The gruesome death of a Moroccan fish-seller has triggered protests around the country, reminiscent of the Tunisian street vendor’s self-immolation that marked the prelude to the Arab spring.
31-year old Mouhcine Fikri was reportedly crushed to death by a garbage truck on Friday in the Moroccan town of Al-Hoceima, after he jumped in the back of the vehicle to retrieve a swordfish police had confiscated and discarded.
Jarring images of the man’s mangled body soon began circulating on social media, sparking widespread anger and calls for protest. Many attributed his death to a combination of abusive police practices and the dire economic conditions that have produced staggering levels of poverty and desperation in the country’s rural areas.
Even more, Fikri’s death encapsulated the pervasiveness of what protesters termed “monopoly and marginalization,” words that could be heard across demonstrations on Saturday.
While the Moroccan King has expressed sympathy for the deceased and ordered a thorough investigation, thousands have kept to the streets for days after the incident, which is highly unusual in the North African country.
“I have never seen such a crowd in the last few years, since 2011 at least,” said activist Houssin Lmrabet to Reuters. “Everyone feels crushed by that garbage truck here.”
Fikri’s death, which took placed in Morocco’s ethnically Berber Rif area, has also shed light on the unique struggles of Morocco’s native Berbers. While Morocco as a whole ranks low in both literacy and economic development (in 2015, over 30% of the adult population was illiterate in Morocco, and 25% were reported to be living below or just above the poverty line), Moroccan Berbers have long battled a unique form of neglect from their government. Not only do they suffer from a lack of infrastructure, healthcare, and education, government promises to ensure further protections for the minority have continually fallen short.