In light of the recent demonstrations and pockets of violence erupting throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Tramp Imperial Travel CEO Richard Bunk shares his view on how the current political and social climate effects Morocco.
“Morocco is probably the most ‘Westernized’ of the Arab states and has managed to grow more progressive since Mohamed VI assumed the throne in 1999. I speak with a lot of people when I’m there about politics, which is a prime example of how this progressiveness has taken root. As little as 15 years ago, most Moroccans would not engage in political discussions in public and hardly ever with an outsider. Demonstrations were all but unheard of unless organized by the state. It was, by all accounts, a much more repressive regime under the previous king that much of Morocco’s older generation still remembers.
“However, Morocco is a country where the under 45 population is giving way to even greater numbers of 20-somethings. It’s a young, technologically hip, and better educated country than it was under the previous king. I think a big part of the changes happening there can be attributed to this, and to the king’s willingness to embrace social and political change. Add into the mix the rapid growth of the internet in Morocco — five years ago, it was almost impossible to be well connected, but now there’s wi-fi in street cafes in the medina — and it’s only a matter of time before significant changes happen.
“The interesting thing about these changes in Morocco is that they are not coming with violence as elsewhere in North Africa. In years past, there have been innumerable public demonstrations over any number of world and domestic events. Every one that I’ve witnessed or been told about has been peaceful. It’s a credit that to both the Moroccan people and the authorities that this continues, especially in light of the news from neighboring Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Arab world.
“As someone with a very strong vested interest in the country, I can say that I’m happy to see the international press picking up on the voice of the Moroccan people. My concern in seeing Moroccan demonstrations in news headlines is that they are misinterpreted as yet another example of the violent upheavals happening elsewhere. From my discussions with people in Morocco and what I’ve read elsewhere, it is not the desire of the people to topple their government and depose the monarchy. Far from it; the institution of the king in Morocco is generally revered. But there is a demand for change: elimination of the corruption that runs rampant through the bureaucracy of Moroccan government, an extension of greater rights to citizens and the Amazigh (Berber) people of Morocco, improvement in education and opportunity to earn better wages. Moroccans are typically very proud of their country and I think they want to make it an example of what they believe a just and democratic Arab/African state should be. It will be very interesting to see how well Morocco rides the wave of social change rolling across North Africa.”
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