A History,
the Berbers,
the Royal Family,
and a True Story
A History • Officially known as the Kingdom of
Morocco, Morocco is a country
located in North Africa. It has a
population of over 32 million
• Morocco’s first-known inhabitants
were Near Eastern nomads who
may have been distant cousins of
the ancient Egyptians.
• Phoenicians appear to have arrived
around 800 BC, and when the
Romans arrived in the 4th century
BC, they called the expanse of
Morocco and western Algeria
‘Mauretania’ and the indigenous
people ‘Berbers’, meaning
The Berbers • In the 1st century AD, the Romans built
up Mauretania into a city of 20,000
(mostly Berber) people, but, fed up with
the persistently unruly Berbers, the
Roman emperor declared the end of
Berber freedom in North Africa in AD 40.
• But, the Berbers in the Rif and the Atlas
ultimately succeeded through a campaign
of near-constant harassment, in pushing
the Romans out (a huge feat at the time).
• As Rome slipped into decline, the nomadic
Berbers harried and hassled any army
that dared to invade to the point where
the Berbers were free to do as they
pleased, thus ‘claiming’ Morocco.
A traditional Berber
A Nomad Berber:
Berber Influence • The Morocco Berbers are considered an unconquered people,
even today.
• Today, most of the twenty-seven million Moroccans are either Berbers,
Arabs, or Moors (people of Berber/Arab decent).
• Most of the present day Berbers live in the mountains of Morocco
while the Arabs and Moors live in the cities.
Berber Language • Almost all Moroccans speak either
Berber or Moroccan Arabic as
mother tongues.
• Interestingly though, Berber is not
officially recognized in Morocco,
though French (the old colonial
language) is.
• Many Moroccans master both
languages at a native-speaker
• Both languages are present in
every city and town of the country
and have regional dialects and
Islamic Morocco
• In the second half of the 7th century,
the soldiers of the Prophet
Mohammed set forth from the
Arabian Peninsula and overwhelmed
the peoples of North Africa.
• Within a century, nearly all Berber
tribes had embraced Islam, although,
true to form, local tribes developed
their own brand of Islamic Shi’ism,
which sparked rebellion against the
eastern Arabs.
• Like other schools of thought in
Islam, Shia Islam is based on the
teachings of the Quran and the
message of the Islamic prophet
France Gets Involved • France took control of Morocco in 1912, making its capital at the city
of Rabat and handing Spain a token zone in the north.
• Opposition from Berber mountain tribes was officially ‘crushed,’ but
continued to simmer away and moved into political channels with the
development of the Istiqlal (independence) party.
• The Istiqlal party is the main political force struggling for the
independence of Morocco.
• Independence from France was achieved in
1956, and the party then moved into
opposition against the monarchy, which
had asserted itself as the country's main
political actor.
Morocco’s Flag
The Government • Morocco is a constitutional
monarchy with an elected
• A constitutional monarchy (or
limited monarchy) is a form of
government in which a monarch
acts as head of state within the
parameters of a constitution.
• This form of government differs
from absolute monarchy in which
an absolute monarch serves as the
source of power in the state and is
not legally bound by any
constitution and has the powers to
regulate his or her respective
The Parliment • Most constitutional monarchies employ a parliamentary system in
which the monarch may have strictly ceremonial duties or may have
reserve powers, depending on the constitution.
• Under most modern constitutional monarchies there is also a prime
minister who is the head of government and exercises effective
political power (ex – England).
Moroccan Parliament Opening
A Constitutional Monarchy • Unlike the Queen of England, the King of Morocco holds vast
executive and legislative powers, including the power to dissolve the
parliament, thus increasing his power (absolute).
• Executive power is exercised by the government but the king's
decisions usually overwrite those of the government if there is a
contradiction. Legislative power is vested in both the government
and the two chambers of parliament, the Assembly of
Representatives and the Assembly of Councillors. The king can also
issue decrees called dahirs which have the force of law.
The Royal Moroccan Palace, Rabat
The Royal Family • The Alaouite Dynasty is the name of
the current Moroccan royal family.
