Blog 2: Citizenship in Morocco – Kayla Smith

When I sat down this week with my host mom, Nisrine, to ask her what citizenship means to her, I didn’t anticipate the remarkable narrative that would become her views on life in Morocco.  She and her husband have lived in Morocco their whole lives; they now live in Fes with their two children, Zied and Rayda.  Her husband makes shoes for the winter and she works part-time as a math teacher.  When I asked Nisrine about how it feels to be a Moroccan citizen, she had a lot to say – both good and bad.

She said, “I like Morocco because it is an Islamic country.  There is a mosque and we can practice religion safely.  Nobody asks why you go to mosque or why you celebrate Eid or Ramadan.  But there are many bad things.  I grew up without a father.  My father only visit Morocco for 45 days out of year.  I lived without a father because he goes to France to search for work to pay for school for his children and to give money to his family.  My sister married a man who also leave Morocco to find work.  My brother leaves to Spain to find work and he tells me how everything is there – how the government treat the people.  I hear it and I am upset because it is not that way in Morocco.  I didn’t finish school because the school don’t give you money and you can’t stay in school if your family don’t pay for you to live.  My husband doesn’t work with the government so nobody cares if he gets money or not.  He make shoes for winter and doesn’t have work in summer very much.  If you don’t work, you don’t get money.  For work in Morocco, people don’t have a job because they deserve it – it’s because they have an uncle or brother who works there and they help them get a job.  Especially in the government you need this.”

She pauses for a bit to think and I see the emotions battling in her eyes.  She is so young, yet has given up so much, including her aspirations and a chance at a career of her own.  I realize how blessed I am to be able to have a say in my future.

She continues:  ‘Hospitals here are very bad.  Nobody asks about you or the children.  I took Zied once to the doctor and nobody would look at him.  If you don’t pay money, no one cares.  The nurses go to sleep or tell the old people or sick people to go away.  But if you give them money, then they will look at you and tell you what is wrong.  I went to the doctor when I was pregnant the first time.  I had the baby and the nurse come in and say, “In France, the baby would’ve lived, but he will die here.”  He died within 24 hours.  I will never forget this sentence the nurse told me.’

The pain in her voice when she tells me about her first-born child is imminent and I know there is nothing I can say at this moment that will come close to soothing the hurt.  She has every right to be hurt and angry.  Nothing can give a mother back her child.

She seems to want to move on from the topic.  I ask her about her involvement in the community and she tells me she thinks it’s important to help the less fortunate.  She responds, “There is a proverb: don’t see the people who are rich – see the people who are poor.  We help my husband’s family in the mountains.  They are very poor.  My family does not need my help l’Hamdu llah (thanks to God).  They help provide for me and my family.  I give clothes to children after Zied and Rayda don’t need.  During Ramadan, I go to mosque as often as I can.  It’s hard with children but I go a lot.  My husband sometimes goes to every prayer during Ramadan.  I call my brother every occasion and tell him to come visit me.  You have to help your family and listen to them.  In Morocco, you can’t say no to your parents.  When my father tell me to get married, I didn’t want to but I have to do as my family says.  I am just very sad my father is gone during Ramadan because he was without his family.  He needs family to celebrate and a woman to cook the foods for Ramadan.”

Lastly, she voices her concerns for her children: “I am afraid for my children.  I want them to go to school and university and finish.  Because I couldn’t do this, it is a big hope of mine.”

This is her reality.  I take so much for granted as an American.  Because I am a citizen of America, I have countless “guarantees” that Nisrine can only hope for and this saddens me beyond words.

10 comments to Blog 2: Citizenship in Morocco – Kayla Smith

  • very good publish, i actually love this web site, carry on it

  • Judy Cairns

    I can only express my deep appreciation and gratitude that you are able to
    capture an honest and interesting view of the many facets of Nisrine’s citizenship
    in Morocco. This entire article is quite fascinating. As Americans we often think
    we have had some difficult challenges in our lives. It is apparent Nisrine continues
    to have a life most of us can not imagine. To have your child’s life disregarded due
    to not being able to pay for life saving care just breaks my heart.
    Choosing to live in any area to be able to practice a religion of choice is understandable
    but having to endure your father and now her husband being forced to leave to find
    work to support their families is sad.
    Thank you for sharing the good and bad Moroccan citizenship views from your host mom, Nasrine!

