Morocco braces for protests as unrest moves west

Ex-palace spokesman backs peaceful change


A coalition of Moroccan youth groups called “The February 20 Movement” has called for mass peaceful protests in cities across Morocco on Sunday, to demand amendment of the constitution, dissolution of the government and parliament, and recognition of the Amazigh (Berber) language as an official language, among other things.

In a recent interview with France 24, Prince Moulay Hicham, a cousin of King Mohammed VI, said Morocco was not immune to popular uprisings currently sweeping the region and expressed his support for the planned peaceful protests on Feb. 20.

Inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the movement has used social media to spread the word about the protests and has recently published several videos of young men and women from different regions and social classes expressing their demands and aspirations.

Moroccan historian and former palace spokesman Hassan Aourid has thrown his weight behind the planned peaceful protests, calling for a change to a constitutional democratic monarchy, such as that in the UK, Spain, or in other democratic countries.

In response to what was seen as a smear campaign against its members accusing them of conspiring with “enemies of national unity” and threatening to destabilize national security and public order, the movement released another video on Saturday further explaining its background, goals and course of action.

"We are Moroccan youth, we love this country and we call for change and dignity," said a young man in the video following writings that read "Who are we?" in both Moroccan Arabic and Amazigh (Berber).

"We want a democratic constitution and we want to try the leaders of the country who have exploited the people and stole the country's wealth," another man said.

The movement reported on its Facebook page late on Friday that three of its members had withdrawn from the movement and were urging canceling the protests.

We are Moroccan youth, we love this country and we call for change and dignity

A member of the youth movement

The movement called those members “infiltrators” and said in its video released today it was going ahead with the protests.

A member of the movement said in a telephone interview from the coastal city of Agadir that leftist, Islamist and Amazigh groups have joined forces throughout the country to organize protests on Sunday.

The groups have managed to put their political and ideological differences aside and united around political change that will benefit them all, the man told Al Arabiya, adding that it was hard for him to predict how many people would take part in the protests.

He said the youth were determined to remain in the streets until their demands are met. He insisted that the protests will be peaceful but added that “things may become out of control if security forces resorted to the use of force.”
Most political parties have expressed reservations over the planned protests. The governing Independence Party criticized the February 20 Movement as lacking clear-sighted vision and responsible leadership.

Reports suggest that there are more than 30,000 civil society groups in Morocco with some having more members than political parties.