Hirak Rif or The Rif Movement is a popular mass protest movement that has taken place in the Berber-speaking Rif region in northern Morocco between October 2016 and June 2017 as a result of the death of a fishmonger who was crushed to death in a garbage truck after jumping in the back, following the confiscation of his allegedly illegal fish merchandise by the local authorities.

The mass protest movement was met with a violent repression from the Moroccan government with many violent clashes between police and protesters in various cities and towns all across Morocco and led to the arrest of more than 150 Moroccans, perceived by the regime as the leaders of the movement.

Today, the leaders of the Hirak movement have been are sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Less than three months after being sentence, Nasser Zafzafi, the main leader of the movement, and while in Moroccan prisons, has been nominated for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for individuals or organizations who have worked for human rights and freedom of opinion.

The leader of the Hirak movement has been chosen by the Confederal Group of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE / NGL) which brings together parties of left and extreme left such as Die Linke (Germany), Podemos (Spain), the Left Front (France) or Syriza (Greece).

Nasser Zafzafi is on a list of eight candidates for the Sakharov 2018 prize, which includes Russian director and opponent Oleh Sentsov arrested in 2014 by Russia and sentenced to 20 years for “preparation for terrorist acts”. Or Dewayne Johnson, an American gardener with cancer who recently won his case against giant agricultural biotechnology Monsanto.

The eight candidates will be assessed on 27 September at a joint meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the European Parliament’s Development Committee. They will submit a list of three finalists to the Conference of Presidents for a final vote. The name of the winner will be announced on October 25, before the award ceremony, next December.

Established by the European Parliament in 1988, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of the Mind rewards individuals or organizations each year who “have made an outstanding contribution to the fight for human rights around the world, and attracts “attention to human rights violations while providing support to the winners and the causes they fight for,” reads the official website of the Prize.