It is true that demonstrations all over Morocco have been increasing since the Arab Spring. There are demands in various sectors, such as education or health. It goes without saying that unemployment is one of the driving forces that make many young people go out into the streets and voice themselves. This is the case now in Youssoufia where the unemployed youth have been protesting for four months. Their demands are clear; they want to have jobs in their city. But, this phenomenon is somehow linked to the events that happened in the city during the Arab spring in Morocco. We talked to the demonstrators to get insight into their actions and demands and shed some light on the issue.
Youssoufia is a city well known for its phosphates industry. Since the French colonization, phosphate has been extracted from the surrounding lands to be prepared and shipped by train to another branch of Group OCP (Office Chérifian de Phosphates) in Safi. The substance is then manufactured and exported to countries all over the world. One cannot deny that Morocco’s economy has been based on this industry for decades now. Phosphate and its derivatives are used in many fields, especially agriculture; the company produces powerful fertilizers that help grow plants. This shows that the product in question is vital not only to Moroccan economy but to the whole world as long as it is crucial in fighting food shortage. Here again, we note that OCP is the only company in Youssoufia, and the youth of the city usually look for jobs in other cities of Morocco. However, the company decided to recruit new employees after the protests of 2011. This was a turning point in the relationship between the local inhabitants of the city and the company.
Five years ago, there were continuous demonstrations against the marginalization of the city even before the emergence of the 20th February movement in Morocco. The people wanted a change in their city. They could see that their city doesn’t benefit from the phosphate industry at all. The situation became critical when some protesters stopped the trains that carry phosphate to Safi. In this respect, the company decided to recruit some of the youth from Youssoufia and Khouribga as well in other areas where the protests took place. OCP also financed vocational education in different institutes for the unemployed. Now, some of the young people who were not included in the program have been protesting for four months now.
The demonstrators took various forms of voicing their demands. They started with sit-ins in front of OCP’s administration followed by marches in different neighborhoods and protests in the city centre. They are back now to a sit-in next to the administration. They have put up hand-made tents to spend the days and nights there until they are given jobs.