In July 1971, the Moroccan army carried out a failed coup against the king in the palace of Skhirat. The following year airmen made a new coup, this time the plane of King Hassan II, on his return from France, was attacked in the air by jet fighters.
In the near future the Amazigh Information Centre will reconstruct this historical event with short articles. We do this on the basis of testimonies from people who have experienced this event, such as the fighter pilot Salah Hachad, books by critical authors such as Gilles Perrault, Stephen Smith and various newspaper articles.
Kidnapping from prison to the hell of Tazmamart
On 7 August 1973, the military prisoners in the Kenitra prison were handcuffed and blindfolded and put into trucks. They were taken to Kenitra’s military airfield where they were thrown into planes. The first feeling the prisoners get is that they will be thrown into the sea, because they have heard stories about opponents of the regime who have been dumped into the sea. After about an hour and a half flight the planes land in the city of Imetgheren (Errachidia) in the desert. Then they were thrown into trucks again and then taken to a large building surrounded by high walls with watchtowers. They are locked in individual cells. The building contains two separate buildings, each with 29 cells, a total of 58.
Tazmamart, secret prison
Tazmamart is a secret prison in southeastern Morocco in the Atlas Mountains. It is located near the city of Er-Rich, between Errachida and Midelt. Tazmamart was built near a former French ammunition depot. For many years the Moroccan authorities have denied the existence of Tazmamart. Its existence has been widely denounced by human rights organisations and activists thanks to letters smuggled out of this prison.
Contact with the outside world
The captured pilot Salah Hachad managed to send a letter to his wife Aida through a guard at the end of the seventies. Hachad asked his fellow prisoner lieutenant M’Barek Touil to write a letter to his American wife asking him to leave Morocco and return to the United States to inform American politicians of the appalling conditions of her husband’s imprisonment in Tazmamart.
Return to the United States
Nancy Gatewood Touil, M’Barek Touil’s wife, left Morocco with her son Amine and returned to Iowa where she has family. She was not allowed to leave the country so she left clandestinely and started a new life in the US where she raised the issue of her husband’s detention conditions in Morocco with American politicians. The American State Department was informed and the Moroccan regime was put under pressure by the US.
This led to results: in 1982 M’Barek Touil was medically treated in a mobile hospital that was brought to Tazmamart. He was brought to Rabat for questioning by the colonel of the gendarmerie, Bouchaïb Feddoul, who promised him good treatment. From 1983 onwards, M’Barek Touil received his rights as a prisoner, such as normal food, blankets and a mattress, and he was allowed to air outside. All the other prisoners are held in concrete isolation cells without light, no daylight or artificial light, without a bed, without any care, with hardly any food, drinks, clothes and hermetically separated from the outside world.
Daughter of Tazmamart prisoner speaks to the king
Salah Hachad’s wife and the other prisoners feel contempt and pain when they find out that M’Barek Touil has obtained his rights because he is married to an American woman. Some prisoners who had American girlfriends felt sorry that they didn’t marry them, as in the case of Lieutenant Mohamed Zemmouri had American girlfriend but didn’t marry her. Aïda Hachad, Salah Hachad’s wife, decided to tell her story to the king in person.
King Hassan II loved to play golf and had a large golf course built at Rabat: the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Aïda received a tip that the best opportunity to meet the king is when he is playing golf. She went there in 1986 with her 15-year-old daughter Houda. Aïda was able to come to the golf course because she had blue eyes and looks like a European tourist, mother and daughter spoke French to each other and the guards thought they were tourists who wanted to see the king play golf. When the king had finished playing golf, Houda went running towards him, the guards chased her to stop her, the king said they could let her. Houda gave Hassan II a letter and told him that she is the daughter of Captain Salah Hachad who is imprisoned in Tazmamart and that his family knows nothing about him.
Houda Hachad: “I am the daughter of Salah Hachad, an officer convicted of the 1972 coup. I hope Your Majesty will pardon him. I surprised him [Hassan II] with my letter and my action. He jumped up when he heard the word Tazmamart, he thought I was coming for a pitiful problem or social support. I realized that he knew of the existence of Tazmamart when he turned to one of his companions and asked him: are there still living in Tazmamart? He asked me to stop crying and said that he could not speak to me in front of his guests, he asked me: go with these people, they will take you to the palace, so that we can talk at ease. They took me to a small room with a table and two chairs. I was questioned there by detectives. Hassan II did not get there, he promised something to a child, and he did not keep his promise. He didn’t learn to make a promise only if you can keep it. I want to tell you, my mother, that you are not alone and tell you, my father, that you are not the only victim of Tazmamart, we are all victims of Tazmamart. The whole Moroccan people are victims of Tazmamart”.
This article is to continued
Translated by: Najat M.