Rabat - At the start of the week, the police began to withdraw progressively from the centers of Al Hoceima and Imzouren, two cities in northern Morocco shaken by eight months of continuous protests.
Rabat – At the start of the week, the police began to withdraw progressively from the centers of Al Hoceima and Imzouren, two cities in northern Morocco shaken by eight months of continuous protests.
Since Sunday, the security system set up in Al Hoceima and neighboring regions in response to the Hirak protest movement began to be alleviated, according to provincial governor Farid Chourak. The latter spoke at a working meeting with the Minister of Tourism, Mohamed Sajid on emergency measures for the development of the sector.
The first withdrawals of law enforcement officers were made “progressively at Imzouren and at the place Mohammed VI in Al-Hoceima,” said Chourak during the press conference held Monday.
This decision, according to the governor, represents a strong gesture of good faith and a great step towards restoring order and calm in the city.
“These are significant signals, I hope that they will be received by everyone […] The withdrawal will be done in stages,” Chourak said, adding that the decision was following the king’s “directives” to “guarantee the freedoms.”
“If the protesters react positively to these signals, others will follow in the same wake. Confidence and security are linked […] until a return to the normal situation,” he promised.
The governor stressed that the population has the right to enjoy its civil liberties and to express its demands peacefully, before claiming that the state is merely overseeing the maintenance of order and reactivating the dynamics of the development process.
According to a resident contacted by the AFP, “the police have indeed withdrawn from the central square of Al Hoceima, and there are still some in civilian clothes, as well as vehicles parked next to the neighboring police station as usual.”
On social networks, Internet users shared videos showing elements of the security forces withdrawing from the alleys amid the applause of inhabitants.
For the last eight month, the streets of Al Hoceima and other neighboring regions were occupied by protesters in what became known as the Hirak movement. After the death of fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, thousands rallied in the region calling for social justice and economic inclusion for the unemployed youth.
Hundreds of activists, including the leaders of the movement, were arrested by the end of May, but demonstrations have persisted. While peaceful at first, the protests have recently escalated, with increasingly frequent clashes with security forces.
The city of Imzouren saw the biggest share of violent protests, as police forces started to intervene aggressively to prevent any gathering. The protesters’ main demand has become the release of the detained activists, along with an end to the “militarization” of the province, referencing the high-volume police presence on the streets.