“There were about 300 of us protesting in Rabat on Sunday [RFI reported a total of 500 demonstrators in the dozen or so cities who participated in the protests]. “Stop TGV” was joined by other non-governmental organisations who wanted to attend the demonstration. [Activists from the anti-establishment February 20th Movement also took part in some of the protests]. People were chanting “I love my country, I don’t want the TGV”, “Le Marzan (the Moroccan authorities) are tyrants forcing the TGV upon us”, or “Give back the billions stolen from the people”.
This is the first time a demonstration like this has taken place since the construction of the train line began in September 2011. Up until Sunday, we’d been trying to get our message across by handing out leaflets and organising conferences and sit-ins. But as time passed and nothing happened, we realised that we needed to take more dramatic action. We used social networks to organise the rallies, which were peaceful demonstrations. There were no violent outbursts amongst protesters and the security forces did not intervene.
Flag carried by a protestor in Rabat. Photo published on Facebook by Hicham Belkouch.
The high-speed rail project is a shocking waste of money. In rural areas, but also in some urban areas, the lack of public transport prevents children from going to school. The “Stop TGV” accountants have calculated that €2.5 billion could pay for the construction of 16,000km of roads in rural areas, 25,000 schools, 16,000 libraries, and 25 university hospitals. Morocco needs roads, schools, libraries, and hospitals. In Agadir, which is a big city, there isn’t a single university hospital. Spending such excessive amounts on this high-speed rail project could damage the country’s economy for years to come.
A demonstrator holding up a sign with an anti-TGV message. Photo published on Facebook by Hicham Belkouch
The authorities should have held a referendum on the new high-speed train service. The truth is that this train line is for the rich, and only a handful of Moroccans will benefit from it.