By Mawassi Lahcen
One person died and scores wounded last week in a hardscrabble neighbourhood of Tangier after police scuffled with protestors over a court eviction ruling.
Plumes of tear gas were hanging over Beni Mekada, where police on Tuesday (October 2nd) moved to enforce a court judgment ordering evacuation of a house. A group of residents intervened hurling stones at policemen, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protestors.
A group of people were arrested on charges of beatings, causing wounds, inciting for rebellion and obstructing the enforcement of a court judgment.
Some observers said that salafist jihadist elements might have been behind the escalation of violence to inflame sensitivities in the area, which has become fertile ground for radicalisation.
“Beni Mekada has been known for its bloody and violent protests in the last ten years,” Moroccan Human Rights Organisation (OMDH) chief Mohamed Nachnache told Magharebia.
“This is due to salafist jihadists’ control of the area, and their intervention led to confrontations with the security forces, given that those elements consider themselves to be the entity that has authority in that area,” he said.
“We can’t accept disobedience against a court judgment; this is out of the question,” Nachnache added. “There are, of course, other means prescribed under the law to appeal the judgment, starting from appeal through the highest appeal which those affected by court judgments can resort to. We can’t just accept disobedience, and we can never let the country move towards chaos and strife that some people want to drag us to by exploiting religion or under any other pretext.”
February 20 Movement activist Najwa Oumghar, however, saw the situation from a different angle. “I was so appalled by the enormity of social injustice that this poor family of Ahmed Sakkam, his wife Khadouj and 11 daughters and sons has been subjected to,” she said in reference to the evicted family. “All family members were arrested on October 2nd. Four minor children – two sons and two daughters – were released later and taken care of by neighbours.”
The mother of the family and her five children will appear in court on October 19th, the activist said. “Meanwhile, the father died at hospital October 5th because the police were in delay in transferring him to hospital after he inhaled tear gas when the police raided the house,” Oumghar said.
Beni Mekada, one of the biggest popular neighbourhoods in Tangier, is suffering from misery and marginalisation, said Association for the Defence of Human Rights head Habib Hadji.
“If you move around this neighbourhood, you will see the very bad condition of streets and alleys,” he said. “You can see the lack of infrastructure, social and cultural facilities, poverty and misery under which the residents of that neighbourhood live and where some families don’t have access to water and electricity.”
“This explains why the people there showed solidarity with the family against whom the evacuation order was issued, and why they expressed this solidarity violently,” he explained.
Hadji commented that the authorities need to study the problems of this area, especially problems facing residents with real estate developers in that area. He called on the government to draw up suitable plans and social solutions that would ensure better living conditions, social and cultural services.