Sub-Saharan students face ‘racist attacks’

Students from Sub-Saharan Africa who are studying in Morocco have described their experiences as victims of racism.

SlateAfrique Maroc reported the case of Fatim, a 20-year-old student from Guinea studying law at Souissi in Rabat. Her student life had become so traumatic because of racism that she was thinking of leaving Morocco.

In the four years Fatim had lived there she had never made any local friends and had been attacked several times, said SlateAfrique. Moroccans often told her and her friends, “You’re African, you’re black”, as they walked along the street.

In 2009 she had been surrounded by six young men, knives in their hands, when she went to the bank one afternoon. After that incident her father forbade her to go out alone. Another time she was attacked leaving a supermarket in the evening, the attackers “putting their feet on her face and stomach”, said SlateAfrique.

“Moroccans consider themselves like whites. They don’t like black skin. I really didn’t expect that,” it quoted Fatim as saying. “At university it’s very difficult. Some lecturers give courses in Arabic and refuse to speak French. When we say we don’t understand the language, they tell us maliciously to ask our neighbours.”

Her friend Awa (21), also from Guinea, came to study engineering at the Institut Supérieur du Génie Appliqué in Casablanca. She also experienced racism – she said she was insulted daily in the street by children, teenagers and even elderly people who called her ‘monkey’, ‘negress’, ‘dirty African’ or ‘slave’, reported SlateAfrique.

“I have been attacked twice. The first time in Casablanca, when I was waiting for the bus to go to Rabat. A young man snatched my bag calling me ‘negress’ and ‘monkey’. Nobody lifted a finger,” Awa told SlateAfrique.

The second time a man aged about 30 armed with a knife stole her mobile phone while she was out with a friend. “We were waiting for a taxi outside my door, on a Saturday evening. There were lots of people around. People who really couldn’t care less. In the long run you do what you have to do. I have another two years of studies, I take care."

The students did not complain because, said a 28-year-old male student from Benin who preferred to remain anonymous, “When the police themselves insult us, I don’t see what they can do for us. It’s a waste of time.

“When Africans arrive in Morocco they apply themselves much more to their studies. Some lecturers don’t want Moroccan students to be dominated by blacks, so they don’t mark us higher than 11 out of 20 whatever the quality of our work,” said the Benin student, who has been in Morocco for five years.

Awa said she had chosen Morocco because it was near her country of origin. “It’s easier to return to see the parents. And in Morocco there are very good schools.” Also, noted SlateAfrique, most Sub-Saharan Africans did not need a visa to enter Morocco.

“If the country has evolved, mentalities have remained archaic. Moroccans still consider blacks as slaves,” Awa told SlateAfrique.

Like Bintou, a 24-year-old Senegalese, she had encountered a landlord who refused to let apartments to black people. A petition had been circulated to make Bintou leave her accommodation.

But the Benin student conceded: “Not all Moroccans are racists. One mustn’t exaggerate. I don’t hold it against journalists of Maroc Hebdo who talk about the ‘black peril’. Many African immigrants stir up trouble here, waiting to be able to leave for Europe,” SlateAfrique quoted him as saying.

Iriébi, a student from Côte d’Ivoire and vice-president of Rabat-based CESAM, the confederation of foreign African pupils, students and interns in Morocco, said: “Sub-Saharan Africans in Morocco are either illegal, ‘crafty’ people who work illegally in call centres, or students.”

Regarding racism, he said: “I’ve been here six years. Now I close my eyes when I’m insulted in the street. When things get worse we go to the embassy of the country of the student concerned. The embassy goes to the Moroccan foreign affairs ministry. And then that’s it. When we go to the police they make a report, organise two or three summonses, then the affair is quashed.”

For Souleymane, a 23-year-old Senegalese who left for home a year ago, ‘negrophobia’ was more evident in Fes or Agadir than in Casablanca. “Yes, I am treated like a cockroach, I endure contemptuous looks in the street, I’ve had water thrown over my head; but as a Senegalese I have always felt better off.

“The Senegalese are practising Muslims and that helps to make oneself accepted,” he told SlateAfrique. “One day, as a way to refer to us, a lecturer called us ‘the Africans’. I retorted that he was also African. He apologised by saying he should have called us the ‘Sub-Saharans’.”

* This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original report.