Tens of thousands of Moroccans took part in demonstrations against the “hogra.” This is the local term for arbitrariness, arrogance and the injustice of power against the little man. The death of fish-merchant, Muhsin Fikri, became the detonator of discontent. He had been picked-out by the police, which issued a decision to scrap his goods, for selling a specific kind of fish, the sale of which was banned for the season. While the goods were being destroyed, Fikri jumped into the centrifuge of a garbage truck in an attempt to save his possessions and killed himself in front of the cameras. Separate footage of the trader’s death appeared hours later on social networks and on Sunday, October 30, thousands of disgruntled citizens took to the streets.
Demonstrations were held in Tetouan, Casablanca, Marrakech and Rabat with tens of thousands of angry citizens participating. Morocco is the only Arab state which the Arab Spring of 2010 skipped. At the time, the events started in a related manner, with the self-immolation of Tunisian, Mohammed Bouazizi, in protest against police arbitrariness. Unrest spread through Tunisia and was transferred to Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Syria. In many places, the Arab Spring has led to regime change, political crises and wars. During the troubled 2011, a weak wave of demonstrations demanding more democracy passed through Morocco, too. It led to early elections, which the Islamist Justice and Development Party won. The country preserved its stability. Over the past five years, it has become the preferred address for the expatriation of French businesses attracted by the historical closeness of the two countries and the cheap labour in Morocco.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who was on a tour of East Africa, instantly reacted to the mass demonstrations of recent days. The monarch sent the Interior Minister, Mohammed Hassadim, to the site of the tragic accident in Al Hoceima. The Minister met the family of the deceased Fikri and said that the state is determined to establish the truth and make sure justice is done. But so far, the actions of the authorities have failed to calm the public’s outrage. The government is concerned due to the fact that the Reef region, where Al Hoceima is located, is known as rebellious and disloyal to the central government in Rabat. The demonstrators in the region raised slogans against the monarchy. In response, the Interior Minister, Mohammed Hassadim, said that “the government cannot be blamed for the incident, but is responsible for establishing the truth.”
French media has emphasised that unlike the Arab Spring, which in many places has been actively fueled by social networks and supported from the outside, the turmoil in Morocco seems spontaneous and has not yet received external support, but there is a risk for destabilising the power of the young King Mohammed VI (53 years old), who took the throne in 1999 after the death of his charismatic father, Hassan II.