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Union Nationale Des Etudiants Marocains (UNEM)


Originally left-wing opposition group in Morocco that came to be dominated by Islamists in the 1990s.

The Union Nationale des Etudiants Marocains (UNEM), originally supported by teachers and high school students, was involved in extralegal and radical activities against the monarchy and its governments during the 1960s and 1970s, when it was associated with the progressive faction of the Istiqlal Party and the Union Nationale des Forces Populaires (UNFP). Its agenda was redress of political, social, economic, and educational grievances. In July 1963 Hamid Berrada, secretary-general of the UNEM, was condemned to death for allegedly plotting against the state in support of Mehdi Ben Barka. He fled the country and, with Ben Barka and Muhammad al-Basri, initiated a campaign to denounce the monarchy. One year later, UNEM's president, Muhammad Halaoui, was arrested for having criticized Berrada's sentencing. Between 1963 and 1973 UNEM leaders were repeatedly arrested and imprisoned for organizing strikes and engaging in subversion. The peak of the government's crack-down came in April 1972 with a mass trial of eighty-one student leaders on charges of treason. Twenty-eight received long jail sentences.

The UNEM was dissolved in 1973 and reconstituted in 1978. The new leadership initiated a number of demonstrations between 1979 and 1981 that resulted in further clashes with the authorities, but in general the political calm in Morocco during the 1980s was reflected in the UNEM's relatively low profile. In 1991 clashes on university campuses between leftists and Islamists were related, in part, to their respective attempts to gain control of the UNEM. Mostly affiliated with Jamiʿat al-Adl wa alIhsan (Justice and Charity Group), the leading Islamist extraparliamentary movement, Islamist students came to control most of the country's student organizations by the end of the decade, including the UNEM, and found themselves in periodic confrontations with the authorities.

see also ben barka, mehdi; istiqlal party: morocco; union nationale des forces populaires (unfp).


Waterbury, John. The Commander of the Faithful. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970.

bruce maddy-weitzman

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