To mark the tenth anniversary of the 20 February Movement (the Moroccan iteration of the Arab Spring protests), Al-M presents @FreeKoulchi‘s short survey of the Movement and political developments in the country since 2011.
The survey serves as promotional material for a demonstration occurring today (20th) in Paris, marking the anniversary and calling for the freeing of the political prisoners. See the graphic following our translation for a list of the event’s organisers (#FreeKoulchi, AMDH) and supporters (Attac, NPA).
20 February 2020 – 20 February 2021.
Say No To A Rights-Free State.
Stop The Repression.
Freedom For Political Prisoners.
On 20 February 2011, following the Tunisian and Egyptian insurrections, thousands of young (and not so young) Moroccans took to the streets, filled with daring, and pride, and the will to break with a Makhzanian Morocco inherited from another age. With full-throats they shouted the burning slogan – Freedom, Dignity, and Social Justice! – behind which appeared a full list demands: for new constitution and the end of tyranny; against corruption, the pillaging of wealth, and fraudulent money-making; for the liberation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and the end of arbitrary detentions; for the abolition of security laws, and of the Charter to ‘liberalise’ education; for free access to social services and employment policies, improvements to buying-power, living conditions, et cetera.
A new constitution was prepared by experts selected by the King, a new parliament was elected, a new government formed, the forces of order swept the streets – and nothing changed. Indeed the monopolisation of wealth, of the earth and the water, has only increased, whilst social disparities have grown. Unemployment and poverty have exploded with the crisis sparked by the coronavirus epidemic, which has also been used as an occasion to strengthen security measures, with the quashing of all social protest, and the imprisonment of protestors, journalists, and intellectuals.
An official offensive began to muzzle any free, independent thought. It started with the arrest and sentencing of the young 20 February militants (such as Bachir Benchaib, sentenced to 12 years) and after those of the Movement of the Rif (many sentenced to 20 years, including Sakhzarov Prize-nominee Nasser al-Zafzafi) and others of the social uprisings. Such arrests were combined with the controlling of blogs and Facebook pages, and the repression of bloggers judged impertinent (including through imprisonment) and a fury against any association which refused to be stymied, or journalist minded to practice their trade with professionalism and independence.
Any and all means have been used; the hacking of phones and computers, threats, manipulations, fantastic accusations about people’s private and intimate lives. Journalists such as Taoufiq Bouachrine, Soulaiman Raissouni, and Omar Radi have been hounded for sexual offences, and Maati Monjib for money laundering; moreover, both he and Radi are also accused of harming state security. Worse still, Monjib and six other journalists were sentenced to up to a year in prison plus various fines, following a trial that has been ceaselessly publicized since 2015, without the defence having the occasion to submit a plea nor engage in open discussion in court – which is to say, a trial that never took place.
The Moroccan regime has not only flouted its own laws and made a cartoon of its own institutions, it has played with fire. Morocco suffers striking inequalities in every area; the great part of the wealth of the country is concentrated in the hands of only a few. The aspirations expressed with such force in 2011 have not found any echo from the regime.
On the contrary, the populace remains marginal to the decisions which concern them. None of the various pseudo-models of development offer a response to their fundamental needs; they are condemned to a system of infernal survival.
On this occasion, the decennial anniversary of 20 February, it is urgent to say that we neither forget, nor accept; that we are always present to support the aspirations of the Moroccan people for freedom, dignity, and social justice, and the end of despotism; and to express a respect for the rights of expression, to call for the cease to all [legal] hounding, and for the liberation of all political prisoners and prisoners of opinion.
All assemble on the 20 February, 2pm, at the Place de la République, Paris.