Two years after the outbreak of the protest movement in the Rif, the situation in this region is deteriorating. The monarchy does everything to further subjugate the inhabitants and push the most recalcitrant to exile. In the diaspora, an independence movement emerges.
The crushed Rif
On June 26, the leader of the protest movement in the Rif, Nasser Zefzafi, and three other leaders, Nabil Ahmjiq, Ouassim Boustati and Samir Ighid, were sentenced to 20 years in prison for “conspiracy to undermine the state security “. Judged with them, 49 other activists were sentenced to between one and fifteen years in prison. The severity of the verdict provoked reactions of indignation on the social networks followed by some demonstrations of protest.
These condemnations, pronounced after an unfair political trial by corrupt judges, only amplified the mistrust of the Rif inhabitants against the Moroccan monarchy perceived more and more as a force of military occupation. Several international organizations, including Amnesty, denounced the trials and called for the release of the detainees.
Since the outbreak of the protest movement in the Rif following the murder on Friday, 29 of October 2016 of the fish seller Mohsin Fikri, crushed by the hydraulic press of a garbage truck while he was trying to oppose the seizure and destruction of its goods by agents of the city, the situation in the Rif continues to deteriorate. As a reminder, the protestors of the Rif claim certainly projects of development of this marginalized and isolated region, but especially the demilitarization of Biya (El-Houceima) proclaimed “military zone” in 1958 by Royal Dahir. This proclamation followed angry demonstrations in Biya in November 1958, provoking a military intervention in the region. Thousands of people were killed and tens of thousands forced to leave the area.
Two years after the onslaught of these large-scale demonstrations that have finally run out of steam due to relentless repression and hundreds of arrests called “the years of lead”, the Rif is again almost under military occupation.
After successfully diverting the attention of the media interested in the Rif towards Casablanca where the trial of the Rif militants took place, the forces of the repression continued to carry out actions of repression in the region, but discreetly away from the cameras of the televisions and journalists.
Several foreign journalists have been expelled from the country. On July 19, Spanish photojournalist José Colón and his Dutch colleague Koen Greven were deported. On his Twitter account, José Colón explains that he was forced to leave the city at 1am. “The Moroccan secret police came to our hotel to say that we could not work, under threat of evicting us and confiscating our equipment and materials,” the journalist explained. 14 arrests of journalists and journalists-citizens by the Moroccan authorities were reported. Several cases of expulsions of foreign journalists were also reported by Reporters Without Borders.
On September 28, 2017, the journalist of the British newspaper The Guardian, Saeed Kamali Dehghan, was expelled by Moroccan authorities while reporting on Biya.
On July 25, 2017, two Spanish journalists, José Luis Navazo and Fernando Sanz, are deported and sent back by the border post of Ceuta. For several weeks they had been covering events in the Rif. José Luis Navazo lived for more than 17 years in Morocco.
The monarchy encourages departures.
The town of Biya, home to the protest, has not seen its infrastructure developed and its status as a military zone raised after these demonstrations. The city did not see emerge on its lands any university, hospital, or any infrastructure likely to improve the living conditions of the inhabitants. It concentrates more and more police and military forces. The repression was accentuated throughout the Rif and the social demands brought by the demonstrators faded. Any event is forbidden in the area. Residents who have suffered from police repression are fleeing. Hundreds of young Rifans venture on makeshift boats to Spain where they file asylum applications. These immigration attempts sometimes turn into drama.
According to the European Union’s external border agency (Frontex), some 22,900 migrants reached the Spanish coast from Morocco and Algeria, compared to 10,231 in 2016. According to the president of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, this strong rise is partly due to the unrest experienced by the Rif.
The Moroccan monarchy has tolerated and encouraged these departures. She has always used immigration to empty the Rif and all the rebellious regions of the country of their forces.
Towards an independence movement?
Parallel to this feeling of helplessness felt in the Rif after the trials and the waves of arrests, a Rifian nationalist sentiment settled and developed, especially in Europe where militants openly claim the independence of the Rif, occupied by the Moroccan monarchy. Texts along these lines are published and discussions animate social networks. The reference remains the Republic of Abdelkrim which extended over the entire historical Rif.
This claim is not new. It was worn by some activists before that put forward the particularism Rifian and the savage repression that had undergone this region. They explain that the only solution is to get rid of the monarchy and recover the independence of the Rif. The recent events in this region have accentuated this feeling as well as the gap that already existed between the Rif and the monarchy.
Translated from http://www.tamazgha.fr/Rif-La-repression-change-de-visage.html