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Why Moroccans Celebrate ‘the Revolution of the King and the People’

For 70 years, August 20 has represented to Moroccans a day of remembrance, heroic struggle, and the hermetically sealed union between the king and the people.

The anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People, to be celebrated this year Sunday, August 20, marks a watershed moment in Morocco’s contemporary history. This is the story behind it.

The French Protectorate and the Rise of Nationalism

On March 30, 1912, Morocco signed a “protection agreement” with France and Spain, in the belief that Moroccans were unable to defend their country from foreign threats and preserve their country’s integrity and independence.

Under the guise of a protectorate, Morocco was colonized. For 44 years, Moroccan identity underwent countless violations of freedom and dignity. Morocco’s resources, both human and natural, were exploited and run down. The kingdom’s sovereignty and independence were lost in the face of colonial abuse of power.

However, colonialism resulted in undesired effects that threatened the stability of the colonizer and later on led to its doom. Colonial rule fostered a stronger sense of nationalism, democracy and justice.

Moroccans refused to stand hopeless in the defiance of tyranny. They revolted, first in Fez and then in the mountains, plains, deserts, in the north, south, east, and west. Patriotic blood was shed in defense of freedom, independence, sovereignty, and dignity. These protests, however, were silenced by the colonizer.

In hope of independence, Morocco also fought for France in several battles during World War II, trusting that France would grant it self-rule as a token for gratitude. Against their expectations, however, once WWII was over, colonialism became even more brutal and aggressive than ever.

The King of the People

In contempt of French oppression of Morocco, the late King Mohammed V began unshakably calling for the abolition of the protectorate agreement and for its replacement by another agreement that recognizes Morocco's independence.

In 1947, He visited the international city of Tangier and delivered a speech stressing Moroccan allegiance to the Arab world, making no mention of France, an effective act of resistance. His determination, of course, shook the power the French colonizer had over Morocco.

In 1951, the French encouraged a tribal rebellion against Him. Under the pretext of protecting him, the colonial residence surrounded the Royal palace and enjoined the legitimate King Mohammed V, under threat of arms, to surrender or be exiled.

The King did not surrender. On August 20, 1953, French military forces presented an order approved by the French government to remove the late Mohammed V from the thrown and exile Him to the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea in preparation for His transfer to another location.

The event took place during the Eid al-Adha (Sacrifice Feast), giving rise to resentment and disgust among Moroccans.

For the colonizer, the overthrow of Mohammed V meant that the Moroccan sovereignty would be completely removed, and that Morocco would be weakened. However, Mohammed V was a beloved national monarch, and was a proponent of the national movement for independence since its inception in the early 1930s.

The King and the People’s Revolution

Against what the French thought it would be a day of grief and despair, August 20 was a day of hope and revolution. It contributed to strengthening of the nationalist front and the unity of Moroccans behind their legitimate King.

Amidst the horrors and violent repression of the French colonizer, activists from Morocco and abroad joined, bravely, the lines of resistance forces and fought for their kingdom.

They chose to stay true to their convictions and continue their struggle for the liberation of their country and the return of the Sultan, who embodied the unity of the nation and epitomized its national values.

Faced with the rise of armed resistance from the National Liberation Army and an unprecedented increase of its operations throughout this country, the colonial authorities were forced to accept dialogue and open negotiations with the nationalists.

Through their dedication, the latter precipitated in the triumphal return of the legitimate sovereign Mohammed V and the declaration of the independence of Morocco.

This victorious revolution succeeded in freeing the country from the yoke and tutelage of the French Protectorate, paving the way for the advent of the era of independence.



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