Morocco was characterized by the succession to the throne of the crown prince Sidi Muḥammad, who became king Muḥammad vi, son of the deceased Ḥasan ii, who died in July 1999. In the first months of his reign, some symbolic gestures of the new sovereign seemed to suggest a certain political liberalization of the regime: for example, the amnesty decree for political prisoners, which also benefited some Islamic militants; the return of dissidents to their homeland, including the relatives of Morocco Ben Barka, political opponent of the Ḥasan ii regime, kidnapped and killed in circumstances never cleared up in Paris in 1965; but above all the removal from the government of the powerful Minister of the Interior D. Basri, decided in November 1999 and welcomed with enthusiasm both inside and outside the country. In the course of 2000 an important confrontation between the monarchy and moderate Muslim forces took place: the great impact force of Islamic extremists in society, in fact, greatly frightened the monarchy determined to inaugurate a plan of reforms and modernization, and aware of having to establish a dialogue with the subjects. For Morocco history, please check historyaah.com.
In the spring of 2000, for example, several hundred thousand protesters took to the streets against the government proposal to reform one of the family statutes that appeared to be one of the most backward in the Arab world in favor of women. At the same time, after years of harsh repression, the most radical Islamist movement, which had always garnered a broad consensus in the poorest areas of the country, was reviving. In the outskirts of the cities, extremist fundamentalist organizations, considered among the most active in the galaxy of Islamic terrorism, were increasingly taking root: Salafia Jihadia (Salafism fighting), born in Morocco at the end of the nineties, al-Assirat al-Moustaquim (the Right Way), founded in the early seventies as a filiation of the Muslim Brotherhood and, among the most dangerous, al-takfir W’al Hijra (Anathema and Exodus) which constituted a serious threat to the crown, considered too dominated by ‘West. In September 2002 the country held the legislative elections which resulted in the success, with 50 seats, of the Socialist Union of Popular Forces of Prime Minister ‘Abd al-Rahman Yusufi and the allied party Istiqlal (48 seats); 42 seats were awarded to the Justice and Development Party. The following month the king appointed D. Jettou, an independent, former minister of the interior, as prime minister. The 16May 2003 a coordinated suicide attack hit several targets (a Spanish restaurant, the Belgian consulate, a Jewish center and a hotel) in Casablanca almost simultaneously, killing 45 people and injuring over 100.
The authorities recognized al-Assirat al-Moustaquim’s responsibility behind the attack and carried out numerous arrests extremely quickly (as soon as he was stopped, one of the main suspects died in police custody). Between July and August over 700 people were investigated in relation to the facts and many terrorists, including from the Salafia Jihadia , were sentenced to death; anti-terrorism measures were reinforced, expanding the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty. At the same time Muhammad will continued in his plan to modernize the country: the most important battle was that for a new Family Code approved in Parliament in January 2004. In keeping with “a principle of just and modern family justice,” the code abolished repudiation and the principle of submitting the wife to her husband, making polygamy nearly impossible. In this wake, the monarchy’s invitations not to promote the use of the veil were also considered, even banning textbooks with representations of veiled women from elementary schools (2006). Another significant battle was that promoted by Muḥammad vi to shed light on the human rights violations committed in Morocco between the sixties and the nineties, during the long reign of his father Ḥasan ii ; at the end of 2005 the Commission for Equity and Reconciliation presented the king with a detailed report on the victims of the repression and on the role of the country’s political police. In this context, the revelations of a former member of the secret services of Morocco about the involvement of the Moroccan (and French) services in the kidnapping and killing of Ben Barka took on greater consistency.
In foreign policy in the early years of the new century, relations between Spain and Morocco underwent a fluctuating trend: united in fighting terrorism, after the Madrid attacks of March 2004 (which had involved numerous Moroccans), the two countries launched a joint prevention plan against terrorism and organized crime.Tension provoked during 2005 the continuous trafficking of illegal immigrants from Morocco to Spain; several times during the year, in fact, the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast were stormed to illegally enter Spain. Relations between the Morocco and the Frente Polisario, the national liberation movement of Western Sahara, still appeared difficult; in 2004 and 2005 two UN resolutions reaffirmed the urgency to launch the plan for the self-determination of the Sahrawi people, whose final status will be established by a referendum to be held under the aegis of the United Nations. In 2006, the release of prisoners on both sides bode well for the fate of the conflict monitored since 1991 by MINURSO ( United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara ).