History of Morocco
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|History of Morocco|
The history of Morocco spans over twelve centuries, without taking Classical antiquity into consideration. The territory corresponding to Morocco has been inhabited by Berbers for 5000 years. The country was first unified by the Idrisid dynasty in 789, half a century after the Berber Revolt, that led to its independence from the Arab Caliphate. Under the Almoravid dynasty and the Almohad dynasty, Morocco dominated the Maghreb and Muslim Spain. The Reconquista ended Almohad rule in Iberia and many Muslims and Jews migrated to Morocco. Under the Saadi dynasty, Morocco would consolidate power and fight off Portuguese and Ottoman invaders, as in the battle of Ksar el Kebir. The reign of Ahmad al-Mansur brought up new wealth and prestige to the Sultanate, and an invasion of the Songhai Empire was initiated. However managing the territories across the Sahara proved to be difficult. After the death of al-Mansur the country was divided among his sons. In 1666 the sultanate was reunited by the Alaouite dynasty, who have since being the ruling house of Morocco. The organization of the state developed with Ismail Ibn Sharif. With his Black Guard he drove the English from Tangierin (1684) and the Spanish from Larache in(1689). The Alaouite dynasty distinguished itself in the 19th century by maintaining Moroccan independence while other states in the region succumbed to European interests. In 1912, after the First Moroccan Crisis and the Agadir Crisis, the Treaty of Fez was signed, effectively dividing Morocco into a French and Spanish protectorate. In 1956, after 44 years of occupation Morocco regained independence from France as the Kingdom of Morocco.
- 1 Prehistoric Morocco
- 2 Early history
- 3 Early Islamic Morocco
- 4 Berber dynasties
- 5 Sharifian dynasties
- 6 European influence
- 7 Independent Morocco: since 1956
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 External links
In 1971 the fossilised bones of a 400,000 year old early human ancestor were discovered in Sale. In 1991 the bones of several very early Homo sapiens were discovered at Jebel Irhoud that are at least 160,000 years old. In 2007 small perforated sea shell beads were discovered in Taforalt that are 82,000 years old, which makes them the earliest evidence of personal adornment yet found anywhere in the world.
The Capsian culture brought Morocco into the Neolithic about 2001 BC, at a time when the Maghreb was less arid than it is today. The Berber language probably was formed at roughly the same time as agriculture (see Berber), and was developed by the existing population and adopted the immigrants who arrived later. Modern DNA analysis (see link) has confirmed that various populations have contributed to the present-day gene pool of Morocco in addition to the main ethnic group which is the Amazighs/Berbers. A very small percentage of those other populations are Iberians and sub-Saharan Africans.
In Mesolithic ages the geography of Morocco resembled a savanna more than the present day arid landscape. While little is known about Morocco settlement in these early times, excavations elsewhere in the Maghreb suggest an abundance of game and forests that would have been hospitable to Mesolithic hunters and gatherers.
Eight thousand years ago, south of the great mountain ranges in what is now the Sahara Desert, a vast savanna supported Neolithic hunters and herders whose culture flourished until the region began to desiccate as a result of climatic changes after 4000 BC. The coastal regions of present-day Morocco shared in an early Neolithic the Cardium Pottery culture that was common to the whole Mediterranean littoral. Archaeological remains point to the domestication of cattle and the cultivation of crops in the region during that period.
In the Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age the Bell Beaker culture reached the north coast of Morocco.
Phoenicians and Carthaginians
Phoenician traders, who had penetrated the western Mediterranean before the 12th century BC, set up depots for salt and ore along the coast and up the rivers of the territory that is now Morocco. The arrival of Phoenicians heralded many centuries of rule by foreign powers for the north of Morocco. Major early substantial settlements of the Phoenicians were at Chellah, Lixus and Mogador, with Mogador being a Phoenician colony as early as the early 6th century BC. Carthage developed commercial relations with the Berber tribes of the interior and paid them an annual tribute to ensure their cooperation in the exploitation of raw materials.
