Monday, March 4, 2013

Maghreb United!

Throughout the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, three North African regimes (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) were successively taken down and replaced in a matter of months. Quickly, the premises of diffusion reached out to farther countries including the Kingdom of Morocco. This was first a demonstration of solidarity towards the Tunisian people to which Moroccans have always felt close to geographically, but also through a shared vision towards the West via tourism, and friendly relations with the European Union. However, the organized protest led as early as February 20, 2011 was most importantly a cry of the Moroccan people in their own right.
Morocco is a very young population, with 46% of this youth being under the age of 25. Furthermore,   this youth is experiencing a staggering 18% unemployment rate when the national one is only of 9%. The claims articulated by the Moroccan protesters were thus solely focused on social and economical issues. People expressively want less corruption, oppression, more jobs and empowerment. This point highlights both the similar nature of Morocco and Tunisia, and the most fundamental difference between the two nations. Tunisian people as well were demanding an improvement of their daily life and opportunities rather than a concrete shift in politics, towards Islamic law for instance. The difference lies in that if taking down Zine-el-Abidin Ben Ali was a sine-qua-none for social change, preserving the monarchy in Morocco was the symbol of unity among the different political trends of the nation and the guarantee that gradual positive change will come for all.

If the elite ruling class of Morocco has always been well off, the reforms addressed by the King Mohammed VI in a nationally televised speech as early as March 2011 and that have been partly enforced by the new constitution were mainly directed towards the groups of society that had been neglected until then. Thus, the Amazigh language has been named official language of the nation as well while this berber language spoken by more than 50% of the population in Morocco had always been looked down upon and ignored in school manuals. Going back to the youth issue addressed earlier, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) organized a summit in the Moroccan capital of Rabat in which it outlined its objectives of higher economic and social integration of the youth in the region. Last but not least, the previous law allowing a rapist to marry his victim in order to avoid penal sanctions has finally been abrogated.

Taking a quick look at the trajectory diffusion has taken from Tunisia to Morocco in today's context two years after the beginning of the Arab Spring, it is key to relate the tragic assassination of the late Tunisian resistant and opposition member Choukri Belaid. This assassination came in a time when critiques towards the ruling Islamist Tunisian party Ennahda were becoming louder every day. Needless to say that even before the author of the crime was discovered to be a member of the Salafi movement, all fingers were pointed to the Islamist community more generally. The repercussions of this act were tremendous in Morocco as it was perceived as a strong injustice and a proof that Islamist movements are far from being ready for political activity. In a country such as Morocco where the moderate Islamist party PJD won the last legislative elections and where many were fearing the slow but secure rise of Islamist thoughts in the political sphere, this mobilization for the Belaid cause can only be seen as a renewed defeat for religious fundamentalism following the initial nature of the protesters' grievances in 2011.

Therefore, what we have witnessed in the Maghreb (Tunisia, (Algeria), Morocco) so far is a uniform movement towards democratization of institutions, guarantee of freedoms, and away from religious debates. Lastly, since there is always a but, one must keep in mind the schizophrenic nature of these Maghreb nations that have one foot in Europe, and the other in Arabia. A move towards liberalization and modernization is not always seen through western lenses in Morocco, and when the international community is outraged by certain practices it is important to remember that these are fervently supported by some local groups. To end on a "funny" note that will illustrate such drastic contrasts within a single society, let us highlight the fact that the city of Casablanca (Moroccan economic capital) just enjoyed the opening of the first sex-shop of the nation while the most striking gender relation issues are still day to day practice.

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Loudghiri, Rachid. "Stratégie Nationale Intégrée De La Jeunesse Tirer Les Enseignements De L'expérience Actuelle." Aufait Maroc. N.p., 03 Mar. 2013. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <>.
Isabelle, Mandraud. "Au Maroc, Le Mouvement Du 20 Février Dénonce La "répression"" Le N.p., 01 Sept. 2012. Web. 02 Mar. 2013. <>.
Ismaili, Ghita. "Corruption Au Maroc : Peu D'améliorations Selon Transparency International." Corruption Au Maroc : Peu D'améliorations Selon Transparency International. N.p., 05 Dec. 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2013. <>.
Arif, Hakim. "Choukri Belaid Assassiné - L'observateur Du Maroc | L'observateur Du Maroc." L'observateur Du Maroc. Le Nouvel Observateur, 06 Feb. 2013. Web. 04 Mar. 2013. <>.

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