Morocco: crackdown against the Berbers

The new Islamist-controlled government in Morocco has been engaging in increased repression against the social movement which started last year under the name of the “20 February Movement”, as the Moroccan expression of the Arab Spring.

In the Berber-speaking Rif region, this repression has been intense for several weeks, with housing demolitions, widespread use of tear gas and other weapons, with deaths and many injuries.

Ziyad Mohammed, an activist of the Trotskyist group Revolutionary Marxist Current, spoke to Solidarity.


The Rif region where al Hoceima is, it is a unique region.

Historically there has been great resistance to French and Spanish colonialism, led by Abd el-Krim al-Khattabi, who led the Rif region in war against the invaders in the 1920s. The French and Spain tried to destroy this free region, using poison gas and weapons of mass destruction, for the first time in world history.

In this region there is still a culture of resistance against the monarchy which has not grown up just recently — but has always existed since the time of the first resistance to the monarchy.

M20F demos were more advanced than those of other young people belonging to the movement in Morocco.

They were the first to raise the slogan “down with the king” and their slogans were based on the right to work and housing for all and free healthcare.

The way they demanded this was by “the riot method”. They went into the street and confronted the police. The police were very aggressive against these young people, and the youth have waged guerilla war — not with guns, but by other methods, burning cars, taking streets and buildings and so on. So the regime has armed itself against these young people.

The youth have defended themselves, taking up railways and paving slabs to defend their areas, and the result is the stoppage of all economic life in the regions affected. There have been deaths, because the youth are in a rage against the monarchy and the forces of repression.

The villagers have organised marches, marching dozens of kilometres in order to concentrate their forces in a particular part of the region. They have marched to government offices with a view to concentrating all the forces of the Rif.

In response the government has sent the army into the region and the Rif is currently a militarised zone.

The sharpening of the repression in the Rif has taken place this year. But there has always been a greater level of repression in the Rif since the start of the movement.

In Casablanca or in the capital, people have come into the streets every Sunday, very peacefully, with banners. In the Rif, people have been coming out with molotovs and face masks. But with the new government of Islamists, the repression of the Rif has been increased. The Islamists are in conflict with the nationalists who are asserting the non-Arab nature of their region. The Islamists are playing the role of Arab chauvinists vis-à-vis the Rif.

But for all the courage and the mobilisation, there is not really a co-ordination or an organisation, which could develop a programme for the movement. As it is, it remains quite spontaneous and “courageous”.

There are three main lines of the mobilisation in the Rif: national rights for the Amazigh minority, and the separatists of the Rif, who are based in the linguistic, cultural Amazigh movement, they are chauvinists of the Amazigh.

Then there are the Stalinists, and then there are the CMR, who are not so numerous but who are organised in the committees of the towns and agricultural workers’ organisations.

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