By the 5th century BC, Carthage had extended its hegemony across much of North Africa. By the 2nd century BC, several large, although loosely administered, Berber kingdoms had emerged.
In antiquity, Mauretania was originally an independent Berber kingdom on the Mediterranean coast of north Africa corresponding to northern modern-day Morocco. The earliest known king of Mauretania is Bocchus I who ruled from 110 BC to 81 BC. Some of its earliest recorded history relates to Phoenician and Carthaginian settlements such as Lixus and Chellah. There were also Berber cities such as Tamuda and Tingi (modern-day Tangiers).
Roman and sub-Roman Morocco
Initially the Berber kings ruled overshadowing Carthage and Rome, often as satellites, allowing Roman rulership to exist.
But after the fall of Carthage, the area was annexed to the Roman Empire in AD 40. Rome controlled the vast, ill-defined territory through alliances with the tribes rather than through military occupation, expanding its authority only to those areas that were economically useful or that could be defended without additional manpower. Hence, Roman administration never extended outside the restricted area of the northern coastal plain and valleys. This strategic region formed part of the Roman Empire, governed as Mauretania Tingitana.
During the time of Augustus, Mauretania was a vassal state and his rulers (like Juba II) controlled all the areas south of Volubilis. But the effective control of Roman legionaries was until the area of Sala Colonia (the castra "Exploratio Ad Mercurios" south of Sala is the southernmost discovered until now). Some historians believe the Roman frontier reached actual Casablanca, settled by Romans as a port.
During the reign of Juba II Emperor Augustus (who created in the area of what is now northern Morocco 12 colonies with retired Roman legionaries) had already founded three colonias, with Roman citizens, in Mauretania close to the Atlantic coast: Iulia Constantia Zilil, Iulia Valentia Banasa and Iulia Campestris Babba.
This western part of Mauretania was to become the province called Mauretania Tingitana shortly afterwards. The capital was the rich emporium of Volubilis.
In those centuries, the area controlled by Rome had great economic development, helped by the construction of Roman roads. The area was initially fully under control of Rome and only in the mid-2nd century was built a limes south of Sala and until Volubilis.
In his book "Wasf Afriquia" Hassan Al Wazan (nicknamed Leo Africanus) refers to "Anfa" (ancient Casablanca) as a great city which was founded by the Romans. He also believed that Anfa was the most prosperous city on the Atlantic coast because of its fertile land.
Around 278 AD Romans moved their regional capital to Tanger and Volubilis started to lose importance.
The region remained a part of the Roman Empire until 429 AD as the Vandals overran the area and Roman administrative presence came to an end.
Indeed in the 5th century, the region fell to the Vandals, Visigoths, before being recovered by the Romans in rapid succession. During this time, however, the high mountains of most of modern Morocco remained unsubdued, and stayed in the hands of their Berber inhabitants.
Christianity was introduced in the 2nd century and gained converts in the towns and among slaves and Berber farmers. By the end of the 4th century, the Romanized areas had been Christianized, and inroads had been made as well among the Berber tribes, who sometimes converted en masse. But schismatic and heretical movements also developed, usually as forms of political protest. The area had a substantial Jewish population as well.
Early Islamic Morocco
The Arabs conquered the region in the late 7th century, bringing their civilization and Islam. While part of the larger Islamic Empire, Morocco was initially organized as a subsidiary province of Ifriqiya, with the local governors appointed by the Arab governor in Kairouan. The Arabs converted the indigenous Berber population to Islam, but Berber tribes retained their customary laws. Arab-Berber relations were inconsistent and often tense in the early years – while some Arab governors encouraged Berbers to participate in the new Islamic state and cultivated their Berber lieutenants, others regarded them as little more than a conquered people, imposing high taxes and tribute demands upon Berber populations and treating Berber auxiliaries rather shabbily.
