Fowls, Feathers, and Flu
Here’s a little translation exercise I did to get back into the Arabic language (mainly hustling to remember words and phrases). The story comes the newspaper al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki (“socialist union”; the paper of the USFP party), Wednesday, 1 March 2006.
(It looks like avian influenza is the latest globalized anti-commodity, or commodity that no one wants to trade in. Here we can see ways the local articulations play out. We can also see market forces at work, where avian influenza becomes an excuse to shut down smaller competitors; at least, perhaps we can say that, due to their openness and vulnerability to the disease, small-scale markets are seen a threat to the large companies producing chicken for export.)
Authorities Clear the Casablanca Chicken Market of Retail Sellers and “Featherers”
Yesterday morning (Tuesday), local authorities ordered hundreds of featherers and retail chicken sellers, in Casablanca’s “al-Batwar” poultry market, to leave the market. They did not justify the order. Those who considered themselves injured organized a disputative position, in that an officer, with a company composed of support forces, stormed the chicken market and confiscated a number of poultry birds, as confirmed to al-Ittihad al-Ishtiraki by ‘Abd al-Wahab Iradi (ID number): “The officer, who was accompanied by components of the support services, confiscated a number of BB birds and threatened that they were ‘going to burn them.’”
In the same markets, Mustafa Farhi, who works as a featherer, confirmed that the officer unlawfully seized a quantity of chickens from him. The same thing happened to Ahmad Manani (ID number), who confirmed to al-Ittihad that the officer took a number of birds from him, including turkey cocks. Muhammad Bita, who’s over 70 and has been working in the profession of featherer for 54 years, explained that components subordinate to the authorities violated him. He showed injury marks from the violation in the middle of his head. He added that these men wanted to hinder him in his vocation, which he has practiced for a long period. On that day up until the attack, he had made only 7 centimes from feathering a single chicken. The injured parties added that there wasn’t any reason or justification for hindering them from pursuing the profession of featherer, especially since the prime minister had just confirmed that Morocco is free from avian influenza. But they find it strange that the Casablanca authorities should have another opinion, and it only increases their astonishment when an entire group of birds and poultry is seized, along with a threat to “burn them all.” This act (they say) will lead to immediate panic and fear among customers and damage chicken sales, whether retail or wholesale. Similarly, “feathering” stands to see big losses.
The injured parties say that the authorities had already made the decision to close the poultry market at 1 p.m. each day, and now they have broadened (their acts) to include huge injuries. Bu’azza Hasid, general superintendent of the poultry market under the governorate of ‘Ain Sebaa (Muhammadi quarter) and a wholesale merchant himself, tied the subject to his explanation that the poultry market has big problems and deficiencies. Thieves roam in the market in broad daylight, selling their (stolen) chickens easily and communicating (with each other). This makes the concerned authorities unable to fight these sorts of behaviors. Hasid requested that the concerned regional authorities clean up the poultry market. He also confirmed that the decision to prohibit “feathering” and retail sale (comes from) the view of the authorities that the market is deceitful, which hurts all of the groups that have a relationship with the poultry market. The situation has worsened especially during the current falling trend in prices. In his view, this PR war over the chicken market has come about because this seizure (took place) in a volatile sector, from the view of some companies that will benefit.
And in a communication to us from the office of the Casablanca city council, one of the its officials explained to us that the enforcement of the removal of the featherers and retailers from the market was a preventative enforcement, decided upon especially after the emergence of avian influenza, which continues to threaten food security worldwide. He added that the chicken market isn’t controlled in an arbitrary way, but rather this decision was made in a well-planned way, in the expectation that the solutions will be radical.