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Posts tagged ‘Sufi Land of Morocco’

Moroccan protest leader’s 20-year sentence sets off marches

June 28, 2018

TANGIERS, Morocco (AP) — Hundreds of protesters marched in Morocco’s capital Wednesday to denounce the convictions of a charismatic protest movement leader and three other activists, all given the maximum prison sentence of 20 years over mass demonstrations touched off by the death of a fish seller.

The show of public anger over the convictions signaled anew that the discontent among Moroccans, originally anchored in the northern Rif region, was shared around the North African kingdom. Protesters in the capital, Rabat, gathered in front of the parliament building and then marched up a central avenue. Earlier in the day, there were protests in the northern town of Hoceima, the center of the Hirak Rif movement that represents the biggest challenge to the kingdom since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

“Take us all to jail,” “We are all Rif” and “State, beware” were among the chants repeated by the many hundreds of protesters in Rabat as dozens of police office surveyed the crowd. Hirak Rif leader Nasser Zefzafi and the three activists were convicted late Tuesday of threatening state security. Fifty other activists in the 2017 Hirak Rif protests received sentences ranging from one to 15 years for lesser charges.

Mohammed Ziane, who represented the activists before they suspended their legal defense, said they would appeal. “The verdict will certainly not comfort spirits, especially since the Hirak demands have not been met,” Ziane said. “To send people to prison for 20 years for asking for their rights is clearly meant to scare. But we can already see it’s not scaring people.”

Protesters demanded that King Mohammed VI fulfill promises he made last year to build a school, a university and a hospital in the neglected Rif region. “May the people live, and may those who abuse power fall,” protesters cried out.

Zefzafi’s father told The Associated Press by telephone that his son received news of his conviction and sentence in a Casablanca prison five hours after the verdict. “He told me when I visited today that he doesn’t care if they imprison him for 20 or 30 years as long as he still believes in the cause,” Ahmad Zefzafi said.

He said his son smiled, adding that “hearing that the people are rallying behind him in protest makes him prouder to be where he is.” The seeds of the protest began in October 2016 when an impoverished fish seller in the Berber Rif region was crushed to death trying to retrieve a valuable swordfish seized by police and tossed into a garbage truck.

Zefzafi, who was arrested in June 2017 after a manhunt, quickly became the movement’s public face, demanding development and the creation of jobs in the Rif region, which has lagged economically. The uprising briefly spread to other parts of Morocco.

The Rif maintains a strong identity apart from Morocco, due largely to a brief stint as an independent republic from 1921-1926, when its legendary rebel leader, Abd el-Krim, defeated the Spanish army.

In 1959 and 1984, the current king’s father, Hassan II, crushed uprisings in the Rif — and never set foot in the region. Son Mohammed has traveled there. Soon after the 2017 protests, the Moroccan monarch promised development projects for the region and pardoned some of the hundreds of protesters who had been detained.

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Algeria reinforces its surveillance over its borders with Morocco

February 16, 2018

Algerian authorities announced they would increase the number of border surveillance posts on the Algerian-Moroccan borders by building 10 new posts “that will be added to the 24 surveillance posts it had set up in 2015 to activate control measures and stop smuggling between the two countries.”

Akhbar el-Yom newspaper, which reported the news on Thursday, stated that this move that it described as “dramatic,” comes “tighten electronic military surveillance by providing support to the work of the units that are in charge of guarding border security based on intelligence reports briefings”.

According to the same newspaper, “10 border Algerian posts will be built, and so the total number will jump to 24 security surveillance posts that Algeria has established over the past two years, under the pretext of strengthening surveillance and hindering the smuggling networks between the two countries.”

According to preliminary evidence, the Algerian border posts are to be established in six Algerian border towns: “Ghazaouet, Bab El Assa, Maghnia, Marsa Ben M’Hidi, Souani, and Beni Boussaid”. These are classified as very sensitive border points by security reports, which are often used by widely-spread smuggling gangs.

The newspaper quoted military sources as saying that “the Algerian border posts will be supported by military engineering equipment and about 33 border surveillance cameras, and they will be tasked to track smuggling networks and ISIS’s (Daesh) terrorist groups and cover the large border crossings with surveillance devices that will be functional 24 hours a day non-stop.”

According to the same sources, the “Command of the Second Military Zone of the Border Guard formed a work and follow-up cell on the construction of border posts, which are scheduled to be opened before the end of April, to raise the border guards’ security vigilance and support them with new security equipment to combat organised and cross-continental crimes.”

The Algerian border posts will be built along the line of contact with the cities of Oujda, Berkane, Taourirt, as well as Jerada. The border guards will be increased to provide security information, control the movement of smuggling networks and face the terrorist threats that are coming from the Sahel and Sahara and that seek to break though the region.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180216-algeria-reinforces-its-surveillance-over-its-borders-with-morocco/.

