Abdelkrim el-Khattabi the ghost who haunts the "Alaouites" kings of Morocco - The360 PlayBuzz

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  • Friday, November 29, 2019

    Abdelkrim el-Khattabi the ghost who haunts the "Alaouites" kings of Morocco

    Abdelkrim el-Khattabi the ghost who haunts the "Alaouites" kings of Morocco

    "President of the Republic" then prisoner under Mohammed V, resister exiled under Hassan II, historical symbol disturbing under Mohammed VI... The hero of the Rif continues to weigh all his weight on the monarchy. 


    February 6, 1963 was extinguished the one who was the emir of Rif, the only (ephemeral) president that knew Morocco. 37 years after leaving his homeland, Mohamed ben Abdelkrim al-Khattabi succumbed to a heart attack in his Cairo exile. 46 years later, it is clear that his official memory is not up to his epic. Certainly boulevards bearing his name have bloomed everywhere in Morocco. Certainly, historians, Moroccan or foreign, have studied the school case he has represented. His official memory remains a difficult business to handle, a thorn in the foot of an Alawite monarchy in search of popular symbols.

    A hidden memory

    Mohamed Ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi is still popular. Witness the discrete but regular commemorations of his action: Saturday, February 7, the university research group on Mohamed ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi organized a conference in the suburbs of Rabat; During the month, the association Mémoire du Rif, which publishes its annual review every February 6, provides for meetings between witnesses of the time and residents of Al Hoceima. The memory of the emir of the Rif is not reserved, far from it, only researchers or a few rare autonomists. The Casablanca music group Darga, with its flagship title Abdelkrim, has recently illustrated the persistence of a popular myth that can be appropriated by all Moroccans. A myth of a strange reality but that it is difficult to recover the "new reign", yet very anxious to revisit the national history.

    Upon his enthronement, Mohammed VI sent very favorable signals and the return to the Rif of the mortal remains of Abdelkrim seemed possible, if not imminent. Did not the exile Abraham Serfaty return to the country at the call of the king? Has not Mohammed VI honored the Rif with his many visits, and has he not met Abdelkrim's (now deceased) son? The Equity and Reconciliation Commission has even worked on the El-Khattabi case. Nothing, however, has succeeded, and the little niece of the Emir of Rif, Fadila Jirari, is bitter today: "It is a mistake to have wanted to treat the case El-Khattabi in the context of the years lead. We wanted to make a file among others, which is far from being the case. It is not about the same era, nor about the same responsibilities of the state ". And Fadila Jirari to hammer: "It is at the highest level (note, understand the king) that must be requested repatriation of the body of Abdelkrim". Then, tired of the war, she lets go: "In any case, the conditions that explained her refusal to return to the country have not disappeared. On the bottom, nothing has really changed.

    The bottom is obviously the cautious wait-and-see attitude which the monarchy has always shown towards the emir of the Rif. Because over time, the memory of Mohamed ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi has become a weapon of double-edged propaganda that no one wants to completely neglect. Already in the 1940s, the tenors of the Istiqlal had tried to recover the legacy of the exile of Cairo. Eight years after his death, the day after the coup of Skhirat, the thuriféraires of the alouite monarchy, then vacillating, summon again the memory of Abdelkrim. Magali Morsy (Abdelkrim and the Republic of Rif, proceedings of the 1973 symposium, Maspero, 1976) writes: "On July 10, 1971, Skhirat was followed by executions on July 13.

    It is this same month of July (from 17 to 22 very precisely) that should have seen the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Spanish rout and the victory of Anoual. It is actually a little later, after a few weeks of disarray, that a movement is developing very quickly to put Abdelkrim in the spotlight. On 1 November at 8 pm, a ceremony is held in Dar Massa in commemoration of the Battle of Anoual, which marked the victory of the great hero Mohamed bin Abdelkrim el-Khattabi fifty years ago over the colonial forces' ( official communiqué). This ceremony is marked by speeches by Allal El Fassi and other national figures. The historian illustrates the memory issue of which the Emir Rif is the hostage, and also explains the renewed interest in the figure of El-Khattabi in the early 1970s: Abdelkrim becomes an alibi of the throne a dismembered myth, deprived of its national and republican characters. He is no more than a "rifain leader", and his war of liberation is reduced to a "popular uprising", the ultimate avatar of several revolts against the Western occupier. He is the man of a context and an era. A memory.