The Alaouite family claim descent
from Muhammad through his
daughter and her husband.
• They have been ruling the kingdom
of Morocco since the 17th century. In
the early 20th century, European
powers vied for power in Morocco.
• Sultan Abd al-Aziz IV displeased
Moroccans by cooperating with the
Europeans and was deposed (to
remove from office suddenly and
forcefully) in 1908.
Moroccan Royalty • His brother, Abd al-Hafiz, took the throne but
abdicated after the kingdom became a French
protectorate in 1912. He was succeeded by his brother
• Yusuf's son Mohammed V, who became sultan in
1927, was a widely respected nationalist. He was
deposed by the French in 1953, but under increasing
pressure from Moroccans and the Allies, France
allowed Mohammed V to return from exile in 1955,
where he took the title of king.
• Shortly following, Morocco successfully negotiated its
independence from France and Spain in 1956.
• When Mohammed V died suddenly of heart failure in
1961, his son, King Hassan II became the leader of
the new nation.
King Mohammed V
Moroccan Royalty Family Tree -
King Hassan II • When taking over, King Hassan II
consolidated power by crackdowns
on dissent (to differ in sentiment
or opinion) and suspending
parliament for a decade.
• Under his rule though, the
growing gap between the rich and
the poor ensured that dissent
remained widespread across a
broad cross-section of Moroccan
• Morocco is a country where human
rights violations have been
commonplace and speaking
against the King is a risk few dare
to take.
King Hassan II on his
The Years of Lead • From their independence in 1956
through the 1990s, the Moroccan state
sent thousands of dissidents and
political opponents to prison.
• During these decades, known to
Moroccans as the “Black Years,” and/or
“The Years of Lead,” the act of
expressing an “unauthorized opinion”
could earn years of arbitrary detention.
• Political opponents of King Hassan II’s
regime, many of them leftists or
Islamists, were often “disappeared” and
tortured or killed while in state custody.
King Hassan II
The Great Survivor• In all, Western officials estimate that at least
300 and perhaps as many as 700 political
opponents of the King have vanished.
• Many tried to assassinate him but King
Hassan II survived half a dozen coups and
assassination attempts to topple him from
his throne
• Known as the "great survivor" by his political
opponents, Hassan became the longest
reigning monarch in the Arab world after the
death of Sadam Hussein. His crown
remained in place while those of Libya,
Egypt, Iran and Iraq toppled.
• His survival was credited by luck and for
many years, his “right hand man” General
Mohammed Oufkir, who was in charge of
Morocco’s security.
King Hassan II
General Mohamed Oufkir• In 1956, General Oufkir, was called
upon by King Mohammed V (Hassan
II father) of Morocco to set up the
country’s armed forces.
• This was the beginning of a
closeness between the Oufkir family
and King Mohammed V.
• General Oufkir and his wife,
Fatima, were often royal guests at
the King’s palace.
General Oufkir
• This closeness was tested when the King asked the Oufkir’s for their
eldest daughter, Malika. In no position to decline, the Oufkir’s allowed
King Mohammed V to adopt then five-year-old Malika who lived
luxuriously in the royal Moroccan palace and served as a playmate for
his daughter, the young princess Lalla Mina (sister to Hassan II).
Loyal to the King…
• When Hassan II succeeded his
father King Mohammed V in 1961,
General Oufkir was put in charge of
security services for Morocco.
• He was very trusted by King Hassan
II (and the most powerful figure in
Morocco after the King) during the
1960s and early 1970s.
General Oufkir and King Hassan II
• Out of loyalty to his half-sister, Lalla Mina, a promise to his father,
and a fondness for Malika Oufkir, when his father died, King Hassan
II continued to raise General Oufkir’s daughter, now 8 years old, as
his own adopted daughter for the next 11 years.
• For all intents and purposes, Malika was raised by King Hassan II as
a princess and his daughter and rarely saw her biological family; to
her, they were almost like strangers.
Loyal to a Fault?