Spain falls short of apologizing for 1920s use of chemical weapons in Morocco

February 15, 2018

Spain has said it will respond to the Amazigh World Assembly’s (AMA) request concerning the use of chemical weapons by King’s Alfonso XIII military during the Rif War from 1921-1926 but has fallen short on agreeing to apologize for its actions.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis confirmed that the request had been made to Madrid and “as a result of the request of the King, the [AMA] were received in the Spanish embassy to submit their demands and also examine possible ways of cooperation.”

Speaking during a parliamentary meeting, Dastis answered questions from Joan Tarda, a member of the Esquerra Republicana, who has been pushing for the Spanish government to admit its use of chemical weapons in the Rif war.

However, though showing his willingness to hear the AMA’s demands, Dastis fell short of expressing his country’s readiness to apologize for its use of chemical warfare on civilians.

The conflict lasted from 1920 to 1927 between Berber rebels led by Mohamed Ibn Abd Al-Karim Al-Khattabi against Spanish colonial forces in Morocco’s Rif region. Following the defeat of Spanish troops in the Annoual battle in July 1921, Spain reportedly used chemical and toxic gas indiscriminately against the Rif civilian population in order to inflict maximum damage. The chemical attacks were a violation of the 1919 Treaty of Versaille which prohibited the use of chemical weapons.

The AMA filed a request calling on Spanish authorities to officially apologize to the Rif people and to compensate the victims and families for the tragedy. A similar request by AMA was last made in 2015 to King Felipe VI.

The Moroccan Center for Common Memory, Democracy and Peace echoed calls by AMA and called on the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs to honor previous pledges to respond to the requests of Moroccan civil society organisations calling on Spain to recognize its culpability.

As a result of the chemical warfare, many of those in the Rif have suffered the highest rates of cancer than in any other region in Morocco with 80 per cent of cases of larynx cancer in Morocco found in the Rif region.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180215-spain-falls-short-of-apologising-for-1920s-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-morocco/.

Morocco’s king appoints five new ministers

2018-01-23

RABAT – Morocco’s king appointed five new ministers on Monday, a government statement said, after several top officials were dismissed in October for failing to improve the economic situation in a region shaken by protests.

King Mohammed VI named ministers for education, planning, housing, health and for African relations, the statement said.

In October the king had dismissed ministers and top officials after an economic agency found “imbalances” in implementing a development plan.

Protests erupted in the Rif region around the northern city of Al-Hoceima in 2016, triggered by the death of a fishmonger whose produce was confiscated by police.

The man’s crushing to death in a garbage truck during a confrontation with police became a symbol of corruption and official abuse.

Protests, also fueled by economic underdevelopment, continued there this year.

Political protests are rare in Morocco, where the palace remains the ultimate power.

The protests, the largest in Morocco since the days of the 2011 “Arab Spring”, were directed at the government and the king’s entourage rather than the monarch himself.

Police confiscated fish they said the fishmonger had bought illegally and then dumped it in a garbage truck. Desperate to recover his stock, Fikri jumped inside and was killed by a rubbish crusher.

In July the king pardoned dozens of people arrested in the protests and blamed local officials for failing to quickly implement development projects which stoked public anger.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86886.

Mass protest in northeast Morocco after two die in coal mine

2017-12-26

RABAT – Thousands of people protested in northeast Morocco on Monday against economic marginalization after two young men died while digging in an abandoned coal mine.

The deaths on Friday of the two brothers, aged 23 and 30, sparked a wave of anger in the city of Jerada, according to Moroccan media.

On Monday several thousand people gathered for a second day in a row to denounce harsh living conditions, Said Zeroual of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights said.

“The whole city is observing a general strike” in solidarity, he added.

The demonstrators have adopted the slogans of the Al-Hirak al-Shaabi movement that staged a string of protests this year in the neighboring Rif region.

Jerada, long dependent on mining, suffered a major blow in the late 1990s with the closure of a coal pit that employed 9,000 people.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86564.

Morocco’s Islamists elect new leader, walking away from predecessor’s populism

2017-12-17

Morocco’s ruling Islam­ist Justice and Devel­opment Party (PJD) has turned the page on populist former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane with the election of current Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani as its secretary-general.

Othmani won votes from 1,006 of the 1,943 PJD delegates against 912 for Fez Mayor Driss el-Azami, who was reportedly backed by Benkirane. This is Othmani’s second term at the helm of the PJD, which he led from 2004-08.

Othmani succeeded Benkirane, who had stayed at the head of the party for nine years, promoting a populist platform to garner support. Benkirane led Morocco’s govern­ment for more than five years before being dismissed by Moroccan King Mohammed VI in March after the former prime minister failed to form a coalition government.

Analysts differ on whether Othm­ani would fundamentally change the party’s political approach and steer it from the Muslim Brotherhood’s sphere of influence.

However, his election is a clear break from Benkirane, who was per­ceived as representing an “extremist current” in the PJD. Although deny­ing direct links to the Muslim Broth­erhood, Benkirane’s policies were initially influenced by the group’s orientations.

Abdelhakim Karman, a Moroccan researcher in political science and sociology of organisations, attribut­ed Benkirane’s loss to the failure of the PJD leadership to absorb the his­torical, constitutional, institutional and sociological realities in Morocco.