    The heir of a clan

    Mohamed Ben Abdelkrim El-Khattabi was born in Ajdir in 1882 into a family of notables long linked to Makhzen. His father Abdelkrim is cadi appointed by the Sultan. One of his uncles is a governor, another is a tutor to the Sultan's children. A family who, in the Beni Ouryaghel tribe, inspires respect and esteem. The El-Khattabi clan also claims a prestigious ancestor: the Caliph Omar Ibn Al Khattab, who embodies in the Sunni Muslim imagination the values ​​of justice, probity and spirit of conquest. An altogether classic scheme in a country where the descendants of the prophet and religious leaders are founders of dynasties and leaders of resistance or dissent movements. Cadi Abdelkrim, father of the emir, exerts a great influence on his son, Mohamed.

    The names of the two men will be confounded, so that the august son will be appointed forever by the name of his father, Abdelkrim. Ambitious and intelligent, El-Khattabi father prepares his children for the new world that is looming. He wants them to be the repositories of a triple culture: Berber, Arab-Muslim and Western. Mohamed goes to traditional studies at Al Qaraouyine University in Fez, while his younger brother M'hammed is studying engineering in Madrid.

    El-Khattabi sons are at the time precursors. They belong to a pioneering generation of Moroccan nationalists who had the opportunity to tame the culture of the colonizer, master his language, know his history, to better denounce the contradictions. In his correspondence with the Spanish authorities during the Rif war, Abdelkrim will often refer to international conventions and modern legal texts. He speaks a language that disturbs the colonizer and undermines the image of the barbarian, crude and uneducated, that must be civilized. In Fez, Mohamed ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi also discovers the reformist ideas of Mohamed Abdou and Rachid Reda, who will profoundly influence the thinking and political visions of the future nationalist leader. Named Judge Melilia, Abdelkrim succumbs to the call of political commitment and controversy. He becomes columnist for the Arabic supplement of the Spanish newspaper, Telegrama Del Rif, which he will direct later. As Zakya Daoud aptly notes in a biography about Abdelkrim, he is one of the first journalists in Morocco. In his chronicles, Abdelkrim violently criticizes France and places his hopes on Spain to modernize the Rif. For years, Abdelkrim and his father are considered friends of Spain. The two men are decorated several times by the Madrid authorities. A proximity that attracts the anger and revenge of the Resistance rifans led by Ameziane, who see a very bad eye this connivance with the enemy. The lands of El-Khattabi are burned and their property destroyed by the resistant. The support of the El-Khattabi clan for Muslim Turkey and Germany during the First World War marks a turning point in this relationship with Spain. Abdelkrim is imprisoned and accused of high treason in 1915. He is released a few months later, thanks to the relations of his father, to join his clan and his tribe, with new convictions and new ideas.

    The winner of Anoual

    The El-Khattabi clan joins the resistance against Spain. Abdelkrim's father leads the Beni Ouryaghel tribe in this fight against the invader. But a dramatic event occurs in July 1920: the patriarch and leader of the El-Khattabi clan dies poisoned. Mohamed Ben Abdelkrim succeeds him. He finds himself propelled to the head of the Imjahden, fighters of four tribes who have forgotten their ancestral rivalries to lead the holy war against the foreign enemy. The former judge and journalist turns into a strategist and commander of an army that continues to grow, but is terribly lacking weapons and ammunition. Abdelkrim succeeds in setting up a first nucleus of united Rifain tribes and manages to create a centralized and simplified command.

