Arab Spring breaks out, spreads like wildfire across the MENA region and turns into plain madness and bloody massacre in some countries.
Meanwhile, Morocco is often referred to as the “exception” or the “model” in the region in terms of moderation, reform and democracy……..but is it really?
Supporters, Detractors, Speculation, etc… Prior To The #Feb20 Protests:
Moroccan Facebook group calling themselves “Freedom and Democracy Now” announce February 20 as the scheduled date for nation-wide protests in Morocco and start to mobilize, gaining thousands of supporters. The group eventually comes to be known as the “February 20 Movement for Change.”
Communications Minister Khalid Naciri playing things down: “Morocco has embarked a long time ago on an irreversible process of democracy and widening of public freedoms…that citizens are able to express themselves freely does not disturb us in any way”
At least 1,000 jobless protesters took to the streets in Rabat: “In a meeting with authorities on January 24, they asked us for a truce in the daily protests out of consideration for what they said was happening in the region”
Moroccan dies after fiery protest: “A 26-year-old man died in central Morocco after setting himself on fire in despair at his situation since being dismissed from the army, a local rights official said today”
Government announces increase in food subsidies to calm the natives: “RABAT, Feb 15 (Reuters) – The Moroccan government on Tuesday said it has decided to almost double funds allocated to state subsidies to counter an increase in global commodity prices amid revolts in some Arab countries.”
The first #Feb20 campaign video gets launched: The video has stirred controversy amongst some who see the protesters as tools for the Algeria-backed Polisario.
Youth Minister Moncef Belkhayat against the #Feb20 movement: “My personal position as a Moroccan citizen who lives in Casablanca, not Paris or Barcelona, is that this movement is now handled by the Polisario.”
List of Moroccan organizations that support the Feb20 movement.
February 20 Movement For Change holds a press conference, with the Moroccan Association for Human Rights AMDH by its side.
Arab Uprisings: “What the February 20 protests tell us about Morocco”
Mamfakinch: “a new website called Mamfakinch has just launched to aggregate news on the protests”
Prince Moulay Hicham, who is well-known for being outspoken about his desire to see meaningful change towards a real democracy in Morocco, again steps up to the plate to support calls for change in an interview on French TV: Moulay Hicham
February 20 protest leaders quit after row: “RABAT (Reuters) – A Moroccan youth movement that led calls for nationwide protests on Sunday has pulled out because of a disagreement with Islamists and leftists over the role of the monarchy, one of its leaders said.”
Various state media sources announce that the February 20 protests were canceled the day before they were scheduled to take place, but many people regard this as mere propaganda aiming to influence the turnout and keep people off the streets. Mixed reports follow soon after, causing much speculation and uncertainty.
The “Day of Dignity” February 20, 2011:
#Feb20 protests take place as planned in 53 cities & villages nationwide and end peacefully. Officials estimate that a total of 37,000 protesters took to the streets, but according to Dabatv, leaders of the #Feb20 movement estimate the number of protesters at 300,000: “Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Morocco on Sunday to demand sweeping changes to the nation’s constitution”
Riots: After the peaceful protests end, riots break out in several Moroccan cities: “Five burned bodies have been found in a bank which was set on fire following anti-government protests in Morocco on Sunday”
King’s Speech: “The monarch, speaking after he chaired a ceremony for the appointments of members of a social and economic council, said that building an effective democracy should go hand in hand with sustainable human development”
Fadoua Laroui: “RABAT (Reuters) – A young Moroccan set herself on fire after being excluded from a social housing scheme because she was an unmarried mother, a local government official said on Wednesday”
Moroccan Human Rights organization AMDH stages a protest: Several Human Rights activists injured and hospitalized after clashes with police.
US Congressional Reasearch Service issues a report on Morocco: “Analysts have debated Morocco’s potential susceptibility to the popular protest movement sweeping the Middle East, with some arguing that a mass uprising is unlikely due to Morocco’s relative respect for civil liberties and the public’s esteem for the institution of the Moroccan monarchy”
Another protest staged in Casablanca: “Saturday’s protest took place nearly a week after thousands of people staged rallies demanding political reform and limits on the powers of King Mohammed VI under the so-called “February 20″ movement”
Professor Driss Ben Ali on Morocco and #Feb20: Professor Driss Ben Ali offers a detailed analysis of Morocco’s sociopolitical landscape, highlighting its successes, failures and opportunities. He offers a roadmap on how to tackle the challenges ahead and avoid eminent disaster.
