Moroccan Rapper and Activist Arrested for the Third Time


Photo Credit: Associated Press

Moroccan rapper and activist Mouad Belghouat (a.k.a. Al Haqed) was arrested again on May 18 as he was entering the Casablanca soccer stadium to watch a match. The police accused him of being drunk, selling football tickets on the black market,  and using violence against public officials.

Belghouat is known for his “outspoken lyrics … critiquing corruption, clientelism, the monarchy’s excessive wealth, and oligarchy.” He has now become “the main symbol” of the pro democracy February 20 movement. A “prisoner of conscience” declared by Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), Belghouat was sentenced to four months in prison in late 2011 for assaulting Alliance of Young Royalists member Mohamed Dali, and was arrested again in March 2012 for his anti-police song “Dogs of the State.”

Moroccan human rights activist Zineb Belmkaddem writes in her blog regarding Belghouat’s recent arrest that in his Facebook status one day before, he mocked the King for “going to perform Friday’s Jumuah prayer” with music playing, because “in Islam, this would be highly disrespectful given the spiritual solemnity of Jumuah prayer.” In an interview with Belghouat’s brother, he said that the police’s actions looked “as though it was premeditated, they acted as if they’d already planned to brutally assault us both at first, arrest us, take our belongings, beat us some more, then keep Mouad in custody.” Ted Swedenburg says the arrest must have “everything to do with the fact” that Belghouat speaks out against the Moroccan government’s repressive acts.

Allison L. McManus writes that the US has “hailed the Moroccan Arab Spring model as a shining example for the rest of the region” because “[Morocco] is linked to US political interests through a very public and forthright position as an ally in the war on terror.” But with the regime perpetuating structural oppression, the US must “pressure the monarch for greater respect of human rights.”