Morocco and the 20 February Movement


Morocco is a changing country. Over the course of the last two years there has been a plethora of change and reforms which have substantially altered the political, economic, and social landscape of Morocco. The roots of this reform are based in the 20 February Movement, which was a series of protests that took place across Morocco and gained the attention of those in power, especially King Mohammed VI who on 9 March 2011, only a few weeks after the initial protests, stated that massive governmental reforms would be undertaken, including the creation of a new parliament.[1]

Our Study Abroad Experience in May 2012 offered a unique opportunity to observe the changes that came with a new constitution and a drastically reformed government. All of the authors of this paper studied abroad in Morocco, conducted research and interviews, and observed daily life in the country to compile this paper. To make sure we covered all segments of Moroccan society, each member of our group looked at different facets of Moroccan society. Thus, this paper covers the police, economy, women, media, education system, and the role of the monarchy. By covering such different topics, we were able to get an accurate picture of how Moroccan society has changed in the time since the reforms were made—if indeed, it has—and how various institutions have been affected by the reform.

In addition to focusing on the general reforms, we also looked at the indigenous people of Morocco, the Berbers, for a more focused impact. While a number of different groups participated in the movement, the Berbers are important because they are the original Moroccans and their standing in society somewhat disenfranchises them. Because they are mainly located in rural, isolated areas, it is difficult to improve their standing in society or even bring attention to their struggles.[2] Their main struggle has primarily been for recognition of their culture and language in society as well as improving their economic standing, which can be difficult given the situation the Berbers find themselves in.[3]

The above issues are all addressed and interwoven in the following sections where we address the effectiveness of the reform, the manner in which it was brought about, and how the government, media, police, and citizens of Morocco reacted.


First let us begin by saying that this is by no means a scientific study, meaning there was no scientific sample and the interviews were conducted with whomever we felt we could speak comfortably with about potentially sensitive subjects. This is because the issues that we addressed were potentially sensitive topics that needed to be treated with care. The majority of the interviewees were guides, hotel workers, or others in the tourist industry who have experience interacting with foreign visitors. Because of this, there may well be some inaccuracies in the information provided because of the fact that in talking with foreign nationals—even though they had good to  English language skills ranging from good to excellent – there  may have been miscommunications or misinterpretations in the interview process. It is also important to factor in the possibility that the interviewees told selective truths, sugar-coated some facts, or outright lied to make their country look better in the eyes of tourists.

One of the reasons why the majority of the interviewees worked in tourism is because politics in Morocco is a potentially sensitive subject, and in order to get to the subjects addressed in this research, we had to navigate conversations in certain ways to get to a point where we could ask the questions that we wanted. This often required a great deal of time to build up a level of trust that allowed them to talk to us openly, something we did not have the opportunity to do with the average passer-by. Another reason is the language barrier we encountered. Due to the fact that most people on the street, would not have been able to speak enough English to converse with us, we were limited to interviews with the English speakers available to us, thus individuals working in the tourist industry.

Because of this our sample size was a small convenience sample and is not generalizable to the whole of Morocco as we only sampled one section of society: tourist workers. While our interviews involved mainly these individuals, we were able to sample individuals from all over the country and vastly different areas. During our time we traveled from south to north and stayed in Berber cities and Arab cities. Our sample was thus split between the two main ethnic groups in the country, the Berbers and Arabs, providing some diversity in our sample.

The majority of us went about our research by striking up conversations with individuals, usually not mentioning our goal of talking about the 20 February Movement or the politics of the country. For example, one member of our group struck up a conversation about the fairness of policing in Morocco by observing a scooter weaving in and out of pedestrians in the medina (the old city) and asking if that was legal. We almost never mentioned that we were doing research and just talked and felt out certain individuals to see if they would be a good source of information. If an individual felt uncomfortable talking to a person they would stop; however, if the person was willing to talk, we carried on, only going as deep as seemed safe for the interviewee.

While talking, we never had our notebooks present.  So, as soon as we ended the conversation (or whenever we were able) we went to write down the information that we had just learned from that conversation. This time span ranged anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the situation. When we returned to the United States we compiled our data to write our respective sections and compared our interview data and in-country experiences to news and scholarly articles. Since each section was authored by a different person, the style may vary from section to section. While some rely on interview data, others relied on research mixed with interviews when authoring their sections.

It is also worth noting that to give us some background information on the political and cultural history of Morocco, we held four pre-departure meetings and read materials pertaining to our itinerant research. These readings included materials by noted Berber expert Michael Peyron and readings selected by our professor, Dr. Steven Isaac, from both primary and secondary literature. In addition to this, we watched a few short pre-departure videos mainly focusing on the 20 February Movement, with an emphasis on its organization and the people behind it.

Roles of the Monarchy: An Analysis of the Monarchy and the Economy

King Mohammed V negotiated the country’s independence from France in 1955, marking the first time the monarchy held full control over the country since the beginning of the twentieth century. Following his death in 1961, Hassan II took the throne and established a new constitution that created a bicameral legislature as well as an independent judiciary that were widely accepted by referendum in December 1962.[4] This newly developed government was threatened by political upheaval, and Hassan II seized power and ruled with no checks until 1970 when another legislature was created. Despite this move, the government was rife with corruption, and the people of Morocco were in strong opposition to the men in power. These men have had a strong influence on governmental procedure since Hassan II’s reign and are often called “Makhzen,” a term that goes back centuries in Moroccan history. Due to international concerns as well as poor domestic management, Morocco was stricken with a weak economy as well as a disheartened society. These factors lent to the political unrest that had been brewing since the 1970s, but were ultimately repressed by Hassan II’s powerful regime.[5]

Nearing the end of his life, Hassan II embarked on a series of political and economic reforms in the late 1990s that reflected an understanding of the dire situation that the country was in, but changes were not truly evident until Mohammed VI took the throne in 1999 upon Hassan II’s death. Mohammed VI initiated many reforms that had been demanded by the Moroccan people for decades – a relaxation of press censorship, investigation into the atrocities committed by his father’s regime, and the amendment of the Moudawana (Family Law) to better protect women’s rights.[6] These efforts represented a distinct movement towards liberalizing and improving Moroccan society, but many people viewed the reforms as being too slow and too few. Apart from the establishment of a free trade agreement between the United States and Morocco, economic reform was relatively absent from the king’s agenda, and the issue of government corruption was still being left unaddressed. Because of an official unemployment rate of ten percent (with estimates of the unofficial rate being much higher) in early 2011 as well as a strong desire to see the government enact more democratic reforms, many young Moroccan adults worked together to organize a demonstration that began on February 20, 2011 and put over 37,000 people in the streets of twelve major cities protesting corruption within the government and calling for economic and social reform.[7]

Within the 20 February Movement were a number of different groups with similar problems and many goals. The Berber people native to Morocco have traditionally been rural villagers, many of whom practiced pottery, weaving, or agriculture. It is difficult to reach cultural centers to sell their goods due to having distant and isolated homes, as well as the poor condition of roads in Morocco – many are simply dirt and gravel, particularly along the Atlas Mountains and other areas with less dense populations.[8] This presents many issues with navigating the roads (especially during rain or other inclement weather), making it incredibly difficult for the Berber people to improve their social standing and accumulate more wealth. Furthermore, the Berber people have expressed a strong desire to see their culture and language recognized and respected by the Moroccan government, a struggle that has been going on since the 1980 demonstration in Kabilia when a professor and renowned poet who had been presenting a lecture on Berber culture was denied access to a university.[9]

Alongside the Berbers were modern Moroccan youth who actively sought economic reforms to aid them in their search for jobs. Having been born at the end of Hassan II’s repressive regime, the youngest members of the Moroccan population grew up in a time period that saw increasing liberalization but poor economic opportunity, two influences that motivated the youth to actively protest the conditions they faced at the time of their transition into adulthood. Together, these two groups have developed a movement that shocked the government and the monarchy into action.

