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Monday, 10 February 2014 12:00 AM

Morocco's “Arab Spring” – The start, 2011

This article discusses the start of the "Arab Spring" in Morocco, whilst the next articles this week will look at the reform of the constitution and formation of a new Government that resulted and the events in 2013 and state of the nation at that time.

In early 2011 Morocco experienced civil unrest; however, the demonstrations were minor relative to that in other countries in the region and were short-lived – hence activities in Morocco were rarely covered by the western press. The demonstration were infrequent, were mainly in major conurbations and were largely peaceful hence holiday makers in Morocco were largely unaffected by these events.

The “Arab Spring”

From December 2010 civic unrest and disaffection with national governments swept from Tunisia through much of North Africa and the Middle East – a period dubbed “the Arab Spring”.

Morocco and the start of its “Arab Spring” – February 2011

Morocco, is common with many other countries of the region and further afield, suffered from a number of significant issues – high unemployment (especially amongst the youth), wealth inequality, perceived corruption in government, and poor of public health and education systems.

On 20th February 2011 young Moroccan activists, primarily of Moroccan students, used social media to arrange the first significant, yet peaceful, demonstrations in Morocco aiming for political, social and economic reform, and created the 20th February Movement. They were influenced by the events that had started in Tunisia and had spread to Egypt and elsewhere.

Their focus was for demonstrations in Rabat but further demonstrations occurred in other major cities - Casablanca, Tangier, Fez and Marrakech - and also in some smaller conurbations across the country including Tetouan, Safi, Larache and Sidi Ifni.

Uniqueness of the Demands of Demonstrators in Morocco

In stark contrast to similar activities in other countries of the region, the demonstrators were not calling for removal of the head of state, in this case King Mohammed VI, rather they demanded changes to government, the constitution, judiciary and the economy.

A further element almost unique to Morocco was that the coordinators of the 20th February Movement wished for peaceful demonstrations and the government allowed ordinary Moroccans to go out to streets to express their demands with relatively low levels of police interference. This led to largely peaceful demonstrations – hence the lack of media interest in the western press in these events - though some violence and looting did occur in places, and there were some arrests.

Localized violence resulted in riot police breaking up some rallies, including that in Casablanca; however, it appeared as though some of that violence were caused by small bodies of hooligans, involved for reasons outside of the popular cause as the 20th February Movement, and violent confrontations were very limited.

Although the demonstrations only started in mid February 2011, by early March 2011 the King made a public announcement regarding work on a new constitution, which largely curtailled further mass demonstrations - this period is covered in the next article.