WKU students visited the Tetouan City Council this past July to learn about local government on a study abroad trip to Morocco lead by Dr. Soleiman Kiasatpour, associate professor of political science, and Rachid Abouabdellah, a former Arabic Fulbrighter at WKU.
Tetouan is a city of about 400,000 and is situated a few miles south of the Strait of Gibraltar near Tangier on the Mediterranean coast. The Vice President of the Council, Madame Amina Ben Abdelouhab, was present to answer questions accompanied by members of the city council and officers of the Moroccan Association of Teachers of English. The purpose of the meeting was to learn more about local and regional governments and their relation with the central government in Rabat. The students participated in a question and answer session with the Tetouan City Council members. Questions were asked about the structure of the city council, women’s representation, education, the impact of the Arab Spring on Tetouan, and the impact the council had on the local and regional communities.
In Morocco, the Arab Spring led to a movement to enact a new constitution. This constitution promoted accountability, freedom of information, and participatory government. The new constitution led to the creation of city councils and some devolution of power to local and regional governments. Tetouan’s city council is elected by the people and through a multiparty system. Tetouan’s proximity to southern Europe has lead to increased investment by the European Union in the city and Tetouan region. At the same time, the city of Tetouan works with the national government and King Mohammed VI to bring major improvement projects to the region. The fact that the King has several summer palaces in Tetouan and in neighboring Tangier allows for increased attention to public works and city maintenance projects. The city council has a quota system for women’s representation on the council, so they must have a certain number of women in elected positions. Male councilors were very proud to introduce Madame Amina Ben Abdleouhab as the council’s Vice President, the equivalent of assistant mayor in the U.S., to the visiting American students. The Tetouan City Council has established programs for the revitalization of the old medina (city) and initiatives for human and economic development. The meeting ended with the goals of the meeting attained.
There was a better understanding of local governance of Tetouan in a period of political instability in the region and how good governance and pluralism can lead to progress and stability within the community. Dr. Kiasatpour plans to lead another group of WKU students in June 2018 to Morocco again.
WKU students who participated in the trip to Morocco are: Emily Falica of Bowling Green, a sophomore International Affairs major; Pascale Fajardo of Louisville, a junior Broadcast News and Spanish major; Isaac Howard of Bowling Green, a sophomore Chemistry major; Alesis Thomas of Bowling Green, a sophomore International Affairs and Arabic major; Elizabeth M. Wells of Paducah, a sophomore Business and Advertising major; Monica L. Wallace of Princeton, a senior Political Science major; Maria S. Riyad of Nashville, Tennessee, a junior Political Science and Arabic major; and Emma L. White of London, a junior Criminology and Arabic major.