Category Archives: Formats

Taming the genie in the forest of the devil’s trees

It wasn’t long after the cairns appeared in the forest that women from surrounding villages began using them in a purification rite that ended in leaving underwear on the stone mounds. The cairns were new to the forest, but the women’s purification rite was not. In the ritual, older Berber women guided younger women into the forest, and the younger women washed themselves under the open sky and prepared their spirits for finding a lover. Forest rangers had built the cairns to mark the borders of Morocco’s national forests. They were designed to protect argan trees – which some Berber call the “tree of the devil” ­– from use and harvesting. But the local women turned the cairns into something else.

When Morocco’s government established Souss-Massa National Park in 1991, the Berber people were already familiar with temporary prohibitions on forest use, says anthropologist Romain Simenel of the Institute of Research for Development in Marseille, France. But they were accustomed to setting the prohibitions themselves, through a system called agdal, which involves religious stories laden with mischievous genies who curse parts of the forest, and community rituals that reopen the way to harvesting or grazing among the argan trees.

Instead, national authorities were now insisting on prohibiting access to a core zone of the argan forest, allowing limited access to a second zone, and leaving a third zone to more community-led use. They sought to protect the forest from both desertification and local land management decisions. But the genies in the argan forest are not easy to tame.

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Spain’s rightwing splits hand election victory to Socialists



Spain’s centre-right People’s party suffered the worst defeat in its 30-year history, winning a mere 16.7 per cent of the vote as it was crushed between an insurgent far-right Vox party and the liberal anti-Catalan nationalist Ciudadanos.

Pablo Casado, who took over as PP leader nine months ago and has since steered his party sharply to the right and purged his party lists of associates of his predecessor Mariano Rajoy, admitted to the scale of the disaster. 

“The results were very bad,” Mr Casado said, pinning the blame on the fragmentation of the rightwing electorate and the refusal of the other two parties to agree to local pacts to maximise support.

Read the rest of this news story in the Financial Times: [html].

Socialists win Spain elections as far-right makes breakthrough

Ian Mount and Lucas Laursen in Madrid and Ben Hall in London

The governing Socialist party (PSOE) has won Spain’s general election, taking 123 seats and giving prime minister Pedro Sánchez options to assemble a majority potentially without the support of Catalan separatists. The Socialists won 29 per cent of the vote and gained 37 seats on the previous election in 2016 in a decisive victory over a weakened rightwing opposition which split into three with the breakthrough of the ultranationalist Vox, which took 24 seats.

Read the rest of this news story in the Financial Times: [html].



The Missing Children

Truth, justice, reparation.

If you walk through the Puerta del Sol, you might be forgiven for avoiding the crowd gathered here. At first, I found their story hard to believe. They say that hospital and adoption officials colluded to steal babies and traffic them throughout Spain for decades.

This 28-minute radio documentary, produced by Overtone Productions, and which I reported and presented, first aired on BBC Radio 4 on March 25th, 2019: [streaming link].

It is the second of a two-part documentary called Spain’s Lost Generations. The first part, which aired March 18th, focuses on the recovery of people executed by the regime of Francisco Franco.