In 740, spurred by puritanical Kharijite agitators, the Berbers revolted against Arab rule. The rebellion began among the Berber tribes of western Morocco, and spread quickly across the region. Although the rebellion petered out before the gates of Kairouan in 742, neither the Umayyad rulers in Damascus, nor their Abbasid successors, would manage to re-impose Arab rule on the liberated areas west of Ifriqiya. Morocco slipped out of the leash, and fragmented into a small collection of independent Berber statelets (Fes, Berghwata, Sijilmassa and Nekor, plus Tlemcen and Tahert in what is now western Algeria) under their own rulers and laws. The Berbers went on to shape Islam in their own image – some (like the Banu Ifran) retained their connection with radical puritan Islamic sects, others (like the Berghwata) constructed a new syncretic faith which was simply folk religion thinly disguised as Islam.
As the "wild west" of the Islamic world, Morocco quickly became a haven for many dissidents, rebels and refugees from the eastern caliphate. Among these was Idris ibn Abdallah, who with the help of the local Awraba Berbers, founded the Idrisid Dynasty in 788. His son Idris II erected a splendid new capital at Fes and launched Morocco as a centre of learning and a major power. Another significant arrival around this time was a group of puritan Miknasa Berber rebels from Ifriqiya, who went on to establish the settlement of Sijilmassa (in southeast Morocco) and open trade across the Sahara desert with the gold-producing Ghana Empire of west Africa. Although the Midrarids of Sijilmassa and the Idrisids of Fez were frequently at odds politically and religiously, the Trans-Saharan trade route made them economically inter-dependent.
The balance was upset in the early 900s, when yet another group of religious refugees from the east, the Fatimids, arrived in the Maghreb. Not long after seizing power in Ifriqiya, the Fatimids invaded Morocco, conquering both Fez and Sijilmassa. Morocco fell into anarchy in the aftermath, fought over between Fatimid governors, Idrisid loyalists, new puritan groups and interventionists from Umayyad al-Andalus. Opportunistic local governors sold and re-sold their support to the highest bidder. In 965, the Fatimid caliph al-Muizz invaded Morocco one last time and established a modicum of order. But no sooner was that done, the Fatimids turned their backs on the west, and moved to Egypt, and their new capital in Cairo.
The Fatimids had assigned the Zirids, a Sanhaja Berber clan centered in Ifriqiya, to keep an eye on their western dominions. But facing their own difficulties, the Zirids were unable to prevent Morocco from spinning out of their control and crumbling into the hands of a collection of local Zenata Berber chieftains, most of them clients of the Caliph of Cordoba, such as the Maghrawa in the region of Fez and their on-again, off-again rivals, the Banu Ifran, just east of them.
Morocco reached its height under a series of Berber dynasties, that arose south of the Atlas Mountains and expanded their rule northwards, replacing the local rulers. The 11th and 12th centuries witnessed the founding of several great Berber dynasties led by religious reformers and each based on a tribal confederation that dominated the Maghrib (also seen as Maghreb; refers to North Africa west of Egypt) and Al-Andalus for more than 200 years. The Berber dynasties (Almoravids, Almohads, Marinids and Wattasids) gave the Berber people some measure of collective identity and political unity under a native regime for the first time in their history, and they created the idea of an "imperial Maghrib" under Berber aegis that survived in some form from dynasty to dynasty. But ultimately each of the Berber dynasties proved to be a political failure because none managed to create an integrated society out of a social landscape dominated by tribes that prized their autonomy and individual identity.
In 1549, the region fell to successive Arab dynasties claiming descent from the Prophet Muhammad: first the Saadi dynasty who ruled from 1549 to 1659, and then the Alaouite dynasty, who remained in power since the 17th century.
The Alaouite Dynasty is the name of the current Moroccan royal family. The name Alaouite comes from the ʿAlī of its founder Moulay Ali Cherif who became Prince of Tafilalt in 1631. His son Mulay r-Rshid (1664–1672) was able to unite and pacify the country. The Alaouite family claim descent from Muhammad through the line of Fāṭimah az-Zahrah, Muhammad's daughter, and her husband, the Fourth Caliph ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib.
