But wait, not so fast… Why did 10,000 people march again in Casablanca on April 3rd holding signs that read change, freedom, equality, dignity and enough!?
Why is the West so eager to congratulate a King on “profound changes” in a country where illiteracy rates are as high as 34%, where poverty strikes 28% of Moroccans, and where every social development indicator is just as bad, if not worse than the ingredients that led to Ben Ali and Mubarak’s demise?
All this praise based on just one speech? How is the King’s speech any different from Mubarak or Benali’s promises of reform? Do promises from Morocco weigh more than promises from Egypt and Tunisia during uprisings?
Amidst this shower of congratulations, some contrast between ‘the most progressive regional ruler’, King Mohammed VI and ‘the worst of all’, Col. Kaddafi. Yes, there are differences. Kaddafi is plain delusional, and Libyans chose to topple him. However, unlike Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Bahrainis, and Yemenis, Moroccans are not asking to overthrow the King or the monarchy. They are simply asking for tangible, swift and sustainable constitutional reforms. The king is not the target of the protest, the totalitarian concentration of powers within his hands is what is at stake. These differences inform us that the nature of demands during uprisings determines the ruler’s response. Since it’s all about comparisons, let us indulge in one more example by looking at Morocco’s UN human development index ranking as it relates to Tunisia’s, Egypt’s, Syria’s and Libya’s: Libya: 53; Tunisia: 81; Egypt: 101; Syria: 111; Morocco: 114.
It is in order to address these precarious human development conditions, and the failing political structure behind them, that Moroccans took to the streets before the King’s constitutional speech, and then again in larger numbers after his speech. During the second protests, thousands of Moroccans expressed their skepticism and chanted “no to empty promises, no to violence against protesters, no to the ongoing corruption.” Days later, members of the movement for change were joined by new protesters: students asking for better education, journalists from the official Maghreb Arab Press asking for editorial independence, and teachers asking for better work conditions. The teachers’ protests were met with deplorable violence. A Youtube video footage documents the inhumane beating of a teacher lying in his blood, still holding his fingers in a sign of peace.
While the West rushes to praise the Moroccan model, the King and his government have yet to guarantee peaceful protests, release prisoners of opinion, condemn police brutality and bring those responsible to justice. The lack of immediate action to condemn police brutality typifies the culture of rule by fear that dangerously feeds Moroccan anger.
When it comes to Morocco, some may use selective memory, superficial judgment, or hasty conclusions. They may only appreciate the situation through PR News Wires lobbying, or calculated geopolitical interests and priorities… Or, in the midst of so much regional turmoil, some may just be desperate for an Arab fairy tale.
Ultimately, to conclude that Morocco is an exception or a regional model undermines Moroccans’ fight for dignity and strips them from their right to a transparent, democratic and accountable government.
So far, Moroccans have proven their resilience, and this last Sunday 10,000 protesters gathered in Casablanca to demand real change. To quote Ms. Hillary Clinton’s perfect storm example, one more time: “Some leaders may believe that their country is an exception – that their people will not demand greater political or economic opportunities, or that they can be placated with half-measures.”In the short term, that may be true; but in the long term that is untenable.”