My Arab Spring: Clinging to hope in Morocco

People have the power to bring about change, but first they need a unified message.

Rachid Elbelghiti,
Illiteracy and poverty were stumbling blocks in mobilising Moroccans during the Arab Spring, says journalist Rachid Elbelghiti [Photo courtesy of Rachid Elbelghiti]

Rachid Elbelghiti, a freelance journalist from Morocco, told his story to Al Jazeera’s Ahmed El Amraoui. 

To me, the Arab Spring was a peaceful civil movement by young people who had grown tired of political, economic and social stagnation. Through different creative forms of protest, they demanded freedom, dignity and social justice. The movement went beyond ideological differences.

To achieve success, one must first forgo the illusion that everything is under control and that there is no way for the people to bring about change. 

The failure of Morocco’s uprising stemmed from the mentalities of certain communities rather than the nature of the movement itself. Illiteracy and poverty were stumbling blocks in delivering the discourse of the Arab Spring in Morocco and mobilising people around it.

READ MORE: Morocco’s Spring, gone but not forgotten

I remember a photo of a Moroccan girl in one of the marches in Rabat; she was hoisting a banner that read, “Long Live the King … We want to live with him, too.”

It seems Moroccans from all walks of life have learned lessons from what happened with other revolutions in other Arab countries.


Like this one, a number of slogans carried confusing and disparate messages. They were elusive and unclear about the nature of the change that people envisioned, opening the door to internal squabbles that ultimately cannibalised the movement.

The Moroccan political establishment learned from what happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and was able to avoid the same kind of violent confrontations with demonstrators. Morocco was quick to contain the popular movement through political initiatives that responded to the demands of the street. 

The Moroccan people succeeded in breaking the wall of fear and stripping away the “holiness” of political actors. But we failed in achieving the ultimate goal: To position Morocco on the path towards democracy.

As left-wing and right-wing radical ideologies within the Moroccan movement failed to seek common ground, the state took advantage of the discord to eradicate the youth protest movement.

But as the old saying goes, there is hope as long as there is life.

I hope that my children have the opportunity to live as citizens in a country where there is respect for individual freedoms and collective liberties, and a full separation of powers – judicial, legislative and executive.

READ MORE: Thousands in Morocco call for poll boycott

I hope for a country where responsibility is intertwined with accountability – where residents are guaranteed a good education and a good healthcare system, and where the rule of law prevails.


I still have faith in my beliefs, and I support those beliefs through my commitment to my work as a journalist, shining a spotlight on controversial issues and giving voice to the marginalised regions of Morocco.

At the end of the day, it is time for us to stop talking about the 20 February Movement. Moroccan activism is dynamic and started long before the Arab Spring. 

A similar uprising could emerge at any time, but it seems Moroccans from all walks of life have learned lessons from what happened with other revolutions in other Arab countries – and for now, they prefer to talk rather than to rise up.

Source: Al Jazeera