The Alaouites entered Morocco at the end of the 13th century when Al Hassan Addakhil, who lived then in the town of Yanbu in the Hedjaz was brought to Morocco by the inhabitants of Tafilalet to be their imām. They were hoping that, as he was a descendant of Muhammad, his presence would help to improve their date palm crops thanks to his barakah "blessing", an Arabic term meaning a sense of divine presence or charisma. His descendants began to increase their power in southern Morocco after the death of the Saʻdī ruler Ahmad al-Mansur (1578–1603).
In 1659, the last Saʻdī sultan was overthrown in the conquest of Marrakech by Mulay r-Rshid (1664–1672). After the victory over the zāwiya of Dila, who controlled northern Morocco, he was able to unite and pacify the country.
The organization of the kingdom developed under Ismail Ibn Sharif (1672–1727), who, against the opposition of local tribes began to create a unified state. Because the Alaouites, in contrast to previous dynasties, did not have the support of a single Berber or Bedouin tribe, Isma'īl controlled Morocco through an army of black slaves. With these soldiers he drove the English from Tangiers (1684) and the Spanish from Larache (1689.) However, the unity of Morocco did not survive his death — in the ensuing power struggles the tribes became a political and military force once again.
Only with Muhammad III (1757–1790) could the kingdom be pacified again and the administration reorganized. A renewed attempt at centralization was abandoned and the tribes allowed to preserve their autonomy.
Under Abderrahmane (1822–1859) Morocco fell under the influence of the European powers. When Morocco supported the Algerian independence movement of the Emir Abd al-Qadir, it was heavily defeated by the French in 1844 and made to abandon its support.
From Muhammad IV (1859–1873) and Hassan I (1873–1894) the Alaouites tried to foster trading links, above all with European countries and the United States. The army and administration were also modernized, to improve control over the Berber and Bedouin tribes. With the war against Spain (1859–1860) came direct involvement in European affairs — although the independence of Morocco was guaranteed in the Conference of Madrid (1880), the French gained ever greater influence. German attempts to counter this growing influence led to the First Moroccan Crisis of 1905–1906 and the Second Moroccan Crisis (1911.) Eventually the Moroccans were forced to recognise the French Protectorate through the Treaty of Fez, signed on December 3, 1912. At the same time the Rif area of northern Morocco submitted to Spain.
Under the protectorate (1912–1956) the infrastructure was invested in heavily in order to link the cities of the Atlantic coast to the hinterland, thus creating a single economic area for Morocco. However the regime faced the opposition of the tribes — when the Berber were required to come under the jurisdiction of French courts in 1930 it marked the beginning of the independence movement. In 1944, the independence party Istiqlāl was founded, supported by the Sultan Muhammad V (1927–1961). Although banned in 1953, France was obliged to grant Morocco independence on March 2, 1956, leaving behind them a legacy of urbanisation and the beginnings of an industrial economy.
Despite the weakness of its authority, the Alaouite dynasty distinguished itself in the 18th and 19th centuries by maintaining Morocco's independence while other states in the region succumbed to Turkish, French, or British domination. However, in the latter part of the 19th-century Morocco's weakness and instability invited European intervention to protect threatened investments and to demand economic concessions. The first years of the 20th century witnessed a rush of diplomatic maneuvering through which the European powers and France in particular furthered their interests in North Africa. Disputes over Moroccan sovereignty were links in the chain of events that led to World War I.
The successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century did not affect the Mediterranean heart of Morocco. After the Napoleonic Wars, North Africa became increasingly ungovernable from Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire, the resort of pirates under local beys, and as Europe industrialized, an increasingly prized potential for colonization.
The Maghreb had far greater proven wealth than the unknown rest of Africa and a location of strategic importance affecting the exit from the Mediterranean. For the first time, Morocco became a state of some import to the European Powers. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Recognition by the United Kingdom in the 1904 Entente Cordiale of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco provoked a German reaction; the "crisis" of 1905–1906 was resolved at the Algeciras Conference (1906), which formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco jointly to France and Spain.