A new National Council for Human Rights is launched: “King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Thursday established a National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) to replace the Human Rights Advisory Council created in 1990″
Royal Wealth: “(Reuters) – A conglomerate in which King Mohammed’s family is the main shareholder has put a stake in Morocco’s biggest bank, Attijariwafa (ATW.CS), up for sale amid protests in the country, the bank’s managing director said on Thursday.”
M4C’s take: How YouTube is crystallizing freedom of speech: During the last few weeks, YouTube has been highly instrumental in showcasing the political views of regular Moroccans, and providing the February 20 protests with sustained momentum.
#Feb20 Movement stages a “Freeze” Flash Mob: YouTube – Freeze 06 mars à Rabat
King’s Speech: The king announces new constitutional reforms: “Looks like someone’s been paying attention. After three weeks of nationwide protests, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI unexpectedly went on television on March 9 to announce sweeping constitutional reforms”
King Mohamed VI appoints team of experts in charge of compiling new constitutional amendments, which will reflect the King’s proposed reforms.
A new website launched: www.reforme.ma, asking Moroccans to submit their proposals for constitutional change. What a novel idea! However, it does have ONE big flaw: EVERYONE is able to submit their ideas, not just Moroccans.
A new pro-monarchy group calling themselves the March 9 Youth Movement is launched on Facebook, calling for “Revolution of the King and the Youth”, putting the “nation’s interest above all else”, and against the February 20 Movement. Probably inspired by the Royal Speech on March 9, where the king reiterates his announcements in last year’s address, commemorating the anniversary of the “Revolution of the King and the People”.
Islamist organization Adl Wal Ihsan, along with some far-left activists stage a protest and end up being met with police brutality: “RABAT (Reuters) – Dozens of people were injured in Morocco’s biggest city, Casablanca, on Sunday when riot police used truncheons to break up a rally by several hundred demonstrators demanding reforms, witnesses said”
Yet another Moroccan Facebook group pops up, calling themselves “Moroccan Royalist Alliance“. Guess what they’re all about? You guessed it right: a Constitutional Monarchy, but a democratic one no less. They’re calling for the youth to “mobilize against all forces trying to distabilize against the unity of our country” and they too have picked a date to protest: April 10
Unprovoked police attacks on protesters in the city of Khouribga, leave at least 66 people injured, many of which hospitalized: “According to a Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) report, security forces attacked the demonstrators while they were asleep at 5:30 am, using violence and tear gas bombs to disperse them. The AMDH condemned the intervention as an abuse of power”
Riots in Khouribga: “RABAT (Reuters) – Jobless protesters rioted at the offices of state-run phosphate monopoly OCP in the central city of Khouribga, injuring about 10 members of Morocco’s security forces, the official MAP news agency said on Tuesday”
Members of the #Feb20 movement interviewed by the NY Times: Morocco: The Youth Rise Up “An inside look at Morocco’s youth-led revolt, where a group of activists, formed on Facebook, organize nationwide protests demanding democracy”
Ahmed Benchemsi – Best known for being a shaker of freedom of speech in Morocco - who is currently a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, weighs in on current affairs in Morocco: “Yes, Mohammed VI’s March 9 speech was indeed historic. But no, it is not because it announced a major constitutional reform.”
Morocco decides to support NATO military action against Libya, but holds back on making official announcement on the dicision till after the scheduled nationwide protests in Morocco on March 20 (all-around smart move): “French planes fired the first shots in what is the biggest international military intervention in the Arab world since the 2003 invasion of Iraq”
#Feb20 Movement’s second nationwide protests take place in more than 60 locations and again officials play down the numbers dramatically: “Authorities estimated the number of protesters who took to the streets on Sunday in several Moroccan cities at 35,000″
Human Rights Watch: “(Rabat) – Moroccan authorities allowed peaceful, pro-reform demonstrations to take place in cities across the country on March 20, 2011″
M4C’s take: March 20th Winners and Losers ~ #Mar20 #Feb20
State Media Journalists Stage Protest: Morocco’s official press MAP demands editorial independence. Protesters say that they won’t stop protesting till their demands are met and if it has to come down to going on strike, they will.
