“Women are at the heart of struggles in Morocco”

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day, Azlaf Zahra of the Democratic Way in Morocco reflects on the importance of women’s struggles in the country and the world

March 07, 2020 by Zoe Alexandra
Moroccan women in the forefront of the teacher's struggle.

Across the globe, the far-right grows in strength. Reactionaries are attempting to impose their conservative values and agenda through force and violence, attacking the hard-won rights of the working class and the marginalized. Women have been among the most affected by the resurgence of the far-right and the imposition of neoliberal economic policies.

The rates of sexual violence, femicide and other forms of violence against women continue to grow, even as they also suffer disproportionately from the precarization of work. According to a report released recently by Oxfam, women and girls across the world dedicate 12.5 billion hours, every day, to unpaid care work.

Faced with these crises, it is the movements of women and the LGBTQ community that are in the front lines of resistance across the world. Women are protagonists of struggles not only for their own rights, but for structural transformation, for the right to housing, work and a dignified life, and against the attacks of imperialism. On March 8, International Women’s Day, these movements will take to the streets across the world to reiterate their commitment to these struggles. This year, the mobilizations are all the more significant as they come ahead of the International Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggles that will be marked from May 25-31.

In Morocco, state repression against social and democratic movements has been steadily intensifying and socio-economic conditions in the country have been rapidly deteriorating. As in other countries, women have been among the worst hit, and have also been the heart of the resistance. Azlaf Zahra of the Democratic Way of Morocco, a Marxist-Leninist organization, spoke to Peoples Dispatch about the major issues facing Moroccan women, their role in the resistance and the importance of anti-imperialism in their struggles.

Peoples Dispatch: What are the central issues facing Moroccan women?

Azlaf Zahra: Moroccan women played an active role in the anti-colonial struggle. Unfortunately, after “independence” in 1956, women were distanced from the management of public affairs. Official history has ignored them.

In Morocco today, women from the working class play a central role in social movements to demand the right to decent housing (the case of women that live in shantytowns), the right to schooling and education, health (free clinics), the right to work, clean drinking water, and the right to electricity.

The woman who works in the factory is over-exploited and badly paid. She endures daily harassment by her managers in order to keep her job. But with the current crisis of capitalism, factories are closing and workers, the majority of whom are women, are being unfairly dismissed without any compensation. That is why we believe that the fight for the emancipation of women in general and the fight against the capitalist exploitation of women workers in particular are interconnected.

In certain regions of Morocco, for instance the Rif region (in the north), women are on the front lines of the struggle against repression and for the liberation of hundreds of political prisoners, who struggled peacefully for basic rights such as universities, hospitals and roads.

Azlaf Zahra and other women participate in a mobilization demanding the prisoners of the Rif movement be freed.

The Amazigh regions are among the most marginalized and poorest in the country. Women are the first victims of the marginalization of their native tongue.

Women are also the victims of the sex trade between the monarchies of the Gulf and Morocco. They are exploited in the mines, in the agricultural sector, in textile production, the canning industry and in luxury tourism. There are thousands of women who transport contraband on their backs between Morocco and Spain every day. Thousands of women are victims of conjugal and extra-conjugal violence in Morocco. The average illiteracy rate among Moroccan women is over 50% (and is close to 80% in the countryside).

These are some of the major issues facing Moroccan women, issues that we consider a priority in our struggles.

Like women in other regions of the world, Moroccan women confront their degrading conditions with courage and determination as they struggle to build a just society, a socialist society.

Women are very active in the social movements in many regions of Morocco. As working women, they are in the forefront of struggles in agriculture, industry and the service sectors. Women peasants are waging battles for the right to land and for other rights such as decent housing, free education and healthcare, against the high cost of living, against violence and diverse forms of segregation. Women in Morocco organize marches and rallies in the cities and in the countryside. They are part of movements of unemployed graduate students, of all the struggles of students, and the movement against precarity of work. They participated actively in the February 20 Movement in 2011.

Women are at the heart of struggles in Morocco. And we have to continue to be in the center of these struggles, with the democratic movements and with the working class.

As is the case with women across the globe, there are specific rights for which we must fight for as well, such as institutionalizing civil rights (equality in inheritance, prohibition of polygamy), as well as equal economic, political, social and cultural rights in our laws. We must also be active in the struggle for the rights that stem from international human rights law.

PD: How does imperialism affect the Moroccan people, particularly Moroccan women?

AZ: The Moroccan state depends on international financial institutions and is an unconditional ally of imperialism (notably the US and France).

The transnational corporations established in Morocco benefit a certain number of privileged people and are also the cause of the precariousness of work which causes the suffering of all workers. Morocco’s agricultural produce is mainly exported as opposed to being used for local needs. This is the origin of the local malnutrition that mostly affects women and children.

PD: Why it is important to link the feminist struggle to the anti-imperialist struggle?

AZ: The participation of Moroccan women in the struggle for the emancipation of society and for liberation must be simultaneously directed at local reactionary forces and at imperialism. Without independence from imperialism, there can be no change at a local level that benefits people in general and women in particular. So the struggle of women against imperialist domination and against local marginalization are interdependent.

In my opinion, the feminist struggle at an international level must also be directed not only against local issues of each country, but also against imperialism, which is the origin of wars, of which the first victims are women and children, and of the anti-people conditions that are imposed by international financial institutions.