A new wave of protests hit Morocco this last weekend. The Feb20 youth gathered forces mainly in Casablanca, where they faced a security apparatus with a clear mission: to spread terror among peaceful protesters, dissuade any future marches, and ultimately crush the movement and silence the voice of change. Along with the excessive use of force, the government has launched a forceful propaganda campaign to discredit the movement.
At the core of this new propaganda is the notion that the Feb20 youth are just a bunch of kids cornered by Islamists on the right and the socialist union on the left. It’s quite ingeniously stupid to portray the Feb20 as belonging to God and its enemies at the same time, but not if the goal is to argue that only one scenario is viable. What the Minister of Communication Naciri really wants you to hear is that only the Makhzen and its cronies can steer the wheels in the right direction, and avoid veering left or right, which God forbid could drive the whole country into the ditch.
Naciri knows what he is up to. Thus, he will spread fear in order to legitimize violence, which will spread more fear, and hopefully silence the Feb20’s insolence, and kill the revived spirit of democracy.
The timing is excellent: While the Mawazine crowd repeated Cat Stevens’s Father to Son chorus: “it’s not time to make a change…you’re still young that’s your fault,” the anti change Makhzenists have concomitantly intensified their anti feb20 slogans:
1. “Mawazine has attracted more people than any of the Feb20 protests,”
2. “the movement is disorganized,”
3. “it lacks leadership,”
4. “the movement and its protests have negative impacts on the economy,”
5. “The feb20 has been co-opted by Islamists, and by leftists”
And, the list is endless; as the Moroccan saying rightly goes: ‘the cow is down, the butchers are plenty…’
1. Since when is joining a concert to shake hips with shakira comparable to making it to protests and dodging enraged cops with sticks savagely aiming at your skull?
2. And speaking of disorganization: Is the Makhzen now a model in organizational skills? Or, is this as Moroccans like to say: “the net making fun of the sieve.”
3. A leaderless movement? So what? Where is our leadership when over 43% of our people have no access to education? When at least six hundred thousand children age seven through fourteen, (that’s 11 percent of all children in that age group), are engaged in economic activity? Where are our leaders when Morocco has officially between 10,000 and 14,000 street children?
4. Did they really say that the Feb20 is causing weak economic growth? The last time I checked, Morocco’s growth rate was inferior to the global average and lower than the emerging markets’ average, and this is since 2008. In fact, during the last three years, the growth rate went from 5.6% in 2008, to 4.9% in 2009, to 4% in 2010. The global average is 5%, while the average for emerging markets is at 7.3%.
5. Co-opted by Islamists and leftists? Plain fear-mongering! In looking at the numbers above, one can understand why ideologically diverse political and social groups answered to the feb20’s call for protests. The King himself has acknowledged this call through his historic constitutional speech.
The Feb20 demands are not the product or appropriation of any particular political party’s agenda or ideology, they are simply human needs. Here is again the video that brought over 100,000 out protesting on February 20th. As one Moroccan woman delightfully proclaimed in her tweet that day: “It’s raining, and still they came…”
Can anyone disagree with the following demands enumerated in the first Feb20 video: Is the need for freedom and equality for all Moroccans not legitimate? Is opposing corruption and bribes to obtain jobs wrong? Is asking for the right to equal access to education a political tactic? Is the right to healthcare an Islamist or even a leftist slogan? Is the right to equal opportunity bad for the economy? Is the right to cultural identity only legitimate for Arabs? Is the desire to live in a better country crazy? Is the cry for a democratic constitution too early? Take Morocco out of the equation, and these demands will still remain legitimate, very relevant and unequivocally universal. There is only one instance where one can oppose these changes… In which case, one cannot blame the Minister of Communication Naciri or his propaganda machine. They are merely defending their turf.
Let’s not forget either that thanks to the feb20 pressure, Moroccans were able to taste an avant-gout of change, the king delivered his historic speech promising a revised constitution, dozens of political prisoners were released, public sector wages were increased, a new bill protecting anti-corruption whistle-blowers was adopted, and freedom of expression has reached a new Moroccan record. But this timid change is not invulnerable to risks of regression. In fact, the violent repression of peaceful protesters during the last couple of weeks is a clear indication of this vulnerability.
If the anti feb20 propaganda succeeds, the Makhzen’s next step will be to systematically ensure that the Feb20 scenario never replays itself again. Morocco, then, would be doomed to a worse political situation, and the country would most likely witness a sad return to the lead years. Whether for or against the Feb20, that’s not a scenario Moroccans wish for.
The feb20 doesn’t represent a political structure or alliance. It merely represents the spirit of democratic change. If the Feb20 youth are guilty of anything is that they dared to put a face to the voice of change. They have successfully touched the right cords in many Moroccan hearts: left, right, center, diaspora, men, women, Muslims, atheists, the poor, the rich, Moroccans in Morocco and abroad.
The road to change is full of challenges, but the youth draw their strength from two inexhaustible sources: the truth is on their side (dixit Selma Maarouf) and the future belongs to them. Feb20 or not, the only viable option for Moroccans is to support the spirit of democracy. The bottom line is clear: we need real change, and all Moroccans deserve it.