FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Morocco’s Rebellions

Photo by Jochen Frey | CC BY 2.0

Not far from Rabat’s train station, a small group of protesters hold Moroccan flags and banners as they chant for their lives. They are a family of farmers who have lost their land. These are rebels in the name of the King, to whom they plead for redress. “If only the King knew our situation,” says one of the men. Passers-by skirt the protest. So do the security forces. They are embarrassed. After a few hours, the farmers gather their things. They walk towards the train station. It is over.

The palace of Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco since 1999, is a short walk from the train station. But the King is not home. Nor is he in one of his 12 large palaces in grand cities as Casablanca, Fez or Meknes (the daily upkeep for these palaces is over $1 million). News comes that Mohammed VI is where his passion lies — on a jet ski far from Morocco.

Tourists do not go often to the city of al-Hoceima, which sits between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rif Mountains. This is mainly a fishing town with flashes of old Spanish architecture hidden behind the urgency of modern construction. Last October, the police confiscated some fish from Mouchine Fikri, a 31-year-old fishmonger, and threw it into the garbage. Fikri jumped into the garbage compactor to retrieve his fish. He was killed by the machine. People saw this as another example of hogra — the everyday humiliation of people like themselves by the makhzen (the royal family and its military establishment as well as the landowners and the businessmen). Fiercely rebellious, the Rif exploded.

Heated protests

Regular protests moved from al-Hoceima to cities and towns across Morocco. These are not demonstrations that embarrass the government. They terrify the makhzen. The government oscillated between arrest of the protest leaders and conciliation of their demands. Arrests of the leaders of the al-Hirak al-Sha’abi (Popular Movement) — Nasser Zefzafi, Najib Ahamjik and Silya Ziani — angered, rather than intimidated, the public. Fifty thousand people took to the streets of Rabat on June 11. That was the biggest protest in the city since the February 20 Movement of 2011 (as part of the Arab Spring).

It is difficult not to be in awe of Morocco’s history. Inside the charming maze of the Medina of Fez sits the Al-Karouine University that was founded in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri. This daughter of a wealthy merchant put her money into a place of scholarship that taught such luminaries as Ibn Khaldun, Moses Maimonides and Leo Africanus. Ancient manuscripts reside inside the library.

There is solace that the destructive impulse that tore through Mosul, whose great library was ravaged by the IS, will not come to this jewel. Neglect is the criminal. Outside the university runs the Fez River, which has more effluent from the tanneries than fresh water. The architect of the restoration, Aziza Chaouni, calls her city a ‘living city’, not just a city for tourists but also for the million people who live inside it.

Chinese presence

Morocco’s authorities worry that the Hirak protests might dampen tourism — the main foreign exchange earner. The government would like to see 20 million tourists enter the country, double the current figure. Numbers from the West are flat. Chinese tourism has, on the other hand, increased. It is not hard to run into Chinese tourists in the medinas of the old cities and in the hashish region anchored by the blue city of Chefchaouen (70% of the world’s hash comes from Morocco).

Poverty and hogra, as well as state-supported radical clerics, had opened the door for anger to move away from mass protest towards terrorist action.

The IS bomb-maker Najim Laachraoui, who died in the suicide attack in Brussels Airport, is from Ajdir (Morocco), while Paris attackers Salah Abdeslam, Brahim Abdeslam and Abdelhamid Abaaoud were all Moroccan. In June, the Moroccan authorities dismantled an IS cell in the southern coastal town of Essaouira. About 1,500 people have joined groups like the IS.

Hirak put the basic needs of the Moroccans on the table: dignity, healthcare, education and access to water. It is also the antidote to the growth of the IS. Neglect of the people threatens to push them into the arms of toxic radicalism that is typically antithetical to Morocco.

One of Al-Karouine University’s most important graduates was Abd el-Krim, the founder of modern guerrilla warfare.

Krim’s rebellion in the Rif from 1921 to 1926 defeated the much stronger Spanish army. But he was eventually caught and exiled to Egypt. His demands were also elementary: for dignity and for livelihood. These are unredeemed. They are on the table once more.

This article originally appeared in The Hindu.

 

More articles by:

Vijay Prashad’s most recent book is No Free Left: The Futures of Indian Communism (New Delhi: LeftWord Books, 2015).

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail