When the young fish vendor Mohcine Fikri was brutally murdered by the corrupt Moroccan police in Al Hoceima, a town in the Rif region of Northern Morocco, people understandably reacted with outrage and took to the streets. Unexpectedly it ignited the now already eight month peaceful uprising against the broader underlying socio-economic problems and with no signs of letting up. For the long oppressed Riffians, who’ve had to suffer grave discrimination and injustice simply because they could never accept the unjust measures of the regime, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Riffians possess an extraordinary spirit of resistance and thanks to the stubborn defiance of activists that refuse to go home until their demands have been met, the Rif uprising in Morocco has become increasingly harder to ignore.
However, with this increased attention and growing solidarity inside and outside Morocco also came a multiplying festering of conspiracy theories and false accusations to discredit this legitimate grassroots movement. As with any dictatorial regime that doesn’t care for its people the lies of foreign plots are never far away when the people finally have had enough and rise up. Today it’s Algeria tomorrow it’s the polisario, the day after it will be Israël or Spain, or some drug lord in The Netherlands. According to authoritarian rulers it will always be someone else who is leading or financing the protests as if the people cannot decide autonomously they are fed up and want to fight for a better future for themselves and their children. As in Syria the people of the Rif are not being credited with agency and so their righteous movement becomes explained as being orchestrated. In addition the peaceful activists have been accused of nationalist separatism, who only want to create instability and are out for war whereas in truth their demands are simply socio-economic in nature:
1: A university in the Rif region
2: A good hospital which specialises in cancer treatment
4: Better healthcare
5: Better housing
6: Better infrastructure
7: An end to the militarisation of the Rif
8: An end to the corruption
After the arrests of the leaders of the movement the main demand is now the release of the political prisoners. Once the government agrees to that, the original demands must be fulfilled and these demands are in fact basic human rights.
For the last eight months people have been protesting peacefully for these basic rights and the call to remain peaceful has been a constant slogan during the uprisings. Nasser Zafzafi, the undisputed and now arrested leader of the movement, never tires to chant this in his videos, “peacefulness, hold on to your peacefulness, hold on to your peacefulness”, always repeated three times.
What better reason to support people than basic human rights? If we really care about our fellow humans it is imperative we show the rising Riffians our support. People shouldn’t have to travel to distant towns on dangerous roads just to get cancer treatment and that is if they even have the money to travel. Without jobs how is it possible to travel or pay for treatment?
Unfortunately, instead of the government giving in to these basic rights so people could finally have a future the regime has resorted to even more random arrests and kidnapping. Propaganda and discrediting this movement by pulling the separatism card didn’t work therefore more insidious methods were needed to shut the people up. Every person demonstrating is subject to arrest: teargas and police brutality have become standard procedures. Despite these attempts to strangle the movement it has now spread from the Rif region to the rest of the country and beyond, even to another continent! Amazigh people from all over Europe are gathering in different cities such as Madrid, Brussels, The Hague and people rented buses to gather in Geneva. The Imazighen and their allies, no matter where they’re from, will not be backing down anytime soon. After all, they are the proud descendants of the warriors that inflicted grave defeat upon the French and Spanish colonizers in Morocco, and the former colonisers haven’t forgotten these defeats.
The options for the Moroccan government have become real simple, give in to the demands for basic human rights or get ready for the hottest summer Morocco has ever seen in a very long time! Let’s hope they choose wisely. #PowerToThePeople
*Hirak means popular movement or uprising in Arabic
This article is written by Inaam Allachi.