Socialist Worker

New movement erupts against murderous regime in Morocco

by Mahdi Rafiq
Issue No. 2530

Protests following the death have been the biggest the country has seen since 2011

Protests following the death have been the biggest the country has seen since 2011 (Pic: Maharebia/Flikr)


Mass demonstrations have swept through Morocco in North Africa after the murder of fish seller Mohsin Fikri in the city of Al-Hoceima last month.

Fikri jumped into a refuse truck to retrieve fish that police had confiscated, and was crushed after cops switched on the machine. 

They are the biggest protests since the 20 February movement erupted in 2011.

The strongest protests have been in the north, with 70,000 marching in Al-Hoceima and 40,000 in Tangier. Tangier is a working class port city and hosts two “industrial free zones”, which were set up to favour multinational corporations’ investments. 

There’ve also been protests in the capital Rabat, Casablanca, Tetouan and dozens of other towns and cities.

The trade unions have not declared their support for the protests, because they are waiting for the outcome of inquiry into the death. 

Supporting

The mainstream political parties are supporting King Mohammed VI’s autocratic regime.

While the opposition Islamist parties are supportive, they aren’t trying hard to organise or direct the protests.

The radical left has thrown itself wholeheartedly into the battle, but has not been able to shape the protests’ slogans or demands.

The regime tried to head off people’s anger from the beginning. The king sent interior minister Mohammed Hasad to and open an inquiry and to personally offer a statement of royal condolences to the family.

State officials have also been forced to recognise the power of the demonstrations, with Hasad declaring that “protest is an expression of citizenship”. But the king’s intervention has failed to contain the protest movement.

In response the regime has launched a frenzied media campaign, claiming that the movement is the work of a minority of troublemakers. They claim the protests are part of an international plot to undermine the UN’s Cop 22 climate change conference that began in Marrakech on 7 November.

The regimes has also attempted to split the movement by playing the “Berber” card.

The call-out for the first demonstrations was made on Facebook, but young activists have started setting up assemblies to organise the protests.

The Berber ethnic minority, who prefer the name Amazigh, are an indigenous population across North Africa. Al-Hoceima, where the movement erupted, has an Amazigh majority population and Fikri was of Amazigh descent.

Amazigh flags and symbols have been prominent in many of the demonstrations.

Some Amazigh activists have argued that his murder is primarily about Amazigh oppression and not linked it to the underlying problems in Morocco.

Behind the protests are deep-rooted social grievances, which were caused by neoliberalism and austerity.

Most new jobs are in the private sector, where 62 percent of workers are in insecure jobs and 800,000 are without social insurance. Meanwhile, education and health services have faced deep budget cut.

The protest movement has continued to develop.

The call-out for the first demonstrations was made on Facebook, but young activists have started setting up assemblies to organise the protests.

Organise

After Al-Hoceima’s 70,000-strong demonstration on 6 November, activists set up a follow-up committee to organise further protests.

The slogans raised by protesters have also developed: in the first two days after Fikri’s murder they focussed on bringing those responsible to justice, and condemned the state’s efforts to make some minor officials into scapegoats for his death.

As the protests continued, new slogans attacking the regime’s monopoly on Morocco’s wealth have appeared.

Demonstrators have been chanting, “Phosphates and two oceans, but we live a life of oppression”. This refers to the fact that Morocco has 80 percent of global phosphate reserves and is surrounded on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other the Mediterranean.

But none of these resources benefit its people—only the elite which monopolises the country’s wealth

The new movement is demanding social justice and the prosecution of those responsible for Fikri’s murder.


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