    A mental revolution among the members of these tribes, traditionally restive to authority. The victories of the resistance are at the rendezvous and Abdelkrim affirms himself as the charismatic and indisputable leader of this resistance. The battle of Anoual in July 1921 finally established the authority of Abdelkrim and made him a national hero and a legend. At the head of 1,500 men, Abdelkrim storms Anoual, where more than 26,000 Spanish and mercenary soldiers are holed up. Abdelkrim's fighters hold a front of more than 30 kilometers and decide not to give up their positions. In confusion and panic, General Silvestre, military commander of the region, decides to evacuate Anoual to withdraw to Melilia. A fatal mistake, because the army of Abdelkrim will melt on the routed Spanish columns and massacre soldiers, officers and mercenaries. The Spanish army loses tens of thousands of soldiers in this battle, and Abdelkrim's troops recover a large and unexpected booty: 200 guns, 400 machine guns, 25,000 rifles and more than 10 million cartridges.

    With this resounding victory, Abdelkrim climbs to the firmament and becomes a legend in Morocco and in the world. He is the bearer of new hope, of a fiery faith in victory despite the overwhelming military and technical superiority of the foreign invader. A period when the Sultan of Morocco is under the tutelage of France. In spite of the reverences and the obvious respect shown by the resident general Lyautey, the sultan of Morocco Moulay Youssef does not have an ounce of power over his subjects. In his book on independence movements in the Maghreb, Allal El Fassi reports that news of Abdelkrim's military victories at the Rif was met with fervor throughout Morocco.

    In 1924, a recruitment and propaganda center on behalf of the emir was dismantled in Casablanca by the French authorities. The risk of contagion to the entire Moroccan territory pushes France to join Spain in the fight against Abdelkrim and his army. Lyautey, in the end political analyst, understood the danger that represented Abdelkrim in estimating that "all the colonial power of Western Europe and especially the destiny of the African empire of France" is played in the mountains of the Rif. Where Abdelkrim undertakes the colossal task of uniting the Rifian tribes around him in a form of unprecedented political organization: the Republic of Rif.

    Mister President

    The tribes of the Rif embodied the very essence of siba bled: the non-recognition of a central political authority, except the spiritual one of the sultan and a situation of anarchy maintained by the wars between different clans and tribes. Robert Montagne, sociologist and adviser to Lyautey, describes the fierce and fierce nature of the Beni Ouryaghel, tribe of Abdelkrim "the internal struggles in the villages are so constant, so implacable, that no one dares to build his house near that of his neighbor... Where the Beni Ouryaghel passed, there was no longer a door, a beam, a pot of earth". Abdelkrim managed to put an end to this situation of anarchy and to unite the Rif tribes around a project of resistance and liberation of the country.

    What the sultans of Morocco could not do with the arms and the military campaigns, Abdelkrim realizes it thanks to a subtle game of alliances and implication of the tribes in the management of the affairs of the country. In January 1923, Abdelkrim proclaimed the Rif Republic of which he was elected president. A national assembly composed of representatives of the different tribes, and chaired by Abdelkrim, has legislative and executive powers. A government is created with ministers of Education and Justice, Interior, War, Foreign Affairs and Finance. As the historian Mimoun Charqi explains, Abdelkrim translated, through this form of political organization, his knowledge acquired in contact with the Spaniards, as well as the advice provided by his European and American friends.

    Abdelkrim also admires Atatürk and his ability to reform his country, Turkey, by borrowing laws and political models from Europe. The adoption of a modern Constitution corresponds to the desire for political reform that drives Abdelkrim. Religious fanaticism and maraboutism represent for the Emir Abdelkrim a political and cultural evil that must be eradicated. A few years later he states in this regard: "These people did not participate in the struggle, because they said that the fight for the homeland did not interest them, their role was limited to the defense of faith. I did everything to rid the country of their influence. "

    Abdelkrim also tackles the traditional practices of different tribes. Legal codes inspired by Muslim law become the only references for judges, as well as the dahirs enacted by the national assembly and the government. The Emir of the Rif also forbids the slavery practiced by certain tribes and prohibits the disparaging remarks towards the Jews, which gives him a great respect of the Jewish community. The Rif Republic stands out as the transition from bled siba to a modern form of government.

