The northern African nation of Morocco has become the latest country to be hit with pro-democracy, anti-government protests. Dozens have been wounded, more than 120 have been arrested and at least five people were killed.
As the world turns its attention from the crises in Egypt and Tunisia to the violent uprising in Libya, the nation of Morocco has been engulfed in pro-democracy demonstrations but also political violence.
According to Agence-France Presse, thousands of people participated in demonstrations throughout Morocco Sunday demanding that King Mohammed VI relinquish some of his power, reform the constitution for more independence and clampdown on government corruption.
The protests were launched by a group identified as the Feb. 20 Movement for Change, reports Press TV. Human rights groups, opposition members and journalists joined the rally. Some youth groups are calling for their own political party.
In the biggest Moroccan city, Casablanca, approximately 4,000 people took to the streets shouting: “Freedom, dignity, justice.” Meanwhile, in the capital Rabat, the same number of protestors chanted: “The people want change.” Many carried the flags of Egypt and Tunisia, notes Metro UK.
Moroccan King Mohammed VI
“What happened over the weekend is that people sent a message to the king. We want reform in justice and free access to hospitals,” said opposition Member of Parliament, Fatiha Layadi. “The problem is that these groups don't feel there is a platform for their views. There's no debate, so if we are to have more of these demonstrations, firstly the government needs to better organize itself, but secondly it would be better if these (youths) could have a voice of their own through the media.”
What started off as peaceful rallies turned into chaos. The Moroccan Interior Ministry announced that 128 protestors were wounded during clashes with security forces and 120 demonstrators were arrested. Five bodies were found in a bank that was set on fire. They are believed to be computer technicians because banks are closed on Sundays, reports the Wall Street Journal.
CNN International reports that vandalism took place in most of the cities. Interior Minister Taib Cherkaoui told reporters Monday that 24 banks, 66 vehicles and 50 stores and private buildings were set ablaze. Cherkaoui blamed the violence on ex-convicts and rioters.
In order to appease the people of Morocco, the King’s government has pledged to increase subsidies for many staples that have risen substantially in the last several months.
“Moroccan democracy is maturing. At a time when demonstrators in other Arab countries are met with violence, in Morocco they face institutional and political serenity,” said Minister of Communications Khalid Naciri. “These reform demands have been part of our national agenda since King Mohammed VI came to power (in 1999). Now we need to move into higher gear.”
Nevertheless, the protest organizers, such as Feb. 20 initiator Oussama Khlifi, have vowed to continue demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins.