Some civil right activists and associations have announced their disapproval over the recently approved compulsory military service draft bill.
Rabat – A Facebook group named “Moroccan Rally against Compulsory Military Service” published a statement August 25 signed by a number of civil society organizations and activists, disavowing the proposed draft bill in Morocco.
The bill on obligatory military service was approved by both the government council and the ministerial council on August 20. The bill still needs to be passed by Parliament to become law.
The group, which has gained 21,000 members since its creation last week, explained that the rejection of the bill “came because of the government’s total lack of clarity on the bill’s real objectives.”
The government said the objective is to “inculcate the spirit of citizenship in young people as part of a correlation between the rights and duties of citizenship.”
Moroccan citizens would be subject to compulsory military service in accordance with Article 38 of Morocco’s constitution which states that citizens should contribute to the defense of the homeland and its territorial integrity.
Draft bill handled in ‘quick manner’
Another motivating reason for the group’s disapproval was “the legislative speed” which accelerated the approval of Bill 44.18, “unlike other more important laws that have not been adopted yet.”
Some media outlets questioned the quick approval of the bill given its political weight, saying it was an action that cannot be taken “overnight.”
Ahmed Assid, a well-known Moroccan philosopher and researcher and one of the signers of group’s statement, told Morocco World News that people who signed the statement are not against mandatory military service in itself but against the “quick manner” in which it was handled. “We supported these young Moroccans on this basis,” he added.
Assid stressed the need for the government to open a public dialogue to discuss all aspects surrounding the mandatory military service.
“This is not a democratic way. The government should open public and participatory dialogue to discuss the draft bill between different civil society and activists and also before approving it by the Parliament. However, none of this was done.”
Assid cited the example of France where President Macron opened public dialogue about conscription. “French citizens had concerns over the recruitment of poor people at the expense of rich people and those having power.”
The Facebook group’s statement added that the bill was not included in any electoral programs or any governmental programs for which the Parliament voted.
Young Moroccans dissatisfied with the current situation
Assid explained the background motivating these young people’s disapproval over the draft bill saying, “Moroccan youth are angry and discontent and they are expressing their critical opinion on social media against authority, the state, unpopular decisions, and against politicians’ contradictions which have become uncovered.”
The situation, according to Assid, has led to an uproar and lack of confidence in political institutions. “Amid this confusing situation compulsory military service has appeared which young people have understood as kind of ‘punishment’; that they should keep silent,” he added.
According to the rally’s statement, “Priority must be given to education, health, culture and employment, as provided for in the Article 33 of Morocco’s Constitution.
According to the group, “giving priority to health and education” is only “an empty slogan for the government.” They described the government’s investment in military service as “a waste of time.”
“The moral problems of young people are related to marginalizing culture, the absence of theaters and the systematic closing of public spaces. These are areas in which young people have been putting their energies through decades.”
Military service, from the group’s point of view, cannot improve the situation of young men and women. “It remains merely a patchwork solution that shows the inability of the state to solve basic problems.”
The statement claimed that “the recruitment of 10,000 young people a year will cost the state at least MAD 300 million year, an amount which could be invested to annually build 20 schools for 12,000 students or build 5 hospitals.”
The group also published a petition under the name “no to compulsory military service.” The petition has received more than 1,700 signatures.
The group’s demands
The group called for the bill to be dropped, stressing that “serving the society is a duty of every citizen and not only of the young people.”
“We consider the civil service as one of the finest forms of solidarity between social classes … an effort that young people make every day by working in organizations, associations and volunteer work to help the poor and marginalized people.”
The group also demanded the state “contribute financially and logistically” to enable more young people to engage in civil service.
The Facebook rally called for the government to invest funds allocated to military service in projects having more priority for young people regarding “education, health, culture, promotion of self-employment and creating job opportunities in addition to making the economy free of monopoly.”
People feel like they are “confined in a sheep pen” receiving decisions and laws from above, Assid claimed.
“When people are given their basic rights, equitable distribution of wealth, guaranteed right to work, then mandatory military service will be perceived as national duty and not as punishment.”
The statement was signed by many civil associations and organization such as the Amazigh Observatory of Rights and Freedoms (OADL), the National Observatory for Human Rights (ONDH), and Chabibat Annahj Addimocrati (Youth of the Democratic Way). It was also signed by many activists and intellectuals, such as Ahmed Assid, philosopher and researcher, and Sanaa El Aji, a writer and civil activist.