work within our possibilities.
We would very much like to collaborate with American N.G.O.’s in the cultural and social fields. We are sure that our city has a unique cultural heritage to offer, one which we would be happy to share with others. We are equally eager to learn from others, because alone, we would never achieve the ambitious objectives which we have set for ourselves in order to challenge the numerous threats facing our city.