Over the past few days, Moroccan social media users have passionately embraced two trending campaigns, incorporated into the hashtag #ImposeVisaOnFrance. Supporters of this campaign advocate for requiring an entry visa for French citizens wishing to enter Morocco. Another campaign, launched last year, has resurfaced: It urges the Moroccan government to discontinue the use of the French language in the country's educational system and government agencies.
Moroccans cite various reasons for the call for an entry visa requirement, including security concerns; the desire to reciprocate France's visa restrictions on Moroccans; the comparatively modest spending of French tourists in Morocco relative to other nationalities, and perceived unfavorable coverage, in the French media, of the Moroccan government's response to a recent earthquake.
The proponents of ending the use of the French language in schools and government agencies argue that Morocco should prioritize English over French and reverse its decision to teach science in the French language to students living in rural areas. In August 2022, thousands of Moroccans signed an online petition "to remove the manifestations of French influence in Moroccan institutions and to use Arabic, the first official language, in education."
This report will highlight both campaigns and shed light on the arguments proposed by Moroccans across various social media platforms.
Highlighting the importance of the campaign to impose an entry visa requirement on French citizens, Moroccan X (formerly Twitter) user Ahmed Badda wrote on September 24, 2023: "The demand to 'Impose Visa on France' has turned into a popular movement that must continue and make the fight against French influence and linguistic policy deviation in Morocco an essential part of its goals. We do not progress in Morocco without immediate cultural and linguistic independence."
Another argument for the visa requirement was advanced by Badda, one of the most active users of the hashtag #ImposeVisaOnFrance, with over seven thousand followers. He argued that the campaign for the entry visa requirement for French citizens aligns with the growing anti-French policies and presence in West African countries. On September 24, 2023, he wrote: "For the second day in a row, the hashtag #ImposeVisaOnFrance is trending as the top Twitter trend in Morocco. It's clear that the anger towards France's policies has reached its peak in Morocco, both officially and among the public. This stance is consistent with the widespread discontent in Africa towards France and its policies, along with strong calls for complete liberation from its colonial influence. Now, we need to see practical steps, starting with breaking free from forced French dependency and liberating Morocco from linguistic and cultural subjugation that has stifled education, services, creativity, and publishing, and has pushed Moroccan universities to a low ranking."
X (Twitter) user Rachid, who hosts a weekly live show on the platform, cited security reasons behind the entry visa requirement considering the events following the recent earthquake in Morocco. In a post published on September 23, 2023, he wrote: "We've learned many lessons from the Al-Haouz earthquake, including the entry of foreign mercenaries without visas. We hope that our country's authorities will implement visas for everyone to ensure our security and stability, as the situation has become dangerous with the presence of mercenaries trading under the name of the intelligence agencies of some European countries that we used to consider allies."
Providing some background on how the campaign started, the Facebook page "Scoop Maroc" claimed that the hashtag was launched after Moroccan authorities arrested and deported two French journalists working in the country without employment authorization. Scoop Maroc, which is followed by over three thousand people, accused the France media of criticizing Morocco's efforts to address the aftermath of the violent earthquake that struck the Al-Haouz region, leaving 2,800 people dead and over 3,000 others injured.
Omar Senhaji, a Moroccan Facebook user, argued that it is unjust for France to subject Moroccans to exorbitant visa fees, which are non-refundable even if the applicant is rejected. These visa requirements, which include proof of accommodation in France, a birth certificate, round-trip travel arrangements, and translation of any documents written in Arabic, can be impractical, Senhaji wrote, while French citizens can freely enter Morocco without a visa. On September 24, 2023, he expressed his views using the hashtag #Apply_Visa_On_France: "Is it fair for France to impose such expensive visa fees, with no possibility of a refund upon rejection, coupled with unmanageable requirements and an unparalleled sense of superiority, on Moroccans? Meanwhile, the French enjoy unrestricted access to Moroccan territory without any visa requirements. Isn't this a direct insult to the dignity of all Moroccans? We are demanding the immediate implementation of visa requirements for France!"
Amine Abdeljalil, a Moroccan X user with over eight thousand followers, described the campaign as successful. In a post published on September 26, 2023, he expressed his hope that the entry visa requirement would be imposed to prevent French "mercenaries and spies" from entering the country. He added that he also wished that other African nations would follow suit. He wrote: "After the successful campaign to request #ImposeVisasOnFrance, do you expect that this request will be fulfilled, putting an end to the mercenaries and spies of #Macron's government, and also serving as a strong response to the ongoing aggressions of this colonial regime against the people and their king? Let it be a significant step towards adopting this request by the other African countries."