The 20 February Movement earned a major victory on 9 March 2011 when Mohammed VI agreed to create a committee to draft a new constitution and develop a new parliament. The constitution was enacted in the following months, and elections for the new parliament were held in November. Further victories included the recognition of Tamazight (the Berber language) as an official language and the promised implementation of it in primary schooling.[10] Because of these results as well as the promise of further reforms by Mohammed VI, the 20 February Movement saw a notable decline in public numbers. The group continued to mount protests throughout the rest of 2011, but saw a sharp decline in its support base. Some Moroccans claimed that the movement was beginning to push too hard, an action that could result in either a move by the monarchy to repress the public and withdraw the many concessions that had been earned up to this point, or else a radical call for total revolution similar to the events happening in Egypt and Libya as a result of the Arab Spring. Both possibilities would mean the end of political and social stability within Morocco, as well as an end to the many liberal and democratic freedoms that have been secured up to this point – two outcomes that most Moroccans wish to avoid.[11]

Despite the fears that many Moroccans have in regards to continued protests, the 20 February Movement and other organizations see reasons to continue their demonstrations. While legislation was passed by the government to incorporate the instruction of Tamazight into the Moroccan educational system, the actual implementation of this law has yielded varying results, leading some Moroccans to question the commitment of the government’s to real actions. While the new economic reforms that Mohammed VI established have generated more capital, the Ministry of Education has refused to allocate further additional funding to the implementation of Tamazight – an action that many Berbers see as “a sign that the Arab-dominated government hasn’t fully accepted the initiative.” [12]

Among those that we interviewed, most stated that they were happy with the work that the king was putting into passing reforms and generally improving the country’s economy and infrastructure. While the approval rating for the king was high, the distaste held for the rest of the government was of equal intensity. The people of Morocco draw a distinction between the king and the rest of the government, specifically the Makhzen and the Parliament. While the king is seen as a beneficial force for change in Morocco, the corruption rooted in the government has been perceived to be concentrated solely in the Makhzen (the bureaucratic functionaries) since Hassan II’s regime, and has essentially turned society against its political leaders.[13]

The corruption that permeates much of the Moroccan government has been a point of contention for decades. With the establishment of the Central Authority for the Prevention of Corruption (ICPC), the government appeared to be addressing the Moroccan people’s concerns. Appearances proved to be deceiving, as both  the Party of Authenticity and Modernity as well as the civil organization Transparency Maroc have made claims that the ICPC has made no concrete progress. The deputy secretary-general of Transparency Maroc has researched several organizations where corruption persists, stating that “if, for example, someone becomes aware of a corrupt act within their institution and reports it, they risk losing their job on the grounds of breach of professional secrecy.”[14] The Moroccan government’s (as well as Mohammed VI’s) public image depreciates as more and more cases of corruption elude the ICPC, leading to the question of whether the ICPC is even trying to make a difference.

Although the political atmosphere of Morocco remains turbulent, the economy of Morocco has greatly improved under the rule of Mohammed VI, and as a result of the 20 February Movement, the king has taken a much more active role in stimulating domestic growth, a move which may end up contributing to the issue of corruption. In 2010 the GDP growth of Morocco sat close to 3.7 percent due to the economic decline in the world economy. By 2011, Morocco’s GDP had grown by 4.6 percent, an astounding increase despite the market conditions the country was forced to deal with. Morocco’s GDP can be broken down into three main areas: agriculture (16.6 percent), industry (32.3 percent), and services (51.1 percent).[15] The economy is in a stage of major development, but is at a competitive disadvantage because of the strong influence of European businesses within the country; thus, domestic industry has struggled to reach favorable levels of exports. Meanwhile, cheap European imports have contributed to the growing problems of unemployment and poverty. Over 14 percent of the population falls under the category of absolute poverty, with 70 percent of that poverty in rural areas, and unemployment has settled around 9 percent since 2010.[16]

Mohammed VI’s government has taken a number of actions as a means of combating the poverty, unemployment, and stagnancy that threaten the country’s economy and people. Efforts to improve the infrastructure have been incredibly successful, with many roads being built and improved in order to make transportation of goods to local markets much easier. This has been exceptionally beneficial to the rural communities, as the residents are now capable of not only bringing their livestock, crops, and other goods to be sold in the cities, but members of these villages are now also able to reach the cities in order to find jobs and steady incomes to funnel back home to their families. [17] In spite of the impressive growth that the country had been seeing, the government has struggled to increase the number of jobs available to Moroccans. In response to the growing number of protests and demonstrations regarding the lack of job opportunities, the Islamist government led by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane intends to create a large number of training programs and government jobs to provide employment for graduate students, while at the same time diverting money from past subsidy plans and investing it instead into the private sector in order to diversify products, increase competition, and create new jobs.[18]

Despite high poverty and unemployment rates, the future appears to be promising for Morocco. With a robust rate of GDP growth as well as a set of extensive reform programs designed to improve the socio-economic standings of the Moroccan people, it seems that the Moroccan government and Mohammed VI are listening to the demands of protesters and making new strides towards improving the country through different reform efforts. Nonetheless, the question still remains whether the corruption within the government will, or can, be rooted out, since the reforms fall far short of threatening the power base of either the king or the Mahkzen.

Constitutional Monarchy in Morocco

Before the in-country experience, we read articles about the Moroccan government, history, colonization, and even the original Islamization of the “Maghreb,” or the African West.[19]  All the reading in the world could never have prepared us for the experience that awaited us, though. While studying in Morocco, we became directly acquainted with many elements of an Islamic society.  The interplay between Islam and the Moroccan government became easily apparent, as well.

During all of our interviews with tour guides, restaurant workers, and other Moroccan citizens, criticism was quite common of the “government” or the “prime minister” (the actual, elected ‘Head of Government’ under Morocco’s new constitution).[20]  One of the first people that we interviewed was a woman who repeatedly extolled the virtues of tolerance and acceptance in Morocco, a “very liberal country,” in her words[21]  According to Maati Monjib and James Liddell of the Brookings Institute, Morocco’s administration is a very progressive one with greater freedoms for women, a successful free press, and an improving mandatory education system.[22]  When viewed through American eyes, these successes can seem minute.  These freedoms and rights seem so fundamental, and there are others that are yet ‘lacking’ within the Moroccan constitution.  There were a few people we encountered that seemed cautious about discussing politics or government.  They kept their comments or answers very general, but they never seemed bitter or irate with the monarchy.  In one of the later interviews, we were told, “The situation in general is getting better, and of course it needs some time…”[23]

Protests against the government have garnered lots of attention in the last two years.  The government’s responses vary from immediate reversals of action to complete ignorance of the ensuing protest.[24]  Citizens have not been arrested for demonstrations against government employees or actions, only for the damages and injuries their protests caused.  Tolerance of the 20 February Movement’s public demonstrations was harder to find in some instances, and far-reaching in others.[25]  Because of Morocco’s liberal, tolerant position, it was surprising at first that not one interviewee expressed willingness to criticize their king, Mohammed VI.

Of course, his presence in the sociopolitical scene usually leaves a positive impression of the king on his subjects.  The king visits and worships with citizens at the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca; the building itself was specially designed with a royal entrance for Mohammed VI.  This type of treatment may appear overly lavish to American observers, but the Moroccan citizens revere the king’s position.  His religious recognition stems from one of his royal titles, “Commander of the Faithful,” which allows him to be recognized as the country’s spiritual leader.[26]  The abovementioned female interviewee further elaborated on the title, saying that the king’s authority extends to all god-fearing people in Morocco that practice any religion(s).[27]  However, it is very important to note that this religious recognition stems from the king being a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.  While Mohammed VI’s liberal stance is obvious, so is the establishment of his firm faith.  His position as “Commander of the Faithful” showcases his belief that he serves one true, all-powerful god.  This position also creates a sense of social unity between the different religious communities in Morocco.

Our Berber acquaintances in Morocco all shared a common belief about the king that can be summed up in one man’s simple words: “I like the king; he does a good job.  He is a very smart man.”[28]  These sentiments were echoed frequently, despite obvious discomfort with the government’s recent actions.  Morocco’s government is a constitutional monarchy that operates under a modified version of Islamic Shari’ah.[29]  While the king’s authority is far from the absolute rule of his father, Mohammed VI still enjoys many royal privileges.  Within the boundaries of Moroccan law, the king may make royal decrees at any time, call for reelections, or “terminate” any government employee at any time.[30]  Despite these obvious monarchal privileges his subjects still have a lot of reverence for their reigning king.

