Police violence against students on campus sparks outrage

The Moroccan security forces have been condemned by academics and students from several organisations in the higher education sector for storming the campuses of Hassan II University and mistreating and injuring dozens of students during a week in which they were part of a peaceful protest forum organised by the National Union of Moroccan Students (NUMS, or UNEM in French).

Morocco’s largest Islamic movement, Al Adl Wal Ihsane (Justice and Charity), to which UNEM belongs, condemned the actions taken against the students. In a statement on 18 March, the movement said this was an attempt to prevent students from mobilising in support of Palestine and against Morocco’s normalisation efforts with Israel.

Also, the Moroccan Space for Human Rights issued a statement to say the attacks violated the university’s autonomy and the right to assemble peacefully, which was protected by Moroccan and international law.

What happened at the students’ forum?

Photos and video clips were posted on the official UNEM Facebook page and Twitter along with hashtags about students repression and preventing students forum along with TikTok videos showing the violence used by security forces against the students.

Explaining what happened, the Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) issued a statement indicating that security forces removed the students forcefully, which led to the injury of more than 53 students, who had to be taken to hospital.

“The security forces overtook the platform of the student forum in full view of the national and international public, who were following the activity in a live broadcast on the official page of the NUMS, and violently assaulted all students,” GCRL explained.

GCRL called upon Moroccan authorities not to interfere in student union work and to hold security forces accountable.

A stand against militarisation

Students and academics at Moroccan universities have supported NUMS, condemned the police attack on students, and called upon higher education professors and researchers to defend their rights.

On the students’ side, the Progressive Left Student Faction of the National Union of Moroccan Students which belongs to the Democratic Path Party of Morocco issued a statement on 15 March to condemn the actions against students.

“We call upon all youth organisations, political, trade union, human rights forces and professors of higher education institutions to stand against the attack on students’ right to education and the desecration of the university …” the NUMS Progressive Left Student Faction said.

The Organisation of Student Renewal (ORS) also denounced the security incursion into some institutions affiliated with Hassan II University. ORS called upon student associations to take joint action based on the principle of refusing to “securitise” the Moroccan university.

On the academics’ side, the local office of the National Union of Higher Education-Morocco (Syndicat National de l’Enseignement Supérieur-Maroc: SNESup) at the Faculty of Sciences Ain Chock in Casablanca issued a statement on 17 March to say “the university is a space for science, culture and democratic dialogue, and not a space for violence”.