May 17th, 2008
Re: Massive arrests and jail terms for Amazigh activists in Morocco
Dear Human Rights Watch,
For more than a year, so many Amazigh towns and villages of Morocco have been the theater of demonstrations by university and high school students. It all started in the spring of 2007 during the commemoration of the Amazigh spring (Tafsut Imazighen) which is observed by many Amazigh regions across North Africa. Following or during many of these demonstrations violence erupted between “Arabist” students or Arabic speaking individuals outside to the universities. These were opposed to the demonstrations and expressed themselves by attacking the Amazigh students. Very peculiar to the events is the fact that the police provided cover to the attackers and arrested the Amazigh students instead.
For example, according to eyewitnesses in Taza, large numbers of individuals outside of the university entered the campus, took part in removing announcements by the Amazigh student organization and attacked violently the Amazigh students. In other instances they burned Amazigh flags and forced students entering the university to walk over it. Later they organized themselves into mobs that attacked Amazigh students who had to defend themselves. Their dormitory rooms were raided and many of their belongings stolen. The police generally showed up only to arrest Amazigh students and never bothered anyone else.
The Amazigh Movement supported by many Amazigh associations is convinced that this was a setup carried out by the security forces to draw them into a violent conflict, and then have them arrested. Some Amazigh activists claim it could not be anything but a conspiracy because the security forces brought in ambulances prior to any violence taking place and the police often watched when the Arabist students attacked. They also pointed to the coordinated aspect of the events as this happened at several universities nearly at the same time.
The Amazigh Movement formed a committee to support the imprisoned students and organized marches and protests throughout the country. High school students joined in by organizing protests and showing their discontent by burning the Moroccan flag.
These events bear a striking resemblance to attacks that occurred in the 80’s among Amazigh students and Islamist students in various universities in Algeria. At the time, the Algerian police stood by watching as the Islamists attacked many students. That is when they killed Kamal Amzal in Ben-Aknoun. It also brings flashbacks from the June 14th 2001 march by the Kabyl Citizen’s Movement (Aarch Movement) when the Algiers police hired local street gangs to attack the demonstrators (see photo). It is not at all surprising that similar events take place in Morocco a few years after they take place in Algeria. We know now that the Moroccan authorities observe the Algerian strategy against the Amazigh Movement and replicate it in all cases where it has born fruit.
Arrests, violence, and now jail terms is the lot of many young Amazigh students. In Agadir three students were sentenced to jail terms. Tens of students were arrested. The police showed up at their homes after the demonstrations. In Meknes ten students are awaiting trial with no hope for justice. Many students complained of ill treatment by the police (beatings, sexual humiliation, and some cases torture).
In Boumalne Dades, ten young people were arrested and tried. Among them a minor. Together they received a total sentence of 34 years in prison. All of this for demonstrating against the marginalization of their region (lack of infrastructure, neglect etc.). Oudali Younès was sentenced to 6 years in prison. Oubali Houssain, Atil Mostafa, Elouardi Mostafa, Aït Saïd Brahim, Chaouki Mimoun and Charif Abdenacer were sentenced each to 4 years in prison. Adjik Noureddine received 2 years; Orouzane Brahim and Aït Hssein Moha were each sentenced to a year in prison. They were accused of unauthorized gatherings, civil disobedience, burning of the national flag, and destruction of state property and humiliation of state officials.
What more, all of these students had a very hard time finding a lawyer to defend them? Nearly all of the Amazigh regions were affected and this only increased the number of demonstrations spiraling into more arrests and prison sentences.
More than ever, the Amazighs are not wanted in their own land. They are tolerated only if they accept to forget who they are. In the meantime, the demonstrations in support of the Palestinian people are funded and organized by the government itself, while Tamazgha’s own original people are trampled, jailed, and yes… eliminated. Because, the Amazigh movement has always been a peaceful one, the authorities resorted to manipulation to bring about the right circumstances and conduct massive arrests, and thus repress the Amazigh movement and silence it once and for all.
The question we ask at the Amazigh Cultural Association in America is why doesn’t Human Rights Watch say anything about all this? We would like to know what your position is on this. Have you investigated these events and what has your research yielded? Have the Moroccan Human Rights organizations contacted you about the ill treatments, the unjust arrests and trials?
Whatever the case may be, we would like to know why you are not speaking up about the Human Rights violations in the case of the Amazigh activists of Morocco.
Hsen Larbi, President
ACAA writes to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch about Moroccan Crackdown on the Amazigh People
May 17th, 2008
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