All of the Amazigh guides, plus the acquaintances we made, were hospitable, genuine people.  We were inclined to believe that their positive words about Mohammed VI were their honest opinions.  Most of them seemed equally frustrated with both the government and the recent protesters, including those involved in the 20 February Movement.  While some people liked the ideas behind the movement, they found the protests excessive or unnecessary.  One interviewee, who was a hotel employee, asked why all of his fellow citizens were so unsatisfied with their lives.  He could not relate to their overly emotional reactions to hardship, and he compared them openly to the Arab Spring protesters in the Middle East.[31]

Common complaints about the government focus on unemployment and other problems of the economy.  One source states that nearly half of Moroccans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine are currently not attending school nor working full-time.[32]  Other sources set the number somewhere closer to thirty percent; that still signals that nearly one in three young, degree-holding citizens have no steady employment, nor little hope for the future.[33]  Despite these discouraging numbers, none of the interviewees pointed to the king as the root of their country’s problems.  It is not uncommon to hear American citizens insult their presidents relentlessly, as if they were kings or dictators, singlehandedly controlling everything.  American presidents tend to be held answerable to everyone, responsible to all, and publicly dissected. In Morocco, there is far more leeway for the king to be at fault, at least partially, but this hardly affects his power.  A royal decree from Mohammed VI can enact almost anything at a moment’s notice.

Commenting on the government’s administration, one protest-sympathetic citizen described the recent 2011 reforms as important, but “last minute.”[34]  He seemed to have echoed the “reform or fall” sentiments in The Economist:  “The king’s constitutional initiative may lead to the institutional breakthrough many hoped for at the start of his reign in 1999. But if it stalls, a wave of even angrier protest may well erupt…”[35] The government, and by some accounts the king himself, was accused of changing paths only when forced to do so.  Some reform groups have gone so far as to blame Mohammed VI’s administration for acting only to ensure the mere political survival of the monarchy.[36]

This accusation and many more have a visible presence through an anti-monarchy activist group called simply the Anti-Monarchistes, the only one of its kind.  The group maintained a Facebook page for two months immediately following the 20 February demonstrations.  They posted graphic pictures calling for the overthrow of the king, even comparing him to the previous leaders of Tunisia and Libya that had just been overthrown.  Despite its important niche, the group had less than fifty online supporters, with input ending less than two months after the initial demonstrations.[37]  They were rivaled by three pro-monarchy groups, and there were even three “Anti-February 20 Movement” groups, as well.  Inasmuch as social media is a trustworthy barometer of anything, it indicates that overthrowing the king is not a popular idea, nor was it the original intention of organized demonstrators.[38]

Average Moroccans seem to have few problems with the monarchy’s overwhelming authority.  Two Moroccan men proudly claimed, “Our king is not like the queen of England, just for decoration.  He has power!”[39]  They actually seemed happy with his assertion of sociopolitical might, stretching his sphere of influence with their verbiage.  To be fair, one middle-aged interviewee had remarked to the contrary earlier, “Our king is like the queen of England now.  He must answer to the Prime Minister and Parliament.”[40]  The people bend his restricted powers to suit their preferences, but all the Moroccans interviewed had “respect for the person of the king.”[41]  Despite their dissatisfaction with his administration’s actions, they continue to give Mohammed VI the respect “due” to the king in their society.[42]  Their cultural experience dictates that the ruler receives this deep respect, primarily because he is of royal lineage, but also because he is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

To Western eyes, it may seem that the Moroccan people are being duped.  However, one must remember that until 2011 their nation’s constitution defined the king as “sacred”.[43]  This was a major drawback for the youth protesters; the revised constitution contains a change in the language so that it now reads “inviolable.”[44]  This wording has proved even more problematic as it implies that no one can legally oppose the king.  Their response was unprecedented, with demonstrators screaming “His Majesty is God Almighty” outside the capital in Rabat.[45]  The Westernized problem with this type of language (e.g., sacred or inviolable) is that it clashes with democracy and individual freedom as we know it.  While the most liberal university students in Morocco seem to agree, the average man or woman has little issue with it.  The heritage of Moroccan culture has long rested on authority being passed from God, to his prophet, and then to secular leaders in an Islamic context.  That dignity and power now rest with the current civil ruler, Mohammed VI.

Observations and Perceptions Regarding the Moroccan Police

Before going to Morocco, the country had been described to our group as a police state, which begs the question: What is a police state? The term police state is derived from the German term polizeistaat, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was a technical term used to classify implied views about authority, duty, responsibilities and rights which were not in line with the liberal thinkers of the time. It is also important to note that in the beginning the term police state did not refer to a state which grossly abused its power.[46] According to Brian Chapman in his article “The Police-State”, such a state has been redefined since its original meaning; the original purpose of the police state was not to repress its citizens, but to create an “orderly and predictable government designed to bring about economic growth, as well as political expansion.”[47] With this definition pretty much any modern state might be considered a police state.

Over time, however, the term police state has had its meaning transformed until it took on the negative connotation that it has today. Probably one of the reasons why “police state” has the meaning it does today is because of Hitler’s Third Reich in which a police state got out of control. One of the ways this happens is when the powers of the police, which previously were balanced, assume the role of one of the main state authorities and is no longer subordinate. [48] Because of these developments the term “police state” has been redefined from the relatively benign meaning it held in the 18th and 19th century.  Brian Chapman states that when the term “police state” was coined it had a different, positive meaning. Today, as Chapman states, “Webster’s Third International Dictionary stigmatizes the Police State as follows: ‘A political unit (as a nation) characterized by repressive governmental control…usually by the arbitrary use of power by the police and especially the secret police in place of the regular operation administration and judicial organs…”[49] Chapman continues by saying that while the original police state may have been found oppressive by some, the oppression was not intentional and the government was constrained by laws and regulation.[50] The old and new definitions of a police state are immensely different and this study will focus on the current definition.

After personal observations and interviews with Moroccan residents, it has to be said that the modern definition of police state does not define present-day Morocco; however, the 18th and 19th century definition may. The common thread among the majority of the interviews that we conducted is that the police operate fairly and the residents have great confidence and trust in the police. In interviews, Moroccans provided evidence that the modern police state label does not apply to Morocco.

When deciding whether Morocco is a police state, it is important to know how the Moroccan police force is set up. Unlike police forces in the United States, where the main law enforcement is carried out on the local or state level, in Morocco, law enforcement is carried out by a national police force which is divided into two main divisions: the Direction Genérale de la Sureté Nationale (DGSN) which is the national civilian police force and is divided into 37 local districts and the Gendarmerie Royale which is a paramilitary force and mainly services the rural areas of Morocco. Meanwhile, the DGSN  mainly serves the urban areas.[51] Through interviews and observations, we also learned that there is a third branch which is known as the Tourist Police, which deals specifically with tourists and the problems encountered by tourists such as scams and pick-pocketing.[52]

One of the hallmarks and cornerstones of any police force is how much trust citizens have in them and the job they do. To begin any analysis of the Moroccan Police, one must begin with how the citizens feel about the police.  Throughout the interviews conducted with Moroccan citizens, they indicated high levels of confidence and trust in the police force. The common motif between the interviews was that the police were effective and fair. One of our interviewees in the city of Fes stated that even though there are places in the medina (the old city) that he did not visit at night, the police still do a good job and keep the city very safe.[53] In addition to this, during our tour of Marrakech, a citizen stated that the police were fair and strict in the enforcement of the law.[54] Our interviewee in Fes alluded to this as well.

The fact that the police act fairly and justly was a reoccurring motif in almost all of the interviews and continued to appear during an interview in the Atlas Mountains. This interview, however, did not deal with the police in general but rather, it ended up focusing specifically on the 20 February Movement. The interviewee stated that Moroccans were happy with how the police responded and when asked if excessive or unnecessary force was used, he stated that the police reacted reasonably. When asked if the police abused any of the protesters, he stated that the police allowed the peaceful protesters to demonstrate. There was a group, however, that he referred to as the “window-breakers” whom the police did not allow to demonstrate because they became violent and started to damage property. However, residents were happy that the police stopped and arrested these protesters as they were not acting peacefully.[55]

One of the more interesting findings that we came across in our interviews dealt with the issue of trust between officers and citizens. This issue presented itself when a member of our group was interviewing an individual, while sitting outside a Berber market in the Atlas Mountains. The line of questioning started off with how the rural residents interact with the police officers who generally come in from the city a few times a week, circumstances in which one might assume there would be some level of distrust. The interviewee, however, said that there is a large amount of trust between all citizens no matter where they come from or how they live. He stated that this is because of the fact that Islam is the only religion in Morocco, and the trust between all residents rests on the fact that virtually all Moroccans are Muslims. Upon further questioning, he stated that if there was a Christian or Jewish public servant, they would not be trusted because of the fact that they were not Muslims.[56] To back up this finding, an interviewee in the Rif Mountains, when questioned about distrust and discrimination, stated that there was very little if any such problem because of the fact that Islam unifies the whole of Morocco and “all” Moroccans are Muslims.[57]

This was an interesting finding because during a tour of the Hasan II Mosque it was said that the three balls on one of the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling represented the three main religions in Morocco: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  An interviewee stated that these three balls represented the tolerance that Morocco is known for.[58] What the two other interviewees in the Rif and Atlas Mountains said, though, contradicts this.  They said that the only reason  Morocco functions as it does, especially in regards to the police and their relationship with the public, is because Islam is pretty much the sole religion in Morocco. The fact that we were told by two other individuals that the public would distrust any police officer that is not a Muslim contradicts what our group was told in the Hasan II Mosque.  One explanation for this may be in the difference between a high-tourist area and the more isolated areas we visited in the country’s mountainous regions.