On September 24, 2023, X user Eljaouhari Mohammad shareda photo claiming it showed French tourists standing next to their recreational vehicle. He accused French visitors of being cheap, since they were not staying in a hotel, and thus they provide minimal economic benefit to the tourism sector.
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However, not all Moroccans agreed with the campaign to impose an entry visa requirement. Some believe that such a decision could negatively impact tourism and burden those Moroccans holding dual citizenship. For example, on September 25, 2023, U.S.-based YouTuber Zouhir Chbakou published a video on his channel, "Finance Bdarija," which has 153 thousand subscribers. In this video, he presented some statistics to support his argument: Chbakou cited unnamed sources estimating that there are 51,000 French citizens living in Morocco, and 1.5 million Moroccans who live in France, including 670 dual nationals. He added that in the first six months of 2023, 415,000 French tourists visited Morocco. Commenting on these statistics, Chbakou wrote: "From an economic standpoint, imposing a visa requirement on France is a wrong idea, in my personal opinion, and it's the same mistake Algeria made when it implemented the principle of reciprocity in entry procedures for French citizens, which led to a decline in the tourism sector in Algeria."
Chbakou then proposed that Moroccans set their emotions aside and engage with France in a win-win approach, writing: "First, ending economic colonization, which means not controlling a specific sector and exploiting Moroccan workers in it. Therefore, France should deal with Morocco as it does with major countries like Germany and England.
"Second, cutting cultural ties with France, including reducing the dominance of the French language in the Moroccan education system, administrative affairs, and the private sector, and opening up opportunities for both English and Arabic languages.
"Third, France should treat Moroccans with the same respect for their religions and cultures as the United States treats its citizens. Most importantly, France should recognize the Moroccan [former Spanish] Sahara and work towards reconciliation between Algeria and Morocco."
He concluded by emphasizing the necessity of protecting Moroccans holding French nationality. Statistics indicate that by the year 2050, the Arab population in France will reach a significant level, he wrote, adding: "At that time, it's possible for a Muslim of Moroccan descent to become the President of France, as is the case in England where a person of Indian descent has risen to power. Soon, France will find itself in the hands of Arabs, Muslims, and Moroccans."
Others, like Moroccan YouTuber Hichamyz1887, suggest that the visa entry requirement should apply only to French nationals who are not originally Moroccan. According to a video posted on his Facebook page on September 23, 2023, if the visa requirement is enacted, "it would be a major blow to French politics and the French regime."
Use Of The French Language
Commentators following the hashtag #ImposeVisasOnFrance often combine it with the hashtag #NoToFrench, which launched in August 2022. These users call on the Moroccan government to end the country's use of the French language in education and government institutions and replace it with English and Arabic.
One widely circulated document in this hashtag is a handwritten complaint, dated September 22, 2023, by a Moroccan teacher, addressed to the Regional Director of Education in the city of Youssoufia. In it, the teacher urges the official to cancel the decision to teach science in French in rural areas and instead allow students to choose their language.
According to Moroccan journalist Nabil Bakani, who writes for the London-based online news website raialyoum.com, the 2023 "No To French" campaign was launched with the following objectives: "First, ending the dominance of the French language in administration, media, and public institutions. Second, an immediate reversal of the Frenchifying of scientific subjects, and respecting students' right to choose the language of instruction that suits them."
On September 24, 2023, Abdennacer Al-Basry, one of the most active participants in this campaign, shared a link to the August 2022 petition that was signed by thousands of people "to remove the manifestations of French influence in Moroccan institutions and to use the first official language in education." Al-Basry added: "Let's all contribute to changing the reality that has been imposed on our country, our children, our institutions, and all aspects of our lives."
Commenting on an Al-Jazeera report about the addition of an entry visa requirement for French citizens, user Bendioues Mohamed proposed in a post published on X on September 24, 2023, that "before demanding the imposition of visas on the French, we, as Moroccans, should demand the removal of the teaching of scientific subjects in the French language in all educational pathways and consider it merely a foreign language for the sake of knowledge enrichment. The linguistic and cultural alienation that we are suffering from, and which a Francophone elite seeks to preserve, should be the primary focus of our struggle."
Some Moroccans have downplayed the importance of the visa campaign, calling it irrelevant, while expressing their disappointment that French, and not English, is the primary foreign language in Moroccan schools. On September 23, 2023, user Aziz Abdelaziz wrote: "Honestly, these campaigns are in one valley, while the reality is in another. We were expecting that educational decisions at both the elementary and preparatory levels would make English the primary foreign language. However, the surprising revelation was the shocking decisions that adopted the language of the colonizer as the primary language."
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