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 Jewel of

The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.

Morocco: Ethnically diverse civilization rich in culture


The Kingdom of Morocco is a country in North Africa. The full Arabic name of the country trans- lates to The Western Kingdom. Al Maghrib (meaning The West) is commonly used. Historians used to refer to Morocco as Al Maghrib al Aqşá (The Furthest West), referring to its location at the northwestern tip of the continent, bordering both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

Bearing a population of 37.8 million, Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilization. Though Morocco hosted many peoples over the centuries, from the ancient Phoenicians to modern-day France, its Berber population retained its identity, retreating to the mountains when necessary. The king is viewed as spiritual leader of the country and dominates political life as well. In the past decade, he has introduced a number of reforms in the areas of human rights, the status of women, and economic liberalization. These reforms are in some ways ahead of its Arab neighbors.

Morocco’s capital and largest city is Casablanca, port city with a population of 1.9 million. Rabat is the nation's capital, and home to the country's most important museum, the Royal Palace, and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, as well as several historical tourist attractions. Other cities include Agadir, Essaouira, Fes, Marrakech, Meknes, Mohammadia, Oujda, Ouarzazat, Safi, Salè, Tangier, Tiznit, and Tan-Tan.


At 172,402 square miles, Morocco is comparable in size to Iraq. It has a long coastline on the Atlantic Ocean that reaches past the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea. Morocco borders Algeria to the east, the Mediterranean Sea and a relatively thin water border with Spain to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to its west. Because Morocco controls part of the Strait of Gibraltar, it has power over the passage in and out of the Mediterranean. The border to the south is disputed. Morocco claims ownership of Western Sahara and has administered most of the territory since 1975.

There are four Spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast: Ceuta, Melilla, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, Peñón de Alhucemas, as well as the Chafarinas islands and the disputed islet Perejil. Off Morocco's Atlantic coast the Canary Islands belong to Spain, whereas Madeira to the north is PortugueseThe coastal area rises to the Rif Mountains, which occupy the region in the north borderring the Mediterranean, running from the northwest to the northeast.


Farther south, the Atlas Mountains run down the backbone of the country, from the southwest to the northeast. Most of the southeastern portion of the country lies in the Sahara Desert and thus is sparsely populated and unproductive economically. Most of the population lives in the north. The fertile coastal plains comprise the backbone for agricultureForests cover about 12 percent of the land, while arable land accounts for 18 percent and 5 percent is irrigated.


This page presents Morocco's climate context for the current climatology, 1991-2020, derived from observed, historical data. Information should be used to build a strong understanding of current climate conditions in order to appreciate future climate scenarios and projected change. You can visualize data for the current climatology through spatial variation, the seasonal cycle, or as a time series. Analysis is available for both annual and seasonal data. Data presentation defaults to national-scale aggregation, however sub-national data aggregations can be accessed by clicking within a country, on a sub-national unit. 

Morocco’s climate varies considerably across the country’s northern to southern areas. Both rain- fall and temperature are strongly influenced by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Mediterranean

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Casablanca is the largest city of Morocco. Located on the Atlantic coast of the Cha- touia plain in the central-wes- tern part of Morocco, it is the second largest city in the Ma- ghreb region and the eighth-largest in the Arab world. Ca- sablanca is Morocco's chief port and one of the largest financial centers in Africa.

   Casablanca is considered the economic and business center and main gateway to Morocco, and many visitors' first taste of the country, as it is home to the international airport, Morocco's business and industrial center.


Casablanca's French colon- ial legacy is apparent in its downtown Mauresque architecture, a blend of Moorish style and Euro- pean art deco. The rustic architecture in Morocco reflects the mountainous geography and sandy terrain of the nation. Mor-    occan architecture dates from 110 BCE with the mas- sive pisé (mud brick) build- ings. The architecture is influenced by Islamization during the Idrisid dynasty, and Moorish exiles from Spain. the country’s diverse geography and long history marked by successive waves of settlers and mili- tary encroachments are all reflected in Morocco’s architecture.

