In this book Malika Oufkir tells the story of her life. She was born in 1953 in the kingdom of Morocco during the reign of king Mohammed V. She was born into a well-to-do family. Her mother Fatima Chenna came from a rich background. Her father was a soldier who had served abroad, serving the French Army. Mohammed Oufkir was twenty years older than Fatima. The family (Malika has several siblings) had close connections with the royal family. The king decides to adopt Malika, to have her as a companion to his own daughter. There was little her parents could do to avoid the will of the ruler. So, in 1958, Malika entered the world of palaces, the royal family, king and concubines and servants. For eleven years she received an extensive upbringing and education within the confinments of royal life and palaces. She and princess are being instructed by a French lady. In 1961 the king passed away and he was succeeded by Hassan II. This change of the guard did not change the position of Malika.
Oufkir senior, the military man, had a steady climb in the military and political ranks of independent Morocco and he was very close to the king. When Malika was 11 years her parents divorce, two of her siblings are sent to Gstaad to further education. After some time her parents reunite.
In 1969 Malika is allowed to leave the palace and settle with her parents. She becomes part of the jet-set. Her mother had a house in London, Malika travelled the world and tried to pay some attention to her education, both in Morocoo and Paris. She was befriended with Véronique Serfaty, a Moroccon girl whose parents (Abraham and Christine) were part of the political opposition. Abraham spent many years in prison and in exile. Christine Daure played an important role in highlighting the position of political prisoners in Morocco. Malika noticed that her father was being feared by the people she mingled with.
The year 1971 is an important year. A coup took place. Soldiers attacked the royal palace of Skhira. The king survived but many people died. It seemed that Oufkir pleaded with the king for leniency for those who staged the coup. However many of them were sent to a secret prison. In France Oufkir was sentenced for his part in the disappearance and death of the Morocccon opposition politican Ben Barka. In August 1972 an other attempt at the life of king Hassan II took place. Oufkir was seen as the force behind this attempt and he was executed without trial. His wife and children (accompanied by two female friends) disappear in prison for twenty years. At several places they stay in dire conditions trying had and very hard to survive. Malika was mother and sibling at the same time during those years in isolation. This book is a horrifying description of these days and weeks and months and years. From riches to rags. From freedom to despair.
One night in April 1987 Malika and some of the siblings managed to escape and to reach freedom. The travelled to the wons in other to find help, embassies stayed closed, friends shied away. The police caught up with them but their situation will no longer be like the past.
This book (written with Michèle Fitoussi), is a breath taking account of the hardships that Malika and her beloved ones suffered for so many years. Punished for something they had not committed, by a king who had been a father to Malika.
Stories like these need to be told and re-told. Each one is unique, and together these stories paint a bleak story of humankind.
Malika Oufkir (and Michèle Fitoussi) – La prisonnière – 1999
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