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MOROCCO: Protest violence could escalate, intelligence analyst says


Moroccan police beat dozens of protesters who defied a ban on demonstrations and took to the streets of the capital Rabat and Casablanca on Sunday, according to news reports.

Months of protests in the north African nation have led its monarch, Mohammed VI, to make some concessions, but not enough to please protesters. They appeared more defiant Sunday, although their numbers have failed to match the scale of demonstrations in Egypt, Tunisia other countries that saw "Arab Spring" uprisings.

Babylon & Beyond spoke Monday with Metsa Rahimi, an intelligence analyst with London-based Janusian Risk Consultancy who specializes in North Africa, about the Moroccan protests.

B&B: Why are people protesting in Morocco?

M.R.: The protests have been going on for three months now, so it’s not necessarily new. It was inspired by other events in other countries in the region back in February, the 20th of February protest movement.

The economy is one of the poorest in the region, dependent on tourism, with a younger population.

In terms of the other monarchies -- there is a sense of loyalty to monarchies, as opposed to self-appointed autocrats, and so they have been less vulnerable to protesters calling for their downfall.

Q: How have Morocco's leaders and security forces responded to the protests?

A: Until now, we haven’t seen a lot of violence in Morocco. It’s all been very moderate. What we’ve seen in the last fortnight, not only has the 20th of February movement become more radical, but the police have begun to use more force.

They didn’t authorize this protest in the capital this weekend which had been authorized in the past. That’s something the protesters can protest against and when that starts to happen, protests escalate. We saw that this weekend, people talking about the makhzen, the elites, you know, "Down with the makhzen! We want more reform, more freedom!" When you start seeing police brutality, people start condemning the government.

At the end of June, the king is supposed to be announcing reforms of the constitution. Morocco has stood out over the years as one of the countries that has been very reformist and people in the West have looked on it with respect, but a lot of the reforms have been superficial. A lot of people are saying he is doing constitutional reforms, but will it really mean anything?

Q: Why haven’t we seen major protests in Morocco and in neighboring Algeria, as we have in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt? Has the government made more concessions, or are security forces just better at dispersing crowds?

A: One of the big things in Morocco was the police and security forces didn’t use that kind of violence, but now that’s starting to escalate. The 20th of February movement, the king did invite them to participate in the constitutional amendments, but they chose not to participate and to stay on the streets. Now there’s all sorts of factions, there's Islamists involved in the 20th of February movement now and what they want is really not as clear as it was in the begining.

If the police continue to use force and the 20th of February movement continues to prefer to be in the streets rather than get involved, then it could get worse.

Algeria is a special case. Everything points to it being another case of this "Arab Spring," but in the '90s they had a very bloody civil war. The memory of that — thousands of people died in that war — it's still with people, the older and younger generation. That’s a big deterrent in people not going out into the streets.

Also, the power structure in Algeria is very different in that the security services hold the power so asking for the president to step down won’t really change people’s lives. People have been protesting since back before the Arab Spring started. And the security forces, every time they tried to gather, there was a massive response and they just couldn’t do it. People were also gathering for diffrerent things -- teachers, professional groups -- not as one against the government.

Q: Morocco has been invited, along with Jordan, to join the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group until now only open to Persian Gulf monarchies, which some analysts have nicknamed the "Club of Kings," opposed to Arab Spring uprisings — what does that say about its government’s place in Arab Spring?

A: I was really shocked. It just doesn’t make sense because it’s not a gulf country. Jordan, I suppose you could justify because it’s near the gulf. It is a club of kings, potentially trying to bolster the Saudis and what they want to do to counter Iran, this sort of cold war in the region.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: A protester lies on the ground in the wake of advancing riot police during a demonstration organized by the 20th of February movement in Casablanca on Sunday. Credit: Reuters


Comments () | Archives (32)

Mr Mourabit,

I never called millions of Moroccans loosers.Having lived abroad most of my life ,i can honestly tell you ,we are creatives,hard workers ,creators of wealth and very family oriented.
My problem is this minority of thugs that refuse to participate in anyway in the future of this country.How are you benefiting Morocco by marching ,sleeping in the middle of the road(av ibn Sinna Rabat)forcing the governement to hire you at the chambers of commerces,ministery of commerces and fisheries when you majored in history,geography and Islamic studies.Is n't this really sucking the tax payers blood.IF corruption and injustice exist in Morocco blame us ,not the King sir.King Mohammed VI is doing what he can ,if he is wealthy ,he earned it and invests in Morocco.We can't expect a king to stop living just because he happens to be the king of Moroccans.Further more ,i am willing to live by your rules ,as long as its won fair and square in an election,not on the street.As far as your loss,i am sorry ,however they did not die in vain ,they protected their country and you should be proud of them.

Eddy and Abdallah, I am surprised that you're calling millions of Moroccans losers, lazy, illiterate, poor, vulgar and not responsible citizens!

You also make the decision that they are not ready or capable of living in a democratic system!

Well, this is a very familiar tactic that dictatorships and autocrats use to keep subjugating and oppressing their own people.

I guess either you're part of the Makhzen (the system) or you're benefiting from the current status quo.

It's a shame to describe your own people in this fashion and treat them so low.

If the Moroccan are poor and illiterate, it's not their fault. It's because the King, Mohamed 6, his family and cronies have usurped Morocco, enriched themselves and educated their own children to the determinant of ordinary and hapless Moroccans.

