Andrew Pochter: The Acquisition of Reality
The revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt introduced a swath of ideas and surfaced unprecedented political potential. Moroccan citizens discovered their own role in the Arab world after February 20 by means of protesting and rallying against their monarchy.
To Moroccans and to many other Arabs this was something quite foreign; and at that level and volume, it was something completely new and surprising. The protests in major Moroccan cities such as Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat demonstrate a new sense of solidarity as citizens find themselves now reaching out beyond family to community involvement. Neighbors are re-connecting with old neighbors by marching together; strangers are finding common ground; and average citizens are realizing their true potentials in the real world.
My Moroccan host family represents a prime example of the kind of change I have noticed among the middle class. My surrogate parents, being teachers, for the most part have been satisfied with their jobs, livelihood, and finances.
They were previously apolitical and avoided community involvement outside of their normal sectors. This may have been out of an unconscious fear of ramifications, that others’ problems could relay back to themselves, or perhaps their tendency was from habitual passivity rooted in a lack of belief in the possibility of change. My host family’s approach to life came to an apparent crossroads with the February 20th protests, the date of the first nation-wide rally. This experience provided them an opportunity and the courage to express themselves politically. Perhaps it caused them to reflect on the problems with the education system, whereas before they were accepting of it and resigned to its shortcomings.
The recent political protests have brought a new identity to Moroccan youth and have changed the attitudes of some in their parents’ generation. Both previously unassuming age groups are now engaging new political ideas and expressing their hopes for a promising future.
By their participation in community protests, members of my host family and friends are trying to reinvent themselves as members of their society and changing how the rest of the world perceives them. By voicing their opinions, they can help shape the true face of this Moroccan generation, not by what the media say.
Protesters call for an end to corruption and want more jobs for the increasing number of university graduates who face joblessness. Another prominent concern deals with the King’s cabinet advisers that have pressured the monarchy into exceedingly unpopular political and economic decisions. These reforms would help to distance royal family connections, to create a more diverse body within the parliament.
The National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) is to replace the Human Rights Advisory Council created in 1990. A mission of the CNDH is to aid in the monitoring of elections and to “ensure that the existing rules and legislation are consistent with international treaties on human rights and the international humanitarian law.”
King Mohammed VI announced new changes to the constitution on March 9. He said parliament and the courts would become more independent. The King has recently set up a committee to draft a new constitution that would be enacted by June, for a September referendum, which is the first type of constitutional reform in the last 15 years. Although, protesters continue to take to the streets every weekend, expressing their skepticism that there will actually be any change.
Earlier last month, the King approved the release of 90 Islamist and Sahrawi political prisoners. This seems to be a good start, though it is important to keep in mind that over 100 political prisoners still remain behind bars.
As the organizers, protesters and others who are like-minded push forward in support of an advancement toward a more democratic government model, they are meeting passive resistance by authorities through the news media, that is, through lack of coverage and censorship.
As I have noticed such a dramatic change in my own host family here in the sleepy town of El Jadida, Morocco, I can only imagine the types of internal changes that are affecting larger cities in the Arab world.
At least within Morocco, the people are gaining a sense of how to approach their political and social issues.
Though time is a factor in how quickly the government will react to these rights and propositions, my host family, like many others, will be on the streets to make sure that their claims and concerns are heard by all parties.