Rabat – The Hirak Rif movement’s protesters are not the only Moroccan demonstrators to face jail sentences. The Criminal Chamber in Ouarzazate Court of Appeal has sentenced a group of people to prison for protesting over water scarcity in the Moroccan southern city of Zagora.
The court has sentenced a protester to one year of imprisonment, after being accused of taking part in an unauthorized demonstration and for throwing stones on security officials, according to news daily Al Massae.
The Ouarzazate Court of Appeal has also sentenced four other protesters to two months each in prison and a fine of MAD 500. The court has cleared two teenagers of charges made by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
On September 24, a group of people took to Zagora’s parched streets to demand access to clean drinking water. The police then intervened to disperse the manifestation and arrested 23 people, seven of whom were prosecuted for “participating in an unauthorized demonstration,” according to the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).
On October 8, residents of Zagora flocked to the streets of the city once more in a peaceful march, carrying Moroccan flags and portraits of King Mohammed VI to denounce water shortage in their town as well as in the surrounding regions.
Dubbed ‘Hirak Al Atach,’ meaning ‘thirst protest’ in Arabic, the movement was quickly targeted by Moroccan authorities. Police elements started to stalk small crowds in the alleys of the city to prevent any kind of improvised demonstrations.
Protesters then allegedly started assaulting security officials by throwing them with projectiles, lighting firecrackers and setting up barricades to prevent security vehicles from advancing into the city’s neighborhoods.
The clashes between police elements and protesters resulted in injuries to authorities and a woman, who was wounded. However, protesters accused an officer of beating her and kicking her hard in the back while police intervened to stop the protest.
In October, King Mohammed VI tasked Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani to chair a committee to find a solution to the problem of water shortage in the country. Charafat Afailal, minister delegate in charge of environment, visited the city of Zagora, where she vowed to find a solution to the country’s water problem.
Residents of different regions, especially rural areas, have complained about an increasing scarcity of drinking and irrigation water. In cities like Ouazzane, Beni Melal, Zagora, Sefrou, Khenifra and Azilal, Moroccans took to the streets to draw the government’s attention to their suffering.