Rif protests: Morocco’s Bouazizi moment?


Morocco’s authorities have carried out a chilling wave of arrests rounding up scores of protesters, activists and bloggers in the Rif, northern Morocco, over the past week following months of protests demanding an end to marginalization of communities and better access to services in the region, Amnesty International said today.

Since October of last year, Morocco’s Rif region, particularly the town of Al-Hoceima, has been the site of ongoing protests that have intensified in recent days, Carnegie’s Diwan adds.

Though Morocco remains stable and the king remains the main legitimate power broker, these protests point toward a greater popular willingness to hold him accountable for conditions in the country, says Morocco expert Intissar Fakir, editor of Sada:

Protests remain the only avenue left in the absence of governance structures that can effectively address the people’s concerns and needs. While the protesters are not calling for the removal of the monarchy, many do increasingly want the government (and the monarchy that runs it) to be answerable for the state of the country. What the king does with his legitimacy and popular support will determine the future of the protests and the country.

Fakir addressed events in Al-Hoceima last year in an article titled “A Bouazizi Moment?”

Moroccan intellectuals and human rights and civil society activists have called for the government to enter a dialogue with the Rif protesters:

The initiative issued a communiqué on Thursday saying the social, economic and cultural demands of protesters are “legitimate.” Signatories of the communiqué included writer and Amazigh activist Ahmed Assid, poet Salah El Ouadie, university professor Amina El Messaoudi and human rights activists Khadija Marouazi and Mohamed Neshnash. Signatories said the protest movement “has been peaceful,” adding that the protests movement‘s demands can be satisfied “if there is truly a will to engage in a ‘serious’ dialogue with them.”

Although it is not associated with any political party or organization, a number of political and civil society groups have expressed their solidarity with the movement, notes analyst  Fatim-Zohra El Malki. Between October 2016 and May 2017, the protesters’ demands evolved from mainly socioeconomic grievances into a more potent political message; slogans used in the protests virulently denounced the Makhzen’s rampant corruption, poor governance, and outright appropriation of the nation’s resources.

Like its Jordanian counterpart, the Moroccan monarchy is flaunting its nondemocratic model after decades of obfuscating it behind the veil of reform, argues Sean Yom, an associate professor of political science at Temple University. These are no longer “facade democracies,” because they are dropping the façade, he writes for The Washington Post:

Royal autocracy is something to be valued, even cherished, as the conduit to stable and functional governance. Worryingly, few seem to care. The PJD won little public sympathy during its royal tribulations, while most Jordanians shrugged their shoulders at last year’s constitutional amendments. Count these as two more successes for the swell of authoritarianism buffeting the world, and the counterrevolution against the Arab Spring.

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