A Moroccan court has convicted a student of “violating the sacred values” of the kingdom and sentenced him to three years in prison after a video posted online showed him criticizing the king, the state news agency reported Tuesday. Abdelsamad Haydour, from Taza, a mountain town that has been a center of recent violent protests, accused King Muhammad of oppressing his people in the four-minute clip, and called the monarch a dog and a dictator.
I do not think that King Muhammad deserves to be called a dog and a dictator; however citizens are entitled to free speech. Since King Muhammad took the throne in 1999, he has worked to reverse the harsh and brutal rule of his father, Hassan II. Last year when faced with protests stemming from the Arab Spring revolts, the King agreed to consider reforms to reduce his near-absolute control. I feel that this move was a turning point for the Moroccan political system. Under the new constitution, the primer minister is granted the title of “President of the Government.” The prime minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane, now has the power to appoint government officials and the power to dissolve the Parliament. Protesters, however, do not feel that the reforms have gone far enough and continue to demand that the king relinquish his absolute control over the military and religious matters. I support peaceful protest with a well-defined goal. I do not support the self-immolation that some protesters continue to employ. I also feel that the imprisonment of Abdelsamad will not help to quell protests. The prison sentence of the irate student will fuel the fire and lead to continued protests. Protesters can now claim that the King is violating their free speech.
The majority of protesters are young people ages 15-24. Although the Moroccan economy has been growing steadily at around 4 percent for the past several years, the growth has not been enough to provide employment to the millions of young people who enter the workforce every year. While unemployment is officially at 9 percent this number disguises the unemployment of 15-24 year old which stands at over 20%. Young, unemployed Moroccans are voicing their dissent against the king with protests organized on Facebook and other social networking sites. Abdelsamad Haydour posted his video online. The video then went viral and led to his arrest. This illustrates the importance of social networking sites in facilitating protest movement in Morocco.
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Source: New York Times