Imprisoned leader of Moroccan Rif protest movement 'steps down'

Imprisoned leader of Moroccan Rif protest movement 'steps down'
2 min read
23 April, 2021
Nasser Zefzafi, the imprisoned leader of a protest movement in Morocco's Berber-majority Rif region, has stepped down, saying that the area had missed a "historic opportunity".
Protesters hold up signs saying "We are all Nasser Zefzafi" [Getty File Image]
The imprisoned leader of Morocco's Hirak Rif protest movement, Nasser Zefzafi, announced on Thursday that he had stepped down from the organisation that led mass protests against the marginalistion of Morocco's northern Berber-majority Rif region.

"I am stepping down from the heavy responsibility that circumstances at the time imposed on me... so that I can leave room for others to succeed in what I failed to do," said Zefzafi, in a letter posted by his father Ahmed Zefzafi on his Facebook page.

Mass protests took place in the Rif region in 2016 and 2017 after vendor Mohsen Fikri was crushed to death inside a garbage truck in the city of Hoceima while trying to recover fish confiscated from him by local authorities.

The Hirak Rif movement was formed in the aftermath as a response to inequality and government neglect of the area.

The protests prompted a fierce crackdown by Moroccan security forces and activists were subsequently arrested and reportedly tortured by authorities.

Zefzafi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2018.

"The Rif has missed a historic opportunity, and some of the region's inhabitants themselves let it go. They allowed the enemy to gain ground in the region... and turned into tools of each other's destruction," Zefzafi's letter added.

Zefzafi's resignation comes amid conflict between the families of detained activists, local sources told The New Arab's Arabic-language service. The Hirak movement has now suspended all its activities.

Former detainees of the Rif movement formed a new initiative in February to achieve "political reconciliation, and real economic and social progress in the region".

The former detainees said that it is now possible to establish better relations between the Rif and Moroccan authorities, calling for the release of all Hirak Rif's remaining detainees as a "confidence-building measure".

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