Morocco’s Growing Discontent
By admin June 8, 2017

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As Samuel Huntington claims in his essay titled “The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century,” every movement happens in waves. There appear to be trends in the way that countries move towards democracy and globalization. Many people have called the Arab Spring a fourth wave considering the number of Middle Eastern countries that fought for their freedoms from the tyranny of dictators and corrupt leaders. One country seems to have lagged in that trend: Morocco.

Over the past few days, citizens in Morocco have been coalescing in what seems to be a potential uprising. Already many protesters have flooded the streets of Rif, a town on the Mediterranean where the origins of government targeted aggression began. The start of recent uprisings began similarly to other incidences during the Arab Spring: Mouhcine Fikri, a local vendor, had his swordfish confiscated by police. Reports say the swordfish was confiscated for being sought during a season of protection by law. Upon chasing the garbage compactor his fish were disposed in, Fikri was crushed to death inside the operating machinery. Thanks to the technology of the 21st Century, videos of this incident circulated all over the Internet and gained heaping recognition.

Protesters carrying Fikri’s body in demonstrations on May 31. Photograph credits to AIC Press

This isn’t the first time Morocco has attempted to overthrow the current government. King Mohamed VI currently rules the country in a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Protest arose in Morocco in 2011 during the Arab Spring with pro-democracy sentiments, but never garnered enough direction by its leaders to be a success, or even gain enough support. There had been protests in multiple towns, but, with the exception of major cities, the protests were relatively peaceful. According to Moroccan law, public demonstrations must be notified to the authorities in advanced, and requests may be denied if they are considered a threat to the public order. In the case of protests on February 20th, 2011, authorities confronted protesters with minimal aggression. The King quickly mitigated the situation by promising reforms.

Currently, Nassar Zefzafi leads al-Hirak al-Shaabi (the Popular Movement). Zefzafi was also a proponent in the protests in 2011. Last Friday, upon interrupting religious discourse at a mosque in Al-Hoceima to advocate for participation in the movement, police warranted Zefzafi’s arrest. The warrant accuses him of “undermining interior state security” and for “obstructing freedom of worship.”

Most protests occur in Rif, which is well known for its underrepresentation by the Moroccan government. Fikri’s morbid death was used as the breakpoint and justification for the citizen’s of Rif to initiate protests. According to Amnesty International, their demands include“an end to marginalization of communities and better access to services in the region.”

Since Zefzafi’s arrest, protests have not diminished. Rif’s citizens continue to riot in the streets, chanting, “We are all Zefzafi.” Unlike in 2011, police have taken further measures to crackdown on the ongoing protests. On Friday 40 people were arrested, according to Newsweek. Many of these prisoners will face persecution trials on Tuesday, while the date of Zefzafi’s trial still remains unclear.

Likewise, the future of this uprising remains nebulous. Will the protests, that are highly concentrated in one region, garner enough support from the rest of Moroccan citizens? Or will this movement suffer the same fate it did in 2011? One would expect that the King would take more preventative measures, considering his previous success and the compromised fate of his royal lineage. However, King Mohamed VI has not yet publicly spoken about the events that have transpired.

Read More:

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Morocco: Thousands March for Reform

Morocco: Rif protesters punished with wave of mass arrests

Morocco: What is fuelling unrest in the Rif?

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