COP22: A Brief Window of Democracy for Moroccan Civil Society

Daniel V | November 16, 2016.

At COP22, Morocco’s civil movements take to the streets to voice concerns and make their demands. Taking advantage of international media attention and the temporarily loosened of the Moroccan authorities, groups used mobilisations around the climate conference to turn the lens of the camera to their own struggles.

“Here, being blind is a crime.”

Members of Elfeth, a group of visually impaired Moroccans, protested against discrimination by the Moroccan government, and demanded more economic opportunities. 

Abdelaziz Aitmansour, a member of the organisation, explained that “we are here to show that the blind are fighting for their rights. We are here to demand integration into society, to demand a chance to show our abilities.”


Around one per cent of Morocco’s population are visually disabled and face systematic obstacles in securing support and employment. Educational support programmes and learning materials in Braille are scarce. Blind people are barred from many professions, such as teaching or serving in public administration due to the inaccessibility of the entrance exams.

Yet members of the group have defied their marginalisation, teaching themselves English and other subjects. Brahim Aitelihig, who aspires to become a professor of applied linguistics, says:

“We are just as capable as sighted people, we are not different, our only difference is sight.”

Soufiane Bansaalma, who dreams of becoming an English teacher and social worker, criticised the Moroccan government for using the COP for propaganda purposes. “It presents itself during the COP as a clean, democratic, fair country. But the reality of Morocco is what happens when the COP finishes. A reality that deprives us of our rights, and that makes our blindness a crime.” 

“This is a long struggle”, says Yassine Khankham, who has few illusions about the possibility of the government acting swiftly. “Blind people in Morocco have been protesting for their rights since the 1960s. The reason we take to the streets, the reason we are here is because there is nothing for us. The government adopts policies that push us to protest. We hope that those attending the COP realise that Morocco is a beautiful place, but also a catastrophic place, where [we] are treated with ignorance and discrimination.”

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