Maati Monjib, the Moroccan historian, human rights activist, and translator into Arabic of Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom, has suspended his hunger strike in its 20th day, having forced the authoritarian Monarchy of Mohammed VI to back down and restore his right to travel – Editors.
Glad tidings! Our friend, the Moroccan historian and human rights activist Maati Monjib, has suspended his hunger strike in its 20th day, having forced the authoritarian Monarchy of Mohammed VI to back down and restore his right to travel. Under relentless international pressure and a national mobilization, the Moroccan authorities announced, via an Administrative Court decision on October 29, the suspension of the prohibition for Maati Monjib to leave the territory. Maâti immediately emailed his supporters:
“I don’t know how to thank you for the support you have given me these last weeks. I drew the strength to resist physically from the firmness of my morale, and I owe part of that strength to your friendship and solidarity expressed by messages and support activities carried out individually and through the International Support Committee. All of that encouraged me, kept me going and warmed my heart.”
To quote Abdellah Hammoudi, the International Support Committee’s President, although we all “take satisfaction” in this important victory we also remain vigilant and hope for an end to “all the defamatory campaigns, unjust accusations, intimidation and harassment aimed at Mr. Monjib.” As Maati writes:
“My battle is not over because I have been ordered to appear at the High Court of Rabat on November 19th along with six friends, mainly journalists. Several of us, including my colleagues Samad Iach and Hicham Mansouri and myself, are charged with Destabilizing the Internal Security of the State under Article 206 of the Moroccan Penal Code.”
When Maâti, a respected international scholar, agreed to become President of “Freedom Now” and the Moroccan Association of Investigative Journalists (MAIJ), he became “a priority target of the authorities and especially of the shadow cabinet that decides to silence any critical voice in Morocco,” according to scientist Ali Sbai. “We are witnessing the same scenario already used to neutralize other emblematic cases.” Along with Maâti, my friends the blogger Ali Anouzla and the satirical journalist Ali Lmrabet are among the persecuted journalists.
Anouzla ( www.lakome.com) was jailed for posting an embarrassing link about a notorious Spanish pedophile (convicted of rape and abuse on eleven Moroccan children aged 2 to 15 years old) who was pardoned by King Mohammed VI. The satirist Ali Lmrabet was jailed and then banned from practicing journalism for ten years (2005-2015) for the crime of Insulting the Throne (lèse-majesté). Today, after a hunger strike of two months in Geneva, Lmrabet has recovered his passport, but now the government, always ready to invent legal pretexts to silence its opponents, is blocking him by refusing to recognize that he resides in Tetouan (his birthplace). According to AP, “Hicham Mansouri, an associate of Monjib’s and also an investigative journalist, was convicted of adultery and imprisoned in March, many believe for his work as well.”
As for Maâti Monjib, faced with his international support as a scholar and human rights fighter, the Monarchy is attempting to turn his political persecution into a criminal affair. According to Reuters, “authorities said they imposed the [travel] ban because of their investigation into suspected financial wrongdoing in an institution Monjib had been running […] His lawyers said Monjib was facing accusations of receiving foreign funds to destabilize Moroccan confidence in their institutions and endangering national security. No details were available.” When I phoned Maâti to say how much I admired the courageous self-sacrifice of his hunger strike, he cut me off: “I love freedom, and I can’t live without it.” In his youth, Monjib was forced to suffer exile from his native land for nearly 20 years.
Why this recent crackdown on Moroccan bloggers and investigative journalists? The story begins in January 2011 when Ali Anouzla’s blog posts reporting on uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt went viral in Morocco, sparking the “February 20th Movement” (the Moroccan version of the Arab Spring). Two months later, the Monarchy (an authoritarian regime which a liberal facade) was able to divert the growing rebellion by proposing a referendum containing some insignificant reforms. Now, four years later, it is “payback time,” and the Throne is taking revenge on “instigators” like Anouzla, Lmrabet, Mansouri, and, significantly, the respected scholar Maâti Monjib.
The travel ban on Monjib deprives him of the freedom to exercise his professional activity which demands his participation in frequent international academic conferences. “This reminds us of the methods used in the 1970s by the former Soviet Union to prevent Academician Andrei Sakharov to participate, as a physicist, in scientific forums organized by his Western peers,” writes scientist Ali Sbai from Geneva. “These methods did not prevent Sakharov from winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, nor the USSR from collapsing 16 years later.”
Sbai also compares Monjib’s case in Morocco to the historic Dreyfus Affair in France, wryly noting the absence under the Monarchy of a single mainstream newspaper with the courage to defend Monjib’s innocence. On the other hand, six important Moroccan historical figures, including Abderrahmane Youssoufi, companion of Mehdi Ben Barka and first Prime Minister of the alternation under Hassan II, have recently united to speak out for his rights. On the international front, your protests leading to negative reports in the mainstream media (like the October 18th New York Times editorial “Muzzling Dissent in Morocco”) may also have embarrassed the Monarchy, bringing us this temporary victory.
Let us remain vigilant. Maâti’s lawyer Abderrahim Jamai reminds us that “the trial will start on November 19, and he faces up to five years in prison if sentenced.” If you have any contacts in the media or access to websites and listservs to whom we can send updates, please send us the contact information.
Yours in solidarity,
International Committee to Support Maâti Monjib