Through a discussion with an individual employed by the tourism industry, we learned that there were in fact female police officers, which was surprising considering our presumptions about Morocco’s Islamic culture. Through questioning, the interviewee stated that there were female officers and even went on to say that there were a large number.  The number of female officers, however, was later refuted by another source. Since we had not seen any female officers working the streets, we asked where the majority of them work, and the individual answered, stating that they were mostly undercover officers.[59] To better understand the situation that female officers face in Morocco, we questioned a woman in the Rif Mountains. She stated that there were some instances of disrespect by citizens, but that generally they are respected. When asked if internal discrimination towards females is prevalent in the Moroccan police force, she stated that she did not know. She did say, however, that she knew of a female police officer in Chefchaouen who had quit the force, but she did not know the reasons why.[60]

In addition to interviewing Moroccan citizens, we also had the opportunity to interview several foreign nationals who reside in Morocco. The interesting thing about these interviews is that they contradicted many things that we were told by the Moroccan citizens. The first foreign national spoke solely on the subject of the use of force by the police in his interview. He stated that the police all too often and most of the time too quickly resort to the use of violent force. When asked about the 20 February Movement, he stated that police did in fact use force against peaceful protesters, which contradicted what we had been told by another source. He also stated that this was not the only instance in which the police prematurely resorted to force and the reason the Moroccans told us what they did was because they either did not want to tell us the truth and speak out or because it was just normal for them.[61]  Another foreign national, this one residing in Fes, spoke about corruption in the Moroccan police force. He told us that a coffee shop that we had visited doubles as a hash bar.  It is owned by five brothers, two of whom are cops. The fact that two of the brothers are cops might be irrelevant. In this case, however, it is a well-known fact that alcohol and drugs are used and dealt fairly openly at this particular location. Because of this, the brothers who are police officers protect the brothers who operate the coffee shop and ensure no one bothers it. The foreign national in Fes also provided us with some stories about police being lenient on drugs, plus tales of police officers who were bought or bribed by smugglers.[62] This is not to suggest that all Moroccan police are corrupt or for sale, but just to provide another person’s observations and commentary on the Moroccan police, one that Moroccans might not have been willing to provide.

The differences in opinions between foreign nationals and Moroccan citizens regarding the police can be attributed to many different factors. The first could be that the Moroccans fear the police and will not speak ill of them in any circumstances. The second could be that what a person from a western first world would consider corruption or brutality could be considered normal for Moroccans. Another option is that the citizens that we talked to mostly worked in the tourism industry and would not talk badly or complain about their country to tourists. All of these are just speculation about the inconsistencies between the two groups that were interviewed, and to draw firmer conclusions would require more research.

Combining these interviews with our first-hand experience in Morocco, it was found that the country does not fit the criteria to be considered a police state. The citizens did not indicate that they were oppressed by the police or government and in fact were very positive about the direction their country, including their justice system, was heading. Even though the foreign nationals did not have very positive things to say about the police, they did not say that they police went out of their way to oppress anyone, just that there was corruption and brutality, both of which exist in the west, albeit to a lesser extent.  Further evidence that Morocco should not be considered a police state, by the modern definition, is the fact that it is a fairly reform-minded society.  As a result of the 20 February Movement and subsequent protests, the Moroccan government drafted a new constitution which the citizens then passed later that year.[63] Further disproving that Morocco is not a police state in the direst sense of the term is the fact that the government allowed the protesters to demonstrate without problems. While people like the “window-breakers” (to which one interviewee referred) were arrested, the peaceful protesters were allowed to demonstrate even though plain-clothed officers were mixed in with the crowd.[64]

What offsets the seeming tolerance of the Moroccan authorities, however, are incidents with people such as Mouad Belghouat who was jailed and sentenced to a year in prison for criticizing the police.[65] While the country is becoming more understanding of free speech protections, it still does not tolerate things such as Belghouat’s rap song which speaks to police corruption and speaks out against the authorities.[66]  In addition to being a rapper, Belghouat was a member of the 20 February Movement and has become a voice for the movement. Other evidence that points to Morocco  having police state characteristics is the fact that it intervened violently in some cases with the 20 February Movement to disperse the protesters.[67] However, if one were to prioritize the reports of ordinary citizens of Morocco over international organizations, they would hear that the police did not act improperly or use excessive violence in such protests.

Morocco is defined by many as a police state.  If one goes strictly by the definition of a police state, it might meet some of the criteria, but based on firsthand experience, Morocco does not earn the title. While it is true that the country has stumbled (such as the arrest of  Belghouat for criticizing the police), the residents have trust and respect in the police and the job they do. The interviewed Moroccan citizens did not feel as though the police overstepped their bounds and were very trusting and placed much faith in the way the police did their job. It seems that the only people who are critical of the police and the way they operate are foreigners living in and observing Morocco. Through research, interviews, and observations regarding the Moroccan criminal justice system, it is evident that there are some characteristics of a police state present but, ultimately, by modern standards, Morocco cannot be considered a police state. However, by the original definition one could consider it a polizeistaat.

Role of the Media

The tagline in an Al-Jazeera article reads that “[i]n the absence of reliable and impartial mainstream media, citizen journalism steps in to fill the void.”[68]  Moroccans are not guaranteed complete freedom of the press, and government censorship limits what information gets out to citizens as well as the world.  The internet, which is a protected source of free speech, allows for the “citizen journalists,” like the 20 February group, to post their beliefs and any information they see as being important for Moroccans to know about.  However, blogs and paper publications have been shut down or censured by the government, some websites have been blocked, and some journalists and bloggers have been “blacklisted” or arrested for violating what the Al-Jazeera article calls the “three red lines: Islam, the Western Sahara, and the monarchy.”[69]  What the article is referencing is the Press Law, which was established in 1958 to prevent the newspapers from defaming the king.[70]

Moroccans’ identities revolve around language, as it is a vital part of their culture, but under the monarchy language-related debate has been stifled.  Because of this, freedom of speech and freedom of the press were two of the many demands from the 20 February Movement.[71]  In an attempt to appease the protestors, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI addressed the issue of language in his speech about the proposed constitution stating, “…the draft Constitution provides for the promotion of all linguistic and cultural expressions in Morocco…”[72]

While the new Constitution does acknowledge the right to media freedom, ultimately it is still the king who makes the decision on what information is allowed to be published or broadcasted.  This discretionary power exists despite Article 28 of the Constitution of Morocco.  It reads:

“The freedom of the press is guaranteed and may not be limited by any form of prior censure. All have the right to express and to disseminate freely and within the sole limits expressly provided by the law, information, ideas and opinion.”[73]

Also, in Article 165, the king has the power to designate “The High Authority of Broadcasting [Haute autorité de la communication audiovisuelle]” to “see to the respect for pluralist expression of thecurrents of opinion and of thought and of the right to information, within thedomain of broadcasting and this, within respect for the fundamental values of civilization and for the laws of the Kingdom.”[74]  This means that the amount of information given to the Moroccan people is up to the authorities, not to the journalists.  This may be one explanation as to why the Press Law is still powerful today.

