Standing Up to the King

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof

Perhaps no Arab ruler responded as wisely to this year’s pro-democracy protests as the king of Morocco — although that is an exceptionally low bar.

When other dictators in the Arab world answered protesters with gunfire, King Mohammed VI grudgingly accepted demonstrations, at least when he was in a good mood. His regime claimed that antigovernment activism underscored the country’s openness, and on Friday the king announced constitutional reforms that seem likely to reduce his own role in governing the country.

These days, as much of the Arab Spring has faded into an Arab winter of repression, Morocco still feels fairly spring-like. You can tell that from the denunciations of the regime thundered freely on the streets.

“We’re not a democracy,” Sami Mellanki, of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, told me emphatically. “Morocco is a police state!”


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