Morocco

Rif Protests: With Leading Activists Detained, Some Demonstrators Turn to Violence

Rabat - As clashes in Al Hoceima between riot police and protesters continued on Thursday in the protest epicenter neighborhoods Sidi Abid and Diour Al Malik, the Al Hirak movement risks ceasing being peaceful.

“Silmiya, silmiya” (“peaceful, peaceful”) has been more than just a slogan chanted by protesters in Al Hoceima for the last eight months, despite the Ministry of Interior’s decision in recent weeks to favor a security approach in dealing with demonstrations.

Bearing the arrest of several leading activists and law enforcement oppression of demonstrations, the movement has largely remained peaceful, a characteristic that helped win wide support for it in and outside Morocco.

However, as news site Le Desk reports, on Thursday night some “young protesters have totally changed the setting of the face-off” with police forces.

Scenes of massive rallies, Riffian flags floating in the air, and protesters galvanized around leaders are now over as the leading activists have almost all been arrested.

“Al Hirak has turned into battles with police forces, [with] rocks thrown versus fired tear gas till late at night,” writes Le Desk.

The website explains that some protesters have demonstrated they no longer believe in the peacefulness of protests, now reacting to police forces’ attempts to counter their gathering by throwing projectiles. As a result, anti-riot police responded by firing tear gas.

The news site said that the chilling wave of arrests of Al Hirak’s main activists has had a negative impact on the movement. Deprived from its leaders, Al Hirak is now prone to respond with violence.

As a result of the clashes, some women protesters taking part in protests were asphyxiated. Police officers have also been injured by projectiles and taken to hospital. Some protesters fled the scene of clashes, while others used their t-shirts as masks to protect themselves against tear gas and continued throwing rocks at the police.

The situation in Al Hoceima and the surrounding area appears to be heading for more tension.

On Wednesday, Al Hoceima’s court of First Instance sentenced 34 activists, giving sentences ranging from two months to a year and a half in prison for “violence against the security forces,” “unauthorized demonstrations,” “rebellion,” and “deterioration of public property.”

Other activists, including Al Hirak’s most prominent members such as Nasser Zafzafi, Nabil Ahemjik and Silya Ziani, are currently in detention in Casablanca.

They have been accused of serious charges including “undermining state security” and threatening the “unity” of the country.

The release the detainees has been the main demand in recent weeks by the population in Al Hoceima and the supporters of Al Hirak all over Morocco.

 

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