According to a profile done on Moroccan media, the government have a vested interest in Radio-Television Marocaine (RTM) and 2M, the two major television networks in the country.  Both are nationally owned, and RTM, as the name implies, also controls one of the country’s radio stations.  All other radio and television networks are privately owned, as are the majority of the newspapers.  Le Matin is the only newspaper that is owned by the government, and that is made quite obvious in the first section online called “A la une.”[75]  This section displays a slideshow of events where all but one showed images and stories regarding King Mohammed VI.[76]  If any of those articles had been negatively referring to the king, they would have been edited or removed.  The government, however, recently went one step further, invoking criminal law rather than media law against a man for writing about political corruption in Morocco’s government.  Rachid Nini, editor of the newspaper Al-Massae, was jailed in 2011 for one year.  Prior to that, two weekly newspapers were forced to shut down because of what they chose to publish.[77]  This is why in the past couple of years groups involved in the 20 February Movement and former Moroccan journalists have utilized Facebook, YouTube, and various blogs to ensure their uncensored writings might be seen by as many people as possible.[78]/[79]

Although King Mohammed VI has made constitutional changes that should ease the government’s grip on the media, not everyone is mollified, including journalists, the protestors from the 20 February Movement, and especially the Berber people.  In a recent article on, the Royal Institute of Cultural Alomazagh (IRCAM) was calling the government to task for not following through with Chapter V of the 2011 Constitution.[80] This article in the constitution stated that Tamazight, the Berber language, would be integrated into all aspects of the public sector, including such institutions as the justice system and healthcare.  IRCAM was also unhappy with the rate that Tamazight is being integrated into the media. [81]  For example, the radio currently has allotted times for each of the three Berber dialects on the air, but not for more than  half an hour each.[82]

It was in the 1960s that Arab-speakers started their modern repression of the Berber culture across North Africa by reducing the Berber radio station to four hours a day, banning the use of Berber names for children, and stopping many of the festivals and music performances.[83]  According to Brett and Fentress, their actions caused a “destabilization of the national sentiment,” which, until then, had been “strong” amongst the Berbers.[84] The final straw for the Amazigh came in 1980 when the University of Algiers cancelled a Berber poetry reading by Mouloud Mammeri.  This evoked one of the first Berber Springs.  The Amazigh Movement spread from Algeria to Morocco and Libya, and helped to prompt more Berber literature and poetry.[85]  In the mid-nineties, a group of men published an Amazigh journal called Tifinagh while another group outside of the capital, Rabat, began publishing Tifawt, or “Morning Light.”  Both journals aimed to revive the Berber language amongst the general public since Berber was a forgotten language outside of the Amazigh communities.  The publication of these journals, however, was eventually shut down.[86]

This was one of the many reasons why, in 2011, Morocco’s Berbers took to the streets protesting their cultural repression and continued near-invisibility to the government. They wanted economic stability, recognition as equals to the Arabs in the country, and, for their language to be recognized as a national language alongside Arabic.  This would be a step towards adding to press freedom and equality of information since many Berbers do not read, speak, or write in Arabic.[87]

While the Moroccan media is actually willing to broadcast information on potentially touchy or liberal subjects, including the Berber Movement and the Arab Spring, true freedom of the press is still not a reality.  The Berbers are still unrepresented in the media and the government has monopoly on the content of all state and privately owned media.  Though only time will tell, the Internet may be the future of Morocco’s media for those who wish to escape the king and his Press Law.

Women and Morocco 

Women’s rights and gender equality are hot button issues in many of today’s western countries and are also gaining some recognition in Islamic countries as well.  Morocco has undergone much reform through the Berber and Arab Springs of recent years.[88]  A topic under discussion during these events, which was not very well known by the rest of the world, was improving women’s rights.[89]  There have been few attempts for Moroccan women to organize support to gain more rights, but before turning to that, it is important to consider just what “women’s rights” can (and cannot) mean for a Muslim woman.

It is a common stereotype that Muslim women are typically seen as inferior to men.  This is true for Morocco, even as it is rightfully considered much more liberal than other countries such as Saudi Arabia or Algeria.  In numerous Islamic countries, women have less access to rights such as owning property.[90]  Focus especially falls on women without the right to choose whom they want to marry.  There is a concern that along with arranged marriages, there is a chance of becoming stuck in an abusive relationship.[91]  The greatest concern for women in Morocco has been gaining the ability to initiate a divorce rather than that right being reserved exclusively for men.  A man in Morocco can initiate a divorce in a much simpler manner than women are able.[92]  A man is able to divorce his wife on the grounds that she was not able to produce a male child, but women are required to give a more legitimate reason.[93]

While conducting an interview with one Moroccan woman, we learned some of the happenings within the country concerning women’s rights.  She told us that Morocco has made a lot of improvements for women’s rights and is providing more opportunities for women.  Some of the rights women have gained include the rights to get a divorce, to work outside of the home, and to pursue higher education.[94]  Typically girls do not attend school after finishing primary school, but in more urban areas this is changing.  Many women are venturing out and attending institutions of higher education so that they can have more opportunities in their lives.[95]

There is a huge concern about domestic violence in Morocco, and this is especially true more recent times.  In one story, a young woman was raped and was then forced to marry her rapist because she was considered to be impure since she lost her virginity before marriage.[96]  A Moroccan court issued an order for 16-year old Amina Filali to marry the man that violated her.  She ended up committing suicide over the situation and her attacker denied having done anything wrong. [97]  This caused a major uproar among the female population of the country and around the world.  Additionally, much scrutiny has come upon marriages in Morocco, and it has been found that in 2010 alone over 41,000 marriages involved a minor.[98]  Due to this information becoming public the attention has turned to an old French/Moroccan Clause in the country’s criminal code.  Clause 475 states that a man is allowed to marry a minor only if he is her abductor and she has agreed to run away with him.[99]  This clause is enacted to save the honor of the girl and her family and is known as the rapist’s escape clause.  It is viewed as a trap clause in the Moroccan penal code because it values the word of the rapist over that of the victim in regards to consent and all prosecution is avoided of the rapist and the victim gets married.[100]

Virginity is highly valued among Muslim women because it is considered desirable for marriage.  Muslim men want to marry a woman who is thereby considered “pure,” and there is even an entire purification ritual that women in Morocco have to undergo before their wedding ceremony.[101]  This desirable attribute for marriage essentially means that if a woman is no longer a virgin, then she is no longer eligible for marriage. Not being able to get married would make a woman unable to live on her own.  In the case of Filali, she was raped and then forced to marry her attacker because he took her virginity, so he was the only man that she was allowed to marry.[102]  Her suicide was a great cause for concern in Morocco because it brought a lot of attention from the media on the issues that women within Morocco face.

Many women also face instances of domestic violence in their marriages and have no way to leave.  They are completely dependent on their husbands, so they are unable to get out.  Unfortunately, there has not been much progress made within the realm of domestic violence against women since 1957. [103] A recent reform was made concerning rape in 2004, but the burden of proof for the victim is that she has to prove there was an attack or she will be charged with debauchery herself.[104]  The laws in Morocco are considered very outdated and very much against the recent Moroccan ideal of change and progress that came with the governmental reform of the 20 February Movement.

The 20 February Movement really was the stepping-stone that women’s rights groups needed to bring  public attention to their issues.  Women in Morocco have very different ideas of what rights they would like to gain when compared to western women.  The biggest concerns for women in Morocco are related to marriage or dealing with gaining rights for married women.[105]  Many married women are not allowed to work after they get married, so they become responsible for household duties such as cooking, cleaning, and raising children.[106]  It may seem strange to western women that it is not a priority in Morocco for women to gain the right to vote along with other such rights, but this is not what is important to Muslim women.  It is possible that one day Moroccan women will be fighting for those rights, but for now the focus is on gaining more recognition by the government to have their local issues be heard.

Because of the recent events in Morocco there has been a serious call for reforms in many aspects of life, but none so needed as women’s rights.  The women of Morocco have begun to stand up to the oppressive nature of the law and want the attitude towards women within the country to reach better standards.[107]  Filali was not the first woman to commit suicide rather than marry her rapist, and the fear is that she will not be the last until something is done to change the law.  Riding on the coattails of the 20 February Movement has seemed to give women’s rights advocates the push that they so desperately needed to gain more national and international attention of the severity of what really goes on behind closed doors.  The biggest concern now seems to be the resistance that may come from the now Islamist-led government of Morocco.  There have been reports saying that clause 475 will not be repealed just because of international attention and public opinion.[108]  This may come as a shock to many western people because in societies like the United States, most reforms pass due to public opinion.  That is not the way that Morocco is run, but it seems as though the present king may be attempting to change that.  Time can only tell if he will be successful and if conditions for women will get any better.