The regime is also spending millions of dollars on maintaining the occupation of Western Sahara to keep the Moroccans distracted with a foreign war and to keep the army far away from the Palace.

I've lost members of my own family during the war in Western Sahara. I still don't know why we had to get involved and why we're still there. For me it is a waste of resources and efforts. If the Sahrawis don't want to be part of Morocco then let them decide their own future.

Morocco has to change and we need serious and real reforms. The King has to give up some of his powers or get out of the way. Obama needs to say so as he did in the cases of Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Iran. Morocco shouldn't be the exception to the rule all the time. It's time for change and we can do it.

Morocco is moving forward economically and politically. We can not compare Morocco to the rest of the Arab world. Moroccan government has been tackling its wide range of failure and poverty carried over for centuries. There is no magical formula to change Morocco from one of the poorest and illiterate nations to a rich democratic powerful country between dawn and sunset. Progress come in steps, and so far these steps HAVE been taken and way before the Arab spring uprising commenced. Yes, we want change, everybody wants that, but we have to be realistic! Let's face it. The majority of Moroccans are not responsible citizens. Trash in the streets, smoking is everywhere (indoors and outdoors), red lights and stop signs are routinely violated, cursing and volgarity are wide spread, women are consistently and regularly disrespected, not to mention 1/2 the population is illeterate. Quite frankly, you give European or American democracy to such a nation is an invitation to catastrophy & devastation that can damage everything we built and hope for due to the simple fact Morocco is NOT ready yet. Ask for what you can do for your country , NOT what your country can do for you. Let us be educated, civilized in many many ways that we need to be, then I will be the first to ask for a complete and total revolution. Untill then, let's engage in politics, improve ourselves and pressure the government step by step, day by day peacefully rather than damage everything we worked for and everything we hope for.

The thugs that are demonstrating in Morocco are a mixed up of Islamists and young lazy loosers that do not want to work but rather get a free ride for the rest of their lives.Most of us in Morocco understand ,we need some changes ,however none of us is stupid enough to listen to a bunch of loosers that are trying to intimidate the country and its never hear those people talk about responsabilities ,all they want is raises,jobs ,get rid of the governement (duly elected)get rid of the parliament,get rid of all festivals in Morocco,put all governement officials in prison and later on turn against the king.Well it simply does not work that way ,the governement have so far acted with a lot of restraint,it has not been good for our economy .Now the people are demanding that those lazy loosers obey the law or face the consequences. l

I am glad that the West is realising now what we the Moroccans know pretty well, that the Moroccan regime is not moderate or democratic but rather an authoritarian and absolute regime a la medieval fashion.
What the Moroccan King M6 interests is to enrich himself and his family as Ben Ali and Mubarak. King M6 is the 7th richest monarch according to Forbes Magazine while his country and people are one of the poorest and most illiterate in the world!
If you want to know if Morocco is an absolute or constitutional monarchy just check the Constitution particularly article 19. The King holds all the power. He's definitely not like Queen Elizabeth or Juan Carlos of Spain.
Hope the Moroccan people is rising from long sleep and will shake the system. It’s a shame that one family has owned the country since 1666. Are we going to continue to be subjects of the King or citizens of Morocco???

I would have to agree 100% with the article's assessment of the current situation in Morocco.
The king has too many powers, and these need to be curtailed:
He is the FIRST business man in Morocco
He holds ALL the political powers
He even is, supposedly, the spiritual guide to the Moroccan muslims
What else is left for the average Moroccan? Nothing!!
There will be no peace, no progress until this situation changes.

I don't agree with protests going on in Morocco in particular. Why? Because reforms are underway and constituion ammendments is underway. The Moroccan people need to engage in local politics as encouraged by the king. Going out in the streets and chanting does not change a thing. All they are doing is obstructing the nation's stability and preventing changes from happening.
Take what you have now first, then reject or ask for more. Don't just break everything down.

The Tsunami is coming and will uproot all these corrupt regimes. Morocco, Algeria, Syria,......
In reality all these regimes are the same, they have no respect for their people who they are meant to serve.
When the trides turn they will find themsleves locked up in cages or paraded in their underwear (Saddam/Gbagbo) or even worse lynched (Musolini).

I actually find that the article did represent a fair amount of facts that surround the political changes in Morocco.
Morocco is trying to portrait its self as a relatively democratic country, however, just like Tunisia, from time to time, the Moroccan authority turns into violence without any rational pattern.
Two months ago, the protest in Morocco, which was held in the total absence of police, could be compared to anyone in the civilized world . Yesterday it was the most shameful act of terror the authority of M6 has committed, and the Monarch him self should give to all of us an explanation of what is going on. The responsible of beating protesters just for the sake to shut them down need to be brought to justice.

Today, M6 still hold support among many Moroccans, most of them think that Monarch figure unifies the country, I happen to disagree with that, I think we are paying too much for that figure of unity, and quite frankly there no so much unity under the current regime, just look at the Rifis, the Saharaouis, the Arabs, there are not united.
Just like in Libya and Siria, If the Moroccan authorities continue with their unjustified violence, the Moroccan people may consider a regime change.

w'll find a way to our freedom, or w'll do one, if we don't find it.


This is where I stopped reading...

What "successful" republic are you talking about? Algeria? Tunisia? Libya? Egypt? Please name one succesful arab republic. One...

Of course, look hard enough and you can find someone who is willing to say what you want them to say.

This article is nothing else than of a riddiculous inflamatory nature.

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