A general strike has gripped Morocco’s restive northern city of al-Hoceima, which has witnessed a week of anti-government demonstrations.
Nearly all of the shops in the city center were shuttered on Thursday in protest to corruption, repression and unemployment.
Hoceima, a city of 56,000 inhabitants in the neglected Rif region, has been the scene of social unrest since the death in October 2016 of 31-year-old fishmonger Mouhcine Fikri, who was crushed in a garbage truck as he protested against the seizure of swordfish caught out of season.
Police had confiscated the swordfish from him and thrown them into the garbage truck.
Tensions intensified in the city on Monday, when Nasser Zefzafi, who emerged as the leader of the protesters’ Popular Movement, was arrested along with others.
Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of the Popular Movement in northern Morocco
Police issued the arrest warrant for Zefzafi last week after he confronted a local cleric who was criticizing recent anti-corruption protests during his sermon that day. Security forces later tried to arrest the activist for interrupting the preacher, but the move led to clashes between them and Zefzafi’s supporters.
A shopkeeper said the strike would go on “until our prisoners are freed.”
“This three-day strike is the result of what is happening here, the marginalization of a region that is only asking for its daily bread,” another shopkeeper said.
Late Thursday, around 2,000 people protested, shouting slogans such as “freedom for prisoners,” while holding pictures of Zefzafi.
The mainly ethnically-Berber Rif region has long had a tense relationship with Morocco’s central authorities.
A Moroccan activist, Miriyam Aouragh, described the unrest in Hoceima as the “unfinished business” of the Moroccan “Arab Spring.”
Morocco is a kingdom suffering from high unemployment and extreme poverty.

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