Washington D.C. - Even though the protests in the Rif region of northern Morocco has abated in recent days, the impact of this social movement has left the nation divided like never before.
Washington D.C. – Even though the protests in the Rif region of northern Morocco has abated in recent days, the impact of this social movement has left the nation divided like never before.
The kingdom seems parceled between several groups and is profoundly skeptical of its political and socio-economic future. With no capable and popular political leadership outside the Royal institutions, Moroccans are increasingly showing deep concerns over the future of their country and the aptitude of the new Prime Minister to govern.
In a country where political polling is discouraged, social media remains a relatively reliable medium used to sense public opinion. In the case of the Hirak (the Moroccan name for the protests), Facebook postings and Tweets by Moroccans are key factors to understanding the depth of this movement and evaluating the feelings and positions of the average Moroccan.
While it is not scientific, but a scan of social media reactions leads to believe that Moroccans stand divided among three unequal but significant camps. Each of these segments has played a role in the spark of the protest and will play a significant role in the direction of future protests in the Kingdom.
The first group is a minority composed of the diehard supporters of the protests with all its aspects including some “racial standpoints” that are viewed as extreme by many average Moroccans. The second cluster stands right in the middle of the road with solid and active support for the social and political claims of the campaign but holds deep reservations over the racial overtone of some of the Hirak leaders.
The third and largest faction is the silent majority who support the Hirak from afar. This bloc calls for the end to “la hogra” (social injustice), corruption and wants to see more jobs creation and better education and health care systems but is too afraid to join street marches as not to destabilize the country.
Morocco is confronting an unprecedented array of hard choices. Moroccans face the option of either to join a movement that speaks to their social and economic needs or stay away from it hoping to kill it and avoid instability and chaos similar to the anarchy in Libya, Egypt or even Tunisia.
If the core issue of the Hirak is socio-economic, the shadow of a Rif autonomy and the involvement of Moroccans residing in the Benelux in shaping the protests’ agenda have made many Moroccan weary of the end goals of such movement.
The abundance of flags representing “the 1920’s Republic of the Rif “and “the Amazigh” movement and the absence of Morocco’s national flag during the many sittings have made the majority of Moroccans outside Al-Hoceima uneasy about the real ambitions of some of the leaders of these campaigns.
The exclusion of the national flag during protests in and outside the country has left millions feeling discounted and rejected. This conscientious decision has cost the protests the sympathy of large segments of society, despite the righteousness of the demands.
Yet, the most disturbing aspect of the Hirak thus far remains a video published on YouTube during which the mow jailed leader of the Hirak, Nacer Zefzafi, stated that past Spanish colonization of the Rif was more “compassionate” than the current Arab one. This racial assertion describing Arabs as colonizers turned many Moroccans away from the movement and put the nature of Zefzafi’s claims of national unity in doubt.
Moreover, the Rif movement leadership designation of a new term to “label” fellow Moroccans who support the Monarchy and do not support the protests as “Ayach” (the word is derived from the Arabic term Aach which means long live and used in Morocco to call for Long Live the King) has split the camps of activists further. The use of this term and the “manipulation” of its meaning on social media have isolated Al-Hoceima dissenters and weakened their outside support.
While these unfortunate and worrying declarations have limited the spread of the Hirak, it would be foolish and dangerous to label it as separatist movement.
While the silent majority has significant concerns about some of the racial and national sovereignty questions, other objectives of the protests remain the top political concerns for people in Morocco. If moderate groups adopt these dominant issues, it could create a more robust crusade that would be hard to contain.
In fact, just like the people of the Rif, Moroccans from around the nation are aspiring hard to make a dignified living in a country that respect all its citizens
Unfortunately, the politicians and officials’ shaky response to this national movement put in doubts their ability to handle a vast social movement of discontent. Changes at every level of the Moroccan hierarchy is overdue before it is too late.
Prime Minster Othmani’s inaction and meek response to the Hirak has validated his image as a weak politician with neither sparks nor potential to oversee a team capable of addressing Morocco‘s socio-economic struggles. As a result, the public’s confidence collapsed in the government to lead the nation into a better and brighter future.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.
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