By Moundir Al Amrani
By Moundir Al Amrani
Morocco World News
Rabat, February 1, 2012
The recent incident of self-immolation by three young Moroccans has resulted in the unfortunate death of one of the protagonists and has stirred a lot of controversy and discussion. While people have analyzed this extreme act from various perspectives, I argue that religious and social aspects are most significant and therefore merit further exploration. . While self-immolation has long existed in other cultures, for instance among Buddhist monks demonstrating against China’s occupation of Tibet, the practice is fairly new as a method of protest in the Arab world. . In trying to rationalize self-immolation, if that is at all possible, one way is to approach its significance by questioning its motives, objectives and effectiveness. In the case of the three young Moroccan men, their act was driven by their dire social circumstances, and the motivation was to bring attention to their prolonged unemployment. As such, their primary objective was to ultimately find a job. As for the effectiveness of their strategy, it is too early to determine its effectiveness in getting the Moroccan government to deal with the high levels ofunemployment.
Before further discussion of self-immolation, we should first understand and agree that it is not for anyoneto pass judgment on these young men and their act.. To enrich our discussion, and to apply full objectivity, we should avoid value judgments that consider self-immolation as form of suicide or as an act of heroic martyrdom. Since the desperate act of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia, self-immolation has become increasingly popular as a form of protest in the Arab world. . It is undeniable that Mr. Bouazizi’s act was a catalyst in starting an unprecedented social revolution that ousted the former Tunisian president and inspired revolutionary movements across the Arab world. Moreover, his self-immolation has been adopted by protestors in Morocco, female and male, as an option of last resort, aimed at exerting pressure on the government and as an attempt to win sympathy and solidarity from people across the region.
Morocco has witnessed acts of self-immolation several times. There has been news from different regions of the country about people who set or attempted to set themselves on fire. Oddly enough, these incidents have received little or no attention from Moroccansas most people are either untouched by these acts or because they are too submissive to react. But what is certain is that such acts of self-destruction are uncommon in Moroccan society and people are unlikely to welcome them as acts of martyrdom.
To Moroccans, self-immolation could be characterized as a mere act of self-harm. , But to the person sacrificing themselves, it is a strong statement and a heroic act. Between the two interpretations is the role of the media in shaping people’s understanding and perception of it. Media plays a decisive role in re-contextualizing, and sometime de-contextualizing, such acts in a way that renders the act of self-sacrifice pointless.
Looking back at Morocco’s recent acts of self-immolation, we notice that some of them were reactions to state repression, unfair treatment, humiliation and insult. Others were meant to send a message to the government to get it to consent to certain demands for reform. If we look at the case of the deceased young man, Mr. Zaidoun, where does his act fit?
Mr. Zaidoun and his fellow protesters, according to the news widely circulated about the event, were trying to coerce the authorities to let them get some food and medicine while in a sit-in. To do so, they doused themselves with gasoline and threatened to set themselves ablaze. Regrettably, something went wrong and one of the young men caught on fire. When the other young men, forgetting they were soaked in gasoline, tried to help their colleague, they themselves became human torches.
In any case, it remains a striking truth that the young men were aware of the danger of their act. Moreover, they must have realized the foreseeable consequences as no one douses himself with gasoline because it makes him feel good.
For the sake of objective discussion, let us assume that the three young men had no intention whatsoever to set themselves on fire and that they were just ‘threatening’ to do so in order to attain their objective (We should remember that this is not the first time the unemployed have threatened the authorities to set themselves on fire in case the government does not consent to their demands.) This makes one wonder why those guys possessed bottles of gasoline. They were in a sit in with gasoline in their possession because they clearly had a plan to use it.But to what end?
Some self-immolation cases occur as a form of protest against unfair treatment and humiliation. Others occur to force the government to respond to certain demands, which is clearly a form of blackmail. In the latter case, the act of self-immolation can be effective. In the case of the unemployed, self-immolation could secure a good bargain for getting a job in return. At this point, the whole issue takes a new direction.
