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Morocco: Demonstrations Demand Change and Social Justice

Translated Friday 25 March 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Several thousand Moroccans demonstrated on March 20, in Rabat and Casablanca notably, to demand more democracy and social justice, despite the recent announcement of deep political reforms made by King Mohammed VI.

“The Moroccan people demand change,” chanted the demonstrators in Rabat in the morning of March 20, calling for the “resignation of the government,” while protest signs proclaimed “freedom and dignity for the Moroccan people.” Some 4,000 people, including a goodly number of Islamists and veiled women rallied before beginning a march.

In Casablanca, more than 10,000 people also marched, chanting “No to corruption and patronage in government,” according to an AFP reporter. Some slogans called for “A king who reigns but does not rule.”

Marches and rallies were also scheduled in other Moroccan cities in response to the call issued by the “February 20 Movement,” a movement started by young Moroccans on the Facebook social network, hard on the heels of the events in Tunisia and Egypt. No incidents were reported at the end of the morning and the police presence in Rabat and Casablanca was discrete.

The call to demonstrate is backed by the youth organization Justice and Charity, considered to be the main Islamist movement in Morocco, as well as by several associations and NGOs, such as the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). The demonstration in Casablanca appeared to be larger than on the first day of national demonstrations on February 20, according to on-the-spot journalists. The “February 20 Movement” had maintained its call to demonstrate, despite the promise of reforms made by King Mohammed VI on March 9 in a speech that was hailed by many countries, including the United States and France.

The Sharifian monarch announced a series of important measures: setting up a commission to revise the Constitution, the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers and the reinforcement of the powers of the prime minister, which seem to initiate an evolution towards a parliamentary monarchy.

The demonstrators, however, wanted to keep up the pressure on the authorities. “We want to maintain the pressure so that reforms are realized in the area of human rights and political and social rights,” Settik Lahrach of the NGO “Truth and Justice Forum” stated in Rabat.

“We want a democratic Constitution /…/ The young people are demanding jobs, the right to an education and free health care and a life in dignity,” Amine Abdelhamid of the AMDH stated.

In Casablanca, the demonstrators called for a “Constitution expressing the popular will” and one that is not “granted” from on high. The “February 20 Movement” also decided to maintain its slogan to protest against the use of force to break up a demonstration on March 13 in Casablanca. Amnesty International, the human rights organization, mentioned that incident and called on Morocco to avoid all violence against the demonstrators on March 20.

For more information: Au Maroc, le pouvoir craint la contagion

See also: Our slideshow on the demonstrations in Rabat et Casablanca on 6 and 9 March.

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