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The Riad Zeina guest house in Rabat, Morocco, offers seven large rooms in suites articulated around a patio where suitable to have meals. With five suites, this guest house accpmmodates guests with aplomb. Stone columns, zelliges, railings and wrought iron balustrades combine under huge zouak ceilings (painted wood).

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The coastal area of Morocco rises to the Rif Mountains, which occupy the region in the north bordering the Mediterranean, running from the northwest to the northeast. Farther south, the Atlas Mountains run down the backbone of the country, from the southwest to the northeast.

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Agriculture in Morocco employs about 40 percent of the nation's workforce. Thus, it is the largest employer in the country. In the rainy sections of the northwest, barleywheat, and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. On the Atlantic coast, where there are extensive plains, olives, citrus fruits, and wine grapes are grown, largely with water supplied by artesian wells.  Moroccan agricultural production also consists of orange, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, and olive oil. High quality products are usually expor- ted to Europe. Morocco produces enough food for domestic con- sumption except for grains, sugar, coffee and tea. More than 40 per- cent of the country's consumption of grains and flour is imported from the US and France. The agricultural and fishing indus- tries are expec- ted to be severely impacted by climate change

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The wildlife of Morocco is comprised of its flora and fauna. The country has a wide range of terrains and climate types and a corres- pondingly large diversity of plants and animals. The coastal areas have a Medi- iterranean climate and veg-

etation while inland the Atlas Mountains are forested. Far- her south, the borders of the Sahara Desert are increas- ingly arid.  With at least 40 ecosystems throughout the nation, Morocco has a wide variety of animals ranging from birds to mammals. This variety exists despite the relative harsh arid climate that the nation experiences. With such a harsh climate, the government heavily protects these ecosystems through the formation of nat- ional parks and reserves. Bats,  rodents, and other small mammals are more plentiful than larger ones. There are at least 210 bird species in the nation and  roughly 105 species of mammals of which 11 bird species and 18 mammal species are endangered.

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Sea to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south and southeast. Most of the country’s rainfall occurs between October and May. The incursion of extra-tropical weather systems from Europe and the Atlantic Ocean brings colder air and cloudiness, which results in a declining rainfall gradient from north to south that is also influenced by the Atlas Mountains. Temperatures in the arid and semi-arid southern and southeastern parts of the country are generally high, while rainfall and snow can occur in the northern mountainous areas between November and April. Most of Morocco, particularly along the coast, experiences a typical Mediterranean climate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

The rainy season extends from November to March, with average annual rainfall of 47 inches. The south is much drier and receives approximately 4 inches of rainfall on average each year. In the summer, temperatures along the coast range from 64.5 to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit and can reach up to 95 degrees in the interior. In the winter, temperatures along the coast range from 46.4 to 62.6 degrees Fahrenheit, and can drop below 32 degrees in the interior mountain areas.  Mean annual temperature for Morocco is 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with average monthly temperatures ranging from 48.9 to 78.8 degrees (July, August). Mean annual precipitation is 12.5 inches, with highest rainfall occurring October to April, with extremely low precipitation occurring from June to August.

The country has a variety of habitats, from snow-covered mountain peaks to scorching, arid deserts to fertile plains. The slopes of the mountains are covered with evergreen oak and cedar. East and south of the Atlas Mountains, scrubby steppe and vegetation exists, including date palms.