After long years of continuous studies and hard work, there are no better compensation a university graduate can hope for other than a secure source of income, which only working for the government can secure. To the shock of university graduates, life after graduation is not as easy as they thought it would be. Unemployment has been a social problem for too many years, and getting a job in the public sector is more of a mirage than possible hope. This pushes any fresh university graduate into despair and depression.
The government’s recruitment policy has made things worse and encouraged new graduates to take to the streets in which they spend years protesting and struggling. The one and only demand of unemployed university graduates is direct and immediate insertion in public job market, but how reasonable and fair is such demand?
While the right to a decent life in good conditions is legitimate and rightful, we should all understand that no country in the whole world, no matter how rich or developed it is, can recruit its university degree holders in state jobs. This is not a call for the unemployed graduates in Morocco to give up their struggle and go home, but it would be wiser to reconsider the whole issue from a more pragmatic viewpoint. Their energy should be channeled towards demanding more effective plans to solve the problem of unemployment once and for all. . If not, the situation will certainly get worse and sooner or later the government will be unable to find any more jobs to satisfy the increasing, never-ending demand for state jobs.
Questioning how reasonable this demand is entails discussing how fair it is, as well, especially if we look at other cases of university graduates. I would like to point out the fact that immediate, direct recruitment in the public sector job market is not the demand of only graduate and Doctorate degree holders, as even holders of Bachelor degrees are demanding exactly the same thing. If this demand is seen to be legitimate, when seen from a different perspective, we find it to be unfair to other graduates. This is better seen through an example.
If we take getting into a state teaching school, for instance, to become a high school teacher, a university graduate has to run the gauntlet before getting admitted. First, the years of university studies should culminate in getting the highest possible marks, because competition is fierce and the higher the marks,, the better the chances.
After graduation, one should wait and see if ever the government will be in need of teachers in the graduate’s field of study, because it is very likely that no positions are available for the current years, which would mean waiting for the following year again.. If things are positive, there is always a pre-selection process in which all the candidates’ applications are examined to select the ones whose marks allow them to secure a seat in the written test, because seats are limited and the number of candidates to pre-seleciont is also predetermined.
After this, there is an entry test followed by another oral test to which only the successful candidates in the written test can take. Passing the oral test gives the candidate a seat to start training for one year to become a teacher. Upon the completion of the training, the new teacher has to wait and see where he or she will be assigned to work, which usually happens to be a remote place and the new teacher has to spend years crawling back to his or her hometown to reunite with family and friends again.
This is just a simplistic description of the long way a Bachelor’s degree holder has to take before getting a job as a high school teacher in a state school. Their fellow unemployed graduates who happen to be their former classmates but whose marks were not good enough to get them admission in the teaching school have found a shortcut to get the same thing in a shorter time and with no tests or training. How is this expected to be fair to everybody?
The large part of the responsibility in all this falls on the shoulders of the incompetent Moroccan governments whose bad management and short-sightedness have perpetuated protest as the one and only way of getting a job. First, it was the former Prime Minister Abderrahmane El Youssfi who issued a decision about the direct insertion of graduateand doctorate degrees holders into state jobs. Since then, tsunamis of unemployed university graduates have been flooding the capital of the country. Second, the consecutive government’s policy in handling this issue has perpetuated the idea that getting a job is synonymous with getting beaten up and protesting in the streets of the capital. Finally, all the consecutive governments have shown inability and incompetence in finding a final, everlasting solution to unemployment. They have all failed to come up with a remedy to one of the most frustrating social problems of the country.
In a nutshell, the issue of unemployment in Morocco is multifaceted and cannot be reduced or oversimplified, and self-immolation is definitely not a wise way of forcing the government to yield to the demands of the unemployed. Unemployment is a serious problem and we cannot solve it by self-sacrifice or by setting oneself on fire. Although there are cases in which self-immolation is a form of protest against humiliation and unfair treatment, it remains a delicate decision and an uncalculated step to ma
Moundir Al Amrani is Morocco World News’ contributor
The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
© Morocco World News