Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy & Ken Loach join international call to free political prisoners in Morocco

3 November 2017 - 11:15am
Press release

A year after the tragic death of a fishmonger sparked the rise of the popular social justice movement, Hirak in northern Morocco, over 200 intellectuals join European MPs, academics, trade unionists and public figures from across the globe to petition the Moroccan government to release hundreds of political prisoners. 

On 28 October 2016, a fishmonger named Mohcine Fikri was crushed to death by a garbage truck while trying to retrieve merchandise confiscated from him by local authorities. From that moment, Hirak started to spread across northern Morocco, organising unprecedented peaceful demonstrations of tens of thousands people demanding social justice, the right to local development and an end to militarisation in the region. 

Hirak has faced fierce state repression which has been highlighted by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, with Amnesty documenting reports of “ill-treatment in custody including being heavily beaten, suffocated, stripped naked, threatened with rape and insulted by police, sometimes to force them to ‘confess’”.

On 20 July, 22-year-old Imad Al Attabi became the first person to die from injuries sustained during a Hirak demonstration. A new wave of political arrests and torture began in May 2017. Today, the Hirak accounts for over 300 political prisoners including 15 minors and 7 journalists arrested in the course of their duties. This call for international solidarity is a Moroccan campaign initiated by the committee of support for the political prisoners in Casablanca during a month long hunger strike by prisoners that began on 9 September.

From the UK, signatories to the petition include filmmaker Ken Loach, the rapper Lowkey, general secretaries of a number of national trade unions and a range of academics including Gilbert Achcar, as well as War on Want’s executive director, Asad Rehman. 

Soraya El Kahlaoui, the coordinator of the committee of support for the political prisoners in Casablanca, said: “With ongoing trials, the international solidarity campaign is of paramount importance. It is urgent to put pressure on the Moroccan state to demand the release of all political prisoners from the Hirak.”

Hamza Hamouchene, War on Want’s senior programme officer (North Africa and West Asia) said: “Since 2011, Morocco has not witnessed a popular movement of such scale and longevity. In fact, the Hirak in the Rif has been protesting in the streets for more than a year, advancing legitimate demands of social justice, accountability, the right to local development and the end of repression and militarisation in their region. We at War on Want, stand with the struggle of the Riffian people and demand the immediate release of all political prisoners.”

Hamza is available for interviews and comment on request. 

Press Contacts

Marienna Pope-Weidemann, Press & Communications Officer, War on Want 

mweidemann@waronwant.org 

Hamza Hamouchene hhamouchene@waronwant.org 

Notes to Editors

The Moroccan authorities are restricting the rights to freedom of expression, demonstration and association. Recently, there have been prosecuting journalists and human rights defenders. Furthermore, since the beginning the protests, Moroccan authorities deployed a huge number of polices forces and army in Rif, what the Riffians call militarisation. Moroccan authorities restricted the rights to inhabitants of the Rif to demonstrate and to gather in public spaces. Today, the trials of Hirak members is still ongoing, leaders of the Hirak faces heavy charges such as jeopardising state’s security, receiving foreign funding and so on, sentences could go up the death penalty. 

Read more about Morocco: http://www.waronwant.org/resources/north-africa-and-west-asia-voices-res...

About War on Want

War on Want is a membership organisation of people who are committed to social justice. War on Want’s vision is a world free from poverty and oppression, based on social justice, equality and human rights for all. War on Want works in partnership with grassroots social movements, trade unions and workers’ organisations to empower people to fight for their rights. It runs hard-hitting popular campaigns against the root causes of poverty and human rights violation.

About the Committee of Support for the Political Prisoners

The Committee of Support for the Political Prisoners of Hirak [Casablanca] is a collective independent of all political organisations, unions, and associations. It is comprised of militants from different political, associative and union horizons and who defend the cause of political prisoners, and who stand against the criminalisation of social movements. 

About Our Spokespeople 

Hamza Hamouchene is War on Want’s Senior International Programmes Officer for North Africa and West Asia. He visited Hirak representatives in the Rif last year and is working with Fayrouz Yousfi, a Moroccan activist based in London who has been following and commenting on the ongoing social mobilisations in the Rif. Both are available for interviews and comment on request. 

 

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