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Return of compulsory military service sparks debate among Moroccans abroad

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The debate over the return of compulsory military service has been transferred from Moroccans residing in the country to the Moroccan community abroad. In particular, it raises the question if those with dual nationalities will also be forced to serve in the military.

Several Belgian newspapers have discussed the question: “Will Moroccans with Belgian citizenship have to carry out compulsory military service in Morocco?” The Belgian newspaper Leko said that compulsory military service is still a draft law to date.”

The newspaper added that despite the measures of returning compulsory military service to Morocco are not entirely clear, the young Belgians of Moroccan origins are concerned. It pointed out that “the draft law does not deal with dual nationals or expatriates abroad, considering that children born to a Moroccan parent in another country are themselves Moroccan.”

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The Belgian newspaper went on saying that “this category of Moroccans can be exempted in the future provided that the draft law is updated by adding legal clarifications that clearly show its context of applicability.”

Before implementing compulsory military service, the law must pass through the Parliament’s first and second chambers, published in the Official Gazette, and then wait for its implementation decrees, which will explain in details what has not been included in the law in general, especially the concerned parties, the compensations they will receive, and their number each year.

Morocco had previously adopted compulsory military service, which had been implemented on men between 20 and 35 years of age and was optional for girls between 20 and 27 years of age. It was however cancelled in 2007 and is now reintroduced for both genders between 19 and 25 years.

On the one hand, the website of Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported statements by Moroccans with Dutch citizenship, including the 23-year-old Mariam, who considered that compulsory military service could provide an opportunity for young people in Morocco, especially since many of them have no job. Nevertheless, she refused it would be mandatory for Moroccans living in the Netherlands.

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The Radio’s website stated that Mariam was born and grew up in the Netherlands. She has Dutch and Moroccan nationalities and frequently visits her country of origin. However, she explicitly stated that compulsory military service should not include Moroccans living in the Netherlands, but added: “It could be useful for those who do not have opportunities here in the Netherlands.”

Nasser, 23, has the same opinion as Mariam. He said in a statement to the website of Radio Netherlands Worldwide: “I do not want to join the Moroccan army. I am in a good situation here in the Netherlands. I am proud and happy that I am a Dutch Moroccan. However,  if I have to leave because of compulsory military service for a year, it would not be good for my carrier here.”

More than 5 million Moroccans are in the European Union states, and a large proportion of them are young people of the age range on which the compulsory military service law would be implemented. This practically means that they will be included in the bill because they hold a Moroccan nationality.

Not only the Moroccan community abroad has expressed its rejection of this law, but young Moroccan people inside the Kingdom have also shown their rejection of the logic of compelling. Some resorted to holding an online campaign to reject the law. They called at the same time for the “provision of good levels of education and health services,” and criticised the law’s exemption of “criminals,” as they put it.

Except for the general information published about the compulsory military service, there has been silence on its detailed contents. Unlike what used to be done before, the website of the General Secretariat of the Government has not published a written copy of the law, and the Government did not provide details of its official communication on the matter.

The opening of the parliament in October might reveal the content of the law which raised a public debate on the return of compulsory military service in Morocco and its real motives, especially as it compels males and females and imposes sanctions on those who would reject joining the military service in case summoned.

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