As protests spread throughout Morocco, the vigor of those happening in Al Hoceïma started to garner global attention. Newspapers compared Mohcine Fikri to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor whose self-immolation lit the match that started the Arab Spring. Despite the fact that Fikri does not seem to have forfeited his life willingly, there are some clear similarities: both were North African; both sold food; many observers saw them both as having been arbitrarily targeted by police; and their deaths became symbols for broader political grievances throughout their respective countries.
But, this comparison glosses over what makes Al Hoceïma, Al Hoceïma. Morocco is not Tunisia. Long before Fikri’s death, the Rif region had long held a reputation for being an epicenter of resistance and anti-government protest; a lot of which—past and present—revolved around demands for regional autonomy and cultural recognition, a context Tunisia does not share. The people here identify ethnically as Amazigh. Unlike Morocco’s Arab majority, the Amazigh speak a different language, have different cultural customs, and remember the nation’s past differently.—Roads & Kingdoms also featured in the February 27 New York Times