Cherries and Injustice in Sefrou

Cherries and Injustice in Sefrou

One of the oldest festivals in Morocco takes place right next to Hanane’s parents house. The Sefrou Cherry Festival has been around for about a hundred years. Sadly, most of the cherry trees are gone now, cleared out to build new developments and villas for rich Fassi people who want to enjoy the country life a bit.

At this point, Hanane’s families house sits surrounded by luxury developments in various states of completion and the big field that the Cherry Festival gets held in. One would be tempted to think that perhaps the Souidi fortunes have turned, but because the justice system in Morocco is hardly just (and really, where is justice to be found anywhere in the world?) and the nebulous nature of real estate law, the overwhelming power of those who have money and connections versus those who don’t, and really, the corruption that runs rampant in Morocco and you can be sure that nothing is guaranteed.

As an example, Hanane’s father just lost a court battle to save a property he and his family have owned, lived on, and improved for over 40 years. It’s another piece of property that could make him a rich man, but the judge has recently issued the order to give it to people who are already wealthy…and thus, have the ability to sway the courts more than a simple shepherd like Mr. Souidi.

He bought the land over 40 years ago when he first came to Sefrou. At that time, contracts were fairly simple deals and it was more a matter of a handshake and the exchange of cash. Everything was fine until the man he bought the property from died a few years ago. Until that time, the Souidi family lived there. All of the Souidi kids were born there. A few years ago they bought their present property and moved most of the family there leaving Mohammad and Samira on the old homestead to start the next generation with Amine and Taha.

Then when the man the property was purchased from died, his heirs started looking at the property with greedy eyes. They started legal proceedings against the Souidis and made a case that Mr. Souidi had never actually purchased the land. Never mind that they had been living on it for forty years and that in fact, he had purchased it.

You can be sure that the family who is stealing the land has all the advantages of wealth and power with at least one judge, several police officers, and some government officials in their family tree. And of course, all of this happened about the time that land in Sefrou started booming, all the cherry trees were cut down on the surrounding acrage, and the value of the property became something worth stealing.

I’ve only just found out about this family drama recently and I’m told it is too late to do anything. The judge has issued the order that the land be vacated and given to the thieves. Mr. Souidi is appealing that Mohammad and his family be given time to find another place to live, but with luxury developments going up all around the property, it is doubtful whether he will win even that, especially since he is a simple shepherd and he is fighting against a family with wealth and position.