The protest movement which exploded across Morocco in late October 2016 has revived once again on a national scale, with tens of thousands filling the streets of the capital Rabat on 11 June. The latest demonstration was triggered by a wave of arrests in the Rif region in late May, as the authorities seized dozens of activists who have been leading the movement there.
The killing of a young fish-seller, Mohsin Fikri, was the original trigger for the revolt last year. He was crushed inside a bin lorry as he tried to retrieve wares confiscated by municipal officials in the town of Al-Hoceima, administrative capital of the Rif.
Across Morocco his death was seen as a symbol of social injustice and the arrogance of state officials, while in the Rif it connected with long-standing grievances about poverty and state repression in the largely Amazigh-speaking area.
Over the winter, the Rif region has experienced intense repression, with activists from the area describing the crackdown as similar to a military occupation. “No to the militarisation of the Rif” has become a common slogan on protests.
The latest crackdown by the Moroccan authorities on activists in the Rif has caused the movement to step up a gear, Moroccan activist Mehdi Rafiq toldSocialist Worker. “This is the largest political mobilisation since the 20 February movement in 2011, at the time of the Arab revolutions,” he said.
“It follows on important social struggles such as the medical students’ protests and the trainee teachers’ movement. Young people mobilised through social media channels and by setting up local committees.”
A wide spectrum of opposition parties took part in the 11 June protest, from the revolutionary left, to liberals and the Islamist movement al-Adl wal Ihsane.
Trade unions have not been involved in an organised way, Mehdi said, “the trade union leaders are trying to keep their members away from this struggle.”
The local organising committees which have been formed in a large number of areas are going to be key to taking the movement forward, Mehdi added. “There were mobilising committees which were formed across the Rif, and in other areas solidarity committees have been organised to support the popular movement there. In my view this must continue. Self-organisation is very important.
"We need to be organising to defend the activists from the Rif who have been arrested and who are being brought before the criminal courts in Al-Natour and Al-Hoceima.”