The ongoing protests in Morocco reflect a resolve to challenge the government’s policy framework at the political, economic and social levels
The recent mobilizations in the city of Jerada and the Rif region in Morocco mark a new era of popular uprisings in the country. The Dawn News speaks to Abdallah Harrif, Deputy Secretary General of Morocco’s Democratic Way, on the mobilization over the year, the repression unleashed by the government and the way forward for the movement.
Q: The last year has seen huge mobilizations in Morocco, mainly on the issue of the mines in Jerada. Could you tell us about the nature of the mobilization and the current situation with respect to the struggle?
A: These huge mobilizations, particularly in the Rif region and the city of Jerada, are the second wave of the revolutionary process which were initiated by the so-called Arab spring. This struggle has been embodied in Morocco by the February movement, and took place in marginalized regions: The Rif region has a long tradition of struggles against the Moroccan regime, which has always marginalized the region and despised its inhabitants. Jerada is a town which lived, almost uniquely, on coal mines which were closed in the end of the last century and no alternative activity has been created.
In the Rif and Jerada, almost all the inhabitants participated in the mobilizations which took place: sit-ins, demonstrations, marches and other forms of protest. The trigger of the mobilization in the Rif was the murder of Mohcine Fikri, a fish merchant, who was ground to death by a garbage compactor in the presence of local authorities.
The trigger of the mobilization in Jerada was the death of coal miners inside the mines. The mobilization in The Rif has lasted one year while the mobilization in Jerada has been on for four months and still continuing.
The main feature of these mobilizations is the pacific nature of their demands.
Q: How has the government responded to these massive protests? What has the state repression looked like for the organizations? How has your organization been affected?
A: The state tried, at first, to stop the mobilizations by using the same old methods (minor changes in its policy), although the catastrophic economical and social situation of these regions necessitated the implementation of radical changes and a new model of development.
The people of these regions, who are accustomed to the maneuvers and lies of the regime, dismissed the state’s illusory proposals and continued the struggle. So the people, and especially the activists, were subjected to massive repression. Over 500 people were arrested and jailed in the Rif and Casablanca and more than 100 in Jerrada. Many of them were tortured and sentenced to years of prison, while the main activists of the Rif are still on trial.
Our organization, Democratic Way, because it has strongly supported the mobilizations and called on its militants to participate actively in them, faces the threat of a ban. Many of our militants are harassed by the police and we are forbidden from the use of public facilities.
Q: What has been the nature of the economic policies imposed in Morocco and the global and regional context of these policies?
A: The economic policies in Morocco are neoliberal and are imposed by the World Bank, the IMF, the World Trade Organization and the European Union. These policies serve the interests of the western transnational corporations, particularly French ones, as well as the local oligarchy (big landowners and monopolist bourgeoisie).
These policies confine our economy in activities with small value added (production of raw materials and agricultural products and sub-contracting for the transnationals) and reinforce its dependency.
Q: What have been the key economic and political demands of the movements and the response of the people to these demands? Has the government engaged with any of these issues?
A: The demands in the case of the Rif were economic (implementation of activities aiming to provide employment), social (hospitals, universities, school etc), Infrastructure (roads, electricity), cultural (the Amazigh language as an official language and the Amazigh culture as a national culture) and the demilitarization of the region).
For Jerrada, the main demand is an economic alternative permitting the employment of the people.
Q: What is the view of the Moroccan left organizations on the issue of Western Sahara?
A: Most of the left parties consider Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Only Democratic Way and some groups of leftist students call for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.