Tragedy continues to hit the poor and hungry in Morocco

Fifteen Moroccan women died on Nov. 19 as they waited to receive food aid near the city of Essaouira in Western Morocco. Local authorities report that 4,000 people, almost all women, were gathered in marketplace of the village of Sidi Boulaalam awaiting an annual flour distribution when a stampede took the lives of 15 and injured 10, two of them in a critical condition.

According to a local source “essaouira en ligne tv,” only four local police were assigned to oversee the distribution even though almost half of the town’s population rushed to collect the food, camping out since the night before the event outside the venue. This occurred in one of the poorest villages in the country, amid ongoing fears of drought in the region. It provoked outrage from the local community and national human rights organizations.

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) reports that similar distributions have occurred for the past 5 years, causing similar cases of violence, but did not attract news coverage. This same group said that food distribution organizers are not encouraged to provide adequate measures to protect the people.

Moroccan news outlet News24 reports that the “benefactor” behind the Nov. 19 initiative would distribute goods to men first, prioritizing local imams and political leaders. While women died crushed by the crowds outside, the same benefactor declared that he did not notice any disturbance, having spent the entire time inside the warehouse.

This tragedy shakes the Moroccan poor and oppressed a year after the death of poor fishmonger Mohcine Fikri, crushed by the police in a garbage truck near El Hoceima. His death sparked a national uprising against state neglect and police brutality in rural areas of the country, known as “Hirak.”

The movement is currently mobilizing in multiple cities for justice for these women who lost their lives to feed their families. Over 300 Hirak leaders remain imprisoned since the movement started in October 2016. Some 37 of these jailed leaders are on the 11th day of a hunger strike.

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