The Honoured Dead
By Joseph Braude
Scribe Publications, 2011
This fascinating documentary book gives insights into the roots of the Arab Spring that is sweeping dictatorships away across the Middle East and North Africa.
Written as a first person narrative by US reporter Joseph Braude, The Honoured takes the reader into the lived experience of the poor in Morocco, explaining a good deal about the country’s history and culture in the process.
In 2010, before the revolutionary wave, Braude talked Moroccan authorities into “embedding” him with an elite police unit so that he could report on advances in human rights in the country. The book begins with a brutal police beating that he witnessed.
But then it starts to go broader and deeper. Braude becomes interested in the real story of the murder of a poor man when he realises that the police are trying to shield information from him.
As he travels through the length and breadth of Morocco, talking with the poorest of the poor, the richest of the rich and many in between, he brings to the surface ethnic, gender and sexual orientation issues. All sorts of things weave through the story: dream interpretation, the relationship of rich Jews to the Moroccan government, the evolution of women’s rights and simple customs associated with food and privilege.
The reader becomes aware of what it feels like to exist in a stifling environment where a corrupt cop can make your life unbearable depending on their mood at the time, the sufficiency of a bribe or obscure matters related to international politics.
Structured like the best murder mystery, this book shows how history, cultural studies and journalism can be written so as to give a penetrating insight into a people and their struggles.