Moroccan rights activist denounces a 'relaunch of repression’

By Ilhem Rachidi

Amid the tumult of the so-called Arab Spring movements in 2011 which swept from Tunisia to Libya, Egypt and Syria, the pro-democracy ‘February 20th movement’ in Morocco, ruled by an authoritarian monarchy, mobilised hundreds of thousands around the country. After the protests forced King Mohammed VI to agree a number of constitutional reforms that included free elections, the movement soon petered out, and rights groups have denounced the return of a clampdown by the authorities against opposition militants. In this interview with Ilhem Rachidi for Mediapart, Abdellah Lefnatsa, responsible for economic and social rights with the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, details what he calls the “revenge” of the regime with the harassment and jailing of pro-democracy militants, and analyses the failure of the 2011 popular uprising to obtain truly democratic change.

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During the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings which swept from Tunisia to Libya, Egypt and Syria in 2011, a less dramatic uprising forced significant change in Morocco, a former French colony ruled by the authoritarian regime of a centuries-old monarchy. The ‘February 20th movement’, as the pro-democracy front became known after the first mass rallies in the capital Rabat, rallied hundreds of thousands in street protests around the country calling for democratic constitutional reform, the respect of human rights, a greater share of national wealth and an end to corruption.