A group of lawyers filed a complaint against a few public figures, including “spiritual healer” (raqi) Achraf El Hayani.
Rabat – Moroccan internet users, academics, and public speakers expressed frustration and anger after masses of peopleflooded the streets of several cities despite the state of emergency imposed to restrict movement and stem the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Citizens and residents were shocked by a set of videos on March 22 documenting rallies the night before. In the videos, groups of people in Fez, Tetouan, Tangier, and Sale swarm public streets late at night while chanting religious slogans.
In response, thousands of Moroccans took to social media to criticize the “irresponsible” actions.
Younes Maskin, editor-in-chief of Moroccan newspaper Akhbar Al Yaoum, believes that the demonstrations warrant a “holistic approach,” as the “problem goes beyond coming out during the state of emergency.”
He expressed to MWN that the “Moroccan government should raise awareness about the importance of social isolation to convince people to stay home and reassure Moroccans of their social and economic situation.”
“The livelihood of large segments of Moroccans comes from daily or seasonal work. These people cannot stop working for a long time,” he warned.
He went to add that “the state of emergency should be accompanied by a set of measures that aim to support low-income people and to provide them with “vital necessities, especially food products.”
Maskin emphasized that the situation requires a holistic communication strategy.
“This communication effort should not be limited to raising people’s awareness, but also speaking the language that different segments of society can understand. Yet we are still lagging behind in this regard,” he concluded.
Youssef El Kaidi, a professor at the University of Fez, believes the marches may have been coordinated demonstrations.
“I think last midnight marches that occurred simultaneously in several cities in Morocco is not a coincidence,” the academic told MWN.
El Kaidi said the people who marched in several cities and chanted the same slogans “seem to have the same ideology and must be driven by the same agendas.”
He described the idea to march in masses as a “suicidal act” that might increase the number of infections across Morocco.
“Therefore, the state should strike with an iron fist on all those disruptive voices who want to jeopardize the situation and break the exemplary unity and solidarity shown by all Moroccans since the early beginning of the crisis,” El Kaidi warned.
He emphasized that the best thing Moroccans can do is obey preventive measures and “stay at home.”
Washington-based media analyst Youssef Eddazi warned that Moroccans should comply with instructions and orders that authorities put in place.
“They have to understand that we are in this together. This is a very critical moment in the effort to slow the spread of the virus. Thus, enforcing social distancing and other measures must be taken seriously otherwise we will witness a total collapse of our health system,” Eddazi told MWN.
For her part, Soukayna Benjelloun, Vice President of the Regional Council of National Order of Architects in Tangier, remarked that such demonstrations “occur only in districts where the intellectual and socio-professional level is low.”
“Urban policy teaches us that precarious areas are often home to religious fanaticism, some forms of extremism and ignorance due to lack of means and resources,” she stressed.
She suggested the Moroccan government take advantage of statistics from the High Commission of Planning and put the areas under “high surveillance to repress any gathering” during the state of emergency, as the situation in Morocco grows more serious.
“The state no longer has time to invest in awareness-raising,” she warned.
Benjelloun also said the state should ensure a protective role by “supplying people in need with food” and sanctioning those who do not want to respect preventive measures.
In addition to Benjelloun, a group of lawyers released a joint complaint against religious speakers, including Redouan Ben Abdeslam, “spiritual healer” (raqi) Achraf El Hayani, and El Monshid Tetouani.
The complaint submitted to the public prosecutor office condemns El Hayani, for “terrorist acts, disobedience” and for participating in unauthorized rallies as well as for not complying with the orders put in place amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
In response to yesterday’s masses, Morocco’s government approved the draft law 2.20.292 to impose legal actions against anyone who defies the state of emergency.
Morocco declared a state of emergency on March 19. Citizens and residents can only go to work, buy essentials, or receive medical care with “exceptional movement permits” signed by local authorities.
Morocco has 109 coronavirus cases at the time of writing, including three deaths and three recoveries.