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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Morocco: Killed for a few bags of rice

by Damien Roustel

Morocco: Killed for a few bags of rice

Perhaps fifteen women killed in a crush at a food distribution point

Translated Sunday 3 December 2017, by Jane Swingler

Will the village of Sidi Boulaalam be for Morocco what Sidi Bouzid, the catalyst of the Arab Spring, was for Tunisia, following the immolation in 2010 of a young fruit and vegetable seller? On Sunday, at a distribution of free food in this region of 8,000 inhabitants, one of the poorest areas in the Sherifian kingdom about 60km from Essaouira, tragedy struck. At least 15 people, all women, died in a crush where they had come to collect free wheat flour, donated every year by a Casablancan dignitary.

“This year, there were a lot of people, several hundreds. They began to surge forward, knocked down the barriers (…), the local organisers at the scene were overwhelmed,” one doctor who attended the scene explained to the AFP. “Even when there were people on the ground, others were just carrying on fighting over the food,” he added. According to him, there were at least ten people injured, including two in a critical condition, so the death toll could rise even further.

“A disgrace for the officials”

Morroco is angry and shocked. “This tragic event belongs to a Morocco that we should no longer be seeing,” commented the news site Médias 24. “Hunger kills tens of poor people in Essaioura province,” “The tragedy at Sidi Boulaalam is a disgrace for those in charge,” is a headline on the Facebook page of Essaioura TV online. “This year, the food distribution was overseen by only four police officers,” accused Manar Khouda, a militant teacher who manages this Facebook page.

However, according to Abdelkadir El Hadidi, the organiser of the distribution, the operation took place “lawfully and under the supervision of the authorities”. The Ministry of the Interior has taken the decision to open an enquiry, to “ascertain the circumstances surrounding the incident and establish who was responsible.”

Aware of social unrest at a time when the situation in the Rif region remains tense, just a year after the horrible death of a fishmonger crushed by a rubbish skip while he was confronting police for seizing and destroying his merchandise, King Mohammed VI has decided to “be personally responsible for the funeral and burial costs of the dead and the care of the injured.”

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