• As the right hand man of King Hassan II in
the 1960s and early 1970s, General Oufkir
led government supervision of politicians,
unionists and the religious establishment.
• He forcefully repressed political protest
through police and military clampdowns,
pervasive government espionage, show
trials, and numerous extralegal measures
such as killings and forced disappearances.
• Harassment of dissidents was commonplace
and several outspoken anti-government
activists were jailed and tortured or forcibly
disappeared by government forces or died
General Oufkir (right)
The ‘Ben Barka Affair’
• A feared figure in dissident circles, the
General was considered extraordinarily
close to power.
• One of his most famous victims is
believed to have been celebrated thirdworld politician, the charismatic leader
Mehdi Ben Barka, who had
"disappeared" in Paris in 1965.
• Among Mr. Oufkir's countless crimes,
the most notorious is the assassination
of Mehdi Ben Barka.
Mehdi Ben Barka
• All Moroccans ‘knew’ he had kidnapped and executed Ben Barka in
1965 as Barka was an “threat” to King Hassan II
• A French court convicted him of the murder, even though he was
living in Morocco and never served any time.
Rising in Power • In 1967, Oufkir was named Interior
Minister, vastly increasing his power
through direct control over most of the
security establishment.
• After a failed republican Skhirat military
coup in 1971, he was named Chief of
Staff and Minister of Defense, and set
about purging the army and promoting
Hassan’s personal supporters.
• The majority of the public feared him as
much as King Hassan II.
• His domination of the Moroccan political
scene was now near-complete, with the
king ever more reliant on him to contain
mounting discontent from Moroccans
against the regime.
General Oufkir ~ 1970
The Coup D’Etat • Much to the nation’s shock, only a few
years after his rise to power, General
Oufkir was accused of plotting the 1972
Republican coup attempt against King
Hassan II.
• On August 16, 1972, three Northrop F-5
jets, acting on Oufkir's orders,
intercepted Hassan's Boeing 727 as it
returned from France. They then opened
fire on the 727.
• However, the F-5's guns were only loaded
with practice ammunition and not
missiles, lessening their effectiveness.
One of the F-5 pilots also attempted to
ram King Hassan's 727, but missed the
Northrop F-5 jet
• Reportedly, King Hassan (himself
a pilot), grabbed the radio and
told the rebel pilots, "Stop firing!
The tyrant is dead!" Fooled, the
rebel pilots broke off their attack.
• Hassan's plane landed safely at
Rabat's airport, which was
strafed (to attack repeatedly with
bombs or machine-gun fire from
low-flying aircraft) by air force
jets, killing eight and injuring 40.
• Kenitra Airport, where most of
the rebellious air force officers
were from, was surrounded and
hundreds arrested.
Royal Moroccan Air Force Base
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”• There were many speculations on Oufkir’s involvement in the coup
• In an interview with the Spanish magazine Interviu in 1983, Ahmed
Rami, who was vice minister to General Oufkir, finally spoke out.
• The interviewer said of him, “Ahmed Rami is a marked man for his
participation in plots and for all he knows about the crimes and
corruption existing at the monarch's court, where sexual amusements,
depravity and treachery are the order of the day. From his hideaway in
Sweden he makes these surprising revelations” :
“…it is no secret that Oufkir and Dilimi were people who had made a
career by repressing the enemies of Hassan II, and that we, the 'Free
Officers' were quite clear that they couldn't play an important role in the
future of Morocco; but there were occasions when we required them all the
same. Oufkir and Dilmi were professional soldiers trained in France, who
in a decent regime would themselves have been decent, but they…
The Realization …ended up being the instruments of
Hassan II. For them the political errors
were the sole responsibility of the
politicians. But afterwards, when they
realized that the King wanted them as
mere guard dogs and that the Army was
utilized as a police force, they began to
change. The King turned them into a
hammer repression, but the hammer
suffers as many blows as the nail and also
ends up feeling the effects. When they saw
to what depths of moral and sexual
corruption Hassan II sank, they
determined to assume their responsibilities
and attempted to overthrow him."