First Constitutional Reform Meeting: “The political mechanism for monitoring, consultation and exchange of views regarding the proposed constitutional reform, held Monday at the Royal Cabinet in Rabat, its first meeting with the participation of heads of political parties and trade unions”
Student protest met with police brutality.
Moroccan Foreign Minister on Obama and change: “Fihri said that Obama should revise his strategy for dealing with the Arab world in light of the dramatic events sweeping the region.”
Teachers Protest: RABAT (Reuters) – Moroccan police clashed with teachers demonstrating for better benefits Thursday, seriously injuring several people in the capital Rabat
Businessweek focuses on the issue of Royal wealth and the King’s status as an economic powerhouse: “Institutions such as the royal family’s holding company, Omnium Nord Africaine (ONA), which now clears most large (property) development projects, regularly coerce developers into granting beneficial rights to ONA”
Three men kidnapped in Nador: Stephane Amalou, Koulani Boumadiane and Mimoun Idrissi have been reported missing and the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) is launching an investigation on their whereabouts.
The Young and the Restless: Brilliant analysis of the situation in Morocco by Rachel Newcomb: “It doesn’t take much to scratch below the surface and understand just where the economic grievances lie. While the majority struggle to eke out a living, government leaders, particularly those closest to the king, enjoy close and lucrative ties with businesses”
Teacher protest in Rabat today: A professor is brutally beaten by police and his body appears to be left lifeless. The girl in the video shouts “they killed him, they killed him…” In this longer version of the same video the victim looks like he’s in pretty bad shape, but thank goodness, he is still responsive.
Mamfakinch provides a list of scheduled protests taking place tomorrow as well as in the days ahead.
Bad News: Sadly the professor who was brutally beaten by police yesterday has died due to severe head injuries. May he rest in peace.
More protests today in Casablanca, Fes, Tangiers, Rabat, etc…
Teachers On Strike: “RABAT, March 28 (Reuters) – Teachers in Morocco will stage a two-day nationwide strike starting on Tuesday after two recent demonstrations for better benefits ended in violence, union officials said on Monday.
The Minister of Justice gets mobbed by an angry crowd of jobless protesters.
Moroccan official denies reports on police brutality, telling CNN that the claims from the teachers of casualties is exaggerated: “(CNN) — Thousands of disgruntled teachers are expected to descend on Rabat, Morocco’s capital, on Wednesday to protest the outcome of an earlier demonstration — in which they claim 65 colleagues were seriously injured in a battle with police. The teachers union of Morocco claims that one injured protester died on Monday after “arriving in hospital on Saturday in a coma.”
Morocco’s econmic growth despite unrest: “In response to the protests, Rabat also boosted subsidies for items such as wheat, sugar, gas and oil by 15 billion dirhams ($1.84 billion) in addition to the to the 17 billion dirhams already allocated in the 2011 budget”
Teachers protest again in Rabat today.
Watch protesters giving Morocco’s ruling party Istiqlal the “red card“.
No Joke! Morocco rolls out a new anti-corruption plan: “RABAT — A committee of ministers presided over by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI adopted a draft anti-corruption law Friday, an official said, following street protests calling for political reform”
Memorial service in Al Hoceima for the five burned victims found in a bank following the February 20 protests. The first man speaking on this video is the father of one of the victims – he says that when he went to the police station to claim his son’s remains, he was told that he would have to pay a nominal fee before the body could be released.
Hand kissing: HM King Mohamed VI pledges to abolish certain customs and practices which have been part of the Moroccan royal protocol for ages, such as the much criticized custom of “kissing the king’s hand” as a gesture of respect and/or loyalty. Official announcement of these changes is expected to be made in the coming days.
Protest in Casablanca: “About 4,000 people demonstrated in Morocco’s biggest city Casablanca Sunday to demand more democracy and reform, an AFP reporter said. Police said about 2,500 people took part in the demonstrations while organisers put the figure at 10,000.”
