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Mohamed VI

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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