    It becomes the laboratory of reformist and modernist ideas of Abdelkrim, which he later wants to see applied to the entire Moroccan territory. Abdelkrim, however, never positions himself as a dissident, a rogui, a pretender to the throne. Prayer is never said in his name, as have other dissidents and aspirants to the throne. As he explains himself: "I have no ambition. I do not aspire to the sultanate, nor to absolute power. If I am an embarrassment, I am ready to disappear and give way to another ". Yet the experience of the Rif Republic remains an unprecedented, almost implausible experience in a country accustomed to the successions of monarchical dynasties and to men who dream of becoming sultans and kings.

    Forced exile and escape

    On May 27, 1926, Mohamed ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi, cornered, broken by the force of two Western armies leagued against him, decided to surrender to the French army, which promised him his life. Then begins his way of the cross. 20 long years of exile in Reunion, isolated from everything. This confinement weighs on him and he deploys multiple efforts to see his sentence soften. On November 11, 1938, he wrote to the governor of Reunion: "Exile, for twelve years, weighs heavily on our shoulders". He mentions his boys whose future worries him and the difficulty of marrying his daughters, the last of whom, Aisha, has just been born. He now has eleven children, five boys and six girls, half of whom were born in exile, not counting those of his brother and uncle.

    In 1939, he renews his request: he expresses the wish that his sons fight in the French army at the beginning of the Second World War. The Reunionese exile of Abdelkrim did not end until 1947, thanks to poorly hidden French ambitions. Sultan Mohamed Ben Youssef was a little too close to the nationalist theses to the taste of resident general Erik Labonne. It germinated in the mind of the latter the idea of ​​making Abdelkrim an active political counterweight to the sultan who emancipated himself. We decided to extract the exile from the antipodes where he has been rotting for 20 years. On May 1, 1947, he was boarded with his entire family, under the care of a few French gendarmes from Reunion, aboard an old tub. Heading on France, Cannes more precisely, where Mohamed ben Abdelkrim el-Khattabi must continue his exile ... He will never succeed.

    At Port Saïd, the Maghreb nationalist leaders (mostly Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian, refugees in Cairo) have been warned of the arrival of the El-Khattabi ship and are waiting for it. During the night, they rush into the ship at the dock and ask to speak to the exiled leader. In his biography of El-Khattabi, Zakya Daoud says: "Suspicious of all this fuss he does not understand, Abdelkrim is locked in his cabin. Bourguiba drums at the door: "Open to us, we come for your good!" Abdelkrim answers: "Anyone can say that, and first, who are you?" Finally, he opens and the whole delegation locks up with him, his brother and his uncle while, on deck, the French gendarmes play petanque and the Greek crew remains indifferent ". It is finally without incident that Abdelkrim manages to distort company with his French guardians. "The emir is immediately received by the governor of the province, continues Zakya Daoud, and from 6 am, the whole family takes the road to Cairo and is invited in the morning to the headquarters of the Arab Maghreb office. They are then received with all the honors by the king of Egypt who makes install the emir and his family in a villa where he will camp 15 years ".

    The Cairo retreat

    "Those who approached him at the time of the landing at Port Said say how much Abdelkrim was hesitant, how much information he lacked on all things, how much arguments had been needed to rally him to the project of escape," reports historian Mohamed Zniber at the Paris symposium dedicated to El-Khattabi in 1973. However, in early 1948, Abdelkrim began his career in the Arab League and became president of the Maghreb Liberation Committee. Even weakened physically, the 64-year-old lion has lost none of his aura. He follows closely the evolution of the Moroccan question. His relations with Moroccan nationalists present in Cairo, including the future leader of the Istiqlal Party, Allal El Fassi, are all but appeased. "I saw my ideas vanish one after the other.

    As in many countries of the East, opportunism and the spirit of corruption have become part of our national cause, "he later said of the nationalism by which Moroccan independence was wrenched. He will not hesitate to describe the Istiqlaliens made of "women with beards". As for the most illustrious of them, he will ignore it superbly for the duration of his Cairo exile. The two men hardly seem to have hooked atoms. Each week, Allal El Fassi, who works on the Rif war, asks to meet him every week, Abdelkrim is running behind false pretenses.

