Morocco after the Arab Spring

Rebellion in the Rif

The cultivation, trade and smuggling of hashish constitute the main source of wealth in the Rif, along the northern coast. It is one of the most disadvantaged regions of Morocco and is distinguished culturally by its Amazighness and politically by its history of rebellion and repeated state oppression.

In October 2016, a new popular movement, the Hirak al-Rif, emerged there following the death of Mouhcine Fikri, a fishmonger in Al Hoceima, the main town in the region. He had tried to recover from the back of a garbage truck the fish that the police had confiscated from him. He was crushed to death when the compaction mechanism was activated. This was recorded and posted on social media. There were street protests that evolved into a grassroots movement.

Its most prominent leader was Nasser Zefzafi, son of a former USFP activist and great-grandson of a minister in the government of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi in the 1920s. In May 2017, Zefzafi was arrested and taken from Al Hoceima to Casablanca, and charged with “threatening national security”. Others were subsequently arrested, and there were other demonstrations in the Rif in which the old Rif flag was raised alongside the modern Amazigh flag. Al-Hirak is distinguished from the February 20 Movement in Morocco’s main cities by a much more focused set of demands, a more stable framework, a defined local identity and, in Zefzafi, a recognizable leader.

About Wesley V. Finley

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