  • Staci Ross

    Your connection with Nisrine and your compassion for her personal struggles is nearly palpable in your post. Reading about her losing her first child broke my heart. It is so hard to know that there are mothers and fathers in the world who will not be able to obtain the medical care they need for their children simply because they live in a country where the medical system is not as developed as what we enjoy here in the U.S., a blessing we often take for granted.

    I am glad that you are getting the opportunity to see how people live in different countries and the real challenges they face. It gives one a new sense of appreciation for what we have. I wish that people everywhere had access in their own countries to the same “safety net” of economic opportunities, education, and medical resources that we enjoy in the United States.

  • Mayra

    In her replies regarding being a citizen in Morocco, I see two different sort of categories that she touches on in regards to the quality of life in Morocco– the cultural and the economic. Both of these things are important to living comfortably in a nation, but some of the things she mentioned are things that I don’t often think about in the States. For example, having the country being an Islamic one, therefore feeling quite comfortable practicing her religion. Also, it can be difficult to fully understand the circumstances of others living somewhere else in the world (such as the difference in health care quality in Morocco versus France). It’s unfortunate that quality of life can differ so much across countries, but I am glad that you are being exposed to these differences in order to understand a wide array of conditions experienced by others.

    Keep it up, and keep learning.

  • Vera Jones

    There are many places in the “Third World” where conditions are even worse than they are in Morocco. However, at least, this woman’s husband does get some work in Europe. Because France colonized several of the countries in North Africa many of the people are able to speak at least some French – which does make them more employable in Europe.

    Apparently, the only education Islam really pushes is the ability to memorize the Koran. And, only boys get the education that may go along with these schools. In a religion where the husband may divorce a woman by simply saying “I divorce you” three times – lets you know right away that women are little more than child bearers.

    But, in the Western World, we learned hundreds of years ago that societies and economies do not flourish without an educated population.

    Many of the people who have governed the countries of north Africa learned that you can’t lead people around who are educated. Ergo, very poor education for the masses.

    Morocco once was a place where tourists spent a lot of dollars. However, with the current political challenges in each of the Islamic states, the tourist dollars may not flow as readily as they once did. In addition to education, a stable political environment is also necessary for them to flourish.

  • Judy Crissman

    It is a shame that life is so diverse in all of the different countries. Choices are limited in some countries due to the way that families are raised. Poverty is very promentant in Lots of countries which it does force families to separate when they try to make a better lives for the ones they love and care about.

  • Judy Thomas

    Life sounds extremely harsh in a country that has so little regard for life. In the eyes of God all creatures are important. I’m sure that they have their ways of getting the items they need to help stay well. Herbs and remedies used in days gone by if they don’t have access to modern medicine. It sure sounds very cold and unfeeling in their country. Life has to be hard and I am thankful to God that we live in a country that gives us the advantages to be what we want to be.

  • Sonjia Ennis

    When I read your report, which was great by the way, I was saddened. Hearing how Nisrine talks about her family having to do without makes me want to cry. On the other hand, Nisrine talks about her husband not getting offered good jobs just reminds me of how it is in America.

    Businesses in the US normally offer jobs to family or friends first. That’s unfortunate, but its just how it is.

    We all struggle in many of the same ways.

  • Collene

    I appreciate Nisrine’s desire to live in Morocco because of her beliefs…Islam. And her love of attending the mosque where she obviously finds peace. However, I don’t understand why her family remains in Morocco since it is so difficult to live. Their inability to find jobs is directly responsible for the struggle her family faces day to day. And, why would you want to live where those with wealth control the government and jobs? It’s a no win situation. Nisrine and her family will struggle as long as they choose to like in Morocco.

    They are not alone, however. People of wealth and power in most countries do their best to control everything from politics, religion, jobs and eductation. Powerful people are afraid to
    let the lower class have too much power or input into society.

  • Stacy W. Barbour

    Well done! It’s fantastic that you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to make this attempt to understand an average Moroccan’s view of citizenship through their lenses– through the life they’ve lived– without any conscious, unconscious attempt or agenda to somehow superimpose western values into the conversation/evaluation. I especially like one of your last remarks: “This is her reality.”

    As a youngster, growing up, oftentimes there were certain people in our community who appeared to many to make unacceptable or errant choices in their lives, many times over and over again. As the sharp tongues wagged (usually the same ones) in criticism about this person who had wandered of the beaten path in their life choices, my mother would always, without exception, say: “if you wish to understand this person and the choices they’ve made, first it is necessary that you walk a mile in their shoes.”

    In that vein, I would say that you have crossed a very important milestone in your life: the attempt to understand a fellow human being by “walk(ing) a mile in their shoes.”

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