    To illustrate the gap that separates these two giants from the Moroccan pantheon, Abdallah Laroui reports one of their exchanges: "Allal El Fassi said one day, expressing the point of view of the nationalists of his generation: When we think that for five years, Abdelkrim did not found a single school! Abdelkrim reportedly replied: Yes, but you, nationalists of the two wars, you did only that, you were only schoolmasters ". Magali Morsy sums up the divorce with the nationalists quite well, which prefigures the critical attitude that Abdelkrim will always maintain with regard to the monarchy: "The voice of Abdelkrim seemed to be over for the nationalists of the 1950s, and it is understandable that the divorce was consummated between the one who remained walled in his refusal to return to Morocco as the last foreign soldier would not have left the Maghreb, and those that the road through Aix-les-Bains was to lead to the government, under the aegis of His Majesty Mohammed V. In the perspective of an independent Morocco, Abdelkrim was dead, very dead, "writes the historian.

    Tombeur of kings?

    "Contrary to certain beliefs, Abdelkrim had nothing in the absolute against the monarchy. He was not against the king, but against the way in which independence was finally obtained, "said Said, son of the emir of Rif, in 2006. Despite the denials of his son, Emir Abdelkrim remains perceived as a competitor - if not historical, at least symbolic - of the monarchy. His positions did not dispel this impression, quite the contrary. Still president of the republic of the Rif, he declared about Moulay Youssef: "The only thing that matters to me today is not the existence of a sultan in Morocco, but the entire independence, without reserve, of the unhappy Rifan people."

    In 1952, he saluted the fall of the Egyptian monarchy and the victory of Nasser, applauding both the coup d'etat of officers and the proclamation of the republic. A dubious attitude for the Moroccan nationalists of the time, who claimed the leadership of Mohammed V. The independence obtained, Abdelkrim will not be less tender towards the monarchy. In January 1960, Mohammed V, visiting Cairo, expresses the desire to meet Abdelkrim, but fails to convince him to return to Morocco. Said El-Khattabi explained: "When Mohammed V, shortly before his death, visited my father in Cairo, he replied: 'I have nothing against you, but I wish that my country really gains independence, and that first means the evacuation of foreign military troops. "

    In July 1962, it was the turn of the new king Hassan II, who came to Cairo to attend a summit of the heads of states of the Casablanca Pact (ancestor of the OAU) to request a meeting with Abdelkrim. The latter, who declines slowly (he will die a few months later) receives Hassan II at his home. "The photos show a young sovereign leaning attentively on the old emir, tired, his head covered with a small white cap, always dressed in his gray jellaba", comments Zakya Daoud. The king feared that Hassan II, who was also the executioner prince of the Rif in 1958, disappeared like magic in the presence of El-Khattabi. In 1962 always, a few months before passing the weapon on the left, Abdelkrim opposes the Constitution granted Hassan II. "There is no valid constitution but the national constitution established by the nation itself and for itself.

    The legitimate Constitution of a country can only be elaborated by an elected commission or body, authentically and correctly representing the different popular classes, "he writes. However, if the late king punished the Rif for his insubordination, he never harmed Abdelkrim's family. "Hassan II has always respected our family," said Fadila Jirari, grand-niece of the emir. How then to understand that M'Hammed, (brother of Mohamed Ben Abdelkrim), returning to Morocco in 1967 after 40 years of exile, was the victim of a farce as tragic as ridiculous? His welcoming committee, misled by General Oufkir who had allegedly delayed the plane, deserted the tarmac, leaving the old exile to tread alone the Moroccan soil, before being taken manu militari to the hotel Hassan of Rabat where he died imprisoned five months later, without ever having seen his native Rif. "The mortal remains of M'hammed El-Khattabi today rests in Ajdir. Who knows ?, wonders Fadila Jirari.

    The memory of the Rif war is less and less alive, "she laments. Meanwhile, the Minister of Communication, Khalid Naciri, thought it necessary to explain that the repatriation of the body of Abdelkrim was not on the menu of the government Abbas El Fassi. Had the Emir of the Rif already entered the pantheon of the great forgotten in history? Will he one day take in our textbooks the place he deserves: that of a protean avant-garde precursor misunderstood of Moroccan nationalism?

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