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Imzouren, the other revolted of the Moroccan Rif

Ⓒ AFP – FADEL SENNA – | Demonstration in Imzouren, in the Moroccan Rif, June 10, 2017

The press rarely speaks of it, but the inhabitants are daily demonstrating by hundreds or even thousands: about fifteen kilometers from Al-Hoceima in northern Morocco, the city of Imzouren is the other center of protest Which shook the Rif for months.

Adjacent to the airport of Al Hoceima, Imzouren is an aggregate of cubic constructions scattered in a rocky landscape at the foot of the mountains.

Surrounded by cafes with deserted terraces, a bland esplanade of concrete welcomes the visiting visitor, under the gaze of young idlers. Many shutters are closed. The apartments await the return in summer of their owners, emigrated to Europe, the Netherlands in particular.

In this second week of Ramadan, the small town of 40,000 inhabitants seems to be asleep, contrasting with images that loop on social networks where inflamed crowds denounce the fist lifted the “marginalization” of the Rif by a “corrupt” Moroccan state “.

For the face of Imzouren changes at nightfall.

It was in this town that rioters burnt a police residence at the end of March, whose occupants had to leap from the roof to escape the flames.

On the night of Friday to Saturday, dozens of young people hidden in the darkness of a peripheral neighborhood, with their faces covered, threw stones at the anti-riot forces that seal the downtown area. The clashes lasted two hours.

On Saturday evening, they again found themselves in the same place, on the sidelines of a protest march that gathered half a thousand people and ended without incident.

– ‘Indomitable and indomitable’ –

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – STR – | Demonstration in Imzouren, in the Moroccan Rif, June 2, 2017

The Rif is a historically rebellious region, still bearing the wounds of a tumultuous past: rebellion, repression and marginalization by the former King Hassan II … In 2004 Imzouren was the epicenter of a murderous earthquake – More than 600 dead, 15,000 homeless – who gave to the outskirts of the city this suburban face rebuilt quickly.

“Here we refuse the hogra,” said Nabil, an activist from Imouzren, in his thirties. “The blood of Moulay Mohand still flows in our veins,” he said in a chastised Arab, in this large Berber-speaking city.

Moulay Mohand (or Abdelkarim el-Khattabi of his real name) was the leader of the insurgent army of the Rif which routed the Spanish invader in the 1920s, and whose acts of arms still arouse the pride of the local populations .

Like him, many inhabitants of Imzouren come from the tribe of the Beni Ouriaghel, “moving, untamed and indomitable,” according to the Italian anthropologist Attilio Gaudio.

“Imzouren and the neighboring village of Tamassint are the stronghold of the Beni Ouriaghel. All the great leaders of the Rif are from this tribe, known to be particularly hard and not afraid of anything,” said a local actor of civil society.

– ‘Nothing to lose’ –

“After seven months of peaceful demonstrations, the police have become repressive, we are not afraid because we have nothing to lose,” said a young protestor who demanded “the immediate release of prisoners”. A wave of arrests that targeted the leaders of the protest over the last two weeks.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – STR – | Demonstration in Imzouren, in the Moroccan Rif, June 2, 2017

Here, the inhabitants say to grant “no credit” to the politicians or elected local, according to numerous testimonies collected by the AFP.

The legislative elections of last October saw a very low participation rate and strongly disputed results.

“In the current context, any mediation is impossible,” said an actor of civil society, yet involved in attempts to mediate with the protesters.

He said he was “worried” about the return of the diaspora Rifains this summer – often more radical against the “makhzen” (power) – which will “aggravate the tensions”. “In Imzouren as in Al-Hoceima, everyone now awaits the word of the king.”

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