Silya Ziani, a protest singer from Morocco’s Rif region, was arrested on June 5, 2017, while traveling by taxi with a group of three other activists to Casablanca. She remains in custody without charge.
Ziani is a member of the Amazigh (Berber) ethnic group and was about to finish her university degree in Amazigh culture last October when protests erupted in the capital of the Rif region, Al Hoceima. After the death of a fish merchant sparked outrage over widespread corruption and underdevelopment in the region, Amazigh people around Morocco, and particularly in Al Hoceima, took to the streets in a movement demanding government action. Ziani abandoned her studies and began singing at every demonstration.
After the protest movement’s leader, Nasser Zafzafi, was arrested on May 29, 2017 and eventually charged with “threatening national security,” Moroccan authorities began detaining dozens of other Amazigh activists all over the country with the justification that the “protests had stopped being peaceful.” Ziani and her companions were stopped and detained on June 5 as they were accompanying the parents of Zafzafi to his first hearing in Casablanca.
Ziani’s family, who have been able to visit her, have stated through their lawyers that she is well, though they contend that she suffered mistreatment during her initial processing and that she has been held in solitary confinement in Casablanca. They believe that she is suffering from acute depression.
Women activists in Rabat, Morocco’s capital, staged a mass demonstration calling for Ziani’s release on July 8, which was brutally dispersed by police. She was scheduled to appear in court on July 12, but information about her charges and trial are forthcoming. Join us in calling for Ziani’s immediate release and the respect of freedom of expression by Moroccan authorities as the Rif protests continue into their tenth month.