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Red Tape À La Marocaine
By Driss Benmhend

After months of hesitation, I finally decided to write this small contribution to explain to those who are not aware of what it would take for a MREU (Marocain Resident aux Etats Unis)to get one of their most fundamental and basic rights. I would like to share the story of my endeavor to get a Moroccan marriage license and "El Hala Almadinia" (also called, l'Etat Civil). During the long and drawn-out process I went through, at times I doubted whether I would ever achieve my goal, but ultimately I was successful.

I have been living in the United States since 1990 and am married to an American woman. When my wife was pregnant with my son Adam in early 1997, I checked with employees at the Embassy here in Washington to see if I could have my American marriage recognized by the Embassy so that I could start the process for getting an "Etat Civil." They instructed me to get notarized copies of my marriage certificate and have them authenticated by the Department of State. I did this, but when I brought the completed paperwork back to the embassy, I was informed that the Moroccan Ministry of Justice does not recognize marriage certificates issued outside Morocco, and that I would have to go to Morocco to take care of it.

I then traveled to Morocco with my wife and baby in order to try to complete the paperwork there. In addition to the paperwork I had already prepared, I gathered together certificates of work and health for myself and my wife, birth certificates for each of us, and a copy of my wife's clean police record from the United States. I had all of these translated at great expense. In addition, I went to the American Embassy in Rabat with my wife and baby where we spent an entire morning waiting to receive an "attestation de capacité de marriage" for her. I then had this document translated and notarized at the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs in Rabat. I also obtained a "Casier Judiciare" for my wife at the Ministry of Justice and a "fiche anthropometrique" for myself.

After having translated these documents into Arabic, I took them all to a judge (Kadi Acharii) at the Islamic Law Court (Mahkama Charïâ ) in Rabat. After reviewing these documents, personnel at the court told us that we must go to the Court of Appeals so that the "Procureur du Roi" could see our paperwork. The Procureur then sent us to the Police Department in order to perform an "enquête" (survey) about us. Unfortunately, the officials there refused to undertake the enquête unless we could bring an "attestation de residence" in Morocco. Of course, since we do not live in Morocco, we were unable to produce such a certificate. Hence, we hit a brick wall. Nobody was able to advise us about what to do next. Having spent a full week in Rabat walking around in the hot Moroccan sun with my wife and small baby to different offices and administrations, I was finally forced to give up on obtaining an "Etat Civil" and having my son recognized as a Moroccan. I wrote several letters of complaint to the Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs and to the Organization Hassan II (that is supposed to help Moroccan immigrants). I have yet to receive an answer.

In June of 2000, during a trip to Montreal (Canada), I stopped at the Moroccan Consulate to inquire about the procedure mixed couples follow for the purpose of getting a Moroccan marriage certificate. In other words, I needed a second opinion before I totally gave up on my endeavor to have Moroccan passports for my children. To my great surprise, I was told that Moroccan marriage certificates are often issued by the Consulate per the "Dahir Charif 426.66 of October 20, 1969". I asked for and was even given a copy of the Dahir. Mr. Akli (at the Moroccan Consulate in Montreal) also indicated that this kind of document is issued at the Consulate of New York, and called Mr. Mohammed Karmoune at the Moroccan Consulate in New York to confirm that. Mr. Karmoune then instructed me to call him when I get back home. Upon my return to the US from Canada, I called Mr. Karmoune, who gave me a list of documents to prepare, and assured me that he would be able to prepare a Moroccan marriage certificate within a couple of months. I was very happy to hear that. With much enthusiasm, I prepared all the documents, and sent them to him with a letter on July 7, 2000. I called Mr. Karmoune a few days later, and he acknowledged receiving my document and promised to work on my certificate as soon as possible. It is important to mention that since I live in the DC area, the Consulate in Washington should be the place where I should get my papers done. However, because I was unable to get any help in the DC Consulate, Mr. Karmoune was willing to undertake this project, and help me. I finally received my documents at the end of February of 2001.

It goes without saying how happy I was when I received my marriage certificate and "Etat Civil" with the names of my kids officially recognized as Moroccan citizens. However, I did not forget what I had to go through just to procure these simple documents. Moreover, the only reason I prevailed in getting this basic right, is because of my persistence and determination to fight for my rights. However, it is sad and shameful that I had to struggle in order to get something that our diplomatic representatives at the Embassy and Consulates should be promoting.

I am sure that many readers may have experienced something like this when trying to get something done at the Moroccan Consulate. In fact, my own brother is going is through the same ordeal I went through. After submitting all of the necessary documents to support his application to get a Moroccan marriage license early last year, he has yet to hear an answer for our Consulate in New York. One may wonder, why do we have to go through all this to achieve this basic right? According to the people in charge at the Embassy, it is because of a lack of personnel, budget, etc. For me, it is because we do not complain ENOUGH, AND WE GIVE UP TOO QUICKLY. We have to fight for our rights; that is the Moroccan way...

I hope this article has been helpful to the readers, and that it will inspire you, too, to fight for your rights in dealing with the Moroccan bureaucracy.

Driss Benmhend

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