Morocco’s Only Female Minister Remains Resilient

Article Summary
Bassima Hakkaoui, Morocco’s only female minister, discusses the challenges she has faced thus far in her post in an interview with Meryem Saadi.

TelQuel:  How does it feel to be the only woman in the government [of Abdelilah Benkirane]?

Hakkaoui:  It is a shame that the government includes only one female minister. I wish that there were many women in the government, mainly because I am now under the spotlight, being the only female who represents all Moroccan women.

TelQuel:  Do you mean the media is now watching your every move?

Hakkaoui:  Yes, absolutely ... At first, the media attacked me by misinterpreting my statements and I was defamed by reports that falsely accused me of things I never said. I believe the media was upset to see a woman wearing the veil in charge of a ministry. So, they wanted to damage my credibility. I do not recognize myself with the image the media ascribes to me. It was a form of political violence when the media spreads unbelievable rumors about you.

TelQuel:  Like the rumor that says you are the second wife of Minister of Justice Mustafa Ramid?

Hakkaoui:  Oh, yes! God forbid! There is also another rumor that claims my husband has a second wife. This is absolutely false, as my husband is not polygamist. Fortunately, I have a strong personality and I have the full support of my party and my family.

TelQuel:  And where does your husband stand on this matter? How does it feel for him to be the husband of Bassima Hakkaoui?

Hakkaoui:  He lives with it. He is a professor of economics teaching at college. He is as busy as I am.

TelQuel:  Did he appreciate the rumor saying that “Bassima Hakkaoui is the second wife of Ramid?”

Hakkaoui:  Of course not! He did not find this amusing. He was so upset that he called the radio that spread the rumor to explain that such a statement was slander.

TelQuel:  Have you ever considered lodging a complaint against slanderers?

Hakkaoui:  No, I have not. I prefer to send messages that correct such false statements. I respect the work of the media, even if they fail sometimes to check the accuracy of their information…

TelQuel:  Is it difficult for a woman to work her way up the ladder within an Islamist party?

Hakkaoui:  This is difficult as it is in any other organization. The party’s members have always believed in me and they have regularly entrusted me with high-level responsibilities. I have no reason to complain.

TelQuel:  Almost nine months have passed since Amina Filali’s suicide. Will article 475 be subject to amendments anytime soon?

Hakkaoui:  This matter is being discussed. The article will surely be subject to amendments. Rapists belong in prison and nowhere else. Such amendments will be implemented depending on the reforms of the criminal law made by the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Solidarity, Women, Family and Social Development is also preparing a bill preventing violence against women. Hopefully, the bill will see the light of the day in 2013.

TelQuel:  Are you still considering holding a national referendum on abortion?

Hakkaoui:  Yes, but it will not be held right away. First, we should prepare for a national debate between the main players, such as doctors, religious scholars, sociologists and other concerned activists. All such players must agree on a sound draft law. Afterwards, the Moroccans will have to decide on such a matter.

TelQuel:  Do you have any plans to help single mothers?

Hakkaoui:  I am working on this subject. The relevant organizations make every effort to support single mothers. So far, the government has not come up with any solutions to help this category integrate into society or at least, help their children lead a normal and joyful life.

TelQuel:  Last June, on Al-Jazeera, you condemned the public opinion, confirming that “football matches attract homeless children, who still wander the city’s streets because they do not have the means to go back home.” Do you stick to your guns?

Hakkaoui:  You know that I follow up on the affair of homeless children. My thesis in social psychology focused on homeless children. It took me six years of hard work. I conducted a field study to such effect and talked to those children, watching closely how they live. Academic studies on this subject are very rare. This is why I consider myself well-versed in this issue.

TelQuel:  Your statements during your last TV appearance on Moubasharatan Maakoum on 2M caused Said Lakhal, a professor and researcher in Islamic movements, to file a lawsuit against you, after you described him as an “impious man”...

Hakkaoui:  My statements were taken out of context. I admit that I committed a slip of the tongue, but I rectified the situation on the spot. All those who watched the show know the truth very well. I wanted to explain to an Egyptian woman participating in the show that Lakhal was not an Islamist man as she thought. I know that I should have never described the man as “impious”. I have no right to judge his religious faith. However, I apologized immediately. Still, I do not understand why he took me to court.

TelQuel:  It seems you hardly succeed on live TV shows ...

Hakkaoui:  Well, it is not easy to be invited to a show where you find yourself surrounded with other guests who are clearly against you and your party. Unfortunately, Moroccan talk shows do not respect political pluralism. They lack balance. The guests of Moubasharatan Maakoum do not represent Morocco’s real political scene.

TelQuel:  Do you agree with Benkirane, that the news management of 2M is not a very big fan of the Justice and Development Party?

Hakkaoui:  This is not something new. It is enough to watch talk shows on 2M to see the truth. But, the viewers are not stupid and they are aware of this fact. They know that the station’s management is not impartial towards us.

TelQuel:  When did you first start wearing the veil?

Hakkaoui:  I first wore the veil in 1982, while I was studying at college. Before wearing the veil, I was not a deeply religious person and I always asked many existential questions. I tried to find answers to my questions and I found them in religion. I finally concluded that there was God, the Creator. Once you have faith, you suddenly feel so close to God. I take refuge in God and I always turn to him in difficult times.

TelQuel:  You have been often criticized for your austere wardrobe. Have you tried to change your look?

Hakkaoui:  Yes, I did and I never succeeded. My stylist always suggests that I wear more original clothes, but she has lost all hope on me. I cannot fight this feeling. I always end up wearing the usual clothes.

TelQuel:  You are totally different from Nezha Skalli, your predecessor. What kind of relations do you have with her?

Hakkaoui:  We do not have any close relations. We often worked together while we were still members of the parliament. But, when she became a minister, she believed I was very aggressive towards her. However, I was only doing my job as an MP representing the opposition. I have never disrespected her.

Found in: morocco, arab women

Cookies help us deliver our services. By using them you accept our use of cookies. Learn more... X