Democracy International (DI): Sarra, tell me something about the political situation in Morocco. Let me be honest, the things I know about your country: It is hot there and you have a lot of sunshine, French is an official language, you have a country in the West that does not really exist and you did not have a revolution there last year. What can you tell me about Morocco? What happened there in 2011?
Sarra: Well, there are three things you must not talk about in Morocco and you already mentioned one of them: the question of Western Sahara. Else you must not mention the Monarchy and Islam. As long as you do not talk about these three things you can talk about anything in Morocco, this is our freedom of speech (she laughs).
To tell you more about Morocco today, maybe I should go back a little bit: the last Moroccan King died in 1999, “Hassan II”. His successor, “Mohammed VI”, is more democratic than his father. He launched many initiatives, he freed political prisoners and he recognized the crimes that were committed. With Mohammed VI in power, people thought that Morocco will become more democratic. But actually, this did not happen. In 2004 we had elections with a high turnout, but a technocrat became prime minister. The people were disappointed. They felt that their vote does not have any impact. This is the backdrop of the protests that unfolded in 2011.
But I think you did not have any protests? Or, what happened in 2011?
We did not have any protests in terms of a revolution, but still we had protests, we had an uprising. By the way, we call it the 20 February movement, as the first day of the uprising was 20th February 2011. You must know that Morocco is much more secular in reality than in the laws. Morocco is more liberal than Egypt where the revolution was so powerful. In Morocco women’s rights are more advanced, actually the King even promotes them. Also, we have better living conditions than in Egypt. For these reasons we had protests but not a revolution.
What did you demand during these protests?
Actually, our central demand was and still is a parliamentary monarchy. We want to reform the political system and to introduce a parliamentary monarchy like in in Great Britain or Spain. There must be a real separation of powers, but still there should be the King. There are 30 million Moroccans who love their King. Although I am not among these supporters I think that a parliamentary monarchy is the form that matches with democracy in Morocco at best. A republic is not a practical solution, it would not have the support by the people that we need.
Also, we demanded to elect the constitutional assembly. You know, on 9 March 2011 the King of Morocco delivered a big speech, it has become historic these days. In this speech the King announced that there will be a constitutional reform in Morocco. The convention to work out this reform was appointed by the King, but the 20 February movement wanted that the members of this assembly are elected by the people. This did not happen. In the end of June 2011, the King published the constitution and put it to the people by plebiscite. 98,5% voted for the constitution.
Did you vote for the constitution as well?
No, I voted no. The King used the constitutional assembly and the constitution as a symbol to show the world that he is modern. The constitution contains what the Monarchy wanted.
Finally, what is the current situation in Morocco?
On 25 November 2011 we had parliamentary elections, and a new Parliament was elected. But this Parliament is losing credibility. In Morocco we have an economic crisis, we have a lot of poverty. Again there are many protests. These days I am involved in the protests against the introduction of student fees.
What do you want to achieve in the future?
Civil society organizations and youth movements must become stronger. These organizations are an important factor. They encourage the people to participate in politics. Traditionally, Moroccans are politically passive.
Thank you for the interview, Sarra. After all, still I would like to know: From where do you gain your confidence and your strength to be politically active?
Well, my father is a lawyer, my mother is a political activist herself. Being politically active is a feeling inside.
Questions by Cora Pfafferott, Democracy International, 15 August 2012.