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11th January 1944: Morocco’s Independence Manifesto- a day to remember

Moroccans of all ethnicities have a shared history of struggle against European colonial powers.

Also known as the Independence Manifesto of January 11, this day marks a significant event in Morocco’s struggle to regain the right to self-determination under the rule of Sultan Mohamed V. 

66 Moroccan nationalists signed a manifesto on January 11, 1944, demanding independence from colonial France and the installment of a Moroccan government under Sultan Mohammed V.

France's response was immediate and heavy-handed. French colonial authorities pressured Sultan Mohammed V to condemn the proclamation, purged Moroccan nationalists and intellectuals who had signed the manifesto, and arrested some of the signatories under the pretext of being Nazi spies.

Oppression only backfired, as the arrest and exile of Moroccan nationalists led to the monarchy joining forces with the nationalist movement. As a result, Sultan Mohammed V became a symbol of the struggle for independence.

Moroccan unity defeats France’s divide-and-conquer game 

While there is much to remember about colonial brutality and how it has scarred Morocco’s history, the January 11 Independence Proclamation stands out as the peak of Morocco’s intellectual struggle for the universal right of self-determination.

In addition to brutally depriving Moroccans of their right to self-determination, colonial France actively sought to drive a wedge between Morocco’s different ethnicities to divide and conquer. 

Against the backdrop of events leading to World War II, the French Protectorate issued the “Berber Dahir,” a decree to segment the national unity of Morocco by establishing a different legal system for Amazigh-speaking regions.

The decision gave rise to Morocco’s national movement, as protests erupted across the country in major cities demanding that Morocco’s territorial integrity under Sultan Mohammed V remain intact.

Paying no heed to colonial efforts to take advantage of Morocco’s different ethnicities to divide the nation, Sultan Mohamed V spared no effort to guard the nation’s unity. 

Even as Nazi Germany offered to support Morocco’s independence in exchange for prosecuting Moroccan Jews, the Moroccan Sultan protected Moroccan Jews against any form of discriminatory policies.

Imperial efforts to divide Morocco’s unity ultimately failed as Morocco officially claimed independence in 1956, a little over a decade after the 66 Moroccan intellectuals and political leaders signed what became the first intellectual articulation of modern-day Morocco’s fight against European occupation and colonization

For this reason, many historians of Moroccan nationalism consider January 11, 1944, as a key date in Morocco’s struggle to gain self-determination. A country’s past, Jill Lepore suggested in the excellent introduction to her fascinating 2018 book on modern American history, “is an inheritance, a gift, and a burden. It can’t be shirked…. There is nothing for it but to get to know it.” 


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