Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament. Political reforms in the 1990s expanded parliamentary power in 1992 and 1996, and in 1996 a bicameral legislature consisting of two chambers was established. On his accession to the throne in 1999, King Mohammed VI promised to enact a series of reforms democratizing the monarchy, but this was seen as largely unfulfilled. King Mohammad VI succeeded his father, King Hassan, who had ruled for thirty-seven years. Hassan’s rule, known as the “Years of Lead,” was largely marked by violence against state dissidents.
The Kingdom of Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975. Morocco has retained control of the majority of the territory, with the nationalist Sahrawi (the ethnic group of the Sahara, mostly those from Western Sahara) Polisario Front, controlling only 20-25% of the land. The Polisario Front has declared the entire Western Sahara territory to be the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD), which has been recognized by close to 80 other countries and granted membership to the African Union.
Sahrawis campaign for human rights and independence in the first intifada, Western Sahara, 1999-2004
In 1975, the Kingdom of Morocco invaded the Western Sahara territory, which had previously been a Spanish colony. Morocco, led by King Hassan II, attacked just as the territory was expected to gain independence from Spain for the first time. Morocco’s actions disobeyed a United Nations Security Council resolution stating that the people of Western Sahara had the right to self determination. The nationalist Sahrawi (the ethnic group of the Sahara, mostly from Western Sahara) Polisario Front, which had been fighting the Spanish, then turned its attention towards Morocco and
The Moroccan economy plummeted sharply in the mid-1980s, leading to a program of austerity measures recommended and enforced by the International Monetary Fund. Although these reforms enhanced the prosperity of the country’s elite, most laborers only noticed decreases in food subsidies, rising prices, and an increase in unemployment. People under 21 suffered most—their unemployment rate was above 30%. Most people continued to support the ruler, King Hassan, to project a unified front in the ongoing war against guerilla forces in Western Sahara. As the government made
Moroccan feminist groups campaign to reform Moudawana (Personal Status Code/Islamic family law), 1992-2004
Between 1992 and 2004, several NGOs built up around feminist ideologies, and a strive for women’s rights took over the leadership of a working group that campaigned for reforms of the Moudawana, or Personal Status Code, which severely restricted the rights of women in Morocco. The struggle to reform the Moudawana took place over decades, a movement that began with the inception of the law in the late 1950s.
Ever since gaining its independence from Spain in 1956, Morocco firmly held that the Spanish Sahara (now known as the Western Sahara) should be included within its borders. Morocco based this assertion on the fact that some of the nomadic populations in the region had apparently once owed allegiance to the Moroccan sultan, yet the strength of its commitment to securing control over Spanish Sahara may have increased after it became known in the early 1970s that the region contained substantial phosphate mines.