French and Spanish protectorates
A second "Moroccan crisis" provoked by Berlin, increased European Great Power tensions, but the Treaty of Fez (signed on March 30, 1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Ifni) zones on November 27 that year. Spain was given control of pieces of Morocco in the far north (Protectorate of Tetuan) and south (Cape Juby). Tangier received special international status. From a strictly legal point of view, the treaty did not deprive Morocco of its status as a sovereign state. Theoretically, the sultan remained the sole source of sovereignty. He reigned, but he did not rule.
Under the protectorate, French civil servants allied themselves with the French settlers (colons) and with their supporters in France to prevent any moves in the direction of Moroccan autonomy. As pacification proceeded, the French government promoted economic development, particularly the exploitation of Morocco's mineral wealth, the creation of a modern transportation system, and the development of a modern agriculture sector geared to the French market. Tens of thousands of colons entered Morocco and bought up large amounts of the rich agricultural land. Interest groups that formed among these elements continually pressured France to increase its control over Morocco.
Opposition to European control
In December 1934, a small group of nationalists—members of the newly formed Moroccan Action Committee (Comité d'Action Marocaine—CAM)—proposed a Plan of Reforms that called for a return to indirect rule as envisaged by the Treaty of Fès, admission of Moroccans to government positions, and establishment of representative councils. The moderate tactics used by the CAM to obtain consideration of reform—petitions, newspaper editorials, and personal appeals to French officials—proved inadequate, and the tensions created in the CAM by the failure of the plan caused it to split. The CAM was reconstituted as a nationalist political party to gain mass support for more radical demands, but the French suppressed the party in 1937.
Nationalist political parties, which subsequently arose under the French protectorate, based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter (a joint U.S.-British statement that set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live).
Many Moroccan Goumiere assisted the Americans in both World War I and World War II. During World War II, the badly divided nationalist movement became more cohesive, and informed Moroccans dared to consider the real possibility of political change in the post-war era. However, the nationalists were disappointed in their belief that the Allied victory in Morocco would pave the way for independence. In January 1944, the Istiqlal (Independence) Party, which subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement, released a manifesto demanding full independence, national reunification, and a democratic constitution. The sultan had approved the manifesto before its submission to the French resident general, who answered that no basic change in the protectorate status was being considered. The general sympathy of the sultan for the nationalists had become evident by the end of the war, although he still hoped to see complete independence achieved gradually. By contrast, the residency, supported by French economic interests and vigorously backed by most of the colons, adamantly refused to consider even reforms short of independence. Official intransigence contributed to increased animosity between the nationalists and the colons and gradually widened the split between the sultan and the resident general.
In December 1952, a riot broke out in Casablanca over the murder of a Tunisian labor leader; this event marked a watershed in relations between Moroccan political parties and French authorities. In the aftermath of the rioting, the residency outlawed the new Moroccan Communist Party and the Istiqlal.
France's exile of the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V to Madagascar in 1953 and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate both from nationalists and those who saw the sultan as a religious leader. Two years later, faced with a united Moroccan demand for the sultan's return, rising violence in Morocco, and the deteriorating situation in Algeria, the French government brought Mohammed V back to Morocco. The negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.
Independent Morocco: since 1956
In late 1955, Mohammed V successfully negotiated the gradual restoration of Moroccan independence within a framework of French-Moroccan interdependence. The sultan agreed to institute reforms that would transform Morocco into a constitutional monarchy with a democratic form of government. In February 1956, Morocco acquired limited home rule. Further negotiations for full independence culminated in the French-Moroccan Agreement signed in Paris on March 2, 1956. On April 7 of that year France officially relinquished its protectorate in Morocco. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956. The abolition of the Spanish protectorate and the recognition of Moroccan independence by Spain were negotiated separately and made final in the Joint Declaration of April 1956. Through this agreement with Spain in 1956 and another in 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored, though attempts to claim other Spanish possessions through military action were less successful.
