Summary: Escalating political repression in Morocco under the rule of King Mohammed VI makes this a crucial moment to solidarize with human rights activists and freedom fighters being targeted by the government, which includes the author, Maati Monjib — Editors
“There is today more political repression than in the last years of the reign of his father.”
Mohammed VI ascended the throne of the Alawit on July 30, 1999, a week after the death of his father, Hassan II. The latter had brutally ruled Morocco for about forty years. In the last years of his reign, Hassan II decided to reconcile with political society by opening up the system to the nationalist opposition and the Left. The leader of the USFP (the Socialist Party), Abderrahmane Youssoufi, a friend of the assassinated revolutionary Mehdi Ben Barka, was appointed by Hassan II as Prime Minister in 1998. Hassan II’s successor, Mohammed VI, kept Youssoufi in office for three years—just enough to secure a smooth dynastic transition.
The new king declared, in his first speech to the nation, that a “new concept of authority” woulc be implemented and that universal human rights would be protected. These statements promising democracy, the rule of law and religious tolerance were noted by many observers. He also used a more modern language in political discourse, sacked the interior minister, Basri, who was responsible (together with Hassan II) for serious violations of human rights during the “years of lead,” and put an end to the harem. And he married one wife, a computer engineer.
But during the first twelve years of his reign (1999-2011), Mohammed VI steadfastly refused all calls for a thorough reform of the system left by his father through the adoption of a new constitution. In fact, the monarchy remained as absolute as the time of his father. Worse, corruption was strengthened, becoming one of the main pillars of the system. The ministerial government governs only on the margins, as Mohammed VI prefers to govern directly or through his advisors, which includes Fouad Ali El Himma, a true gray eminence of the regime.
As a response to the Arab Spring and the Moroccan “February 20th Movement”, the regime seemed to make concessions. A new constitution was adopted, in which the king gave up his status of a sacred entity. The constitutional text seems more modern and democratic. It provides more power to the cabinet and parliament and insists on respect for the law and human rights.
But five years after the adoption of the new constitution and four and a half years after the inauguration of a government led by the PJD (a moderate Islamist party), we can say that in terms of power sharing, the King remains the only real decision maker. As for public freedoms and expression, journalists as well as politicians must always respect red lines and journalists or opponents who transgress them face trial and slander.
This was the case concerning journalist Ali Anouzla in 2013. The most recent attack by the regime is targeting a group of seven journalists and pro-democracy activists. Five of them were brought before the Moroccan “dependent justice” which receives its orders from the Intelligence leadership. These activists— Dr. Hicham Khribchi, Professor Maati Monjib, and journalists Hicham Mansouri, Samad Ayach and Med Sabr —have been attacked by the press of the intelligence service as “traitors” and “crooks.” They are formally accused of “endangering the internal security of the state.” They face five years in prison. An international Human Rights’ campaign, launched since last year, is asking the Moroccan authorities to put an end to this political prosecution.