In Morocco: social injustice creates Kamikazes
Hicham Houdaïfa - 19/12/2008
After Abdelfettah Raydi blew himself up in a cybercafé in Casablanca on 11 Mars 2007, press photos and TV reports showed the house of the kamikaze, where his mother and six brothers and sisters still live: a six square meter shack of corrugated iron in a big shantytown, the famous Douar Sekouila. A shantytown that “provided” the twelve kamikazes of 16 May 2003, responsible for five attacks on Casablanca, which cost the life of 33 victims and hundreds of wounded people.
The first in the history of the Alawite kingdom known for its political stability and historic tolerance. To commit their act, the young unemployed of this shantytown – Casablanca counts for more than 300 run-down neighbourhoods – managed to find the formula on the internet: an explosive mix of hydrogen peroxide, acetone and hydrochloric or sulphuric acid. All these products are sold freely in the country’s drugstores.
A metastasis of poverty
After 16 May 2003, the world discovered another Morocco, that of slums. Douar Sekouila, located in the poor district of Sidi Moumen grew progressively, starting from the 60’s. Most of its inhabitants come from the countryside of the Chaouiya (region of Casablanca, Settat) and other rural areas of the country: men and women who have fled the droughts to seek asylum in the biggest city of the Kingdom. Here, thousands of Moroccan citizens live without toilets, sewage, electricity and even water (a few public fountains ensure a minimum service). “Today we are witnessing a metastasis of poverty. In Casablanca, shantytowns aren’t only located in the suburbs, but also in the town centre, even next to some luxury areas. There, it’s rural Casablanca”, explains a sociologist. Almost 10% of Casablanca’s population lives in these conditions; that is almost 400.000 people. Many of these slums are lawless: the symbols of the State are sometimes inexistent there…
The tragic events of 16 May 2003 displayed all the ingredients of a social crisis. Yet, nothing, or very little, was done.
That is why the events that took place four year later are not surprising.
11 March 2007: Abdelfettah Raydi blows himself out in a cybercafé in the district of Sidi Moumen in Casablanca. With his friend Youssef Khoudri, they attract the attention of the owner, who notices that they’re surfing from one Islamic site to another. He therefore decides to block the access from his workstation. The two accomplices get nervous. This drives the owner to call the police.
Abdelfettah Raydi activates his explosive belt. He dies instantly. Wounded, Youssef Khoudri is captured a few metres away from the cybercafé. The investigation that follows reveals a network of young Casablancans, who circulate with their explosive belts while waiting for the order to perpetrate terrorist attacks. Securitarians claim that: “it was a nascent terrorist organisation aimed at perpetrating attacks against the port of Casablanca, a garrison house of the Auxiliary Forces and several police stations in the city”. The police investigation, on the other hand, leads to the questioning of about thirty suspects. On 10 April, another dramatic turn of events ensues. Four terrorists explode themselves in a poor district of town, Hay Farah (literally the joy district) making one victim, a police officer, and about twenty wounded.
Among the kamikazes, there’s Ayoub, the brother of Abdelfettah Raydi. Three days later, two brothers, Mohamed and Omar Maha, unknown to the battalion, blow themselves up, one in front of the US General Consulate, another in front of the American Language Center. No one is hurt.
According to the specialists on radical movements, these young recruits of Al Quaeda had lost contact with their “coordinators”. Knowing that they were going to be arrested sooner or later, they conscientiously applied the order of Al Quaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al Zawahiri: “Suicide yourselves rather than being caught”.
What happened in the head of these young Moroccans who were ready to die rather than be captured by police forces? During the two months of March and April 2007, Casablanca lived in terror. And its own children were the cause. This suicidal tendency reminds us of other social behaviours that are just as deadly.
Thousands of young Moroccans risk their lives for a better tomorrow in Spain, France or Italy. “It’s better to burn out than to fade away”, tell themselves candidates to the hrig (i.e. clandestine immigration). Others spend their days high on karkoubi (cheap psychoactive drugs) and mutilating their arms to show the world that they have nothing to lose. All of them live a marginal life and share the same spaces: slums and shantytowns.
On the following day of the events of April 2007, historian Benjamin Stora declared: “There are political groups that become radical due to social and political desperation. There is a form of social escheat that touches the new generations. The new factor in the Maghreb is self-violence. These are marks of absolute desperation.” A desperation that is ever more present...
This article is published in the framework of the Dar-Med Project
"Preventing Violent Radicalisation 2007"
"Avec le soutien financier du Programme Preventing Violent Radicalisation
Commission Européenne - DG Justice, Liberté et Sécurité"