In the months that followed independence, Mohammed V proceeded to build a modern governmental structure under a constitutional monarchy in which the sultan would exercise an active political role. He acted cautiously, having no intention of permitting more radical elements in the nationalist movement to overthrow the established order. He was also intent on preventing the Istiqlal from consolidating its control and establishing a single-party state. In August 1957, Mohammed V assumed the title of king.
Reign of Hassan II
Hassan II became King of Morocco on March 3, 1961. His rule would be marked by political unrest, and the ruthless government response earned the period the name "the years of lead". The new king took personal control of the government as prime minister and named a new cabinet. Aided by an advisory council, he drew up a new constitution, which was approved overwhelmingly in a December 1962 referendum. Under its provisions, the king remained the central figure in the executive branch of the government, but legislative power was vested in a bicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary was guaranteed. In May 1963, legislative elections took place for the first time, and the royalist coalition secured a small plurality of seats. However, following a period of political upheaval in June 1965, Hassan II assumed full legislative and executive powers under a "state of exception," which remained in effect until 1970. Subsequently, a reform constitution was approved, restoring limited parliamentary government, and new elections were held. However, dissent remained, revolving around complaints of widespread corruption and malfeasance in government. In July 1971 and again in August 1972, the regime was challenged by two attempted military coups.
After neighbouring Algeria's 1962 independence from France, border skirmishes in the Tindouf area of south-western Algeria, escalated in 1963 into what is known as the Sand War. The conflict ended with no territorial changes made after OUA mediation.
Despite serious domestic turmoil, the patriotism engendered by Morocco’s participation in the Middle East conflict and by the events in Western Sahara contributed to Hassan’s popularity and strengthened his hand politically. The king had dispatched Moroccan troops to the Sinai front after the outbreak of Arab-Israeli War in October 1973. Although they arrived too late to engage in hostilities, the action won Morocco goodwill among other Arab states. Shortly thereafter, the attention of the government turned to the acquisition of Western Sahara from Spain, an issue on which all major domestic parties agreed.
Western Sahara conflict
The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south became part of the new Morocco in 1969, but other Spanish possessions in the north (Ceuta, Melilla and some small islands) remain under Madrid's control, with Morocco viewing them as occupied territory.
A defining theme of Moroccan history and foreign policy is the bitter struggle over Western Sahara. Moroccan claims to Western Sahara date to the 11th century. However, in August 1974, Spain formally acknowledged the 1966 United Nations (UN) resolution calling for a referendum on the future status of Western Sahara and requested that a plebiscite be conducted under UN supervision. A UN visiting mission reported in October 1975 that an overwhelming majority of the Saharan people desired independence. Morocco protested the proposed referendum and took its case to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, which ruled that despite historical “ties of allegiance” between Morocco and the tribes of Western Sahara, there was no legal justification for departing from the UN position on self-determination. Spain, meanwhile, had declared that even in the absence of a referendum, it intended to surrender political control of Western Sahara, and Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania convened a tripartite conference to resolve the territory’s future. But Madrid also announced that it was opening independence talks with the Algerian-backed Saharan independence movement known as the Polisario Front.
In early 1976, Spain ceded Western Sahara administration's to Morocco and Mauritania. Morocco assumed control over the northern two-thirds of the territory and conceded the remaining portion in the south to Mauritania. An assembly of Saharan tribal leaders duly acknowledged Moroccan sovereignty. However, buoyed by the increasing defection of the chiefs to its cause, the Polisario drew up a constitution and announced the formation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). A new dimension was thereby added to the dispute because the liberation movement could now present its claims as a government-in-exile.
Morocco eventually sent a large portion of its combat forces into Western Sahara to confront the Polisario’s forces, which were relatively small but well-equipped, highly mobile, and resourceful, using Algerian bases for quick strikes against targets deep inside Morocco and Mauritania as well as for operations in Western Sahara. In August 1979, after suffering military losses, Mauritania renounced its claim to Western Sahara and signed a peace treaty with the Polisario. Morocco then annexed the entire territory and, in 1985, built a 2,500-kilometer sand berm around three-quarters of it. In 1988, Morocco and the Polisario Front finally agreed on a United Nations (UN) peace plan, and a cease-fire and settlement plan went into effect in 1991. Even though the UN Security Council created a peacekeeping force to implement a referendum on self-determination for Western Sahara, it has yet to be held, periodic negotiations have failed, and the status of the territory remains unresolved.
