Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series: Morocco

2The protests in Morocco kicked off on February 20, 2011.
See the whole Middle East/African Revolution/Protest Series.
Morocco is a country you've probably never heard mentioned in terms of protests. The first big protest did result in some deaths, but mostly has been quite peaceful. The people have called for change, but not for their king's resignation. He has announced plans for change. This probably kept Morocco under the radar, no genocide possibilities, no revolution with new leaders to negotiate with. But it didn't fall under my radar. So here goes.

Basic History
Morocco's official name is the Kingdom of Morocco. Geographically, it is located in north Africa. Important bordering countries include: Algeria and Mauritania. The capital is Rabat, but it's largest city is Casablanca. The population estimated at 32.2 million people. The official language is Arabic, but the country has four other recognized national languages including French and Spanish.

Morocco's most recent leader is King Mohammed VI. He has been in power since 1999 when his father died. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy, and the Prime Minister is Abbas El Fassi. The Prime Minister is over the elected parliament. Morocco has multiple parties and several opposition parties have been formed in recent years.

In terms of  independence, Morocco gained independence from both France and Spain in 1956. The French were particularly brutal leaders, restricting the basic rights of the Moroccans. A successful rebellion in 1955 led to their freedom and their current form of government. There's more to the story, but on to the protests cause that's the part that I'm writing this post for.

The Protests
The main causes cited as the reasons for the protests include: too much power centralized with the king.

Protesters organized a protest on social media for February 20th. The Moroccan government approved the protests, and the estimate is that 37,000 people gathered in the capital city of Rabat. Their demand was that the king relinquish some of his power.

Over the next week, there weren't any major protests, but on the 26th of February, there were reports of at least 1,000 people gathered in the country's largest city, Casablanca calling for political reforms.

Things never really escalated in the protests. On March 9th, King Mohammed VI announced that he would instill some of the requested reforms asked for by the protesters. He announced changes to the constitution that would be decided by a committee and then presented to him and then for a referendum in a vote by the country for approval.

On March 13th and March 20th, there were protests. Some were calling for additional reforms and others wanted to keep the pressure on so the king would know they were demanding real change. At these protests, riot police used batons to break up the protest on March 13th, signalling the first real turn to violence, at least in terms of the number injured. The protest on March 20th in at least 60 cities around the country were largely peaceful with no police interference.

These protests are marked mostly be nonviolence, but there have been reports of injuries and looting and violence from some of the protesters. Some people have been killed during the protests, but none from direct clashes with riot police, and only a few succumbing to injuries sustained in clashes with the police.

This unrest is still ongoing, with protests continuing to be organized. It is yet to be seen if the changes suggested by King Muhammed VI will come to pass and if they will satisfy the Moroccans.
More information can be found at youtube.com, huffingtonpost.com, and reuters.com.

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