Moroccan Education 

While traveling in Morocco, we noticed how many people appreciate and value schools and education. Children walk for miles to go to school where they often learn two or three languages. It was only in 2007 that the nine-year basic education program became mandatory.  Before this national dictate was issued, many children received little or no schooling, perhaps the reason for only a fifty-six percent literacy rate.[109]  In a country with such a high illiteracy rate, education is very important. At least two of our guides were children before the education mandate was issued.  It was not uncommon for them to miss a few days out of the week during the planting or harvest season to assist their parents in the fields or manage the home, which is one reason why it is difficult for children in rural communities to obtain an education as good as those received by children in the cities.  Many parents often have to choose between risking starvation and supporting their children’s education. Imminent survival depending on a good harvest is more important than an education, even though it often leads to a less successful future.  One interviewee stated that while their teachers understood, it was still difficult to catch up on what they missed.  Though he did not seem to mind this, attributing it to just the way life goes and the fact that it is necessary for their families’ survival.[110]

Mandatory schooling is not welcomed by all; many parents disapprove and do not understand why school is necessary. They believe that their children will be farmers like them and do not view education, which most of them had not received themselves, as valuable.  To them it is more useful for them to learn trade skills, which are considered more practical.  Without proper encouragement, their children will not believe that their education is important and will not devote time and resources towards it. This attitude towards education could affect many generations and lead to a continuous cycle of poverty and illiteracy.  For example, we visited a Berber family who sustain themselves by selling ceramics and small-scale farming.  Pottery was a matriarchal skill that was passed down through generations.  It is currently being taught to the granddaughters, who are aged about six and nine.  Though we visited in the middle of the day, the eldest was not in school, presumably taken out to assist and charm our visiting group while we tried our hand at making pots.  This is not an uncommon practice throughout Morocco and is widely accepted.  Morocco has one of the highest child labor rates in the Middle East and North Africa.  Government statistics suggest that at least eleven percent of children aged 7-14 are involved in economic activity, which diverts their attention away from academic pursuits.[111]

Unfortunately, circumstances for children can be much worse than working alongside their family.  Between 10,000 and 14,000 children, both Berber and Arab, live on the city streets, having left their families because of abusive or unavailable financial support.  The only education they have is the little they received before they left their homes.  Without any practical skills or basic schooling, they do menial labor or are reduced to begging.  Though many claim to be happier on the streets than they were in their prior lives, they face many hardships.  They commonly fall into bad habits, such as smoking or sniffing glue and sleeping on benches in public gardens or in the streets.  Politicians, rather than advocating their cause, exploit them in their political campaigns.  The government has initiated a number of projects to address the issue, but they have a low success rate because of insufficient money and trained staff, a common tendency for children’s developmental aid.[112]

One solution for child labor in Morocco is improving education and giving children more opportunities to learn. The United States Department of Labor funded the Combating Child Labor through Education in Morocco (Dima-Adros) Project from September 2007 to October 2010. The United States gave three million dollars to the project, and “the goal of Dima-Adros was to reduce the incidence of exploitive child labor in Morocco by withdrawing or preventing 8,000 children from engaging in exploitive child labor and providing them with educational opportunities.”[113] The project was implemented mainly in northern Morocco and involved tutoring, providing transportation to school, and vocational training. By October 2010, Dima-Adros exceeded its goal by withdrawing and preventing of total of 8,274 children from child labor.[114]  More than half of the helped children were girls, and the project helped to change some of the attitudes towards child labor among parents. The Combating Child Labor through Education in Morocco Project was successful in its ambitions, but Morocco still has many children who lack an education and work in dangerous conditions.

In some rural areas, such as the Zawiya Ahansal region of the Central High Atlas Mountains, the education system is nearly non-existent. Due to the remoteness of the area, very little developmental aid has been given by the government.[115]  The few schools available are in a deplorable state and nearly one-hundred percent of women are illiterate, preventing them from participating within the modern market. Unfortunately, “many children—particularly girls in rural areas—do not attend school, and most of those who do drop out after elementary school.”  An elementary school education does not often lead to a successful and promising life.  In the past, rural children were educated in the mosque, where the fqih focused on religious instruction and rudimentary mathematics, which were thought to be necessary for village life.  However, it has become apparent that there will not be enough land to support the upcoming generation. Many will have to move to the cities to seek employment and will require new skills to join the urban workforce.[116]

Today the country schools are constructed by the local men of the village, but the children struggle to learn due to multiple factors.  The government sends basic school supplies and a teacher to each schoolhouse.  However, a disconnect between the needs of the village and the plans of the government often appears.  It is very difficult for Berber children who oftentimes are taught by a teacher who only speaks Arabic and French, and the teacher is often completely unintelligible to the children and their parents. Many teachers’ “attempts to conduct class were hampered by an absolute inability of most of the students to understand anything” they were saying.  The teacher usually finds it very difficult to teach the children Arabic script, especially with the books that the government provides, which are designed for urban children and show pictures of things that the children cannot identify, such as stoplights and refrigerators. This becomes frustrating for both parties, resulting in a high truancy rate and the schoolteacher cancelling or shortening the school day.[117] Examples like this are typical across the countryside.  One Moroccan man experienced something similar to this in first grade.  His teacher was monolingual and ineffective at teaching him Arabic or any other basic curriculum.  The schoolbooks he was given were confusing and ineffective.  Without much hope of learning, he and his peers would entertain themselves throughout the day by making fun of the teacher in Tamazight, which she could not understand.  Perhaps realizing the fruitlessness of her efforts, the schoolteacher quit and went back to the city and he and the other students were without a teacher for a few months.[118]

With the country filled with diverse tongues, Tamazight is still a barrier between some Berbers and Arabs, as shown with the schoolchildren and the teacher.  After the 20 February Movement, the king “included a constitutional amendment to make the Berber language, Tamazight, an official language alongside Arabic.” However, when Rayssa Fatima Tabaamran asked the Minister of National Education, Mohammed al Wafa, a question in her native Berber tongue, the minister was baffled, unable to understand her language.  Perhaps embarrassed, he later countered that the government has devoted many resources and infrastructures to teach Tamazight throughout the country. [119]

Morocco promised to allow the Berbers the freedom to use Tamazight in schools in 1994.  However, it was not until September 15, 2003 that the language was introduced to 317 primary schools across the country on a trial basis, with the promise that it would be a part of the curriculum in all schools by 2013.[120]  There has, in fact, been a significant effort on behalf of the government.  Over 454,000 students were taught a dialect of Berber in 4,000 schools, a total of fifteen percent of students.  They are taught by 14,000 teachers, who are in turn monitored by 300 inspectors.[121] Multiple Moroccan Berbers stated that the Berber language and writing was now being taught in schools, which should be very helpful for Berber students and for people who want to learn about the Berbers. Now that Tamazight is being taught, there could be more teachers in the future who speak and understand it and Berber children could be taught in their first language.[122]

Although this gives Moroccans hope, the call for educational reform has not been completely answered.  Out of the fourteen countries in the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa), Morocco is ranked eleventh, spending an average of $525 per student per year.  Comparatively, Tunisia spends $700, and has found that improving the education system over the past twenty years has been worth the investment, both socially and economically.  Proper schooling for the population expands the middle class, which currently comprises of only fifty-three percent of Moroccans, and shrinks the lower class, that is thirty-four percent of the remaining population.[123]  Further evidence of the governmental intervention has been challenging to find.  Though the Moroccan government has become progressively more liberal since Mohammed VI ascended the throne, especially in comparison to other Islamic countries, the lack of available documentation makes it difficult to tell how many resources have been devoted to educational reform.