Flora and fauna

Extensive stands of cork oak exist in the Atlantic coastal region, while rich evergreen oak, cedar, and pine forests are found on the slopes of the Atlas. In the steppe region, shrubs, jujube trees, and the mastic abound, and along the wadis there are poplars, willows, and tamarisks. The olive tree is widely distributed, but the oil-yielding argan tree, unique to Morocco, grows only in the Sous Valley. The desert is void of vegetation except for occasional oases here and there. The surrounding waters abound in sardines, anchovies, and tuna. Morocco is known for its wildlife biodiversity, with birds representing the most important fauna. Although the lion has disappeared, Morocco has a total of 487 species, of which 32 are rare or accidental. Panthers, jackals, foxes,  gazelles, boarsfoxes, and Barbary apes are numerous, as are reptiles like lizards, snakes, chameleons, and geckos.


The Muslim coast of North Africa, including Morocco, was called the Barbary Coast, named for the Berber tribes in the area. From the 1500s, piracy abounded, with Europeans as the main target. By the beginning of the American Revolution, American merchant ships were subject to attack by Barbary pirates in the Atlantic Ocean, a serious threat to the survival of the fledgling republic.

In 1777, Morocco's sultan declared that American merchant ships would be under his protection and enjoy safe passage. The United States legation (consulate) in Tangier is the first property the American government ever owned abroad. It now houses a museum. But this attempt to deal with pirates by paying them off, as the Europeans had chosen to do for decades, was successfully increasing the problem. But by 1801, the First Barbary War was in progress, an attempt to make the seas a safe place to travel. The Second Barbary War, 1819, was necessary before the problem was solved.

Successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the fifteenth century did not profoundly affect the Mediterranean heart of Morocco. After the Napoleonic WarsEgypt and the Maghreb became increasingly ungovernable from Constantinople, the resort of pirates under local beys, and, as Europe industrialized, an increasingly prized site for colonization. The Maghreb had far greater proven wealth than the unknown rest of Africa and a location of strategic importance affecting the exit from the Mediterranean Sea.

For the first time, Morocco became a state of some interest to the European powers. France exhibited this as early as 1830. Recognition in 1904 by the UK of France's sphere of influence in Morocco provoked a German reaction; the crisis of June 1905 was resolved at the Algeciras Conference in 1906, which formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco to France and Spain jointly. A second Moroccan crisis provoked by Berlin  increased tensions between European powers. The Treaty of Fez (signed in 1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern Sahara zones. Many Moroccan soldiers who served in the French army assisted European and American troops in both World War I and World War II.


Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956 and on April 7 of that year France officially relinquished its protectorate in Morocco. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored, though attempts to claim other Spanish colonial possessions through military action were less successful. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on Oct. 29, 1956.

Hassan II became king of Morocco on March 3, 1961. His rule would be marked by political unrest. Tentative political reform in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature directly elected by the people in 1997. King Hassan died in 1999 and was succeeded by his son, Mohamed VI, who pledged to continue steps toward liberalization. The government has undertaken a number of economic, political, and social reforms, including creation in 2006 of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated allegations of human rights abuse from 1956 to 1999.

The 2002 legislative elections were based on party lists, but 10 percent of the seats were set aside for females. Reform of the Family Code, or Mudawana, was pushed through the legislature by the king in 2004. The new code asserts the equality of men and women, raises the age of consent to marriage for girls to 18, and makes polygamy impossible to practice.


Morocco is a de jure constitutional monarchy, with an elected parliament. The king, with vast executive powers, can dissolve government and deploy the military, among other responsibilities. Opposition political parties are legal and several have arisen in recent years. Politics takes place in a framework of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, in which the prime minister is the head of government, and of a pluriform, multi-party system.


Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of Representatives of Morocco and the Assembly of Councillors. The Moroccan constitution provides for a monarchy with a Parliament and an independent judiciary.

The constitution grants the king extensive powers; he is both the political leader and the "Defender of the Faith." He presides over the Council of Ministers; appoints the prime minister following legislative elections, and on recommendations from the latter, appoints the members of the government.

