What was the Moroccan regime’s approach toward February 20 youth movement? It can be divided into different parts :
The first part, from the announcement to the day of the protests, was a clear position against this movement, creating groups against it, widely spreading videos on facebook and via social networks and using some newspapers and headlines. They tried to convince us that the people who were behind this initiative, were some faithless anarchists and junkies, working for foreign agendas, therefore not worthy to be followed. The regime propaganda was clearly populist, inciting for religious rejection (one clip on youtube said that one of the organizers is Christian, and therefore, as Muslims we shouldn’t listen to him), homophobic (one of the organizers is said to be gay that’s why we shouldn’t listen to him). They had a strategy to dismiss the instigators of this movement and they avoided to talk about the reasons behind the protests. They were underlining that morocco is different from other Arab countries and played essentially on two factors: Hope and Fear
Hope, saying that morocco is on the right path, with all the infrastructure projects underway, with the INDH (National Initiative for Human Development program) and focused on the fact that morocco now is better then what it was in the days of the previous King Hassan II. And here I’m just providing some examples.
The fear factor was there too, saying to Moroccans –indirectly and sometimes directly– that the protests will take morocco to chaos (fitna) and that Moroccans are happy now: better keep what we have. They talked too about morocco being a multi-ethnic country and that the actual regime is the only way to keep Morocco as one country, otherwise there is a risk for the future of the nation. Few hours before the start of the protest, there was some misinformation on public TV and radios, saying that the protest was cancelled. In fact it wasn’t.
The day of the 20th of February something incredible happened: people went out to protest all over the country. There was discrepancy over the number of protesters, between what the organizers claimed and what the official main stream media said. The unexpected event –we can consider that to be an event– was the coverage by Moroccan TV of the protests. There was even a live TV show on this subject inviting a pro-regime blogger among others who saw on it an open country that allows its youth to express their opinions. Suddenly there was no more talk about junkies or anarchists. They said in state-runTV that we should be proud of our youth, because they are active and want to see the country go forward, in total contrast with what we could hear just hours before on social networks and on the press.
The days that followed the 20th of February were really disgusting. As an example: in some cities there were no cops in the streets, all the security forces were told to hide, not even the traffic police was present, and some thugs took to the streets to terrorize the population and to create unrest. This strategy worked indeed, since people felt insecure and started saying maybe what we have now is good, morocco is in fact an exception. They started asking: what do these youth want after all? Do they want us to get into chaos? Some sources even reported that some policemen in plain clothes incited students in a high school to go out in the streets to create chaos. Fear makes people change their attitudes and be conservative. Meanwhile the protests kept going, smaller, and often in solidarity with other Arab revolutions.They were stopped by police and some protesters and activists – the president of the AMDH, the Moroccan NGO for human rights to name at least one- were injured and taken to hospital.
On March the 9th, the king Mohamed VI gave a speech, he talked about constitutional reforms –-in many points it was similar to what the protesters called for in their demands. The main points were the separation between the executive power and the other powers, the extension of the prime minister’s prerogatives, the respect of human rights and freedom of speech as mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the reform of Justice making it a separate power, the official confirmation of the Amazigh culture and language by inscription in the Constitution and the establishement of regionalization. The monarch appointed a council to revise the Constitution and to apply those principles.
Two days after the speech, important events happened: a pro-regime collective was created, called March 9th Movement to support the King choices and applaud what he declared. Some protests who were still going were repressed violently by policemen and a live TV show to discuss the constitutional reforms was broadcast on Prime Time. Durin the televised show, the former president of AMDH attacked the regime directly while millions of Moroccans were watching and said that we have to put an end to the Makhzen. The Makhzen is the machine led by the monarchy inspired by old centuries feodal rule, and that allows the regime to control every single detail in the life of Moroccans to give all but a brief definition inspired by what this activist said. He added stressing the need to put an end to servility and it signs. “Kissing hands and shoulders? Moroccan people should stand straight,” he said. In the same TV show, a representative of February 20 Youth launched a call for new protests on March 20. He said that what the king said wasn’t enough, and that they’re not sure it would be applied, since youth don’t trust words, and that we need to go back to streets, to force the regime to go toward a real parliamentary monarchy.
The protests of March 20 were a bit different, since the speech of the king was in all the minds and since some political parties who up until that day refused to rally the youth of February 20 decided they were to join the movement which was supported only by extreme leftists and Al Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity), a radical Islamist movement. Some analysts said that it’s the regime which asked those parties to rally in order not to let the street for the leftists and the islamists who are in their majority not authorized by the regime, like Al Adl Wal Ihsane & the leftists of An’nahj A’dimocrati. The idea was to lower the level of demands since the parties that are part of the political system won’t ask for the change of the regime but only for reforms.
The marchers demanded the release of all political prisoners, a Constitution which is not ‘given’ –people refused that the King appoints a council to write the Constitutions– and to put an end to corruption and abuse of power, in addition to many other points similar to what the King said in his speech like economic and social demands.
More to come in the next days.