On the other hand, the private sector has begun to follow the king’s initiative.  The Banque Marocaine du Commerce Exterieur (BMCE Bank) Foundation, led by Othman Benjelloun, chairman and CEO, established the Project in 2000.  The charity establishes schools in remote villages across the country, supplying each with power, water, and teachers.  Each teacher is professionally trained and speaks the local language, whether Arabic or Tamazight, in addition to French.                These schools are also instrumental to community development.  After classes, the classrooms are teeming with local villagers.  The schools offer a meeting place for village meetings and businesses as well as adult education and training, in an attempt to address Morocco’s high illiteracy rate.[124] Local villages are vital to the life of any school.  The actual school is typically built by local laborers on donated village land in the center of the town.  The building uses the customary architectural style and building materials, echoing local traditions.  The foundation is attempting to integrate education into the villagers’ lives by incorporating their voices and heritage in decisions.  According to a BMCE Bank Foundation representative, the goal is to “finish the work and give [them] the keys, because these are [their] walls, [their] land, and [their] children.”  As of 2004, five local management committees have been established.[125]  By 2004, the foundation had committed $15 million for rural schools and their communities, starting fifty-five schools are spread over thirty of Morocco’s provinces.  There were 6,539 primary and pre-school students enrolled and over 5,000 adults had taken advantage of the offered literacy training.[126]  The quality of education has improved, in part because of the introduction of teachers who speak the regional language or dialect.  Two students from schools won first and third place in the National Tifinagh 2012 Olympics.  The effort of the private sector has given rural Moroccans hope.  These new endeavors are especially encouraging for the Berbers, whose culture has been repressed in the past, but now, as expressed by Leila Mezian Benjelloun, former member of the Board of Royal Institute of the Amazigh Culture, “Now we can all congratulate ourselves for having finally found the path that will lead to a better future.  Now, all Moroccans can learn the Amazigh language as they learn the Arabic language, and appropriate history, civilization, and culture Amazight.”[127]


The 20 February Movement was Morocco’s version of the Arab Spring, and through careful organization and a motivated youth, the country pulled off one of the more peaceful of the Arab Springs in a troubled region.  The outcome of such a monumental event affected the country in many ways: economically, politically, and through education and women’s rights.  Media played a major role in organizing the event, and the Moroccan police, unlike other countries’ police and military, allowed the citizens to protest and air some of their grievances.  However, through both our research and our short time in the country we know that Morocco is still a long way from being everything the Moroccan youth, or the Berber participants, want it to be.

Our time in Morocco changed many of the preconceived notions of what we believed we would find in a country with economic issues, a new constitution, and a group fighting for recognition within the country.  Where we may have expected to find disdain for the king, we found only praise for the monarch and what he tried to do.  Many of those we talked to were satisfied with the changes that had been made to the country and had hope for a better future.  Some even worried at the pace of change, thinking it was already too rapid.  Even though our purpose was to collect information regarding the 20 February Movement, we came away with so much more in terms of the history between the Berbers and Arabs, their current feelings towards one another, the divide of opinions between the older generations and the younger generations in Morocco, and how the country is handling change. 

[1] Person E, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall. May 20, 2012.

[2] Person D, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall, May 17, 2012.

[3] Emma Schwartz, “Morocco’s Berbers Reclaim their Language and their Indigenous Culture” USNews (2008); available from; accessed November 19,  2012.

[4] U.S., Library of Congress, Country Profile: Morocco, Federal Research Division (2006); available from; accessed 8 June 2012.

[5] Ibid., accessed 8 June 2012.

[6] Lisa Abend, “Reforming Morocco: Taking Apart the King’s Speech” Time World (March 2011);,8599,2058141,00.html; accessed 8 June 2012.

[7] Ibid.,  accessed 8 June 2012.

[8] Person D, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall,  May 16, 2012.

[9] Michael Peyron Ph.D, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall, May 21, 2012.

[10] “Morocco,” New York Times, last modified December 10, 2012; available from; accessed June 8, 2012.

[11] Person D, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall, May 17, 2012. Confirmed in some of the articles amassed by HIST 483 students..

[12] Schwartz, “Morocco’s Berbers Reclaim their Language and their Indigenous Culture”

[13] Person E, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall. May 20, 2012.

[14] Siham Ali, “Morocco Faces Criticism Over Anti-Corruption Efforts” All Africa (2012); available from; accessed November 19, 2012.

[15] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Morocco (2012); available from; accessed June 9, 2012.

[16] The World Bank, “Morocco: Country Brief” (April 2012); available from; accessed June 9, 2012.

[17] Person J, individual discussion with Gilbert Hall, May 19, 2012.

[18] Al Jazeera, “Moroccans Burn Selves in Unemployment Protest,” January 20, 2012; available from; accessed June 9, 2012.

[19] David Crawford, “How ‘Berber’ Matters in the Middle of Nowhere,” in The Amazigh Studies Reader (Ifrane: al-Akhawayn University, 2006), 285-297. Crawford gives a full account of the continuing Arabic influence on native Moroccan Berbers since their Islamization.  Berbers, or “Maghrebi” have endured some isolation because of their inability to read and write Arabic in the past.

[20] Al Jazeera, “Mass anti-government protest in Morocco,” May 28, 2012; available from; accessed June 7, 2012. This article detailed a very recent protest against the Moroccan government.  Angered citizens (mostly young people aged 18-29) continue to petition their government for change, even sixteen months after their initial “20 February Movement.” Many young people boycotted voting in the last election, but that still does not stop them from demanding new government officials.

[21] Person F, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, May 2012.

[22] Maati Monjib and James Liddell, “Morocco’s King Mohammed VI: 10 Years and Counting,” Brookings, last modified August 5, 2009; available from; accessed June 7, 2012. Monjib and Liddell praise Mohammed VI for his work at expanding the free press and guaranteeing Moroccans the freedom of association.  Thanks to the king’s dedication to personal liberties, Morocco is much closer to being an open, democratically ruled and prosperous society.

[23] Person B, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, October 2012.

[24] The Economist, “Morocco’s Monarchy: Reform or Fall,” April 20, 2011; available from The king discussed better reforms at first, but within weeks he had changed his mind.  He agreed to a much more radical change of the government’s structure, and much more recognition for Berbers as Moroccan citizens.

[25] Ibid., The attitudes between leaders and protesters have evolved over time.  The two groups are more apt to suspect one another, with prosecutions taking place on some occasions.

[26] U.S. Department of State, “Background Note: Morocco,” Bureau of Near East Affairs (2012); available from; accessed May 9, 2012. This customary title for Morocco’s king places the king as a spiritual leader over all his constituents, or subjects.  He is considered a religious authority as royalty; he is also highly honored as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad as well.

[27] Person F, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, May 2012.

[28] Person A, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, May 2012.

[29] Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook: Morocco. Shariah law is the Islamic family code of law.  While Morocco abides by shariah law, they interpret it very moderately.  They also use elements of French civil law to fill in the cultural and generational gaps in the religious law.

[30] U.S. Department of State, “Background Note: Morocco.” These ‘absolutist’ powers are still enjoyed by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI.  His royal decree can bring about whatever course of action he desires, if he so chooses to enact it.  Many government officials that were formerly chosen by royal appointment are now elected by popular vote, but the king still has the ultimate say over who stays in his service and who is let go.

[31] Person H, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, May 2012

[32] “Mass anti-government protest in Morocco.” This “nearly fifty percent” statistic is likely exaggerated, but there are certainly young people leaving universities that have no job opportunities.  Obviously, these educated men and women feel cheated of the standard of living they worked to earn.

[33] “Moroccans burn selves in unemployment protest,” (Accessed May 11, 2012). This statistic of thirty percent unemployment among young adults is much more plausible than “nearly half.”

[34] Person D, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, May 2012.

[35] “Morocco’s Monarchy: Reform or Fall.” The Economist warns of the possibly impending doom if demonstrators’ anger continues to mount in Rabat.  The most freedom hungry citizens have not been pacified by any reforms carried out by the king, his administration, or the elected members of Parliament.

[36] Fouad Oujani, “The sacred king,” Emaj Magazine, March 14, 2012; available from; accessed June 8, 2012. Mohammed VI was accused of making hasty reforms to “buy time” and continue to preserve his dynasty.

[37] “How Many #Feb20 Movements Are There Morocco? We’ve got a list,” Moroccans For Change, March 31, 2011; available from;  accessed June 7, 2012. This site’s creators encouraged all their fellow countrymen and women to stand up for their freedom.  They encouraged opposing groups to continue on their opposing paths, as long as they were challenging the government’s longstanding opposition of individual liberties.

[38] Jamal Elabiad, “What Will Happen if Moroccans Take to the Streets?” Talk Morocco, accessed June 9, 2012, articles/2011/02/what-will-happen-if-moroccans-take-to-the-streets/. Elabiad correctly predicted that the Moroccan administration in Rabat would have to plan strategically to stay alive in the political scene.

[39] Person C, individual discussion with Ashley McGee, May 2012

[40] Ibid.

[41] “Morocco’s Monarchy: Reform or Fall.” This held true with every person encountered in Morocco, whether young or old, male or female.  Demographics did not seem to matter.  The Moroccan people simply respect the persona of their monarch.

