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Soulaliyat women’s movement : a fight against unequal ownership

In a fight for land, Soulaliyat have stepped forward to secure equal ownership creating a nationwide mobilization for land rights in Morocco. Their attempts are still ongoing faced with patriarchal customs and rigid regulations.

Soulaliyat protesting in the region of OUlad Sebata./Ph. New York Times
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After years of mobilization for their rights, Soulaliyat are still sticking to their guns protesting twice a week for equal ownership in the region of Oulad Sebata. Their struggle started with a 1919 decree that limits the beneficiaries of collective lands to «heads of family» and excludes women. The custom became a regulating law that denies the compensation of tribal women to benefit from the division and privatization of their land.

The oppression led those women residing mostly in the region of Rabat to form a nationwide mobilization for land rights in Morocco. Saida Soukat a mother of two and a Soulaliya told the New York Times on an article published on the 7th of May that she will keep fighting for her land. The 27-year-old woman is an active member of the Soulaliyat group along with Fatima her 93-year-old cousin that hasn’t lost hope on the matter.

In a community where men are considered superior to women, Soulaliyat of Oulad Sebata village were forced to speak for their rights faced with privatization. «One foot up, one foot down. For my land, my blood will shed», Saida shouted in a megaphone during a protest organized for the call of equal compensation. «We are not against development projects, but we demand our rights to be respected», she told the same source. The same thing applies to Fatima who rejoiced in 2004 over the new family laws.

Equal ownership

«I demand the land of my grandfathers. We are beaten, we are oppressed», Fatima protested in one of the demonstrations, the New York Times reports. The Soulaliyat movement started 10 years ago challenging the implemented beliefs that are highly spread in rural areas of Morocco. In vain, their attempts have fallen on deaf ears.

«The Ministry of Interior has issued several circulars stating that women should benefit from selling the communal lands and should be part of the negotiation. But the circular are nonbinding, and delegates designated by the tribes as the residents’ representatives can choose to ignore them», the same source points out.

King Mohammed VI in December 2015 called in a letter for changing the legal status of communal lands stating that : «We must fix the Sulaliyyate lands so they can contribute to development efforts.»

However, Soulaliyat have been a subject of backlash and violence throughout their battle. «I am scared for my children, but not for myself», declared Saida who got, back in November, beaten by a man on her way home. «The only thing that is scary is a court decision to vacate. I lose sleep over it at night», she concluded speaking to the NYT. 

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