WASHINGTON – The US State Department spokesman at a press briefing yesterday underscored the positive role Morocco is playing in the region by recognizing the need to reform and responding to its people’s desires for change. “The King has long been a reforming figure in Morocco,” said Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, adding that HM King Mohammed VI “is well aware of” and “taking appropriate action” to meet the aspirations of Moroccans.
In a follow-up interview, the US spokesperson said Morocco’s King “understood the necessity to undertake reforms since the beginning,” referring to the decade of reforms HM King Mohammed VI led after starting his reign in 1999. Experts cite these reforms as key to Morocco’s relative calm in the recent regional unrest.
Crowley also acknowledged that “mostly peaceful protests took place in Morocco last week,” commending Moroccan authorities for enabling its citizens to peacefully express their views. Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Morocco’s “calm response” to its protests “should be the rule, not the exception for tolerating peaceful dissent” in the region.
“Mostly peaceful demonstrations and marches took place in towns and villages largely without interference from police, who in some areas were barely in evidence,” said HRW. “Morocco’s demonstrators encountered none of the deadly force utilized by the security forces against protesters in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, and Yemen.”
Moroccan officials set the number of protesters for the Feb. 20 marches at 37,000, moderate for a country that regularly sees much larger demonstrations.
“Morocco’s determination to continue advancing economic, social, and political reforms, and open expression by its citizens, is an example others in the region would do well to consider. I’m heartened to see that the US recognizes it,” said Edward Gabriel, chairman of the Moroccan American Center and former US Ambassador to Morocco. “Morocco’s approach certainly stands in contrast to the dreadful violence we’ve seen in other parts of the Middle East/North Africa region in recent weeks.”