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Morocco: A Personal Tale of Protest

This post is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests 2011.

Since February 20, 2011, Moroccan activists have been campaigning to demand democratic reforms in their country. The February 20 Movement was born on the Internet and quickly became a mobilizing force on the ground. Across the country, committees affiliated with the movement (or “coordinations”) have been listening to the people and translating their grievances into formal demands and slogans regularly chanted during marches conducted every Sunday.

In an attempt to quell protests, the regime concocted a constitutional reform ostensibly presented as a bid to reduce the powers of the absolute monarchy. The reform was overwhelmingly passed in a referendum held on 1 July. Activists have been protesting against the proposals, which they feel do not go far enough. They also denounce what they say was an unbalanced referendum campaign.

Stamping out pro-democracy?

Casablanca protest, May 15, 2011. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0).

Casablanca protest, May 15, 2011. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0).

Beyond the controversy surrounding the draft constitution, observers believe the regime is now trying to stamp out the pro-democracy movement by denying it access to public media and conducting a smear campaign against it.

The movement primarily uses the Internet to explain its position and its ideas. Promotional video campaigns, news releases, press conferences are organized by the movement every now and then in an attempt to communicate with the public and keep the February 20 Movement going and its voice heard. But sometimes it is the personal story of its own militants that impacts the wider public more starkly.

The personal account of Younes Loukili, a young sociologist and supporter of the movement, is a prime example. Younes wrote a moving letter that he shared via the Internet, in which he explained his background and how he went from being a skeptic of the movement to one of its staunch supporters. The document spread like wildfire in the Moroccan blogosphere and was quickly echoed by several platforms including the militant group blog Mamfakinch! [ar].

Younes writes:

قبل خمسة أشهر لم أكن مساندا لعشرين فبراير رغم حضوري يومئذ في ساحة الحمام بالبيضاء كمشاهد مهتم بقضايا الوطن والتغيير، كما يُلزمه تخصصه العلمي بمتابعة أحداث المجتمع والناس.

حينها، عاتبني شخصان: أولهما زوجتي التي ناقشتُ الأمر معها طويلا، كنت ملحا أن المغرب استثناء، لأنه فعلا تقدم بإصلاحات ستجهض كل محاولة لتقليد تونس أو مصر. كان موقفها مخالفا إذ رأت أن الاستبداد والفساد في السلطة والثروة ما زالا قائمين بل تفاقما أكثر، وألحت أن تحضر معي يوم 20 فبراير، فرفضتُ لظروفها الصحية. والثاني: صديقي الصحفي السعودي نواف القديمي، الذي اتفقنا أن نحضر معا إلى مسيرة الرباط، لكن تخلفت عن الموعد بعد أن استيقظت متأخرا، فهاتفني معاتبا: أفي هذا اليوم يا يونس تستيقظ متأخرا؟!
[...]
رغم ذلك أصررت على موقفي، ولم أحضر منذئذ لأي تظاهرة.

Five months ago I was not supportive of the February 20 Movement, despite my presence that day (February 20, 2011) in the central square of Casablanca as a viewer, concerned with national issues and change, and as someone interested in the scientific observation of events and people.

At the time, I was challenged by two people: first, my wife, with whom I discussed the issue at great length. I insisted that Morocco was an exception, because it is conducting genuine reforms that would kill any attempt to mimic Tunisia or Egypt. My wife protested considering that tyranny and corruption within power circles continued to exist and that in fact it was even worse than ever. She insisted she wanted to attend the February 20 protest but I refused because of her poor health. The second to challenge my views was my friend, the Saudi journalist Nawaf Qudaymi. We both agreed to go together to a march in Rabat, but I failed to wake up early that day. Nawaf called me: “How can you wake up late on a day like this Younes?” he complained.
[...]
Regardless, I stood firm on my position, and did not attend any protest since then.

But an unforeseen event would change the vision of Younes irreversibly. He writes:

يوم الجمعة 11 مارس، نقلت زوجتي، وهي لم تكمل شهرها السابع، على جناح السرعة إلى مستشفى ابن رشد بالبيضاء، حوالي الساعة العاشرة ليلا بعد أن ساءت حالتها إثر ارتفاع الضغط الدموي، وتسببه في نزيف دماغي، وأجريت لها عملية قيصرية حوالي الواحدة ليلا لإنقاذ الجنين، وطلب منا نقل الوليد إلى الحاضنة الزجاجية في الحال، لأن الأماكن غير شاغرة، وليس أمامنا إلا مصحات خاصة يصل فيها سعر الليلة إلى 2500 درهم، طبعا إن لم تملكها عليك انتظار أقرب فرصة لتعيد و زوجتك إنتاج ولد آخر،-بعدئذ عرفت أن الوسائط و الرشاوى يمكنها أن تجد مكانا-، لكن استطعنا نقله إلى جمعية قطرة الحليب بثمن معقول. أما زوجتي فبقيت على ذلك الحال طيلة السبت والأحد، وكلما سألت طبيبا مقيما أو داخليا عن حالتها، يطلب مني الدعاء!!

