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Karen Hughes In Morocco: Listening and Learning

Visit to Morocco: Listening and Learning

Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Sidi Moumen Sports Center
Casablanca, Morocco
June 4, 2006


Under Secretary Hughes: Good afternoon, how's everybody? Very glad to be here in Morocco. I'm here really to listen and to learn. Morocco has been at the forefront of a number of democratic reforms in the region. Whether it be from the reforms that the King is implementing, to reforms in granting greater rights for women, so Morocco I think has a real leadership role to play throughout the Arab and wider Islamic world. Morocco and my country also have a very special partnership. And as I just reminded the young women here, Morocco was the very first country to recognize my country. So I am happy to be here. And to celebrate our long friendship as we continue to learn from each other.

Question: What is the main purpose of your visit to Morocco today?

Under Secretary Hughes: Well the main purpose is really to learn. I had lunch today and talked with the mayor. I talked with the president of one of the universities here who was very instrumental in working on the new family code guaranteeing rights for women and justice for women and as I mentioned I think that can be a model because it is based here in Morocco, based with the culture and the traditions and religious traditions here. So I think it is an important model for the wider region. And I want to learn more about those reforms as well as the democratic reforms that the King has been advancing, his human development initiative which again I think is a wonderful model of developing prosperity trying to extend more jobs and greater opportunity to people of all incomes and all age groups and so I think it's a wonderful example and I'm here to learn more about it.

Question: Do you think that you can build a new image of the United States after what's happened in Abu Ghraib, Haditha , in Iraq?

Under Secretary Hughes: Well those kinds of incidents make it unfortunately very difficult and they don't represent my country. What you see and first of all we're still investigating in Haditha and we don't have a final report yet. But if there was wrong doing the President has said he was very troubled. And if there was wrong doing those who engaged in the wrong doing will be punished. Those who engaged in this will be held accountable, will be punished, will be brought to justice just as those in Abu Ghraib were. I frequently point out that while some of the pictures, horrible pictures, which I was sickened by those pictures as an American, those don't represent my country. Those don't represent me. I'll tell you who represents America, the young volunteers who are in here teaching these young women how to play basketball and to develop greater self-confidence and skills and sharing a partnership with the people of Morocco. And so I was sickened by those photos but those photos depict crimes that are violations of our laws and violations of our policies and the individuals as in the case of Abu Ghraib were sentenced, in fact one of them is serving 10 years in federal prison in America as a result of those crimes. And so I don't think fair-minded people, reasonable people, would want pictures of crimes that are committed in their country to be viewed as somehow representative of their country. And Americans don't want that either.

Question: Do you think that such events can improve the American government image and the public diplomacy here in Morocco?

Under Secretary Hughes: Events such as this Casabasket? Absolutely. I think what public diplomacy is really about people to people interaction and people to people exchanges. When someone comes from America to Morocco they learn how warm the people are. They learn what a wonderful country this is. They learn how welcoming and thriving this country is, and how beautiful it is, its great history and culture, and traditions. When young people from Morocco come to America they see the same thing. They see a very different country than they see perhaps in the movies or the image they have an understanding of the generosity and the friendliness and the love of family and faith that many Americans have. And so I think it is very important that we have these kind of people to people exchanges so that we can all get to know each other better. And I am the mother of a college student and I told him I want him to come overseas and spend a year studying overseas and I want other young people in America to come to Morocco and study here. And we want young Moroccans to come to the United States and study in the United States so we can learn more about each other. Because I think the more we know each other, the better we will understand each other.

Question: What is the nature of the discussions that you are going to have?

Under Secretary Hughes: Well I am here to listen and to talk about anything they would like to talk about. But obviously I am also here to learn. I want to understand more about the reforms that are happening here because again I think they are a great example for the entire region. I want to learn more about the people getting involved in civic society, forming organizations and beginning to volunteer and how women of Morocco worked on reform of the family code to ensure greater justice for women. And so I am really here to talk about that and to learn from the people of Morocco. Thank you all so much.

ENDS

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