Morocco has been the home of the Berbers since the second millennium B.C. In A.D. 46, Morocco was annexed by Rome as part of the province of Mauritania until the Vandals overran this portion of the declining empire in the 5th century. The Arabs invaded circa 685, bringing Islam. The Berbers joined them in invading Spain in 711, but then they revolted against the Arabs, resenting their secondary status. In 788, successive Moorish dynasties began to rule in Morocco. In 1086, Berbers took control of large areas of Moorish Spain until they were expelled in the 13th century.

In the 16th century, the Sa'adi monarchy, particularly under Ahmad Al Mansur (1578-1603), repelled foreign invaders and inaugurated a golden age. The Alaouite dynasty established a sultanate in Morocco beginning in 1660.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Morocco was one of the Barbary States, the headquarters of pirates who pillaged Mediterranean traders. In 1860, Spain occupied northern Morocco and ushered in a half century of trade rivalry among European powers. In 1904, France and Spain concluded a secret agreement that divided Morocco into zones of French and Spanish influence, with France controlling almost all of Morocco and Spain controlling the small southwest portion, which became known as Spanish Sahara. By the terms of the Algeciras Conference in 1906, the sultan of Morocco maintained control of his lands and France's privileges were curtailed.

In 1912, the sultan, Moulay Abd al-Hafid, permitted French protectorate status. Nationalism grew during World War IISultan Muhammed V was deposed by the French in 1953 and replaced by his uncle. In 1956, France and Spain recognized the independence and sovereignty of Morocco. Sultan Mohammed V organized the new state as a constitutional monarchy and assumed the title of king in 1957.

At his death on February 26, 1961, Muhammed V's son succeeded him as King Hassan II. In the 1990s, King Hassan promulgated "Hassanian democracy," which allowed for significant political freedom while retaining ultimate power for the monarch. In August 1999, King Hassan II died and his son, Prince Sidi Muhammed, was crowned King Muhammed VI. Muhammed VI advocated more rights for women, a position opposed by Islamic fundamentalists.

Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) has been criticized by the international community. A rebel group, the Polisario Front, fought against Morocco beginning in 1976 for the independence of Western Sahara on behalf of the indigenous Saharawis. The Polisario and Morocco agreed in September 1991 to a UN-negotiated cease-fire, which was contingent on a referendum regarding independence. Morocco opposed the referendum. In 2002, King Muhammed VI asserted that he "will not renounce an inch of" Western Sahara.

On May 16, 2003, terrorists believed to be associated with al-Qaeda killed 33 people in several simultaneous attacks. Four bombs targeted Jewish, Spanish, and Belgian buildings in Casablanca. In the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, Spain, numerous Moroccans were implicated. A wave of suicide bombings struck Casablanca in March and April 2007.

Influenced by protests elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, thousands of Moroccans in February 2011 rallied in Rabat and other major cities to demand constitutional reform and to protest government corruption and high food prices. A number of similar demonstrations and marches continued through March. In early March, King Mohammed VI announced the formation of a commission to reform the country's constitution.

The constitution passed by popular referendum on July 1, 2011. New powers were extended to parliament and the prime minister, but ultimate authority remained in the hands of the monarch.

In November 2011, the Justice and Development Party won the largest number of seats, becoming the first Islamist party to lead the government.

In March 2012, following the suicide of 16-year-old girl forced to marry her rapist, outraged internet activists led calls for changes to Article 475 of the penal code, which allowed for the "kidnapper" of a minor to marry his victim to escape prosecution.

In October 2013, King Mohammed VI appointed a new government following a power-sharing deal forged by Prime Minister Abdelila Benkirane after his governing coalition was hit by the resignation of one of its partners.

In January 2014, parliament unanimously amended Article 475, which allowed rapists of underage girls to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims.

 © 2014 World Ministries International