Imprisoned Moroccan Rapper El-Haqed Begins Hunger Strike
Belghouat, known as “El-Haqed” (the Vengeful One, in Arabic), has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of the monarchy and has spent the better part of the last year in prison.
Police arrested him on March 29, 2012, because of a YouTube video of his song “Kilab ed-Dowla” (Dogs of the State), with a photo of a policeman whose head has been replaced with a donkey’s. The song denounces police corruption with lines like, “You are paid to protect the citizens, not to collect people’s money and take it to your chief.”
In his statement to the police, Belghouat denied any connection to the video, saying unknown people made it, set it to Belghouat’s music, and posted it. A separate recording of Belghouat rapping “Kilab ed-Dowla,” but without any of the controversial visuals, is on YouTube.
He was found guilty of “showing contempt” toward “public servants in the exercise of their duty,” with the intention of “undermining their honor.”
Previously, he had spent four months in prison on assault charges after clashing with a monarchist on charges his lawyers say were trumped up to silence a growing protest movement. The 24-year-old hip-hop artist and member of Morocco’s youth activist group M20F.
“There will be not turning back,” the defiant rapper told AFP in 2012. “Power to the people. Thanks to rap, I have committed myself for the people and its hardships. Our demands are huge.”
“We need a new deal, there is too much injustice. They brought in a new government but thieves are still enjoying impunity. We need to get rid of that scum,” he said.
Human Rights Watch is following the case and has called for his release based on the new Moroccan Constitution that guarantees “Freedom of thought, opinion and expression in all its forms are guaranteed. Freedom to create, publish, and display literary and artistic materials and scientific and technical research are guaranteed.”
Last month, Transparency Morocco honored the rapper for his “fight for an integrated and transparent society”.