According to Lakome, between 10,000 – 12,000 people took to the streets to protest in Casablanca today. There were no reports of incidents taking place.
A collection of video’s covering the protests all over Morocco.
Constitutional reform team open to youth proposals: “RABAT, April 5 (Reuters) – The panel formed by King Mohammed to review Morocco’s constitution has invited a youth-led protest movement to present its ideas in the course of consultations on democratic reform with political parties and trade unions”
Human Rights Watch to Morocco: Restore Accreditation to Al Jazeera: “(New York) – Morocco should stop revoking the accreditation of journalists for foreign media whose reporting displeases them”
Trade Unions meet with the government: “Morocco may need to grant new benefits to public sector workers worth 43 billion dirhams ($5.4 billion), a government source said on Wednesday, as it hopes to to defuse social tensions that have led to revolt elsewhere”
Amazigh Spring: “Preparations are under way in Morocco for the commemoration of the “Amazigh Spring” on April 20th. The day, which marks the anniversary of a security crackdown on Kabylie activists in 1980, presents an opportunity to press demands for constitutional recognition of Tamazight“
Government promises to reform code of journalism: “RABAT – The Moroccan government has promised reform of the current press code “based on democratic benchmarks” during a meeting with reporters who called for “striking red lines” that the media must not cross”
Prison sentence for vandalism: Tangiers court gives 21 individuals a 10 year prison sentence for various acts of vandalism committed on February 20. The violence and looting broke out shortly after the nationwide peaceful protests ended.
AFP to boost its presence in Rabat: “AFP is to strengthen its permanent staff in Tunisia and Morocco in the wake of the uprisings in the Arab world in recent months. The Tunis bureau will be reinforced with a new staffer while a new bureau chief in Rabat will be named”
February 20 Youth Movement says no to invite from Constitutional Panel: “RABAT (Reuters) – A youth-led protest movement in Morocco said on Friday it would boycott an invitation to present a constitutional review panel with its ideas for political reform, branding the exercise a sham”
Morocco to protect corruption trial witnesses: “For years, Moroccan civil society has pressed for legal guarantees for people speaking out against graft. The council of ministers recently adopted a bill to ensure “the protection of witnesses, victims and whistle-blowers” in corruption cases”
Protests in front of parliament: “RABAT (AFP) – Around 100 members of the February 20 pro-reform movement on Friday staged a protest in front of the Moroccan parliament in Rabat. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the legislature as a symbol of corruption and calling for it to be dissolved”
February 20 Movement launches a new video campaign calling for a nationwide protest on April 24.
National Association of Unemployed Graduates stages a protest: About 2000 unemployed graduates occupy the National Center for Human Rights building, demanding a direct dialogue with the government.
Moroccan embassy Dutch staff badly paid:”Morocco’s ambassador to the Netherlands has twice been summoned to the foreign ministry to explain why his embassy’s local staff are being badly paid. Social Affairs Minister Henk Kamp confirmed this to be the case in a letter to MPs on Tuesday”
Reform group calls new nationwide demo in Morocco: “We are calling a peaceful demonstration in all towns to put an end to corruption and injustice and for a real democracy in our country,” said a person on the video on the site, which counts more than 45,000 supporters.”
The king of Morocco and PAM must separate: “If the king is serious about reform, he must sever all ties with the Authenticity and Modernity party in a clear and definitive way”
Moroccan political prisoners set free today!
