Protests mount in Morocco
By Naoufel Cherkaoui and Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 26/04/11
Moroccans took to the streets nationwide on Sunday (April 24th) for the third major protest organised by the February 20th Youth Movement.
Marches in Rabat, Tangier, Marrakech, Tetouan, Oujda, Laâyoune and other Moroccan towns drew at least 27,000 people. Some reports put the tally at 50,000.
The rallies were held because the youth movement's demands "have not been met in full", Rabat protest organiser Najib Chaouki said.
"The state is meeting these demands bit by bit, and we consider that to be an attempt from the state to bypass the will of the youth movement," he said.
People turned out chanting anti-corruption slogans and calling for the removal of influential figures who allegedly amassed undue wealth while in government service.
"The royal speech of March 9th addressed only a part of our demands," Chaouki added. "Therefore, we will continue to protest peacefully as we did today until all of our demands, which we've been making since the beginning of our movement, have been met."
Those demands included economic, social and political reforms. Specifically, protestors asked for an independent judiciary, an end to the counter-terror law, the release of political prisoners and a democratic constitution.
In the capital, organisers chose to march through one of the poorest neighbourhoods to draw attention to suffering in the country.
"Today's march is confirmation that the movement expresses its link with the people in popular neighbourhoods that are facing a group of economic and social problems," said Kamal Leghmam, a member of the February 20th Youth Movement.
"Experience has shown that we should not be afraid of these neighbourhoods because people are aware of the importance of peaceful demands for their rights," Amina El Ghalbi said.
In her turn, Rim Ben Brahim, another member of the youth movement, told Magharebia that "the government has not responded to our demands. Therefore, we will continue our struggle until our demands have been met in full."
"I hope that this mobility will be translated into a deep political reform and democratic constitution," said Mustafa Ramid, a member of the General Secretariat of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), who also took part in the Casablanca rally.
Many citizens have been disappointed by the recent reforms offered by Morocco. Abdelhamid Amine, Vice President of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, noted that the calls for change go beyond just constitutional amendments. "So far, the answers are inadequate," Amine said.
"We want a new Morocco," student Hamid Brahmi said. "We have doubts about the willingness to completely change the constitution. We are concerned that these signals are just attempts to temporarily calm the situation."
Also among the demands of protestors was the closure of the Temara prison. Recently disclosed documents alleged torture occurred at the detention centre. But when the interior minister was questioned on the matter, he denied any illegal activity occurred there.
"All detention centres in Morocco are governed by Moroccan laws which prohibit the kidnapping, sequestration and torture. Each victim has the right to complain to the concerned authorities," Taieb Cherkaoui said on April 20th.
Comic artist Ahmed Snoussi, also known as "Bziz", said that he supported "the struggle of people to win their freedom and dignity".
"The long-awaited tidings of the spring of democracy will come, no doubt about that," he said.
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