Hassan al-Ashraf

Morocco's Robin Hood: 'Fighting corruption is a moral duty'

The "Sniper of Targuist" has been filming corrupt policemen for the past eight years [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 August, 2015

The "Sniper of Targuist", Mounir Agueznay, speaks to al-Araby al-Jadeed about his fight against corruption in Morocco and how people should be aware of their rights and break the silence.
"The Sniper of Targuist", "the Robin Hood of Morocco", "Morocco's Zorro" - all nicknames given to young YouTube activist Mounir Agueznay for posting videos online.

His videos appear to show a number of policemen and security officials accepting bribes on public roads. They have led to officers being held accountable and punished, overcoming a previous sense of impunity among security forces here.

The videos shocked the Moroccan community after they spread throughout the media, and "Zorro" disappeared from sight for years in fear of being arrested.

Two years ago, however, he revealed his identity in an interview with a Moroccan magazine.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed
interviewed Agueznay, a man seeking to improve his marginalised northern city, his society and his country.

Agueznay said that the nickname "Sniper of Targuist" still meant a lot to him because it is a part of him and his past.

"It accompanied me during crucial moments in my life. This nickname had an important role in refining my personality and defining my future path," he said.

"Sometimes it doesn't mean anything, because the 'Sniper' has now become a thing of the past. I was the first to start the 'Sniper' phenomenon through posting video recordings that revealed corrupt behaviour in 2007."

The Sniper of Targuist said that, given the opportunity, he would do it all again - but that he would rectify some mistakes.

Some of the video recordings that showed security officers receiving bribes led to the displacement of some of their families and created social and psychological problems for innocent relatives of corrupt officers.

Agueznay says he regrets all this - but that it was important to reveal corruption.

"I always ask myself if I had made a mistake. I think of the families and the children... No sane person doesn't regret the displacement of families and causing social and psychological tragedies for others, unless the person doesn't have a heart or any mercy.

"However, common sense says that I am not to blame for what came to be. Security men didn't think of this possibility. If they weren't more eager [to protect] their families, then where's my fault? We should not make excuses for or forgive a thief, murderer, oppressor, or criminal under the pretext that they have families and children.

"I see the matter as a moral duty more than an action to fight corruption," Agueznay explained.

The movement centred around exposing corrupt security officials through online videos continued to spread after his disappearance.

It is "a healthy phenomenon that should continue", he said, "but remains inadequate in the absence of deterrent laws".

Agueznay added that new security developments that saw the punishment of transgressors within the security forces were merely "media sensations" for domestic and international consumption.

"I don't deny that there is a clear development in the work of the security forces but it cannot be described as being decisive and transparent," Agueznay added.

On whether or not he and the ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD) carry the same slogan of fighting against corruption and oppression, Agueznay replied: "Maybe I agree with the PJD over the slogan, but I disagree with it on the approach and mechanism. The day I took up the slogan of the fight against corruption, I tried to achieve this through several possible means. I tried to translate this on the ground with whatever tools available to me. On the other hand, the party faced another reality and discovered new things that were unknown to it, prompting it to rearrange its priorities in a way that would guarantee it remained in power."

The Moroccan Robin Hood added that a society infested with illiteracy and poverty had no capacity to defend rights that were unknown to it.

"Collective awareness of rights and responsibilities - and believing that they are rights that have to be clinched, not given, form the only way to defend them.

"Promoting higher interests over personal values and narrow interests is the thousand-mile step in the process for change. Experience has shown that independent and peaceful protest movements could overcome parties and break the silence, which limits society's potentials and robs it of its role, and therefore [these movements] have achieved what political organisations combined have failed to achieve."

Agueznay gave the Moroccan February 20 Movement as an example.

"It takes credit for redrawing Morocco's political features and accelerating the setting of a new constitution for the country that would guarantee greater freedoms and rights, as well as providing for the PJD the atmosphere and grounds to top the elections and head the government."

Agueznay was born in 1986 in the city of Targuist in the heart of the Moroccan countryside. He is the youngest son of a well-off family. He now works for a private company in a northern Moroccan city but continues to participate in activities that aim to improve living conditions in his hometown.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.