Angry protests in Morocco despite reforms
By: Imad Estito
Published Friday, February 3, 2012
Rabat – Violent protests erupted in the Moroccan city of Taza this week, with over 160 wounded in clashes with police, sources said.
Protests against high cost of living and social inequality began on Wednesday, and persisted until Thursday morning, in a major test for Morocco's new Islamist-led government.
The demonstrations began after a sit-in was organized in front of the court of appeals in Taza on Wednesday.
Protesters then cut off a main highway and began marching towards the city’s prison before security forces violently clamped down, prompting people from surrounding neighborhoods to join the protests, local sources told Al-Akhbar.
The sources, wishing to remain anonymous, also said that at least 80 wounded protesters refused to be treated in hospital for fear of arrest.
The latest protests came after Moroccan security forces detained five young men on Tuesday for similar protests on January 4, the sources said.
Muhammad al-Shayabiri, from the Moroccan Society for Human Rights, Taza branch, said the situation in Taza was "quite worrying."
The clashes saw stone throwing between the two sides, with the security forces using tear gas to disperse protesters, al-Shayabiri said.
Al-Shayabiri cited several activists that reported security reinforcements had arrived from neighboring areas, cut off electricity in the area, and conducted night raids on houses, leading to a large number of arrests.
The Moroccan government has remained silent after the violent clashes. But human rights activists have called on the General Secretary of the National Council for Human Rights, Muhammad al-Sabbar, to intervene immediately to calm tensions in Taza before it escalates.
Several opposition groups not represented in parliament called for the “militarization” of the city to be stopped.
They asked the regime to stop its “stick” policy and reconsider its security approach that has so far failed to quell anger and social tension, warning that similar protests could spread to other parts of Morocco.
Morocco – the only monarchy in north Africa – has largely escaped the pro-democracy Arab Spring protests that has swept through much of north Africa and the Middle East, toppling regimes in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
King Mohammed VI introduced a number of political reforms last year to prevent mass protests from reaching its borders, granting the parliament and government greater power.
Islamists subsequently swept to power in parliamentary elections in November, but the reforms have yet to make an impact on the daily social challenges in Morocco.