The troubling case of Maâti Monjib highlights Morocco’s climate of repression

In an interview with the French site, Orient XXI, Monjib said: “The goal of Moroccan power is to make me and my family feel bad in Morocco and…

In an interview with the French site, Orient XXI, Monjib said: “The goal of Moroccan power is to make me and my family feel bad in Morocco and wherever I travel, (…). I repeat here to the men of the regime: there is no way I will be silent, when people, including friends, are suffering in prison just for expressing themselves freely”.

An emblematic case

The case of Maâti Monjib is emblematic of the climate of repression that reigns in Morocco, and the methods of the Moroccan regime and its police to silence any criticism or opposition.

Since 2011, the regime has tried to systematically stifle independent journalists and media. In recent years, the repression of activists and social movements has significantly increased, targeting those who revolt against the inequalities and social injustices that plague the country.

One example of such repression is over the Moroccan Hirak, a 2016 popular protest movement in the Rif, an area in northern Morocco. This was a weeks-long uprising against corruption, police violence and poverty after the death of a small fish seller. In 2017, the movement’s 43 supposed leaders were sentenced to terms of up to 20 years in prison.

In another incident, 19 people arrested in 2010 for having participated in a popular independence uprising in the Western Sahara (controlled by Morocco since 1979), were in November 2020 sentenced to terms ranging from 20 years to life in prison.

Journalist and human rights activist Omar Radi was arrested in July of last year, accused of “sexual assault” and “espionage”. He, too, has been the subject of a long campaign of defamation in the press. A few weeks before his arrest, the editor of the independent daily Akhbar el-Youm, Soulaimane Raissouni, was also arrested on charges of indecent assault. Both men remain in jail awaiting trial and resolutely deny the charges against them.

According to Human Rights Watch, “there are precedents in Morocco of arresting, trying, or imprisoning independent journalists, activists or politicians on questionable charges of sexual misconduct.” But while the Moroccan authorities may be instrumentalizing sexual assault charges and selectively applying justice, it is imperative to take the testimonies of rape and sexual assault survivors seriously and distinguish them from politically charged accusations.

Reliable and moderate Kingdom?

In Morocco there is a multi-party parliamentary system, although the real power is controlled by the King’s Palace, the local elite, who are often referred to as the Makhzen, and the security forces. Yet the Kingdom of Morocco is considered by Western states to be an ally: reliable, ‘moderate’, and reasonably democratic.

This is particularly true in France, where the economic, political and personal links (between the elites) run very deep. This ranges from close and permanent cooperation between two countries’ secret services and police forces to economic cooperation. The Moroccan royal family has numerous properties in France, and many high-profile French figures own houses in Morocco. As such, information about repression in Morocco is often ignored by French mainstream media, which instead often repeats the defamation campaigns against the regime’s opponents.

Because he is a leftist and has organized debates in Morocco with Muslim movements, Maâti Monjib is often accused of being an “Islamo-leftist”. This accusation is frequently used by politicians or conservative media in France to discredit a person or cause – usually progressive and green movements or personalities.

The term suggests ‘an objective accomplice of terrorists’ and is used to explain why it is not possible to defend such a person in France, in Morocco, or anywhere else. Until when will the Moroccan regime keep using such tactics to silence its opponents?

This post was originally published on Radio Free.


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