While the constitution theoretically allows the king to terminate the tenure of any minister and, after consultation with the heads of the higher and lower Assemblies, to dissolve the Parliament, suspend the constitution, call for new elections, or rule by decree, the only time this happened was in 1965. The king is formally the chief of the military. Upon the death of his father Mohammed V, King Hassan II succeeded to the throne in 1961. He ruled Morocco for the next 38 years, until he died in 1999. His son, King Mohamed VI, assumed the throne in July 1999.


In 2011, following widespread protests, a new constitution was approved and took effect on July 29, 2011. Key reforms include: the king is no longer "sacred" although still "inviolable" (cannot be critized); the king will select a prime minister from the party that wins the most seats in parliament; the prime minister is the head of government (not the king) with the power to dissolve the lower house of parliament; the Berber language is an official state language along with Arabic; and women are guaranteed "civic and social" equality with men (previously, they had only "political" equality).

Foreign relations

Morocco is a moderate Arab state that maintains close relations with Europe and the US and is active in Maghreb, Arab, and African affairs. It belongs to the Arab League, Arab Maghreb Union, Organization of the Islamic Confer- ence, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Although not a member of the African Union, Morocco contributes to U.N. peacekeeping efforts on the continent.

Morocco supports the search for peace and moderation in the Middle East. In 1986, then-King Hassan II took the daring step of inviting then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres for talks, becoming only the second Arab leader to host an Israeli leader. Following the September 1993 signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, Morocco accelerated its economic ties and political contacts with Israel. In September 1994, Morocco and Israel announced the opening of bilateral liaison offices. These offices were closed in 2000 following sustained Israeli-Palestinian violence, but Moroccan-Israeli diplomatic contacts continue.

Morocco was the first Arab state to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and sent troops to help defend Saudi Arabia. It maintains close relations with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, which have pro- vided Morocco with substantial amounts of financial assistance. Morocco has also supported efforts to stabilize Iraq following the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

As far as relations with the US, Morocco was the first country to seek diplomatic relations with the young country in 1777 and remains one of its closest allies in the region. As a stable, democratizing, and liberalizing Arab Muslim nation, Morocco is important for US interests in the Middle East. Morocco was among the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US and declare solidarity with the American people in the war against terror. Morocco has seen its own terrorism at home as well.

The major issue in Morocco's foreign relations is its claim to Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory to the south. As a result of Algeria's continued support for the Polisario Front in the dispute over Western Sahara, relations between Morocco and Algeria have remained strained over the past several decades, although they have full diplomatic relations and there is periodic high-level contact between the two countries.

Morocco's claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara is based largely on a historical argument of traditional loyalty of the Sahrawi tribal leaders to the Moroccan sultan as spiritual leader and ruler. The Polisario claims to represent the aspirations of the Western Saharan inhabitants for independence. Algeria claims none of the territory for itself but maintains that Sahrawis should determine the territory's future status. Morocco has sent in settlers to reinforce its claim and built a fortified berm around 75 percent of Western Sahara. It has de facto administrative control over 80 percent of the territory.

The United Nations continues to explore ways of arriving at a mutually agreed political settlement and to promote confidence-building measures between the parties in the interim. Talks in August 2007 ended with the parties agreeing that the status quo is unacceptable and negotiations will continue.

Administrative divisions

Morocco is divided into sixteen regions. As part of a 1997 decentralization/regionalization law passed by the legislature, sixteen new regions were created. Due to the conflict over Western Sahara, the status of both regions of Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra and Oued Ed-Dahab-Lagouira is disputed.


Morocco has the largest reserves of phosphates in the world and mining and processing it are its largest industry. Its second largest source of income is from nationals living abroad who transfer money to relatives living in Morocco. The country's third largest source of revenue is tourism.

Moroccan economic policies brought macroeconomic stability to the country in the early 1990s but have not spurred growth sufficient to reduce unemployment, which overall is 7.7 percent (2006 est.) but nears 20 percent in urban areas. Poverty has increased due to Morocco's continued dependence on foreign energy and its inability to promote the growth of small and medium size enterprises. However, GDP growth rebounded to 6.7 percent in 2006 due to high rainfall, which resulted in a strong second harvest. Petroleum has been discovered in the southeast, and the government revised its investment code to encourage exploration and development of oil reserves, which would reduce the nation's dependence on costly imports.

