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What is the King doing about the social unrest in Morocco?

Women’s demonstration Imzouren 2017, photo Mohamed El Asrihi

In recent years there have been protests in Morocco in various sectors and regions. People claim their share of the country’s wealth, such as fishing, phosphate and other raw materials that the country is rich in.

Africa’s largest silver mine
In Imidar the province of Tinghir there is the largest silver mine in Africa (seventh largest silver producer in the world). The local population doesn’t benefit from it, even worse, the mining company makes the lives of these people more difficult, it pollutes their drinking water and because the company consumes a lot of water, the people from the region have a water shortage. SMI (Société Métallurgique d’Imiter) is part of the Royal Holding Company and has been operating the Imider mine since 1978. This company did not hire people from the region as promised. In the last century, the people of the region have carried out various actions against the negative consequences of this mining operation. Since 2011 the people of Imider have founded a movement: On The Road ’96 -Imider, the purpose of this movement is to stand up for civil rights in Imider. The situation in the region has not changed for the time being.

Water shortage
Poor management and water scarcity are a very serious problem in Morocco, one of the causes of migration. In the southern Zagora region (Tazagurt) of 30,000 inhabitants, 700 kilometres from Rabat, people protested against water shortages in 2017, their protests were met with brutal violence and they were persecuted for participating in unauthorised demonstrations. The King’s response to the problems in Morocco is to build dams, but this has not yielded any results for the average Moroccan, nor does it provide a structural solution to these problems in the long term.

In the east of the country, in the Jerada area near the Algerian border, people also took to the streets after coal mines were closed in this area and people could no longer find work. These protests were also violently suppressed. There is a video in circulation of a boy, Abdelmoula Zaiker, who was deliberately chased by a police car, then hit and seriously injured, and who is now being treated in a hospital in Turkey. The driver of the police car was not even prosecuted.

Death of the fish merchant
In the Rif there were big protests after the death of the fish merchant Muhsin Fikri. These demonstrations were led mainly by young people; they demanded an honest investigation of the death of Muhsin Fikri under the motto: freedom, equality and social justice, they wanted to demonstrate peacefully in the whole Rif area. After six months, the government reacted to these protests by accusing them of being led, financed as separatist from abroad. Hereafter a great wave of arrests in the Rif, which has been a military area since 1958, began. So far, people have been arrested for waving the Rif flag, taking a photo of Abdelkrim Al Khattabi and criticizing the government.

During the large-scale demonstration in Al Hoceima on July 20, 2017, there was even one death, Imad El Attabi was probably killed by a bullet of the security forces during the peaceful demonstration: According to the Moroccan prosecution, an investigation was conducted into the death of this young Riffian, and neither his family nor the Riffians saw the results of the investigation.

The funeral of the activist Imad El Attabi and the death of others.
Many people attended the funeral of Imad El Attabi on August 9 in Al Hoceima, where they held a demonstration using tear gas from the Moroccan police. The Riffian Abdelhafid El Haddad had breathing difficulties and died on 18 August 2017. He left behind a wife and three children. According to several Riffian civilians, the Moroccan police used French tear gas, showing an expired use date.

Najim Abdouni was the chairman of a national “anti-corruption committee” and was familiar with major projects in Al Hoceima for which large sums of money were provided on paper but not or not fully implemented. He was also active in the Rif popular movement. On August 10, 2017, he was found outside his front door, seriously injured, and died the same day in hospital. The Moroccan judiciary had promised an investigation, but had not yet announced any results.

Imad El Attabi

The King takes action
In a speech in 2017, King Mohamed VI praised the violent actions of his police and portrayed them as victims of the Riffian demonstrators. His Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit confirmed in Parliament that the Moroccan police had smashed the doors of civilians in the Rif. There are several videos on social media that clearly show that the Moroccan police terrorized the Riffians in the middle of the night and raided their homes without a search warrant: Private property was destroyed and the doors of defenseless Riffian houses were broken open.

Leaving for Europe
Thousands of demonstrators were filmed by the Moroccan police and then arrested and intimidated; even women and minors have not escaped these human rights violations. There are also stories of Morocco deliberately leaving its international borders unguarded so that young people can flee. The asylum seekers and reception centres in Europe are full of Riffian young people, especially in the Spanish enclave of Melilla. According to the latest news from the Rif, entire families fled the country. A number of Riffians were granted asylum, for example the activist Achraf El Idrissi in Belgium, the lawyer Abdessadek El Bouchtaoui in France, the activist Basset Lamrini in Spain. This year, Nawal Benaissa and her child have applied for asylum in the Netherlands. It is not known whether their application was granted.

