After four months behind bars, the Moroccan rapper Abdul Mou’men Al Shuaibi was released in February 2015. Freemuse spoke with Al Shuaibi about his ordeal and his plans for the future.
Back in 2013, Al Shuaibi had released a rap song, entitled ‘zan9a lkahla 2013 Chorta Fe Lara’ criticising the local police, their alleged violent practices against local citizens, as well as the lack of transparency and corruption in the police corpse.
Al Shuaibi was first arrested in October 2014 by local police in El Araich city and sentenced in November 2014 to eight months in prison for drug dealing.
The song had received increased attention in 2014 after local media and human rights organisations referred to it at events about the police’s behaviour. The Association Marocaine des Droits Humains (AMDH), who took up Al Shuaibi’s case pro-bono, said they believed the drug charges where orchestrated by the authorities and that Al Shuaibi was targeted for his song criticising the police.
On 17 November 2014, the El Araich court of first instance sentenced Al Shuaibi to eight months in prison for drug trading. No actual proof of drug trading was presented in court according to AMDH. Three musicians, including Al Shuaibi, were imprisoned in Morocco in 2014 according to Freemuse’s annual statistic of violations of musical freedom of expression around the world.
On 27 February 2015, Al Shuaibi was released after a decision issued by the Court of Appeal in Tangiers.
“Despite the unfair trail, I was treated normal in jail, except that all the staff, police officers and soldiers, were asking me a question, ‘Will you make another song about jail, to insult us?’ ”
The following interview with Al Shuaibi was conducted in May 2015. It has been edited and translated from Arabic to English.
Freemuse: How were you treated while you were imprisoned?
Al Shuaibi: “I received the same treatment as other prisoners receive. However, the judicial authorities was a very biased authority. I never traded drugs and I was unjustly accused of dealing hash. The police arranged someone to state that I sold him some drugs in a café, which was untrue. Despite the unfair trail, I was treated normal in jail, except that all the staff, police officers and soldiers, were asking me a question, ‘Will you make another song about jail, to insult us?’ They were always saying, ‘You humiliated and abused your own country’s police’. My response was, ‘What I face, I write about. What I see, I report in my songs, that is it’.”
Did you know about the attention around your case and the campaign initiated by Freemuse supporting you?
“Yes, of course. I heard about your campaign and I thank you so much for supporting me in such hard time. I appreciate all your work done for me.”
What are your plans for future?
“I wish to pursue my career. I have a talent and wish to continue but I face a lot of difficulties and issues. First, there are no professional music and record studios in El Araich, so I cannot record my rap songs and have them produced and received by an audience. Second, I have many financial burdens to meet and I cannot just pursue my dreams and neglect my family. The city audience does not appreciate rap music and it is not well received here. No one cares about rap or music and there is no professional music producer I can co-operate with. It is hard to pursue the music career here.”
Are you considering leaving El Araich?
“I cannot move to follow my dreams. I have two children; the youngest is six months old. I have parents and I have burdens, and I cannot escape my responsibilities. I am working as a commercial fisherman on big vessels, so I’m dependent on what is coming from sea to make money to feed our children. I am a freelance fisherman; I cannot take off now and leave my family behind.”
Do you feel threatened after your release from prison?
“I feel that people are waiting to see what I will do. Of course, the police still monitors my movements. I feel that they are waiting to see my next steps.”
“What are your dreams and next steps?
“I am not afraid. If I have the required tools and capacities, I will produce songs again that fight corruption especially on a country level. I will produce songs that achieve freedom and dignity for everyone here in this city.”
‘zan9a lkahla 2013Chorta Fe Lara’ published on youtube on 15 March 2013.