Algeria's longest serving president stepped down last week following massive protests against his rule. "Bouteflika's resignation is a first step. He embodies the system. Now the struggle to build a new Algeria will continue," said activist Fares Kader Affak.
Moroccan pro-democracy activists unanimously claim that the freedom of expression won in the months following the 2011 Arab Spring protests has slowly been taken away. State repression and political detention have been an effective way to draw protesters and sympathizers of the movement away from participation. "We are now in a critical situation," explains journalist Imad Stitou. "We understand the message: it’s over with tolerance and openness.”
Morocco's movements are on the march for human rights, jobs, water, and economic alternatives. They have challenged the political establishment and face increasing repression and jail time. The coming weeks and months will likely be critical as pressure builds to release political prisoners, protests continue, and temperatures rise.
Last month marked the seventh anniversary of the February 20 Movement, a pro-democracy movement born in Morocco in the wake of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. To celebrate the anniversary of one of the most defining events of Morocco’s recent political history, hundreds of protesters took to the streets. “People are not afraid anymore,” said human rights activist and trade unionist Abdellah Lefnatsa. “Everywhere, the population takes its inspiration from the February 20 Movement."
Most Moroccan journalists admit they do not cross certain “red lines” in Morocco. These lines include critical coverage of Morocco’s king and his advisers, Morocco’s sovereignty over the Western Sahara territory, Islam, and big businesses tied to the monarchy. In order to survive, self-censorship is mandatory among journalists. “I cannot write everything I want,” explained journalist Soulaiman Raissouni. “Everybody does self-censorship to different degrees.”
A people’s movement in Morocco is demanding better infrastructure, release of political prisoners, and an end to economic inequality. Following in the footsteps of regional uprisings in 2011, the Hirak is now a social explosion in Morocco.