Yacout Info: What is the role of the National Council on US-Arab Relations to Morocco ?
Megan Geissler: The National Council for US-Arab Relations has an educational role in arranging for American university professors to embark on cultural immersion studies and in this visit to Morocco we have concentrated on economics,culture and political developments currently underway in Morocco. We were created in 1983 and have concentrated on the Middle East and Noth Africa region. We have made several trips to Morocco with academics or national staffers for ten days. Our funding dropped after 9/11 due to negative coverage of the Middle East but this has now changed. This has been my first trip to Morocco for the council although I have visited as a tourist twice before.
Q: Who are present on this trip?
A: They are 7 university professors from the USA including Dr Michael Kuchinsky assistant Professor of political science at Garner Webb University, Jerry M. Long PH.D, Director of Middle East Studies Baylor University,Waco Texas, Dr Joe P. Dunn, Chairman Department of History and Politics, Converse Spartanburg, Nancy J. Scannell PH.D, associate professor University of Illinois and Springfield, Keith St. Clair , Faculty Grand Rapids Community College, Jenny Dunn, Controller Spartanburg Methodist College and Linda Pappas Funsch, ILR Adjunct Faculty, Middle East Studies; Frederick Maryland. Most of them have traveled to other countries. We also have a programme called the Model Arab League which is an American programme based on the Arab League format, so they use this model to pursue studies on the Middle East .
Q: Where have you been in Morocco on this visit?
A We began in Casablanca then to Rabat and Meknes followed by a short visit to the desert and then to Marrakech. We will return briefly to Casablanca after this for some meetings.
Q: What are your impressions of Al Akhawayan University ?
A: A superb University for the elite, we did not have the chance to visit an ordinary university so we could not make any comparisons.
Q: What are the groups impressions of Morocco so far?
A: They didn't expect such a rich variety and diversity in Moroccan society . Learning about the family code was helpful because there were so many factors that were unknown to us. We all realised that this is a complex country
within the mediterranean area.
It was really exciting to be here on the day of the referendum and the group was very lucky to have been here in Morocco to have experienced this and witnessed this great moment of change for the country. We have met some very interesting individuals ; professors in Rabat, we met someone from the UN Womens organisation, we discussed issues of gender based violence, we also met some Jewish leaders and so were able to meet quite a variety of civil society actors. This was the first trip we have made to Morocco for a couple of years and a chance to review Morocco in this period of transition. We weren't able to meet any politicians as they were understandably busy. It has been a valuable opportunity to see how things work here and next time this visit will enable us to be more knowledgeable about Morocco and we will have a better idea of how to organise our next visit.
Contacts are very important and next time we may concentrate on different cities and vary the programme from this visit, it has given us an idea of how to cover issues and how to reach out to a wider spectrum of expertise in the community. We can build on this visit to achieve a more effective contact with informed sources in Morocco and this will help our professors in presenting their students with an up to date view of the country's progress and the challenges it faces.