“They blindfolded and beat me”, “So much blood was flowing from the open wound in my head”, “They took my clothes off and stuck their fingers in my anus”. “They tried to remove our fingernails when we refused to sign the falsified police reports”, “They forced us to cheer Long Live the King and plucked our eyelashes”
You may easily confuse these with excerpts from victims’ testimonies of Bashar Al Assad Agents’ infamous torture methods. However, these words depict human rights abuses in a country whose officials constantly condemn the Syrian Regime’s practices, and whose blossoming pro-democracy youth are silenced and their voice suffocated by a long 18-month dark season or repression, awaiting a Moroccan Spring the world has yet to notice. These words have resonated in a Moroccan court in Ain Sbaa, Casablanca, on September 2nd.
The horrors were inflicted on Samir Bradelly, Abderrahman Assal, Tarek Rouchdi, Youssef Oubella, Nour Essalam Kartachi, (While Laila Nassimi was beaten then relseased). All are activists who have participated in a violently repressed Casablanca Protest denouncing high prices and expensive living conditions for the poor on july 22nd. They were plucked from the street and thrown into a van, then were blindfolded, beaten, humiliated, thrown in jail on charges of assault to police officers in duty and unauthorized public gathering. Then, torture and rape began.
These are not the only cases of arrests, torture and wrongful incrimination of young protestors in Morocco. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights reported over six hundred cases of human rights abuses related to pro-democracy protests since they began February 20th, 2011. Young prisoners of opinion and political detainees are sentenced to up to 5 years in prison and 100 000 MAD for crimes they haven’t committed. Many have gone on hunger strikes to protest against torture in prison in addition to injustice.
24-year-old Abdessamad Haidour, was sentenced in Taza to 3 years of prison and 15 000 MAD for posting videos on Youtube. He was charged with lack of respect to the sacred (The King). His right to defend himself in court has just been denied and his request rejected. Erroussi, recently released after serving 4 months in prison, is yet another bitter aftertaste of the “Years of Lead” in the not-so-new-era. He was tortured and endured a hunger strike for more than three months. And the list of young Moroccans and Horrors goes on and on, with more than a few dead.
The thing is, it isn’t at all about figures. It’s not about the death toll, or the number of the tortured, detained. In cases like this, numbers only know how to rise anyway, especially if such repression goes unnoticed. If the Moroccan people, the elected PJD (Justice and Development Party) representatives (and their limited-and-shrinking prerogatives) and coalition government allow the Makhzen (The Regime: its shadow government, King’s Advisors, Ministry of Interior, Security system and Secret Services) to continue abusing their power in an opaque confusing system of governance: we’re headed for Syria-ous trouble.
The clash between the Makhzen and the PJD-lead government is growing. The Makhzen’s security apparatus flex their muscles via the Ministry of Interior not only by violent repression of pro-democracy protests, but also by preventing the leading Party’s youth from organizing a public event altogether which the Head of the Government was scheduled to take part in beginning of September. Febrayer.com reported The PJD minister of Justice and Freedom calling the act “Unlawful”, while the minister of General Affairs and Governance, Najib Boulif, said that this will show to all PJD leaders that “repression hasn’t stopped and Morocco isn’t doing better”.
Even after all the torture Samir, Abderrahman, Tarek, Youssef, Nour and Laila endured, their message was as follows: “We are committed to the demands of February 20th Movement. We thank everyone who has supported us and ask for the immediate release of all political detainees in Morocco. We urge all activists to remain loyal to the righteous demands by protesting and challenging this suffocating repression”
The February 20th Protest Movement, named after the date of its first 2011 nationwide protests, has weakened temporarily during the Regime’s attempts to make-up democratize Morocco through the on-paper-only constitutional reforms and “Vote yes” then “Vote” campaigns, while the Ministry of Interior (the Palace’s most powerful tool and the decisive institution when it comes to delivering Morocco’s election results) remained in control. Now that the make-up powder is wearing off, the Makhzen is running out of events to “pretend” things are changing, and unable to actually change its controlling totalitarian ways. As a result, The movement is revitalized, oddly invigorated by more repression, arrests and torture from the authorities who are too eager to take revenge on activists, blind to what that will cost them and how that speeds up the Makhzen’s utter failure.
The Makhzen is facing a giant mirror and panicking at the reflection: its unwillingness and inability to decrease its giant prerogatives after the system has worked so hard to create and pull the most ruthless and greedy to form and become its pillars. This giant system that runs on corruption and has promoted opportunism within it for too long was not built to transition nor evolve into a democracy. Its propaganda machine was told to say so, but Moroccans will be finding the opposite, the hard way too, as each pillar resists change in appalling ways such as the torture described above.
Morocco is scheduled to host the “Friends of Syria” meeting in October to support the opposition to Bashar’s Regime. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bashar Al Assad decides to hold a “Friends of Morocco” meeting just for kicks. But I guess he’s too busy killing Syrians and Moroccan officials are too busy preparing for a meeting to help save Syrians from torture similar to what happens to political detainees in Moroccan prison cells. Happy Arab Spring everyone! Cheers!