Moroccan street vendor commits self-immolation in protest to government oppression

Published April 19th, 2016 - 10:11 GMT
A police officer kicks a demonstrator during a protest in Rabat, Morocco. (AFP/File)
A police officer kicks a demonstrator during a protest in Rabat, Morocco. (AFP/File)

Wide protests against "repression and corruption" have been taking place in Morocco in the past few days after a street vendor set herself on fire in the northern city of Kenitra in protest of the confiscation of her wares by the local police.

The sixty-year-old street vendor, nicknamed in the Moroccan media as "The Baghrir (Moroccan pancake) vendor Umm Fatiha," committed self-immolation on April 9, after a Kenitra police officer confiscated her stall because she refused to move it. Two days afterward, she died of burns at a local hospital, unknowingly becoming a symbol of governmental heartlessness.

According to an eyewitness, the local policemen scolded the woman, using verbal abuse and physical harassment against her to force her to leave the place. "After she refused his orders to move with her wares into the market, the police chief violently shoved her, threatening her in front of all: 'If you walk away from here, I will run over you with my car and no one will help you."

A graphic video that was disseminated on Arab social media shows Umm Fatiha setting herself on fire in front of the local police's building, in front of police officers who ignore the incident.

The video engendered a wide national outcry against "government repression and corruption." Dozens of citizens gathered on Monday outside the police building in Kenitra, carrying banners with slogans, such as, "We are all the sons of Umm Fatiha," "'The people want to topple corruption" and "the local municipality is the cause of Umm Fatiha's death."

Adhering to the citizens' demands, Morocco's Interior Ministry appointed an investigation committee to look into the details of Umm Fatiha's self-immolation.

On Sunday, local Moroccan activists created a special page on Facebook in commemoration of Umm Faitha, called "We are all Umm Fatiha." The page includes anti-government posts, such as: "Yesterday, it was Umm Fatiha. Today, it is my mother. Tomorrow, it is your mother", as well as banners against the state's oppression.

By Maayan Groisman 


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