It has been a year since the crackdown by the police on a sit-in abreast of the Moroccan parliament building, organized by the National Coordination of Teachers Victims of Contact-based Recruitment (CNPCC), an event that saw the wrongful death of Mr. Abdullah Hajili. Those who assisted that night related stories of how it all came about, of the brutality of the Moroccan law and enforcement officials of different ranks that assaulted the peaceful teachers using the full extensive power of the riot police, and of human rights breaches that took place on that faithful night.
Answering a call to the week-long planned demonstrations called upon by the National Coordination, thousands of teachers from every corner of the kingdom took to the streets of the capital, Rabat, amid their two months-long strikes. On the evening of the third day of demonstrations, Wednesday the 24th of April 2019, a gathering of tens of thousands of teachers marched their way from the Agdal railway station’s square to the sit-in’s rendezvous point in parliament square. They chanted prominent slogans of the Arab Spring, akin to “liberty, dignity and social justice” and “free the public school, abolish the privatization”; amongst them stood the decease, Mr. Hajili, alongside his daughter, Ms. Hoda Hajili – herself a contract-based recruitment victim. He was a prominent supporter of the contract-based recruitment abolishment movement and somewhat, to many, a godfather figure to the National Coordination Marrakech-Asfi’s branches.
By 8:30 p. m that night, the protesting teachers have begun their sit-in forming small circles and engaging in a multitude of creative activities, debates, discussions, books reading, and chorus conservative song performances. At 9 o’clock, the police issued a threat that it would intervene to break the sit-in as it considered it unlawful; the teachers replied in unison saying that the freedom to demonstrate is a constitutional right, therefore, they would not break the sit-in. Minutes later, without further warnings the police assaulted the gathering of the teachers using the infamous water canon vehicle, nicknamed Cristina. The high-velocity water cannons dispersed the camp violently as auxiliary forces and the police’s biker division barged in. Amidst the hullabaloo was the late Mr. Hajili. Having been separated at the onset of the assault from his daughter, he searched fray reluctantly. At times he was seen shielding female teachers at the mercy of the water cannons with his frail body and, at other times, trying to talk sense in the vehicle’s driver to reduce the water’s pressure so that no teacher might get severely harmed whilst his hands were raised in supplication to Allah that no harm befell on all – teachers and police members alike.
The passive resistance of teachers amounted to naught in the face of the full power of riot police, and their camp was breached instantly. Having sustained countless injuries, with those with serious wounds rushed to nearby hospitals, the teachers retreated to the streets around parliament square in hope of regrouping again; but in vain as the police intervened preventing any sort of gathering. The chase would last another three hours around the capital’s city center culminating in the dog-tired teachers being cornered in proximity to Qamra bus station. A witness account narrated that Mr Hajili was seen in the vicinity of the bus station enquiring the bystander teachers of the whereabouts of his daughter when a high-velocity pressurized water cannon slammed him into the concrete pavement. Footage circulating at the time on social media sites showed him being slammed twice and left in a pond of his own blood. Mr. Hajili was then taken to Ibn Sina hospital where he lay before succumbing to his wounds on the 27thj of the following month. During his stay in the hospital, his family said that they were denied visitation rights to his chamber in the ICU meanwhile he showed no signs of improvement and remained in a vegetative state until his passing. Mr. Hajili was 63 years old and left behind a grieving family of three
On the 28th of May, the prosecutor general of the court of appeal in Rabat announced that an investigation in the death of Mr. Hajili would take place following a widespread campaign on social media platforms demanding justice for him. The Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) condemned the killing, urging the authorities to take swift actions to bring forward the culprits to justice. Nevertheless, despite the announcement of the investigation, no final report has been submitted. Moreover, his family told the press that they have been denied access to his medical autopsy report. In late October, the minister of Human Rights and Relations with Parliament, Mr. Mustapha Ramid, stated on the Medi1 tv show ‘Youth vox’ that the investigation has been completed and that the results are available. However, no formal announcement has been made pertaining to the findings of the inquiry. And on the 17th of April this year, the National Council for Human Rights, a constitutional institution concerned with human rights, issued its annual report on the status of human rights in the kingdom. It described the intervention of the authorities as ‘inconsistent’ and that there were instances of ‘excessive use of force’ used in the crackdown on the sit-in. It, also, noted that there’ were many violations too committed by the police’s biker division’ while dispersing the protests.
As the first anniversary of Mr. Hajili’s death draws closer, the National Coordination has announced on the 22nd of April a three days remembrance of the crackdown program under the banner « A year since the assassination of Hajili: the states’ violence persists and so does the resistance of the Moroccan people too». The program includes an interview with Ms. Hoda Hajili, articles on political prosecution and imprisonment in Morocco, and a cultural event on the last day, all to be streamed on the coordination’s Facebook page. The announcement, also, reiterated the vehement stance against the contract-based recruitment scheme that the ministry has considered a strategic move to curb the levels of congestion in Moroccan public schools.
A year after the tragedy has gone by with virtually any notable change in the situation of human rights in the kingdom as the Moroccan regime tightens its grip on the freedom of speech and that of the press. In the past year alone, there have been dozens of arrests of activists, journalists, and even mere citizens for uncovering instances of corruption. According to Amnesty International, ‘Moroccan authorities have over the past six months increased their intolerance toward those daring to express their views freely’. What’s more, the report adds that 9 out of ten activists that stood trial between November 2019 and January 2020 were handed cruel prison sentences ranging between six months and four years, a view that the Moroccan Association for Human Rights shares. It has recorded that as of March 2020, the number of prisoners detained for expressing their views in the country reached 110. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence either as the freedom of the press have suffered greatly in the past year with many instances of journalists’ detention and judiciary persecution, as was the case of Omar Radi who was arrested for a tweet he posted when criticizing the judiciary system for the upholding of verdicts against Hirak el Rif protesters.
It seems that neither Ms. Hoda Hajili nor her family would likely get a sense of closure to the death of their beloved one any time soon as there are no indications that the culprits would face justice in the near future, likewise, is the cause of the contract-based recruitment teachers. This heralds a new wave of the protests against this form of recruitment that many teachers consider unjust by the ministry of education and the Moroccan authorities. One can say that the only thing certain is that the future of human rights in the kingdom never looked gloomier.