Posted by shiite on Monday, February 21, 2011 Under: morocco
Yesterday, February 20th, protests were planned and held all throughout Morocco. Largely organized via Facebook, it is estimated by one source that nearly 40,000 Moroccans took to the streets in 57 towns and cities. The biggest demonstrations were held in the capital, Rabat, and Morocco's biggest city, Casablanca.
EPA: About 5,000 protesters march on parliament in Rabat.
Turnout estimates in these cities widely vary among sources - in Rabat, for example, the Associated Press estimates the turnout at 3,000 to 5,000 while organizers put the number at 20,000. CNN puts the number in Rabat at 2,000. Wall Street Journal says there were "as many as 10,000."
NPR deemed the protests "almost entirely peaceful" and there was no direct police intervention (I read somewhere that it is likely the King ordered the police not to use violence). However, BBC reports that five burned bodies have been found, after a bank was set on fire after "crowds of young men came from outside the town and began ransacking banks, shops and government buildings."
So what were all the demonstrations about?
And why did some vandalism and looting occur in the wake of everything?
Lastly, how do I feel about all this?
The protests principally revolved around the following issues: reducing unemployment (jobs), constitutional reform - many calling for the king to "reign, not rule", encouraging Morocco to adopt a more parliamentary monarchy in the mold of Great Britain or Spain, reducing corruption, and more social and economic equity.
Here is the YouTube video used to campaign and promote the protests:
The BBC interviews two Moroccans who explain their grievances in English here.
And, just to see what typical Moroccans sound/look like, here's the nightly news coverage of the protests (no subtitles, but just watch the first few minutes):
It is believed that the violence/vandalism that occurred all largely occurred in the evening hours, after the protests had subsided and were not directly or strongly related to the protests - i.e. these were "hooligans" and "thugs" hopped up on adrenaline and/or up to no good and wanted to take advantage/exploit the rally and banks not being opened (closed on Sundays).
This blogger attributes much to the (minor) unintended consequences to "copy-catism" among youth who had watched the protests in Egypt, Tunisia et al and thought a little destruction might be "fun."
I tend to agree.
On this Morocco Board page, one Moroccan says, "From the clips that I have watched so far, most of the dumb vandals are kids with high level of testosterone."
On principle, I support(ed) the protests. I believe that the problems of nepotism and massive economic inequality need to be addressed - as I mentioned here, Morocco has even worse wealth inequality than the United States. Similar to many big cities like Cairo or Mumbai, in Casablanca it is said that many live in abject slums, mere miles from fellow citizens living in fabulous wealth.
Before the protests began, I had worried that the protests would lead to too much out-of-control chaos and violence; it appears those slight apprehensions were mostly unfounded. The few Peace Corps volunteers I was in contact with didn't seem overly worried about it (less so than I, at least). According to the New York Times, "fears of chaos tempered the call for change in Morocco."
A columnist for the UK's The Independent posits that "the small, peaceful numbers may even help burnish the regime's self-image as a more tolerant, stable Arab country."
I believe the protests will put the King's feet to the fire and get the ball rolling towards reform. Many believe that these protests were about reform, not revolution. Most political scientists would probably agree that political reform has indeed occurred in the past decade, but many citizens feel that it has been too slow - or has been slowing over the past few years.
In this excellent Foreign Policy article, the author writes, "Unlike their Arab brothers and sisters in Tunisia and Egypt, Moroccan protesters are asking for modest amounts of change. For now."
And what do Moroccans think about all this?
They range from proclamations of "Civil discourse won over hysteria, violence, and chaos" to "I, for one, am happy to see a peaceful outcome to the demonstrations. Moroccans showed class, and hopefully His Majesty's government will respond in kind by addressing our nation's problems" to a dissenting, "As I had feared and unfortunately anticipated, the Moroccan protests were an abysmal failure. Not much if anything got accomplished."
As far as I can gather, my staging date has not been changed.
Today I actually did receive another email from a PC Morocco program assistant, saying they were "looking forward" to working with me.
I am 90% confident that Morocco will become a bona fide reality in three weeks (not 100% because my pessimism has developed as a defense mechanism for my hellish Peace Corps application timeline. In other words, I'm still setting expectations low, so that I won't be completely shocked if Morocco "pulls a Lesotho" on me.)
My next foray will be with packing. Let the packing games commence!
In : morocco
Tags: morocco protests police poverty reform
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