Lately, in Morocco, the word “Tcharmil” has been on everyone’s lips, and in the headlines of national newspapers. Followers of this trend, who are typically young men, upload photos to social media networks that showcase their affinity for bling and a culture of violence. This trend has fed the paranoia of Casablanca’s residents: in Morocco’s capital, crime and insecurity are very real.
“Tcharmil” is a word borrowed from the culinary arts, meaning, in spoken Moroccan Arabic, a piece of marinated meat carved by butchers wielding large knives. Sometimes, they also use sabres, which is the logo for the movement’s followers, who call themselves “mcharlines”. Other tell-tale signs are brand-name sneakers (preferably Nike Air Max), huge gas-guzzling scooters, luxury watches, and faux-hawk hair styles inspired by famous footballers.
Others go even further, detailing on Facebook the loot that they claim to have stolen during the day: jewels, stacks of bills, etc. The Tcharmil style suddenly became trendy four months ago, most notably in Casablanca. For some, the trend is mere entertainment — on the various Tcharmil-related Facebook pages, groups of teenage boys and girls show off, much like anyone their age, their new sneakers or football jerseys. Others, who see a link with the increase in crime and delinquency in Casablanca, see Tcharmil as a real threat.
According to Yassine Majdi, a journalist for the Moroccan magazine “Tel Quel”, Tcharmil is particularly popular among lower-income, maladjusted youths. “Many of these young people liken themselves to Tony Montana, the hero in ‘Scarface’, who is for them a sort of fantasy, a model for upward mobility. Like their heroes, they see bling, easy money, and violence as a means of acquiring respect. They do this to such an extent that it is difficult – even impossible – to determine who is really hiding behind these young men who boast of having committed terrible crimes: mere insecure fools, or highway robbers?"
In late March, just as Tcharmil had reached peak popularity, a Facebook page named “March against insecurity in Casa” was created on Facebook to put pressure on the government to react. Since then, it has garnered 20,000 “likes”. Even though a march has not yet taken place, the initiative did galvanize Moroccan authorities to question several dozen young men in the past few weeks, based on aggressive messages and photos posted on social networks, and promise better security on the streets. In an interview with FRANCE 24, a spokesperson for the police stated that 35 people believed to have shared “Tcharmil” photos online were recently arrested in the greater Casablanca region. However, no official statistics on delinquency in Casablanca were shared.
“Insecurity and crime were rampant well before Tcharmil came along”
Mounir Bensalah is an engineer and lives in Casablanca.
Insecurity in Casablanca, or any other large Moroccan city for that matter, is by no means new. Insecurity and crime were already rampant well before Tcharmil came along. Physical attacks and armed robbery have been problems in Morocco for many, many years. This is not surprising, given the level of inequality in our society.Personally, I don’t find these “mcharlines” very credible, mostly because those who adopt the Tcharmil codes are not always very discreet. They act out and boast of their exploits on social networks, which isn’t exactly what real criminals would do. Not only do such boasts harm them, as they are seemingly admitting their guilt, but they also provide the residents of Casablanca an easy group to blame for the violence in their city.Since the Tcharmil phenomenon has come about, the streets of Casablanca are abuzz with all kinds of rumours. Lately, there have been reports of sabre attacks in some stores. I believe the authorities are partially responsible for this mass delusion. This type of rhetoric stirs up unjustified fears. Certainly, violence is a reality and a serious problem, but the policy dialogue on this issue should be more dispassionate.
“In Casablanca, ‘Tcharmil’ has replaced the word ‘attack”
Fouzya Ejjawi is an antiques dealer and a real estate agent in Casablanca.
Several weeks ago, I was the victim of an attack in the streets of Casablanca. Nothing out of the ordinary in a city contaminated by violence, except that my attacker had a very long knife, one of Tcharmil’s distinctive symbols [Editor’s note: in March, several knife attacks were reported]. The young man had unfocused eyes and seemed to be on drugs. He was swinging his blade in the air as if he wanted to decapitate me. Luckily, he wasn’t all there, mentally, and he ended up leaving.Lately, in Casablanca, there have been many reports of knife violence, and since this is the weapon of choice for mcharlines, one no longer says “I was a victim of an attack” but rather “I was a victim of a Tcharmil”.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Grégoire Remund (@gregoireremund).