It’s been over nine months of perpetual protests in the northern region of Morocco known as Rif since the parties seem unable to reach a compromise since neither protesters, nor the government are capable of putting forward a solution that would satisfy all sides. Those protests broke out last October after the tragic death on of a young merchant Mohsen Fikri, who was crushed by a trash compactor when he was trying to save his goods that the local police had previously confiscated.
Like the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, who became a symbol of the “Jasmine revolution” in Tunisia, which would then trigger the “Arab spring” events across the Middle East, Mohsen Fikri will forever remain in the history books in his country.
The tragedy that occurred in Rif has grown into one of the largest protest movements in Morocco, some analysts argue that protests of that scale could only be observed in the kingdom back in 2011. This time it’s all started with dozens of people staged a protest in front of the buildings of the Security Commission and the local court in the city of Al Hoceima. At the same time, pictures and videos from the site of the tragedy where Mohsen Fikri died started spreading across the globe. The next day, hundreds of people from neighboring cities took part in the funeral procession, which in turn turned into a protest march where people were getting enraged pretty rapidly. A day later, thousands of Moroccans took to the streets in more than twenty cities of the country to express to express their outrage over this accident.
Protest rallies are now being held under various political and social slogans such as “Moroccans demand the overthrow of the government”, “there must be a revolution against the dictatorship”, “freedom, dignity and social justice”, “killers must be held responsible” and “a martyr died – the government is to be held responsible”.
More than 80 people were injured as a result of the latest skirmishes when local police units tried to disperse a demonstration called the “march of a million people”. The opposition perceives the political situation in Morocco as extremely difficult.
After several months of unrest in the kingdom, as the protest movement grew, there were new leaders emerging that would then formulate the demands of the crowd. Among them one could name Nasser Zafzafi as one of the most active and articulate leaders. However, he was quick to be arrested along with dozens of other citizens, which pushed the protests into a new phase.
In spite of the outrage Moroccans share these days, the protest movement has never made any openly hostile statements against the king. Moreover, the sitting king retains his rule over the region of Rif, whose population demands him to exercise power directly, while bypassing the government and its authority, thus acting as a supreme judge that would settle the situation.
Local authorities have repeatedly pointed out that in the north of the country, where the absolute majority of civil disobedience cases appear, separatists are being manipulated by foreign agents who seek to use the situation in their own interests by taking control over the protest movement by providing its leaders with financial assistance.
It should be recalled that the so-called Arab Spring that was orchestrated by the United States and its European allies, torn both the Middle East and Northern Africa apart. In fact Washington has succeeded in using the so-called revolution movements to put a number of Arab countries on the brink of complete and utter collapse. It’s curious that among the states affected by this blatant example of foreign meddling one can find a large number of countries possessing vast natural resources reserves or those states that occupy an important strategic position in the region. If the beginning of the uprisings was connected with the aspirations of the people, their hopes for freedom, justice and respect, in the end everything was turned inside out due to the efforts of various political forces that would closely coordinate their activities with Washington. The latter would try to use revolutionary movements to gain more leverage over regional affairs or inflict maximum amount of economical damage to those states that would slip out of its reach.
In a number of Arab countries, ideological conflicts would soon turn into a struggle for power and influence, thus departing from the spirit of peaceful popular uprisings. One can recall Egypt, where the so-called revolution resulted in radical Islamists winning local elections. In Libya, a bloody and violent war resulted in the brutal death of Muammar Gaddafi, the man who brought prosperity to his country. Today, Libya lays in ruin and is usually being referred to as a failed state. Finally, the so-called “revolutionary sentiments” orchestrated by the West in Syria would result in the beginning of a massive armed conflict that is marked by extensive amounts of foreign interference. The conflict began in back in 2011 and continues to this day. The Saudi coalition, supported by Washington and London, threw Yemen into the perpetual chaos of civil war, while protests in Bahrain were violently suppressed due to the Saudi military intervention.
Against this “revolutionary” backdrop, North Africa is being gradually transformed into a hotbed for radical Islamism. The rapid growth of unemployment after the “revolutions” and the slow pace of social and economic reforms creates preconditions for the spread of radical ideology. That is precisely the reason why ISIS and other terrorist groups have been able to gain so much ground in Libya, Tunisia, Nigeria and other countries of the region.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the protests that are being held in Morocco attract both the Western “sponsors” and all sorts of terrorist organizations that remind of a group of vultures circling over its prey.
The fight against terrorism has taken its tall on a number African countries. It reminds of a double-edged sword, since the funds allocated on education, social benefits, development of the infrastructure, job creation and other activities are being allocated to to fight radical Islamists. As a result, social reforms are postponed, while the freedom of speech remains limited.
However, one must not allow the external “sponsors” to take advantage of the social difficulties that Morocco has faced in order to strengthen and expand the influence of all sorts of extremists and religious fanatics.
Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”