King Pardons Over 600 Prisoners in Morocco: Will it be Enough?
By: Michaela Schrum/Contributing Writer
King Muhammed VI of Morocco pardoned over 600 people in Moroccan prisoners September 1, 2017 for Eid- Al-Adha after pardoning over 1,000 in late July for Eid Al-Fitr. Many of these prisoners were convicted protesters from Al Hoceima in the Berber Rif region, a region that has become famous for the inception of the social movement known as Al- Hirak al- Shababi or “The Popular Movement”.
Al-Hoceima came under international spotlight last October when police confiscated Mohsen Fikri’s (a fish seller) fish. When the police threw the fish into the back of a garbage truck, Fikri attempted to salvage his goods and was crushed to death by the compactor and videos of the event spiraled the internet.
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This incident was vaguely reminiscent of the start of the Arab Spring and Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit seller whose fruit was confiscated by officials and set himself on fire. The Arab world was engulfed and triggered worldwide protests. That year, Time Magazine’s person of the year was ‘The Protestor’.
For a while, Morocco managed to get away with minor changes to their constitution and the addition of a Prime Minister to the government to stem the demand for more democratic practices. But the incident with Fikri has snowballed into a larger social movement. What do the protesters want? Access to health services, jobs, infrastructure, and economic opportunity in the Rif region.
Mohssine Nachit, a professor of Intercultural Communication and Dialogue from the University of Moulay Ismail in Meknes Morocco says that the king’s decision to pardon these prisoners is strategic. “The Moroccan constitution gives the king the right to pardon prisoners. He is the symbol of Moroccan unity. Such a status helps resolve some human cases and political ones. I therefore consider such a pardon a very useful way to reduce tensions”.
Nachit states that the comparison of Morocco’s protests to the protests made famous in the Arab Spring are the real expression and symptoms of democratic change. When asked what he thinks will occur from these protests. Nachit says “ The state should implement real democratic practices on all levels so as to avoid tragic clashes”. With the king responding with these pardons, he leaves Morocco and the rest of the world wondering whether it will be enough to stop an evolving political situation in Morocco.