Mitigations of the King
As a measure against the social protests, Mohamed VI reintroduced compulsory military service in Morocco this year after it was abolished in 2007. As a second clear measure, King Mohammed says in his speech of 20 August that Morocco will work on the development of rural areas and the agricultural sector and that some 50 billion dirhams are reserved for the period 2016 — 2022. The king also explains that it is not important to have a university degree, but to have a job, and refers his subjects to practical training (vocational training) and manual work.

The number of unemployed graduates in Morocco is increasing, and this is a danger for the regime, as they claim their rights and draw the attention of the uneducated Moroccans to their rights. This is why Morocco is slowly phasing out “free” education. Both measures are in favour of the monarchy: The entry into military service ensures the influx of personnel for the police forces.
The development of the agricultural sector also benefited the Moroccan monarchy, as Morocco’s best farmland was in the hands of the royal family and other Moroccan families who worked with the Spanish and French occupiers between 1912 and 1956. For this reason, the agricultural sector in Morocco is completely exempt from taxation. The royal company is the country’s largest producer and exporter.

Source: https://amazighinformatiecentrum.medium.com/wat-doet-de-koning-aan-de-sociale-onrust-in-marokko-98bf7283b987
Translated by: Najat M

Four years after the murder of Muhsin Fikri, the repression continues in the Rif

Banner Riffian Sit-in, Brussels, October 28, 2020

Every year on the 28th of October, the world’s Riffians commemorate the terrible and barbaric murder of the fishmonger Muhsin Fikri. On that day, 31-year-old Muhsin Fikri was crushed by Moroccan officials in a garbage truck in 2016. This crime was recorded on video footage showing how he was slaughtered in the presence of bystanders. This black day is permanently engraved in the Riffian collective memory just like the many other crimes the Moroccan regime committed against the people from the Rif.

For the new generation of Riffians, the cowardly murder of Muhsin Fikri is a tangible proof of the crimes committed over and over by the Moroccan regime in the Rif.

There have been and are still many crimes: during the popular uprisings of 1958/1959, just after the withdrawal of Spain and France from the Rif in 1956, the Moroccan regime massacred the Rif population. Subsequently, in the 1960’s, there was a mass deportation of Riffians to Europe under the guise of employment as a guest worker. In the 70’s, Riffians who were active in the opposition and trade union movement were arrested and imprisoned. During the student protests in 1984, many Riffians fled their country for fear for their safety. And this development continues to this day, as the report below will show.

Massive protests after a barbaric murder

It did not stop at the deaths in 1984. In 2011 there were another five deaths, this time in Al Hoceima, which happened during February 20 movement, although these young people were not actively involved in the movement. All the evidence of murder of these young people point at the regime. In 2015, the lifeless and beheaded body of the rapper and activist Rifinox (Hussain Bellagrache) was found in the Nador region. The regime is held responsible for this macabre murder by Riffian activists.

From 1956 to the present day, many Riffians go missing, some of them disappear on the orders of the regime, another part is swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing the repression of the regime.

These events and the assassination of Muhsin Fikri prompted the population of the Rif to take immediate and massive action. Thousands of Riffians took to the streets and demanded an end to the militarization of the Rif, an end to the humiliation, contempt and killing of the Riffians.

These protests culminated in a popular movement called the Hirak Reef. For months, the Moroccan regime ignored the large and peaceful protests. The peaceful and massive demonstrations of the Hirak took place every week in different regions of the Rif.

Kidnappings and rape in the Rif

However, in May 2017 the Moroccan regime reacted with an unprecedented repression on the demands of the peaceful demonstrators.

More than a thousand Riffians were abducted from their homes by force, forcing the house doors in the middle of the night, tearing the victims away from their families and taking them to unknown destinations, leaving their loved ones in bewilderment and ignorant of the fate of their loved ones.

This fate did not only affect young healthy adult men, but also people with disabilities, women and minors did not escape state terrorism. The young singer Salima Ziani (1994) better known as Silya Ziani from Al Hoceima was kidnapped by Moroccan police on June 5, 2017 and taken to Casablanca where she was tortured, filmed naked and threatened with rape.

