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.
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.
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.
Translated by: Najat M.