French-born Algerian singer Faudel stirred controversy during a concert in Morocco after refusing to hold the Moroccan flag on stage and raised speculations about the role of politics in a cultural event.
While singing at the Festival International Rawafid Azawane in the southern city of Laayoune, Faudel angered audience and officials by repeatedly refusing to hold the Moroccan flag.
When one of the audience lifted a little girl who carries the Moroccan flag to the stage, Faudel’s manager did not allow the girl to advance towards the singer except after taking the flag from her.
In another incident, an elderly man went up the stage with the Moroccan flag and started dancing while trying to put the flag on Faudel’s shoulder. Faudel, however, kept evading the man politely and resumed singing. After a few minutes, the man withdrew with his flag.
The majority of the attendees, whose numbers reached 25,000, were indignant at Faudel’s reaction, which was captured by several journalists and witnessed by several officials present at the event. According to them, Faudel should have held the flag since Morocco is the host of the festival.
Others did not find necessary that Faudel carries the flag since the festival is a cultural and not a political event. Faudel also repeated the phrase "Long live the King" between his songs.
Faudel had put the Moroccan flag on his shoulders when he performed at al-Hociema Mediterranean festival last summer and in the city of Dakhla two years ago.
Western Sahara dispute
The Algerian newspaper el-Shorouk had reported earlier that Faudel refused to sing in the disputed region of Western Sahara in protest of the ongoing conflict with the Moroccan government.
Faudel denied these allegations and stated that his performance at the city of Laayoune, located in the disputed area, and wearing the traditional Sahrawi costume, are the utlimate proof of the falsity of the reports.
Laayoune made headlines in Novemeber when violent clashes erupted after the Moroccan police broke into a camp on the outskits of the city, leading to the biggest anti-governemnt demonstartion in the history of the disputed territory.
Algeria is known to be a supporter of the Polisario Front, which demands the independent of the Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco after the withdrawal of Spanish occupation forces in 1975. The Polisario headquaters is in the Algerian city of Tindouf.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)