Nasser Zefzafi the spokesperson of the movement was kidnapped by Moroccan police officers, raped with a bat and urinated on him. At the police station, he was filmed naked like other abductees and DNA material was taken without permission.

Protests for the Rif in Europe

Riffians protesting, Amsterdam 05 November 2016

The Riffians of Europe also reacted fiercely and massively to these crimes committed by the Moroccan regime. After the murder of Muhsin Fikri, they took to the streets to stop killing, humiliating and expelling Riffians from their own country. Because of their open criticism of the Moroccan regime and organizing protests, many European Riffiand activists did not dare to travel to Morocco for fear of arrest in the knowledge that they too are controlled by the regime. Even though these citizens have a European nationality, Morocco continues to see them as its own nationals. The Dutch and Belgian governments have let it be known that there is nothing they can do about this.

Morocco has tried to accuse a well-known Riffian activist who is in Dutch government service of subversive activities. Morocco then asked the Netherlands for his extradition. After a thorough investigation by the Dutch government, Morocco got zero on the petition.

However, a Belgian from the Rif was arrested and imprisoned in Morocco. Belgium did not take any action for this citizen, it is said that the country did not want to damage its good economic and political relationship with Morocco.

Killings during demonstration

Imad El Attabi

During the last protests in the Rif, 22-year-old Imad El Attabi was killed by a police bullet during the demonstration of 20 July 2017 in Al Hoceima. The cab driver Abdelhafid El Haddad died from the effects of the inhalation of tear gas, which was frequently used during this demonstration.

Many Riffians participating in the protests received a call to report to the police station where, under threats and humiliation, they were forced to sign a statement promising not to demonstrate again. During show trials more than a thousand Riffians were sentenced to prison terms ranging from a few months to 20 years imprisonment. Among the long sentences are several activists such as Nasser Zefzafi, Mohamed Jalloul, Nabil Ahemjik etc.

Militarization and economic embargo

In order to strengthen this policy of repression, the Moroccan regime had new prisons, police stations and barracks built in the Rif. In addition, the borders with the ‘Spanish enclaves’ Ceuta and Melilla were closed, causing thousands of Rif families to lose their livelihood.

These illegal and semi-illegal practices such as smuggling oil from Algeria, drug smuggling and human trafficking, and smuggling products from Ceuta and Melilla and Algeria, which are a large part of a parallel economy, have been promoted, to say the least, and partly set up by the regime. They are now partly restricted in order to affect the population.

This parallel economy was created so that the Riffian could never form an economic power. Even Riffians that want to invest their money in Rif do not get a license to do so, but are told to do so in other parts of Morocco. Also, the hard currency of Riffians in Europe and the real estate profits benefit the Moroccan regime through the Moroccan banks.

After the popular protests and the subsequent show trials, nothing has changed, the provocation, intimidation and humiliation of the Riffians by Moroccan officials both on the streets and in government buildings are the order of the day, Riffians are bullied with the words like, son of a Spaniard.

King Hassan II called the Riffians ‘scum’ in his speech of January 1984. His son Mohammed VI called them ‘nihilists’ in his speech from the throne in 2017. Moroccan politicians follow the good examples of their king and express hurtful insults about the Riffians, which they put on social media and in the Moroccan media, including terms such as scum and nihilists.

The persecution in the Rif continues as well, recently two youngsters have been sentenced by a Moroccan court to imprisonment for wearing the Rif flag.

The situation in Rif is worrying

All this makes the situation in the Rif very worrisome, the regime has curtailed important sources of income in the Rif, in addition, the fishing port of Al Hoceima had to make way for a pleasure port. Many wipers lost their jobs as a result. The trade in products from the ‘Spanish Enclaves’ Ceuta and Melilla has been stopped by closing the borders. There is hardly any employment in the Rif, so people are struggling from craftsmen and manual workers to businessmen. There are currently families who can no longer do their shopping and are forced to sell their furniture in order to stay alive.

Riffians fleeing to Europe

Archive Image of a rescue operation of a boat, EFE

To escape this reign of terror, thousands of Riffians flee their homeland and leave for Europe. Among them are women and minors. A new phenomenon is that whole families are now fleeing from the Rif. In Europe there is no end to their suffering because they disappear into ‘illegality’ and end up in wretched conditions. This stream of refugees continues.


Translation: Najat M.

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