Oufkir’s Death • Though official sources
claimed that the General had
committed suicide in response
to the failure of the coup, his
daughter, Malika Oufkir,
claims to have seen five bullet
wounds in her father's body,
all in positions not consistent
with suicide.
• It is generally accepted outside
of official circles that General
Oufkir was executed by forces
loyal to the Moroccan
The Sins of the Father…
• Following General Oufkir’s death, Hassan’s rage over his betrayal
could not be contained.
• On orders of the king, Oufkir's entire family (his wife, six children
ranging in ages from 3 to 18 – including Hassan’s adopted ‘daughter’
Malika, and two loyal family members) were then sent to secret desert
prison camps.
• The family, even though they had nothing to do with the coup, were
punished for General Oukfir’s crime and as a demonstration of King
Hassan’s power over dissents.
• Public outcry over the abhorrent persecution of innocent women and
children was instantly squashed by Hassan’s regime and no one in
Morocco was allowed to even speak of the family.
• The Oufkir family, in effect, disappeared for the next 20 years and
were only whispered about behind closed doors.
The Punishment…
• Gilles Perrault, a French journalist, has
said the Oufkir family has been pursued
with "an inextinguishable desire for
vengeance that is beyond any logic“
(referring to King Hassan II).
• The punishment began on Dec. 23, 1972,
when, after a few months under house arrest in Rabat, they were
loaded into trucks and taken to Akka in the south. There, in a former
barracks, they were held in isolation for a year.
• They were moved to Agdz and then Tazenakhte, near the southern
town of Ouarzazate. At the second of these prisons, the family was held
blindfolded for a year in miserable conditions.
• In 1977, they were moved to a farm converted into a secret prison at
Bir-Jdid, about 30 miles south of Casablanca, where conditions grew
worse and they suffered harsh treatment for an additional of 15 years.
The Oufkir Family in Prison -
One of the secret prisons at
Picture smuggled out of Tamattaght prison
in 1974 – imprisoned for two years so far –
(from left to right) Abdellatif (5 yrs), Maria (12) ,
Malika (21), Raouf (16), Myriam (19) and
Soukaina (11).
The Escape…
• Finally, in April 1987, with her weight down
to 60 pounds, Malika Oufkir (now 39 years
old) and three of her siblings escaped through
a tunnel they had painstakingly dug.
• For the youngest sibling, Abdellatif, who had
entered prison at the age of three, seeing life
outside the walls of confinement, was
overwhelming for the now 23 year old.
• After five days on the run and several
desperate attempts to get help, they were
arrested in Tangier.
• During those five days they had managed to
contact a French lawyer and the press. King
Hassan II released them into house arrest in
Morocco in 1987 due to pressure from citizens
(and international press) over the inhuman
treatment of the Oufkir’s for so many years.
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert
Jail by Malika Oufkir
• In 1991 they were among nine political
prisoners to be released after US and
European pressures on Hassan’s
regime. However, they were still not
“free” and were not allowed to leave
• After an additional five years under
close police supervision living in
Morocco, they finally fled to France.
• Ironically, the Oufkirs became the face
of the Years of Lead
• Their story is detailed by Oufkir's
daughter Malika in the memoir Stolen
Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail
• General Oufkir’s wife Fatima and his
son Raouf also published their accounts
of the period.
Malika Oufkir
Reviews of Stolen Lives: Twenty Years
in a Desert Jail “Earlier this year, the Oprah Winfrey Show featured Malika Oukfir,
whose Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail was both an Oprah
book of the month club selection, and a New York Times non-fiction
bestseller. Oufkir—who also appeared on 60 Minutes, the Today Show,
the Rosie O'Donnell Show, and NPR - recounted her imprisonment,
torture, and extraordinary reversal of fortune
at the hands of the Moroccan government, for
rapt American audiences. Her reception is
striking, not least because American interest
in Middle Eastern and North African culture
is so often reduced to the question, "Why do
they hate us?" Still, the way her story was told
in the United States—without historical or
political context—raises troubling questions
about human rights and the abuse of power.”
