RABAT - I recently interviewed a very active member of the Amazigh movement. For the purposes of this article, I will call him Takfarinas here (that is not his real name). He is a 25-year-old student, from a town near Agadir.
RABAT – I recently interviewed a very active member of the Amazigh movement. For the purposes of this article, I will call him Takfarinas here (that is not his real name). He is a 25-year-old student, from a town near Agadir.
What I found very striking about my first meeting with Takfarinas, is that he looked me straight in the eye and said “there are no human rights in Morocco.” I have not heard anyone else make such an open criticism since arriving here.
I asked Takfarinas many questions about the rights of people and specifically of Amazigh people in Morocco. I asked him about the status of the Amazigh language, and said that I have heard there is new legislation encouraging the study of the language in schools. He described this as a joke. He said it was, at best, a PR move–a half-hearted attempt for the government to make themselves look better.
I also asked Takfarinas about some of the new reforms Morocco has made in the past few years, including the right of free speech. He also described these as a joke.
“You cannot say what you like in Morocco. You cannot say you are not a Muslim, you cannot say you are a Republican. If you say anything against the King, you can be put in prison. There are many people in prison for their ideas.” He said he wanted a country where people are free to choose their own religion and express their ideas freely.
He also said that the government uses religion as a vessel to control people, and that the education system does not encourage people to think for themselves. He said that people do not use their minds enough in Morocco and do not question the status quo, as they should. He said that the government uses religion to control the minds of people. He asserted that the Moroccan government seeks to make Morocco an Arab state, and to eradicate the Amazigh identity, even sometimes prohibiting people from registering their children under Amazigh names. He said that the propaganda of the government makes people believe that in order to be a good Muslim they should be Arab, and speak Arabic.
“If Amazigh activists try to fight this, they are accused of not being Muslims, of being Christians or Jews or are trying to turn people away from Islam,” he noted. He also said that the government tries to convince people that the Arab way is superior and represents TAmazigh people as primitive and uncivilized. “They say we are like monkeys.”
Takfarinas told me he has been arrested several times, and that he has been beaten by police, generally for attending protests to further the cause of the Amazigh movement. He said that there are divides within the movement, and also that the current government makes any progress impossible. He said he was also active in the uprisings of 2011, and that more effort needs to be done to further the revolutionary cause.
When I asked Takfarinas what he believed were the biggest hindrances to the Amazigh movement, he said that it was divides within the movement, and also that most people are not thinking as much as they should, and are being too passive about the violation of their rights.
At the close of the interview, Takfarinas re-affirmed his staunch commitment to the realization of human rights in Morocco. He stated he would not leave Morocco to live his life in a country where he can enjoy his civil rights. He believes, instead, that Moroccans need to work to make their own country one where human rights are respected. Takfarinas concluded the interview also by saying that he believed it was only a matter of time before he was once again arrested, probably under false pretenses that he had committed a serious crime, so that the prosecutors could evade bad publicity, and put him away longer. “I only hope that I am able to complete my studies before this happens” he said.
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