Calls for new Morocco protests on Sunday
In Berkane, Morocco, pro-democracy protesters burn a photo of gendarme chief Hosni Benslimane
3 March - Despite a police crackdown on protesters last weekend, the organisers of the pro-democracy protests in Morocco urge to create a new momentum by taking into the streets each Sunday.
After mass demonstrations on Sunday 20 February, the Moroccan pro-democracy protest movement seemed to lose momentum last weekend. To some degree, the calls for protests for both Saturday and Sunday (26 and 27 February) had caused confusion, as an unclear and uncoordinated protest leadership was unable to communicate to Morocco’s many cities when the "big" protest was to be held.
But the loss of momentum also came as consequence of government suppression. While the 20 February protest marches had been allowed, local authorities and police on short notice forbade all protest marches last weekend. Attempts of gathering crowds were brutally dispersed in a large number of cities, except in Rabat, the capital.
But one of the main groups behind the protest movement, the Moroccan human rights association AMDH, already on Saturday last week made an urgent appeal to Moroccans to keep on the protests. "From now on, we will organise protests every Sunday," AMDH leaders announced in Rabat.
But the protest movement in Morocco faces serious communication challenges. Moroccan media, after the 20 February marches that caused six deaths and 140 injured, have been ordered a complete news blackout on any follow-up protests and protest calls. Only the Casablanca-based online media ’Yabiladi’ has dared to break the silence.
Even on an international basis, the Moroccan regime is close to win the propaganda war over the protests. The official version of "looting criminals" causing trouble on 20 February and of a subsequent end to the protest movement has been accepted by most international media as the Moroccan protest movement is doing a poor communications job.
Among exiled Moroccans, however, the debate about new protests is vivid, using social media like Facebook and YouTube to spread the message to Morocco.
Interestingly, the regime has already launched its anti-protest campaign in the same social media, asking the Diaspora to shut up as they don’t know about the large progresses noted back home, thanks to King Mohammed VI. The anti-protest campaigners even dug into the private life of several of the original organisers of the pro
Khadija Riyadi, President of Morocco’s human rights group AMDH, during the 20 February protests in Rabat
test call, publishing discrediting videos, private photos and statements about them.
Meanwhile, sources among the protest movement within Morocco told afrol News about a "climate of fear and intimidation" spreading in the country. Especially in the north of the kingdom, where the gravest confrontations between protesting youths and police forces were noted, had been "scared into silence," the sources added.
But the 20 February movement remains alive and motivated. Especially the AMDH and the Moroccan Forum for Truth and Justice (FMVJ) say they are determined to keep on protesting for more democracy and human rights in the kingdom.
In a letter to Interior Minister Taieb Cherqaoui, the two human rights groups now demand a credible investigation into police violence during the 20 February and following protests. AMDH President Khadija Riyadi herself was beaten and hospitalised by "pro-government thugs" on 20 February in Rabat.
In the letter to Minister Cherqaoui, the human rights groups demand the immediate freeing of the many protesters arrested in Rabat, Kenitra and other Moroccan cities. AMDH and FMVJ threaten to break the ongoing dialogue with the Ministry, which has served the regime to legitimise its claims that progress is being made regarding the human rights situation in Morocco.
But for now, the Interior Ministry remains stubborn in its attempts to repress further protests, not allowing any of the planned marches.
Reports from the Moroccan city of Fez today say that five students have been sentenced to 3 and 4 years of prison for "participating in an unauthorised demonstration and theft and destruction of property and disruption of the public order." Around 10 more students are held by the police in Fez, awaiting trial. Similar trials are being held all over Morocco.
The AMDH meanwhile maintains its calls for protests every Sunday to the keep the protest movement warm. Human rights activists will gather in central Rabat on Sunday 5 March. Exiled Moroccans meanwhile are calling for "a break" in order to regroup, calling for renewed nation-wide protests on Sunday 20 March through a new Facebook campaign.
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