PhD graduates hospitalised in hunger strike over jobs

Some of the protesters who form part of a group of unemployed PhD holders in Morocco, who have been on a hunger strike for nearly a month, have been hospitalised. Those who are participating in the strike, as part of an ongoing campaign, are hoping their actions will focus attention on their demands to be considered for employment by universities and scientific research centres in the country.

The dissatisfied group said in a statement on 21 August that some of the hunger strikers were in a “critical health condition” and that their health continued to deteriorate.

“So far, 40 cases were transferred to hospital to receive medical attention [but] some of the strikers refused to be taken to hospital, despite the deterioration of their health conditions,” according to the statement.

Photos and a video clip of the hunger strikers were posted on social media.

The group also said that, when the protesters staged a peaceful gathering in front of some public institutions, some were injured through “severe beatings”.

The current sit-in and hunger strike began on 25 July at the headquarters of the Democratic Left Federation Party in the Yacoub El Mansour neighbourhood in Rabat, under the slogan, ‘Dignity or Martyrdom’.

Demands of unemployed PhD holders

The actions follow ongoing protests for about four years during which the group has engaged in various activities, including correspondence with all the government sector’s sit-ins and a warning strike in front of the ministry of higher education, scientific research and innovation, and in front of the parliament building.

“Unemployed PhD holders demand their constitutional employment right, similar to other groups that benefit from employment in the public sectors,” the group said in a statement

It is alleging that the awarding of jobs in government sectors is marred by “corruption, clientelism and nepotism”. The group said it would continue with its hunger strike to advocate for greater fairness in the employment practices in all public service institutions, especially universities and scientific research centres, where there were staff shortages.

“The concerned authorities should bear their legal and historical responsibilities for what the situation will lead to,” the group said.

Solidarity support

The Moroccan Coalition for Human Rights, in an open letter to the government, has highlighted concerns over the right to work and that the disregard of this right has had an impact on the strikers’ lives and their physical and personal safety.

The Moroccan Association for Human Rights also issued a statement of solidarity with the unemployed PhD graduates earlier in August, calling on government officials to “start an immediate dialogue with the strikers before it is too late”.

The association declared its support for:

• The right to decent work and the principle of equal opportunity as a legitimate and constitutional right that the state must respect and provide to all citizens;

• The right to life as a sacred right as stipulated in the constitution and international covenants and a right that the state must safeguard, and that it holds the government fully responsible for preserving this right for those on hunger strike;

• The condemnation and denouncement of the assaults on PhD holders who were peacefully protesting, reminding the authorities that peaceful demonstration is a right guaranteed to all;

• The criticism on the government for its indifference and for not opening a responsible dialogue with the strikers; and

• Calls upon the ministry and all government sectors to respond to the demands of the unemployed PhD holders as a category of citizens and integrate them into the public sector.

The ministry did not respond to University World News' questions about the students' strike and their grievances.