- Reviewed by Susan Slyomovics – The
Boston Review 2001
Justice Denied: The Magazine for the
Wrongly Convicted - review
“…In graphic detail that makes the Turkish prisons described in
Billy Hayes' Midnight Express seem like health spas, Malika
relates how her family was eventually reduced to the point that
they eagerly ate mouse droppings to supplement their meager food
rations… Those conditions were at their worst during the ten
years they spent at the Bir-Jdid prisons. Split into groups so they
could fit into four adjoining cells, the nine members of the Oufkir clan
were isolated in those cells and not allowed to see anyone in the other cells for
eight and a half years…Although Stolen Lives would be a smashing good tale if
it were fiction, it is all the more compelling since it is true. The book has spent
several months on the LA Times Nonfiction Bookseller List, so it has proved its
broad appeal…. Exceptionally well written, Malika's story comes alive in Stolen
Lives. I was captivated from its first pages, and I alternated between being
fascinated, disturbed and amused, sometimes on the same page. You can't ask
much more of a book than that it entertain and educate at the same time.”
- Review by Hans Sherrer for Justice Denied: The Magazine for
the Wrongly Convicted
Various Covers of the Memoir -
Review from From Booklist, American
Library Association “The ways that people hurt one another are always hard to fathom, and why they
do so is another mystery. It is true that General Oufkir probably led the 1972
attempted coup and assassination of King Hassan of Morocco. However, Oufkir's
wife and children, including Malika, found out about it only after his execution.
Still, guilt by association condemned them, without a trial, to more than 20 years
of imprisonment, including more than a decade of near starvation and torture…
After the coup attempt, Malika and other members of her family were exiled to an
abandoned fort in the countryside. Within four years they were moved to the BirJdid prison, where their worst torment began. They would not see one another or
sunlight for more than a decade. The physical toll of years of this treatment was
bad enough, but the emotional toll was far more devastating. By the time they dug
their way to freedom in 1987, they were emaciated skeletons. However, even then
it would be another nine years before they were totally free. The question of why it
happened is never really answered, but this is an extremely effective and graphic
picture of what evil is like from the vantage point of its most innocent victims.”
--Marlene Chamberlain
Reviews of Stolen Lives: Twenty Years
in a Desert Jail “The Oufkir family shows the incredible
strength and resilience of the human
spirit throughout their ordeal. They have
provided people a platform to speak about
human rights violations in Morocco and
have inspired the government to make
small strides towards correcting the
injustice. Malika may have written Stolen
Lives to come to terms and provide some
closure for herself, but in turn she has
affected the lives of many others with her
royalty to rags story.”
- Review by Lauren Crawford for
English Composition I – Oakland
Community College
Works Cited• Cohen, Roger. “King’s Wrath: Morocco Family Tale of 2 Decades”. The New
York Times 25 Jan.1994.
• Crawford, Lauren. “Palaces, Prisons, and Pardons.” English Composition I.
Oakfield Community College. December 2007
• Fraser-Cavassoni, Natasha. "The Moroccan Prisoner." Harper's Bazaar March
2001:General Reference Center Gold. Gale. 10 July 2012 2007.
• LeQuesne, Nicholas. "Palace Intrigues: Two new books recount a family's
perilous ties with Moroccan royalty." Time International: 29 March
1999:General Reference Center Gold. Gale. 9 July 2012
• “Live Free or Die Trying: The Berbers.” BBC Worldwide. 7 July 2012
• Macleod, Scott. "From Palace To Prison: Malika Oufkir went from being a
King's favorite to his enemy. Why her Stolen Lives has become a hit." Time 25
June 2001: General Reference Center Gold. Gale. 9 July 2012
• Oufkir, Malika, and Michelle Fitoussi. Stolen Lives : Twenty Years in a Desert
Jail. New York: Miramax Books, 2000.
• Sherrer, Hans. “Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail.” Justice Denied:
The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted. 2002
Works Cited• Slyomovics, Susan. “Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail.” The
Boston Review: A Political and Literary Forum. 2001
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