Members of the National Committee of Unemployed PhD Holders organized a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Education today to draw attention to their ongoing struggles.
Yet what was intended to be a peaceful demonstration took a distressing turn when they were met with a significant police presence and subsequent violence.
“We wanted to resume our struggle by outlining a program that included a protest in front of the ministry today. We wanted to start our sit-in at 11:30 AM,” said Houda Chair, a member of the National Committee. “But when we arrived, we encountered a significant police presence. This forced us to disband our sit-in and head towards the tramway rails to provide statements to the press.”
The authorities’ response to the peaceful protest took a troubling direction when police forces intervened forcefully, “provoking the protesting PhD holders and subjecting them to physical assault,” according to Chair.
Two protestors were urgently taken to the hospital, and four others sustained injuries after being manhandled by police agents, who were already in a fragile state.
Chair further said that their struggle began as a response to provocative statements made by the minister, who questioned the value of a doctoral degree and called for the recruitment of foreign experts.
In response to these remarks, the PhD holders organized sit-ins, which have continued for four years.
The protesters believe that “undermining the value of doctoral degrees poses a threat to the university system, its professors, and the research laboratories they have contributed to.”
Despite multiple attempts to contact the ministry, including sending letters to inform them of their intention to go on a hunger strike and escalate their actions, the minister remained unresponsive.
The concerns of the unemployed PhD holders were also raised in parliament, but “the ministry persists in its pursuit of competitive exams”, which the protesters argue are tainted by nepotism and a lack of transparency.
The professors who were arrested during the protest were the same individuals who had been on a hunger strike. The initial hunger strike was disbanded due to the quake that hit Morocco on Sept. 8.
Chair and her colleagues affirmed their resolve to continue their sit-in until their demands are met. These demands primarily focus on securing employment opportunities that are suitable for doctoral degree holders, a right they believe is both legal and constitutional.