[42] Oujani, “The sacred king.” It seems to be the societal consensus that a right ruling monarch is deserving of honor and respect. His prophetic heritage always continues to play a leading role, as well.

[43] BBC News, “Q&A: Morocco’s referendum on reform,” last modified June 29, 2011; available from Referring to the monarch as sacred infuriated activists; it elevated his social status so high above his subjects’. I am not speaking of material things when I say he was formerly a golden calf, untouchable by law or statute.

[44] Ibid., While this language might seem like an improvement on the surface, it does not change the legality of the matter.  The king remains technically above the law, because no one can actually legally oppose his wishes or commands.

[45] Oujani, “The sacred king.” This was not just a revolt against flowery language describing the king; it was religiously and socially charged as well.  Obviously, no one is truly sacred or inviolable within Islam save for god and his prophet, Muhammad.  This gave the people even more moral grounds to object to the king’s privileged status.

[46] Brian Chapman, “The Police-State.” Government and Opposition, 3, No. 4 (1968), 428-440.

[47] Ibid., 431.

[48] Ibid., 438-439.

[49] Chapman, “The Police-State,” 431.

[50]Ibid., 431-32.

[51] U.S., Library of Congress, Country Profile: Morocco, accessed 8 June 2012.

[52] Person A, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 16 May 2012

[53] Person C, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 22 May 2012.

[54] Person D, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 15 May 2012.

[55] Person A, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 16 May 2012.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Person E, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 24 May 2012.

[58] Person E, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 13 May 2012.

[59] Person B, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 19 May 2012.

[60] Person E, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 24 May 2012.

[61] Michael Peyron, Ph.D, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 21 May 2012.

[62] Person G, individual discussion with Charlie Vancampen, 22 May 2012.

[63] U.S. Department of State.  “Background Note: Morocco,” September 11, 2012, available from (Accessed May 9, 2012).

[64] “Morocco: Reform on the way?” Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural, 48, no. 2 (2011).

66 “Morocco: Prison for Rapper Who Criticized Police,” Human Rights Watch, last modified May 22 2012, /news/ 2012/05/12/morocco-prison-rapper-who-criticized-police (Accessed June 9, 2012)

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Jillian C. York, “Morocco’s uphill struggle for media reform: In the absence of reliable and impartial mainstream media, citizen journalism steps in to fill the void,” Al Jazeera, 5 June 2011. (Accessed 7 June 2012).

[69] Ibid.

[70] Safi Naciri, “Media law in Morocco discussed at MDI Round Table Debate,” Media Diversity Institute, 2 March 2012. (Accessed 1 November 2012).

[71] Kristen McTighe, “Moroccan Youth Demands Action, Not Words,” The New York Times, 2011;; Internet; accessed 8 May 2012.

[72] “King Mohammed VI Speech on Proposed Constitution 6/17/11 (full text),” Moroccans for Change, June 17, 20122; -constitution-61711-full-text-feb20-khitab (Accessed 1 November 2012).

[73] Draft of Moroccan Constitution, Jefri J. Ruchti, trans., 10 William S. Hein & Co., Inc.; morocco_eng.pdf (Accessed 7 June 2012).

[74] Ibid., 38.

[75]“Morocco Profile,” BBC News, 22 August 2012. (Accessed 1 November 2012).

[76] Le Matin, (Accessed 12 November 2012).

[77] “Freed Moroccan journalist remains defiant,” Al Jazeera, 28 April 2012. 20124281889790655.html (Accessed 1 November 2012).

[78]McTighe, “Moroccan Youth.”

[79] Hasna Ankal, “Aboubakr Jamai: ‘Morocco is a country worth following,’” Emaj Magazine, 25 July 2012. (Accessed 1 November 2012).

[80] “IRCAM Corresponds with the Government on a vision for the institutionalization of the Amazigh,” Hespress, 2012; (Accessed 7 June 2012), trans. by Google Translate.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Michael Peyron, Ph.D., individual discussion without Amanda Tharp, May 21, 2012.

[83] Ibid.

[84] Michael Brett & Elizabeth Fentress, The Berbers (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1997), 274.

[85] Ibid., 1.

[86] Michael Peyron, Ph.D., individual discussion without Amanda Tharp, May 21, 2012.

[87] Paul Schemm, “A year on, Morocco’s democracy movement founders,” The Guardian, 2012; 10100697 (Accessed 8 May 2012).

[88] Paul Schemm, “North Africa’s Berbers get boost from Arab Spring,” Fox News, (Accessed 22 December 2012).

[89] Kerry Hill, “Moroccan pioneer in women’s rights to speak on aftermath of Arab Spring,” University of Wisconsin-Madison, (Accessed 22 December 2012).

[90] Harold D. Nelson, Morocco: A Country Study (Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 1985), 75.

[91] Fatima Outaleb, “Women’s Rights in Morocco: from private to public sphere,” Common Ground News Service,; Internet; accessed 26 December 2012.

[92] Nelson, Morocco, 75.

[93] Ibid., 76.

[94] Person E, individual discussion with Jamie Leeuwrik, 24 May 2012.

[95] Ibid.

[96] Delia Lloyd, “Marrying Your Rapist: a new low in women’s rights in Morocco,” The Washington Post, blogs/she-the-people/post/marrying-your-rapist-a-new-low-in-womens-rights-in-morocco/2012/03/19/gIQAEC27RS_blog.html (Accessed 27 December 2012.

[97] Afua Hirsch, “Moroccan Teenager’s Death Puts Focus on Women’s Rights,” The Guardian, moroccan-teenager-death-women-rights (Accessed 19 February 2013).

[98] Ibid.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Nelson, Morocco, 75.

[102] Lloyd, “Marrying your rapist.”

[103] Outaleb, “Women’s Rights in Morocco.”

[104] Lloyd, “Marrying your rapist.”

[105] Driss Benmhend, “Women’s Rights in Morocco,” Wafin: Moroccan Connections in America, (Accessed 28 December 2012).

[106] Nelson, Morocco, 75.

[107] Hirsch, “Moroccan Teenager’s Death Puts Focus on Women’s Rights.”

[108] Ibid.

[109]“UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning,” Innovative Literacy and Post-literacy Project: Means of Socio-economic Empowerment and Integration for Women in Morocco,” last modified 30 June 2011,; (Accessed 11 November 2012).

[110] Person B, individual discussion with Kasey Dye, 20 May 2012.

[111] “What Changes?,” Moroccans For Change (Accessed 8 June 2012).

[112]“Nobody’s Constituency,” Al Jazeera English, last modified 9 September 2007, 2007/09/2008525184652704902.html (Accessed 9 June 2012).

[113] “Independent Final Evaluation of Combating Child Labor Through Education in Morocco (Project Dima-Adros),” The United States Department of Labor, 11.

[114] Ibid.

[115] Erickson Creative Group, “Library for 10,000 Moroccans,” Global Giving, last modified 2007, (Accessed 8 June 2012).

[116]David Crawford,  “How ‘Berber’ Matters in the Middle of Nowhere,” The Amazigh Studies Reader,  ed. Michael Peyron (Ifrane: al-Akhawayn University, 2006), 290.

[117] Ibid., 291.

[118] Person B, individual discussion with Jenny Nehrt, 19 May 2012.


[120] “Tamazight (Berber) Online Resources,” Temehu, Berber Education: Tamazight Universities, Schools, Courses & Online Resources, last modified 2012, zighen/education.htm (Accessed 7 November 2012).

[121]  Loubna Flah, “Morocco: MP Addresses Minister of National Education in Tamazight During Parliamentary Session,” Morocco World News, last modified 4 May 2012, (Accessed 8 June 2012).

[122] Global Giving Matters, “—Bringing schools and community development to rural Morocco,” last modified March 2004, (Accessed 27 November 2012).

[123]The Moroccan Educational System and the Middle Classes,” Institut Amadeus, last modified 3 June 2012, publications/the-moroccan-middle-class/89-le-systeme-educatif-marocain-et-les-classes-moyennes.html (Accessed 8 June 2012).

[124] Global Giving Matters, “”

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid.

[127]Jihane Gattioui, “L’IRCAM décerne son grand prix du mérite à Leïla Mezian Benjelloun,” La Matin, 15 November 2012,–a-Leila-Mezian-Benjelloun/174121.html (Accessed 27 November 2012).


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