Cablegate: Seduced by the United States


DE RUEHRB #1196/01 3591448
P 241448Z DEC 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Describing a sea change in their opinions
about the United States, on December 19 eight Moroccan women
political leaders talked about how they were "seduced" by the
U.S. political system and our top leadership during their
election visit to the U.S. Several women who held negative
opinions of the U.S. prior to the trip expressed a hope that
their children would be able to study there one day. They
looked forward to the opportunity to mobilize women and
younger voters in the upcoming elections, in which 12 percent
of the seats will be reserved for women, and called for
technical campaign assistance for the many female candidates
who will be running for office for the first time. The
Embassy will continue to engage these leaders with a view to
supporting increased women's involvement in Moroccan
politics. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Eight women political leaders from diverse parties
gathered at Villa America, the Ambassador's residence, on
December 19 to report on their visit to the U.S. under the
Middle East Partnership Initiative-(MEPI-)sponsored Election
Exchange. The Election Exchange program, funded by MEPI and

implemented in conjunction with American University, brought
44 women from the Maghreb and broader Middle East to the U.S.
to observe the electoral process. Each participant attended
a workshop on the American political process in Washington,
D.C., as well as local campaign events in two states, and
then observed the presidential election. Participants met
with local and national leaders, including both President
Bush and Secretary Rice, and representatives of
non-governmental organizations.

We Were Seduced

3. (SBU) &We were all seduced," said Hakima El Haite, a
campaign strategist and member of the Popular Movement (MP)
party, referring to the warm reception they received from
President Bush. "Even those women whose families and
countries have been destroyed by war were seduced. We have
begun to love the United States,8 she elaborated. Most of
the other women agreed. In their first reunion since their
return from the U.S., the women, who were all either elected
officials or planned to run in the upcoming national
elections, underlined the ways in which the program radically
changed their opinion of the U.S., and asked for assistance
in promoting women's political participation in Morocco.

4. (SBU) Illustrating the effectiveness of this exchange
program, many of the women admitted that they had &atrocious
prejudices8 about the U.S. Government and the American
people prior to the trip. Hakima El Haite noted her deep
skepticism that an African-American could ever become
President. When President-elect Obama won, she &realized
that democracy in America is real and that Blacks, Muslims
(and) women, can all make a difference.8 Underlining just
how much the exchange altered their views, several women who
held negative opinions of the U.S. prior to the trip
expressed a hope that their children would be able to study
there. &If they go, they will learn that competence and
merit, rather than gender or religion, matter,8 they said.

5. (SBU) Echoing her counterparts, Ghizlane Maamouri a
member of the Party of Progress and Socialism (PPS),
recounted her amazement that she &never felt like a
foreigner8 while in the U.S., an experience not replicated
in any of her travels in Europe or the Middle East. Some of
the other women expressed surprise at how comfortable they
felt wearing a veil in the United States, noting that &in
Europe that is not the case.8 The trip eliminated the
women's preconceptions that the United States is a racist
place, they said, and allowed &us to change our prejudiced

Looking Forward to Local Elections

6. (SBU) Enthusiastically praising the electoral exchange,
the women said they were inspired by the efforts of American
candidates to mobilize women and younger voters, and
expressed a desire to replicate that mobilization in Morocco.
Although Morocco has recently reserved 12 percent of seats
for women in the upcoming municipal elections, the political
parties are still resistant to allowing women to participate,
or giving them meaningful leadership opportunities, they
said. They suggested that a hotline, which could provide
advice on fund raising, campaign management or voter
mobilization, would help female candidates overcome the
technical hurdles of running for office and compensate for
lack of support from the parties. Zahra Chagaf, an MP and a
member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, emphasized the
need for women candidates to better use the media, engage
women and younger voters, and put an end to Morocco's
&political abstinence.8

7. (SBU) Comment: After the session, the women asked for a
side meeting with Pol FSN to underscore their interest in
continuing practical cooperation. The positive impressions
gained by these women are an additional achievement beyond
the political exposure and training they received from this
MEPI project. The Embassy looks forward to continuing our
relationship with these women leaders through the 2009
elections and beyond. End Comment.

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