Security forces have begun to withdraw from Al-Hoceima and Imzouren (Rif region; north of the country) following weeks of social unrest and violent clashes between police and protesters in the region. The gradual withdrawal from both cities began on Monday, July 3, at the request of King Mohammed VI. This decision comes a week after clashes between security forces and demonstrators left nearly 80 officers injured, most of them struck by stones.
The Moroccan government responded to the unrest by restarting a previous USD 665 million (6.5 billion Moroccan dirhams) government development program from 2015 to improve the health facilities, education system, and infrastructure in the Rif region by 2019.
This wave of demonstrations began when thousands of protesters took to the streets of Al-Hoceima on May 18. Since the end of May, authorities have arrested more than 100 people, including Nasser Zefzafi - the leader of the grassroots "Popular Movement" - who has demanded improved access to jobs and development, an end to corruption, and the release of all those arrested.
Al-Hoceima has been plagued with unrest since October 2016, when violent protests broke out after a fishmonger was killed while trying to prevent his wares from being confiscated by police. Protests, which sometimes turn violent, have been common in Al-Hoceima, known to be a symbol of anti-colonial resistance. The Rif region has maintained a relatively tense relationship with central authorities in the capital Rabat, and was at the heart of Arab Spring-inspired protests in Morocco in February 2011. The region suffers from poor economic conditions and low access to jobs and services.
Individuals in Morocco are advised to avoid any form of public demonstration as a precuation and to keep abreast of the general climate.