Violence rocks Moroccan city of Taza despite official reports of calm


Despite government reports that calm has returned to the northeastern Moroccan town of Taza, local media reported Sunday that clashes between security forces and demonstrators were still ongoing.

The official state news agency MAP reported that life has returned to normal in the city, rocked by violence since last Wednesday. The agency said authorities have arrested those who incited the “riots” which caused dozens of injuries.

But local media reports pointed to ongoing violence in the town’s al-Koucha neighborhood, which, according to activists, was besieged on Saturday by security forces.

The local branch of the Moroccan Center for Human Rights was quoted by the website Hespress as saying that clashes returned to the neighborhood on Saturday night when police stormed the area as talks were underway between young residents and a committee formed by a political party of the ruling coalition.

Hespress quoted local residents as saying that the security crackdown was “barbaric and unjustified,” especially since demonstrations in the neighborhood were peaceful and only held placards showing victory signs and chanted slogans against security forces.

Statements by women witnesses released in videos on the internet alarmed the government, which dispatched the deputy interior minister to the city on Friday to try calm the situation.

Women appeared on several YouTube videos accusing security forces of having raided their homes at night, beat them and in some cases threatened them of rape.

The government denied the reports and said security forces could only enter people’s homes upon a judicial order.

Front page images in Moroccan newspapers on Friday showed torched cars and public buildings in what was referred to as the “Black Wednesday.”

Protests in the city, which has high unemployment and poverty rates, broke out when authorities arrested four young men. Marches and sit-ins were then organized in front of the police headquarters and local prison in order to pressure local authorities to reveal their whereabouts.

Mohamed Chbairi, head of the Moroccan association of human rights, was quoted by local media as saying that the young men were illegally detained. Authorities later released two of them on Friday, but this was not enough to calm down the situation as protesters raised their demands against security forces.

(Written by Mustapha Ajbaili)