Moroccan human rights activist arrested for buying alcohol

The well-known Moroccan activist Abdullah Zaazaa was arrested last night in his Casablanca neighborhood of Bouchentou, for buying alcohol during Ramadan. Alcohol sales in Morocco resumed legally today, after being banned during the month of Ramadan and the Eid. However, Mr. Zaazaa and other men in his neighborhood were arrested during a raid on a house where alcohol was being sold. 

I reported earlier this month on the movement in Morocco (and Algeria, where several people were arrested this month, in one case while eating during the day inside a closed restaurant, and where the human rights groups SOS Algeria issued a communiqué defending the right not to fast) to decriminalize breaking the fast in public. Mr. Zaazaa had been supportive of that effort. 

Mr. Zaazaa has been a left-wing activist since the 1970s. He spent 14 years in jail under Hassan II. Today, he heads a community association that helps educate the residents of the two Casablanca neighborhoods in which it is based on their human, civic and political rights, and to mobilize around communal projects and demands. 

As Mr. Zaazaa's wife told me over the phone tonight, it is hardly unusual for alcohol to be available in their neighborhood during the Eid. This raid and these arrests may be part of an increasingly aggressive enforcement of public religiosity -- and may be partly catalyzed by the very demands for greater individual freedom in choosing whether to observe Ramadan. 

 

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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.