وصبيحة يوم الاثنين 14 مارس اتصل الطبيب يبلغني ضرورة القدوم من أجل إجراء فحوصات بالأشعة، ولم يفته أن يعلمني أن ثمنها 3000 درهم! فعلت ما طلب، وعلمت أن زوجتي مصابة بنزيف دماغي، والمطلوب إجراء عملية جراحية، وانتظرت إلى غاية العاشرة ليلا، ولم تجرى العملية بعد…الخ.عرفت بعد أيام أن زوجتي بقيت 48 ساعة بدون فحص، و أزيد من 72 ساعة بدون عملية، فسألت وتساءلت، فأدركت وفهمت أن قسم الفحوصات لم/لا يعمل يومي السبت والأحد، والطبيب لم/لا يعمل يومي السبت والأحد. لقد اكتشفتُ أن زوجتي تعرضت لإهمال طبي وااضح..وتأكدت في الحال أن المواطن العادي غير مسموح له بالمرض يومي السبت والأحد.

On Friday, March 11, at about ten o'clock at night, I carried my seven month pregnant wife to Averroes public hospital in Casablanca after her condition worsened due to high blood pressure. She underwent a Caesarean section at around 1 am to save the baby. We were asked to move the newborn to an incubator in another hospital because the places were full. The only option I had left was to go to a private clinic but I learned that the price there was up to 2,500 dirhams per night (US$250). Of course, if you can't afford it, I was told, all you have to do is wait, with your wife, for the earliest opportunity to conceive a new baby. It was then I realised that connections and bribes could have found us a place. Fortunately, we were able to move the baby to a clinic belonging to a charity for a reasonable price. My wife stayed in a critical condition over Saturday and Sunday, and whenever I asked a doctor or an intern on her status, they asked me to pray!

On Monday morning, March 14, I got a call from a doctor urging me to come to the hospital because a CT Scan was needed. The doctor did not fail to inform me that the price for the test was 3,000 dirhams ($US300)! I did what I was asked to do, and I learned that my wife had a cerebral hemorrhage and required surgery. I waited until 10pm at night but the operation was not carried out. I learned a few days later that my wife was left for 48 hours without examination and more than 72 hours without any intervention. I asked and wondered. I realized and understood that the ward did not/does not work on Saturdays and Sundays, and that the doctor did not/does not work on Saturdays and Sundays. I discovered that my wife was victim of a clear medical negligence and I came to the conclusion that the average citizen is not allowed to fall ill on Saturdays and Sundays.

Younes continues:

أبدا لن أنسى
لن أنسى.. آلام المرضى النائمين عراة ولم يسمح لهم بالدخول
لن أنسى.. الرائحة الكريهة التي تزكم الأنوف في ممرات المستشفى
لن أنسى..إنفاقي أكثر من 20000 درهم على الأدوية في مستشفى عمومي
لن أنسى.. عربدة الممرضين وأياديهم الممدودة
لن أنسى.. استعلاء الأطباء وسوء التواصل
لن أنسى.. فوضى الأمن
لن أنسى أنه بعد عشرين يوما توفيت زوجتي رحمها الله..
I will never forget… the patients lying naked on the floor crying out their pain, not allowed to access the hospital's ward.
I will never forget… the stench that fills the nose in the corridors of the hospital.
I will never forget… the spending more than 20,000 dirhams (US$2000) on medicines in a public hospital.
I will never forget… the insolence of the nurses.
I will never forget… the condescension of doctors and their poor communication with patients.
I will never forget… the security chaos.
I will never forget that after 20 days… my wife died. God rest her soul.

Younes concludes:

لقد دفعت حياتها ثمنا كي أقتنع عمليا بوجهة نظرها: الفساد مازال قائما، وأننا ندفع ثمن وجوده بالتقسيط، في الصحة، وفي الشغل، وفي السكن، وفي التعليم…

بعد كل هذا عرفتُ

عرفتُ..أنني ليس إلا مثال مكرر لآلاف الحالات اليومية في هذه البلاد..
عرفتُ.. أن صمتي كان يعني انتظار الدوْر
[...]
عرفتُ..أن حركة عشرين فبراير الصيغة الوحيدة القادرة على تغيير الوضع في المغرب الراهن..
عرفتُ.. أن حركة عشرين فبراير وقفت حين جلس الجميع..
عرفتُ..أن حركة عشرين فبراير جرأة تستحق المستقبل..
عرفتُ..أنني لا بد أن أظل عشرينيا..

وليرحمك الله يا فاطمة

My wife has paid the price with her life so as to convince me of her point of view: Corruption still exists, and we pay the price of its presence in installments, in health, employment, housing, education…

After all this I know now that what happened to me is just one example of thousands of cases happening daily in this country.
I know that my silence meant waiting for my turn to come.
I know that the individual demands ought to evolve into social then political demands.
I know that the February 20 Movement is the only one able to change the status quo in Morocco.
I know that the February 20 Movement has stood up while everyone else sat down.
I know that the February 20 Movement's courage is worthy of a better future.
I know I will stay a February 20.

God bless your soul Fatima.

This post is part of our special coverage Morocco Protests 2011.

  • Pingback: Heartwrenching story of a #Feb20 skeptic turned supporter « Moroccans For Change

  • Bettina Viereck

    A very impressive article which shows the Situation with the help of a very sad example – God may bless Younes as well as his dead wife, I can feel his pain and I’ m really sorry for him as well as for his family.

    I’ ve studied the situation in Morocco intensly and in my opinion the above incident is not a single case, but one of lots of others. The aims of the 20th February Movement haven’ t been achieved until now and I hope that it goes on – on a peaceful basis and with a real improvement of the situation for normal people in the end …

  • http://Ynim.posterous.com Ynim

    it’s scary and sad to hear about these kind of problems in the 21st century in our country…
    Younes, May God give you strength

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