Morocco Activists Plan Loyalty Protest

Launched by a Facebook group, the protest is due to take place on Wednesday after the royal ceremony, with so far more than 800 people planning to attend.

Morocco’s “Celebration of loyalty and allegiance,” an annual ceremony at the palace when senior officials prostrate themselves before the king, usually coincides with Throne Day, on July 30, when King Mohammed VI addresses the nation.

But it has been rescheduled this year for during the Eid al-Fitr holidays, due to begin in Morocco on Sunday or Monday, marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The Facebook page describes the annual Moroccan ritual as “the biggest example of medieval practices, which should be rejected by those who believe in freedom.”

Hamza Hafouz, a member of the protest group, told AFP: “We’ve had enough of these practices, which undermine dignity.”

“We want to see the country take real steps towards modernity by breaking with these kinds of practices,” he added.

The traditional ceremony is attended by hundreds of MPs, regional governors and other senior officials dressed in traditional white jalabiya robes and red fezzes, who wait for the king to appear on a black horse shaded by a large parasol and accompanied by his entourage of servants.

They then organise themselves into long lines facing the monarch and proceed to kneel before him, chanting: “Blessings and long life to you.”

Mohammed VI has vowed to press ahead with reforms, including strengthening the independence of the judiciary and battling corruption, after constitutional changes he made last year in a bid to contain Arab Spring-style protests.

When the ceremony did not take place on Throne Day this year, some journalists speculated it might have been cancelled as part of the reforms. But Moroccan media then announced it had been rescheduled.

Despite higher levels of press freedom than in some Arab countries, open criticism of the king is rare.- SAPA