Morocco frees 92 political prisoners after protests: “RABAT, April 14 (Reuters) – Morocco freed 92 political prisoners on Thursday, including a prominent anti-corruption activist and a controversial preacher, under a pardon issued by the king following street protests demanding democratic reform”
Moroccan Youth Movement’s rallies to target corruption: “Casablanca, Morocco (CNN) — Morocco’s Facebook youth movement Fevrier 20 has called on civil society groups the length of the country to participate in a nationwide demonstration Sunday”
Moroccan Auxiliary Forces (Mkhaznis) will get a raise: “RABAT, April 20 (Reuters) – Morocco will raise wages and ease access to housing for its auxiliary forces, a cabinet minister said on Wednesday”
Moroccans surprise TV viewers by protesting on live program: “Several youth members of Morocco’s pro-democracy “February 20 Movement” surprised television viewers when they held up placards referring to planned mass protests on April 24 during a live broadcast on state TV”
Thousands of protesters demand a new Morocco: “(Reuters) – Thousands took to the streets of Morocco on Sunday in peaceful demonstrations to demand sweeping reforms and an end to political detention, the third day of mass protests since they began in February”
Early elections in Morocco?: “The Moroccan Prime Minister, Abbas El Fassi, has called for holding the upcoming legislative elections immediately after a referendum on constitutional reforms this year in response to protests against corruption and against his government”
Morocco Lobby Group Urges Financial Transparency: “The Transparency-Maroc (Morocco) Association on Tuesday called on all public institutions in the north African country to account for their spending and to accept inspections”
Five members of the February 20 Movement die in a car accident on their way to a conference in Rabat.
Blast in Morocco tourist cafe kills 14: “(Reuters) – An explosion killed 14 people, including foreigners, on Thursday in a busy cafe in the Moroccan tourist destination of Marrakesh, and authorities said the initial signs were that it was a criminal act”
Authorities identify bodies in Morocco terrorist attack: “MARRAKECH, Morocco — The international police agency Interpol called the attack on a crowded tourist cafe in Marrakech a suspected suicide bombing Friday, as the government said two Canadians, two French citizens, a Dutchman and two Moroccans were among the 15 killed in the explosion”
Morocco bombing bears hallmark of Al Qaeda group (AQIM): “The death toll has risen to 16 in a Thursday bomb attack at a popular tourist spot in Marrakesh, Morocco. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, security experts told Reuters that it bore similarities to previous attacks by Islamic militants“
Unions reach pay raise agreement: “Under an agreement reached with unions, public sector wages will increase 600 dirhams beginning May 1st. The minimum wage will gradually be increased 15% over two stages, the first being a 10% increase starting in July 2011, followed by a 5% increase in July 2012″
Feb20 rally against terrorism: “MARRAKESH, Morocco (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched in Morocco on Sunday to demand reform in the Arab world’s longest-serving dynasty and to oppose militant violence after a deadly bomb attack”
M4C update: Fighting for the change we all deserve – #Feb20
We highly recommend this brilliant roundup on events (which includes detailed background information) by Ibn Kafka: What You Need to Know About Morocco’s Popular Protests
King’s Speech: Morocco’s king proposes constitutional reforms (LA Times): Attempting to stave off democratic demands sweeping the Arab world, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI unveiled a draft constitution that includes major reforms to strengthen the role of the elected government, apparently strip him of some powers, and enshrine equality of the sexes and civil liberties in a country with a dark history of human rights abuses.
Not too shabby! Moroccan government offers farmers $97 million in debt amnesty: “RABAT, June 22 (Reuters) – The Moroccan government and state-run Credit Agricole du Maroc (CAM) will equally shoulder a 765-million-dirham ($97 million) debt amnesty for farmers, an official from CAM said on Wednesday”
French newspaper Le Figaro reports: Morocco set to become the first country in the Muslim world to abolish the death penalty with the new constitution. President of the Committee for the Revision of the Constitution Abdelatif Mennouni was quoted as saying that “article 20 is meant to put an end to executions”.
Constitutional Referendum takes place – Los Angeles Times reports: Moroccan voters approve constitutional changes: “Officials announced that that more than 98% of those who voted in the referendum supported the measure, which broadens the powers of the country’s elected politicians, grants the judiciary more independence and gives official status to the Amazigh language of the country’s ethnic Berber population”
Morocco protesters reject reform vote: “Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Morocco to push for democratic reforms despite the vote approving a new constitution curbing the king’s near-absolute powers”
Moroccan Berbers Unmoved by Constitutional Reforms: “For Morocco‘s Berbers, the king’s recent constitutional rewrite is pure rhetoric. Literally.”
To follow the ongoing protests via Twitter use the following hash tags: #Feb20 Morocco #Jan25 Egypt #Feb14 Bahrain #Feb17 Libya #Mar15 Syria