Riot police officers scuffle with the protesters who
threatened to set themselves in Rabat. REUTERS/Youssef
Moroccan police spraying water cannon have stopped 13
unemployed blind university graduates from setting themselves
on fire in Rabat in protest against a public sector hiring
The graduates had tied themselves together with ropes around
their necks to block a main Rabat street, poured fuel over
their clothes and threatened to set themselves on fire, a
Reuters journalist at the scene said.
Morocco, which brought in the austerity measures in January,
faces demands from international lenders to reduce deficits
and cut public spending, which has risen as Rabat sought to
calm the kind of popular discontent seen in the Arab Spring
Those revolts began in 2011 after street vendor Mohamed
Bouazizi set himself ablaze in the Tunisian city of Sidi
Bouzid in a protest against police harassment there.
Unemployed graduates have long demonstrated for jobs in the
Moroccan capital but their movement has gained strength since
the start of the austerity programme.
Rabat police moved in quickly to spray the blind protesters
with water cannon to dampen the fuel before chasing them away
using batons. Hundreds of chanting protesters demanding jobs
in the public sector joined them in support.
"I want a job in my country, I want dignity in my country,"
Morocco's public sector has in past hired massively in the
public administration to ease social pressures and protests,
but the kingdom's heavy spending following the 2011 Arab
Spring uprisings has increased deficits.
Rabat is also cutting back wages for public workers, reducing
subsidies and reforming its pension system.
Morocco's three largest labor unions agreed earlier this year
to join forces against cuts in pensions and subsidies
demanded by the government's international lenders, and say
they plan massive protests in coming weeks.