“It was normal that opposing voices from within the PJD came out against the current of extrem­ism led by former secretary-general as desire to adapt and preserve their interests in the Moroccan political arena and thus continue to partici­pate in the government’s work and political game,” Karman told the London-based Al Arab daily.

Karman warned against expecting that the PJD had changed its identity permanently.

“The exchange of roles between the party’s leadership came after it thought that it was backed by ‘the street’. It then tried to isolate and en­able and control the wheels of state and society,” he said.

“It is a leadership that accepts cer­tain tactical concessions and forms of political accommodation and moderate speech, an equation de­rived from the thought and referenc­es and behavior of Islamist groups themselves,” he added.

However, Abdessalam al-Aziz, secretary-general of the National It­tihadi Congress (CNI), said Othmani won the election thanks to the Unity and Reform Movement’s support (MUR) and that nothing had changed in terms of the party’s Islamist ap­proach.

“I think the PJD leadership’s ties with the MUR will strengthen more after Benkirane’s departure,” said Aziz.

The MUR is the PJD’s religious and ideological wing and has been the threshold for many PJD members, including Mustapha el-Khalfi and Bassima Hakkaoui, who are minis­ters in the current government.

Aziz said “the PJD’s elite, includ­ing many ministers, backed Othma­ni to lead the Islamist party because they want to carry on their partici­pation in the government” despite the past rumors of a party split fol­lowing the national council’s vote against an amendment that would have allowed Benkirane to run for a third term as PJD secretary-general.

“Benkirane’s populist speeches, which drew massive crowds, will no longer continue under Othmani’s leadership,” said Aziz.

Unlike his predecessor, Othmani, a psychiatrist and scholar, is a quiet and calm politician who avoids me­dia confrontations.

Othmani’s government has sought to fight corruption, a problem that the previous government failed to tackle despite Benkirane’s repeated promises.

King Mohammed VI recently im­posed sanctions against scores of Interior Ministry officials, less than a month after he sacked several min­isters and senior officials for failing to improve the economy in the long-neglected Rif region.

Othmani pledged to address shortcomings of the National De­velopment Model, which has been criticized by the king, and curb dis­parities between regions. The gov­ernment is aiming to carry on ma­jor structural reforms to promote a more diversified economy.

Experts said Islamist parties in the Maghreb are being torn between old pro-Muslim Brotherhood lean­ings and the need to walk away from that legacy to integrate their own political environments and help their countries meet socio-economic challenges.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=86454.

Morocco’s Justice and Development Party to Elect New Secretary General

Sunday, 10 December, 2017

Morocco’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) held on Saturday its 8th national congress to elect a new leader, after its former leader Abdelilah Benkirane bid the party farewell, confirming that the party is determined to proceed with the reforms despite the party’s difficult situation.

Speaking at the inaugural session at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Benkirane indicated that national congress comes this year following several issues the party suffered from and after its success in the 2016 elections.

He stated that PJD managed to win the elections and defeat its opponents, hinting at its political rival Authenticity and Modernity opposition party.

King Mohammed VI chose Saadeddine Othmani as Prime Minister, which Benkirane described as a “huge blow” to the party.

“The party was supposed to take a very difficult stance and become part of the opposition, however, we eventually decided to react positively to the statement of the Royal Court,” stated Benkirane

“I know that a lot of brothers and sisters in the party treasure me, if not all,” he said. “But I am also human, anything could happen to me. In all cases, even if I were a good man, eventually I would have to leave the party,” he added in his farewell speech.

Benkirane had previously condemned PJD members who did not support him in his re-election for a third term.

“It is because of me that the party made political and electoral progress,” he said, adding that: “despite the tense and difficult conflict the party witnessed, we made the decision based on our internal laws and democracy, despite the fact that they suffer from shortcomings.”

“Perhaps, we made a mistake. We could have discussed the issue within the congress, but it’s too late for that now. You will have to choose a new secretary general. I ask you to listen to all candidates and make the right decision. May God be with you,” he concluded.

The leader of PJD is supposed to be announced on Sunday, following Benkirane’s two mandates, which started in 2008, where he led the party to three major wins in Morocco’s local and parliamentary elections, in 2011, 2015 and 2016. He also led the government from 2011 to 2017.

However, after failing to form a government following five months of post-election deadlock, King Mohammed VI decided to replace PM Benkirane with Othmani, which created a huge political turmoil within the party.

The king took the decision “in the absence of signs that suggest an imminent formation” of a government and due to “his concern about overcoming the current blockage” in political negotiations, the royal statement said.

The king thanked Benkirane for his service as prime minister, praising him for his “effectiveness, competence and self-sacrifice”.

Observers expect Othmani to rule the party following Benkirane, in order to avoid any conflicts between the positions of party’s secretary general with the presidency of the cabinet.

Source: Asharq al-Awsat.

Link: https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1108916/moroccos-justice-and-development-party-elect-new-secretary-general.

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