More than any other issue since independence, the objective of securing Western Sahara had unified the Moroccan nation. Because of the firm stand the king had taken, it also enhanced his popularity in the country. But the war against the Polisario guerrillas put severe strains on the economy, and Morocco found itself increasingly isolated diplomatically. Successive governments showed little inclination to move seriously against pressing economic and social issues. As a result, popular discontent with social and economic conditions persisted. Political parties continued to proliferate but produced only a divided and weakly organized opposition or were suppressed. Through the force of his strong personality, the legacy of the monarchy, and the application of political repression, the king succeeded in asserting his authority and controlling the forces threatening the existing social order. Gradual political reforms in the 1990s culminated in the constitutional reform of 1996, which created a new bicameral legislature with expanded, although still limited, powers. Although reportedly marred by irregularities, elections for the Chamber of Representatives were held in 1997.
Reign of Mohammed VI
Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997, and with the death of King Hassan II of Morocco in 1999, the more liberal-minded Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed, who assumed the title of Mohammed VI, took the throne. He has since enacted successive reforms to modernize Morocco, and the country has seen a marked improvement in its human rights record. One of the new king’s first acts was to free some 8,000 political prisoners and reduce the sentences of another 30,000. He also established a commission to compensate families of missing political activists and others subjected to arbitrary detention. In September 2002, new legislative elections were held, and the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires—USFP) led all other parties in the voting. International observers regarded the elections as free and fair, noting the lack of irregularities that had plagued the 1997 elections. Under Muhammad VI, Morocco has continued down a path toward economic, political, and social reform and modernization. In May 2003, in honor of the birth of a son and heir to the throne, the king ordered the release of 9,000 prisoners and the reduction of 38,000 sentences. Also in 2003, Berber-language instruction was introduced in primary schools, prior to introducing it at all educational levels. In 2004, the government implemented reforms of the family code improving the status of women—first proposed in 2000—despite the objections of traditionalists.
In March 2000, women's groups organised demonstrations in Rabat proposing reforms to the legal status of women in the country. 200,000 to 300,000 women attended, calling for a ban on polygamy and the introduction of civil divorce law. Although a counter-demonstration attracted 200,000 to 400,000 participants, the movement for change started in 2000 was influential on King Mohammed, and he enacted a new Mudawana, or family law, in early 2004, meeting some of the demands of women's rights activists.
In July 2002, a crisis broke with Spain over an uninhabited small island lying just less than 200 meters from the Moroccan coast, named Toura or Leila by Moroccans, and Perejil by Spain. After mediation by the United States, both Morocco and Spain agreed to return to the status quo by which the Island remains deserted.
Internationally, Morocco has maintained a moderate stance, with strong ties to the West. It was one of the first Arab and Islamic states to denounce the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. In May 2003, Morocco itself was subjected to the more radical forces at work in the Arab world when Islamist suicide bombers simultaneously struck a series of sites in Casablanca, killing 45 and injuring more than 100 others. The Moroccan government responded with a crackdown against Islamist extremists, ultimately arresting several thousand, prosecuting 1,200, and sentencing about 900. Additional arrests followed in June 2004. That same month, the United States designated Morocco a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally in recognition of its efforts to thwart international terrorism. On January 1, 2006, a comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Morocco took effect. The agreement had been signed in 2004 along with a similar agreement with the European Union, its main trade partner.
- History of Africa
- History of North Africa
- Imperial cities of Morocco
- List of Kings of Morocco
- List of museums in Morocco
- Moroccan Wall
- Mauretania Tingitana
- Politics of Morocco
- Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
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