Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Marching For Freedom In Morocco

Morocco has been considered one of the more stable governments in its region. Yet, on February 20th, it witnessed large protests. And those protests have continued today. While a larger one has been called for tomorrow.

The focus on Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain seems to have caused little global attention to be paid to Morocco. And in Morocco itself, the press, we find, is not free.

Yet Morocco has its share of citizens, who are committed enough to risk life, limb and liberty in the cause of freedom. They do indeed, risk life, for at least five have been killed thus far.

Their demands appear modest by the standards of what we have witnessed in the Middle-East this past month. They want the King to have less powers. And they want parliement dissolved and fresh elections held. And most appear to want to have the grip of the Makhzen loosened. As well as an indepedent judiciary, accountability and the release of all political prisoners. And they are not happy with State TV. Which is understandable, as State TVs usually consist of unending, unwatchable propaganda programming.
They have not called for anybody to be overthrown. Yet.

Surely the authorities would be willing to discuss these modest demands. But we find that, as all too often is the case, they are not. At least, not really.

Instead, they appear to have taken what we shall refer to as 'the usual measures'. Because we see the authorities taking 'the ususal measures' in every repressed State. Without fail, and it seems, without learning from the backlash that such 'measures' have provoked in other countries around them.

The 'usual measures' include but are certainly not limited to :
  • Vilifying the protestors by labelling them as foreign agents, atheists, outsiders, drug-addicts, terrorists, members of some Front or another, members of banned organisations and whatever else they can think of.
  • Unleashing a comic combination of advice and warning on State TVs. Whatever works, seems to be the policy.
  • Letting loose their armed police on unarmed protestors.
  • Killing the protestors.
  • After the protests, showing images and reports of the protestors in bad light. And then further accuse them of every other thing you can think of.
Some, or all of the above, is certainly happening in Morocco today. And it must stop. For there is a better way, and that is consultation and discussion with the protestors. In a spirit of reason.

The Moroccan authorities cannot say that all is well in their nation. If it was, they would not need a State TV. Which, of course, blacked out all mention of todays protests. Which happened in Tangiers, in Marrakech, in Rabat, in Al-Hoceima, in Casablanca and several other cities. And was stopped, in some cities, by brutal police action.

Nor, if all was well, would the Moroccan authorities need to curb freedom of the press. Or freedom of speech. And ban the largest opposition party. We will not go into what happened in the '70s and '80s. What is clear is that Moroccans definitely do not enjoy the freedoms that should be theirs by right. And those who are Berbers by ethnicity face discrimination and repression of their language.

Certainly, Morrocans have more freedom than they did in 1999. But it is clearly not enough. Or they wouldn't be marching now.

We cannot pretend to be appreciative of regimes that hand out freedom in bits and pieces and batches. They have no such right and it never works. It usually reaches a point where those in power do not wish to part with any more of their power. Or feel threatened by independent or democratic institutions. Or do not wish to have their affairs examined by independent courts. And then the reforms will become ever slower. Or worse, cease altogether.

It has been 12 years since this process of reforms began. Yet it is far from complete. And, perhaps, will never be. It is really far too long a time to complete reforms.

The Moroccan people, like all other peoples, deserve their freedoms.

And they must be returned their rights and freedoms.


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