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Protests in Morocco demanding greater freedom, against price hikes

Rabat (Morocco), 20/02/2023.- A protester holds a flag that reads 'February 20 Movement', during a vigil to commemorate the movement's 12th anniversary, in Rabat, Morocco, 20 February 2023. EFE/EPA/JALAL MORCHIDI

The protests were called by the Moroccan National Front, an organization that includes human rights associations, leftist parties and unions, and came a day after another series of small demonstrations in several cities against the high cost of living, protests organized in this case by the CDT union.

In Rabat, about 30 people gathered in front of Parliament displaying a sign reading “Immediate Freedom for Political Prisoners” and chanted slogans calling for the release of journalists like Souleiman Raisuni and Omar Radi, who were sentenced to years in prison in trials denounced by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

“There’s neither any education or healthcare,” “We want freedom,” “They want to drive us to begging” and “Where is our wealth?” were some of the slogans shouted by the demonstrators.

Among the people who turned out for the protest was veteran activist Khadija Ryadi, a member of the Moroccan Human Rights Association, who told EFE that in her homeland “the majority of the people have problems eating each day” because food and fuel are “at inaccessible prices.” Since January, the prices of basic food items have doubled or – in some cases – tripled.

“We’re also protesting to commemorate the anniversary of February 20. A movement that had hopes for a democratic country, where freedoms are respected. We want there to be (at least) a minimum level of respect for human dignity. Unfortunately, we’re in a situation that’s worse than 2011,” she said.

Regarding the fact that the protests did not draw many people, she said that this was due to the fact that “the channels of information dissemination are controlled.”

“All the organizations that are here (at the protest) are prohibited from speaking on Moroccan television. The independent press that disseminated our announcements and demands has been almost eliminated,” she added.

In the city of Fez, the live rebroadcast of the online daily Hespress showed a larger protest than the one in the Moroccan capital, with about 150 people chanting similar slogans.

In the coastal town of El Jadida, south of Casablanca, several dozen more people chanted “The people want change” and in the Souk el Sebt market area protesters demanded better health and employment services and shouted slogans supporting the “political prisoners.”

Demonstrations organized by the Democratic Confederation of Labor were held in several cities around the country on Sunday to protest the rise in prices.

Dozens of people gathered in Rabat to chant things such as “No to the destruction of the people’s buying power” and to denounce the government for its alleged responsibility in the matter, although national authorities are trying to halt the rising prices by prohibiting certain exports and raising tariffs on imports.

Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch said last Thursday that prices will decline in the coming weeks with the fasting month of Ramadan, when consumption shoots up.

The protests on Monday commemorate the day in 2011 when tens of thousands of citizens, mostly young people, took to the streets in a number of Moroccan cities to demand “freedom, dignity and social justice,” a slogan that was being repeated at the time all over the Arab world.

As in other countries, the spark had burst into flame spontaneously on the social networks and the marchers were anonymous young people who issued the call to demonstrate on the Internet, thus creating the February 20 Movement.

Source: La Prensa Latina


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Amine Rhissassi

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