Moroccan authorities understand that reducing poverty and providing jobs are key to domestic security and dev- elopment. In 2004, they instituted measures to boost foreign direct investment and trade by signing a free trade agreement with the US that became effective in January 2006. The agreement allows 98 percent of the two-way trade of consumer and industrial products to be tariff free. A similar agreement with the European Union is sche- duled to take effect in 2010, and a free trade agreement has also been signed with EgyptTunisia, and Jordan. Morocco also established new commercial ties with China and sold government shares in the state telecommuni- cations company and the largest state-owned bank.

Long-term challenges include preparing the economy for freer trade with the US and European Union, improving education and job prospects for Morocco's youth, and raising living standards, which the government hopes to achieve by increasing tourism and boosting competitiveness in textiles.

The main industries, in addition to tourism and phosphate rock mining and processing, are food processing, lea- ther goods, textiles, and construction. Industry comprises about 33 percent of GDP, with agriculture contributing 13 percent and services 55 percent. GDP per capita is $4,600 (2006 est.). Roughly 20 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, but the percentage is higher in rural areas than in the cities.

Morocco is a major grower of wheatbarley, beans, sugar beets, and citrus fruits, but productivity is erratic due to frequent droughts. One of the government's priorities is increasing the amount of irrigated farmland. Morocco ranks among the world’s largest producers and exporters of cannabis, and its cultivation and sale provide the economic base for much of the population of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco, a region that is isolated, underdeveloped, and impoverished. The cannabis is typically processed into hashish, most of which is exported to Algeria and Tunisia.


Modern genetic analyses have confirmed that various populations have contributed to the present-day population of Morocco, including the two main ethnic groups—Berbers and Arabs—and Phoenicians, Sephardic Jews, and sub-Saharan Africans. The Arabs invaded Morocco in the seventh century and established their culture. Today Morocco is the fourth most populous Arab country, after EgyptSudan, and Algeria. Most Moroccans are Sunni Muslims of Arab, Berber, or mixed Arab-Berber stock. The Jewish minority has decreased significantly and now numbers about five thousand. Most of the foreign residents are French or Spanish; many are teachers, technicians, or retirees, especially in Marrakesh.


Most people live west of the Atlas Mountains, a range that insulates the country from the Sahara Desert. Casablanca is the center of commerce and industry and the leading port; Rabat is the seat of government; Tangier is the gateway to Morocco from Spain and also a major port; Fez is the cultural and religious center; and the dominantly Berber Marrakesh is a major tourist center.

Language, education

Morocco's official language is classical Arabic but most of its people speak a distinctive dialect called Moroccan Arabic. Approximately 40 percent of the population, mostly in rural areas, speak one of three different dialects of Berber either as a first language or bilingually with the spoken Arabic dialect. French, which remains Morocco's unofficial second language, is taught universally and still serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics. It also is widely used in education and government.

About 20,000 Moroccans in the north speak Spanish as a second language. English, while still far behind French and Spanish in terms of number of speakers, is rapidly becoming the foreign language of choice among educated youth. As a result of reforms implemented in 2002, English will be taught in all public schools. Education in Morocco is free and compulsory through primary school. Nevertheless, many children—particularly girls in rural areas—do not attend school. The country's illiteracy rate has been stuck at around 50 percent for some years, but reaches as high as 90 percent among girls in rural regions.

Morocco has about 230,000 students enrolled in 14 public universities. The most prestigious are Mohammed V University in Rabat and Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (private). Al-Akhawayn, founded in 1993 by King Hassan II and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, is an English-medium, American-style university comprising about one thousand students. The University of Al Karaouine, in Fez, is the oldest university in the world and has been a center for knowledge for more than a thousand years.

