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Council of Moroccans Abroad Deplores ‘Childish’ Burning of Moroccan Flag

Protesters in Paris waved Amazigh and Riffian flags to mark three years since the death of fishmonger Mohcine Fikri.

Rabat – The Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME) has issued a statement condemning the burning of a Moroccan flag during a march in Paris over the weekend. The council said the act was “cowardly,” “childish,” and “barbaric.”

Protesters marched in Paris on Saturday, October 26, to mark three years since the death of Mohcine Fikri. The fishmonger’s death ignited the Hirak Rif protests across Morocco’s northern Rif region in 2016 and 2017.

Some protesters, according to state-owned media outlet Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), burned the Moroccan flag. Others marched carrying flags representing the Amazigh (Berber) people, the Rif region, and even the Catalan flag.

“The desecration of the national flag is a criminal act that has nothing to do with freedom of expression,” stated CCME Secretary-General Abdellah Boussouf on Sunday.

Saturday’s protest saw some calling for independence for the Rif region, waving flags of the republic established by Moroccan hero Mohamed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi. El Khattabi briefly liberated some of the Rif region from Spain at the Battle of Anoual in the 1920s.

The German Maghreb-Post outlet noted that the crowd in Paris was a “manageable” size. A smaller protest also occurred in Fez. 

One outlet reported Polisario supporters also joined the Paris protest.

What was the Hirak Rif?

Mohcine Fikri died in a garbage truck in the northern city of Al Hoceima when he tried to retrieve fish that police had confiscated. Someone activated the truck’s crushing mechanism, killing Fikri. Fikri’s work in the informal sector and his death became a symbol of the Rif region’s economic and social marginalization.

Protests rocked the Rif region from late 2016 into 2017, ultimately leading to the arrest of dozens of protest leaders.

In June 2018, a Moroccan court handed down prison sentences for over 50 Hirak Rif activists. Along with three others, leader Nasser Zefzafi received a 20-year prison sentence. Earlier this month, Zefzafi had called for the protest in Paris on Saturday.

National and international organizations have called the release of Zefzafi and the other Hirak Rif activists. While some activists received royal pardons, the leaders remain in prison.

Read also: Hirak Rif: Al Hoceima Authorities Ban Protests Commemorating Mohcine Fikri’s Death

Morocco’s Penal Code allows for the prosecution of those burning a Moroccan flag. If convicted of showing “contempt of the emblem and symbols of the kingdom,” individuals can face six months to three years in prison.