Culture, cuisine

Morocco is an ethnically diverse country with a rich culture and civilization. Through Moroccan history, Morocco, home of nomadic Berber tribes, hosted many people coming from the east (PhoeniciansCarthaginiansJews, and Arabs), south (Africans), and north (Romans, Vandals, Moors, and Jews). All those civilizations have had an impact. Each region possesses its own uniqueness, contributing to forging a national culture. Morocco has set among its top priorities the protection of its legacy and the preservation of its cultural identity. Ethnically and culturally speaking, Morocco can be considered the least Arabic among Arab countries. Most of its population is of Berber origins.

Moroccan cuisine has long been considered one of the most diversified in the world because of the nation's interaction with the outside world for centuries. It is a mix of Berber, Spanish, Moorish, Middle Eastern, Medi- terranean, Jewish, and African influences. Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food. While spices have been imported for thousands of years, many ingredients, like saffron from Tiliouine, mint and olives from Meknes, and oranges and lemons from Fez, are home-grown. Chicken is the most widely eaten meat. The most commonly eaten red meat is beef although lamb is preferred despite being relatively expensive. Couscous is the most famous Moroccan dish along with pastilla, tajine, and harira. The most popular drink is green tea with mint.


Moroccan literature is written in Arabic, Berber or French. It also contains literature produced in Andalusia. Under the Almohad dynasty Morocco experienced a period of prosperity and brilliance of learning. The Almohad built the Marrakech Kutubiya Mosque, which accommodated twenty-five thousand people but was also famed for its books, manuscripts, libraries, and book shops, which gave it its name. The Almohad Caliph, Abu Yakub, had a great love for collecting book and founded a great library that was eventually turned into a public library.

Modern Moroccan literature began in the 1930s, when Morocco's status as a French and Spanish protectorate gave its intellectuals an opportunity to enjoy contact with other Arabic and European literature and to produce literary works freely. During the 1950s and 1960s, Morocco was an artistic center and attracted writers such as Paul BowlesTennessee Williams, and William S. Burroughs. Moroccan literature flourished, with novelists such as Mohamed Choukri, who wrote in Arabic, and Driss Chraïbi, who wrote in French. Other important Moroccan authors include Tahar ben Jelloun, Fouad Laroui, Mohammed Berrada, and Leila Abouzeid.



Moroccan music is predominantly Arab, but Andalusian and other imported influences have had a major effect on the country's musical character. Rock-influenced chaabi bands are widespread, as is trance music with historical origins in Muslim music. Morocco is home to Andalusian classical music that is found throughout North Africa. It probably evolved under the Moors in Cordoba, and the Persian-born musician Ziryab is usually credited with its invention. There are three varieties of Berber folk music: village and ritual music and the music performed by professional musicians. Chaabi (popular) is music consisting of numerous varieties descended from the multifarious forms of Moroccan folk music. Chaabi was originally performed in markets but is now found at any celebration.



The government of Morocco owns many key media outlets, including radio and television. Moroccans have access to approximately 2,000 domestic and foreign publications. The Moroccan press agency, Maghreb Arab Press, and one Arabic daily newspaper, Al-Anbaa, are official organs of the government. One additional Arabic daily news- paper, Assahra Al Maghribia, and one French-language daily newspaper, Le Matin, are semi-official organs of the government. Morocco has 27 AM radio stations, 25 FM radio stations, six shortwave stations, and five television stations. Although journalists continue to practice self-censorship, opposition dailies have begun to explore social and political issues that have traditionally been considered out of bounds, but the media continue to exercise great caution when discussing government corruption, human rights, and Morocco’s policy toward Western Sahara.


The Committee to Protect Journalists in 2007 designated Morocco as one of the world's worst backsliders on press freedom, noting that independent journalists have been the targets of a series of politicized court cases, financial pressures, and harassment from authorities.

Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License.

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