The history of the Rif is a history of struggle and resistance. the Rif is a mountainous region in North Africa, located on the border with Spain. There they have their own history and language that distinguishes them from the rest of the territory. In the twenties of the last century, during the Rif War, a self-proclaimed independent republic was proclaimed until a Franco-Spanish military intervention dissolved. Since then, many people have continued to fight and resist oppression and paternalism. Some of them had to fight into exile and further outside the borders of their country.
First World Congress
The first Rif World Congress was held in Figueres last weekend. The Casal Rifeny de Figueres invited to this event. The intention is for this to take place annually in different cities “in order to create synergies and exchange experiences”, comments a participant of the congress from Sant Feliu de Guíxols.
The international meeting began on Friday in La Cate with the reception of more than fifty Rifians from different parts of Europe to constitute the Congress. The next day a political conference was held by Natàlia Sànchez, member of the CUP in Parliament. Joan Plana, Deputy Mayor of the City Council of Roses; Karim Baraka, intellectual and philosopher from Germany; Mohamed Dabouz, President of the Izmulen pour les Droits At Mzab Association, and Yella Houha, well-known Shawyia activist, came from France; and Chekebkeb Hammou, a brother-in-law of Kamal Dine Fakhar, an Amazigh activist who died a few weeks ago during his hunger strike; and from Belgium, Musa Dunat, spokesman for the National Assembly of Rif (NAR), was present. Dozens took part in the ceremony, which included various musical performances and a play by Tarik Izm on the torture of political prisoners. The day ended with a tribute to the writer Chacha, who died in 2016.
Two equal fights
During the ceremony, the similarity of the fights between the people of the Rif and Catalonia was addressed. Sanchez showed solidarity with “the struggle for self-determination” and additionally condemned the oppression and imprisonment of activists by the Moroccan state and demanded freedom for all political Rif prisoners. The deputy reflected on the tradition of “looking to Europe, although we should look to the south, we have more in common with the Mediterranean neighbour”.
The congress ended on Sunday with a demonstration in Barcelona in which, according to the organisation, three thousand people took part
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By Riftime — 4 years ago
The battle of Anwal/Annual was fought between the Riffian anti-imperial forces units, led by Abdelkrim El Khattabi, and the Spanish army, led by Manuel F. Silvestre and Felipe Navarro, that had its military headquarters located in Annual. The victory of the Riffian independence forces was so devastating that the leader of the Spanish battalion in Annual, Manuel F. Silvestre, committed suicide after the battle.
The military conflict started on the first of June 1921 when 500 Riffian militants attacked the Spanish forces in Dhar Obaran which they liberated from the Spanish imperials. Annual fell to the Riffian forces on the 21st of July 1921.
Below, a chronological order of events concerning the battles between the Riffian liberation soldiers and the Spanish imperial troops:
the Spanish occupation of Arif did not go easy and without resistance of the Riffian people. The Riffian leader Mohammed Amezian from Azghenghane led the Riffian resistance forces from 1909 until 1912 when he died on 15 may when he was fighting on the battlefield in Ait Sidel. After Mohamed Amezian, the Riffian front weakened under the leadership of Mohamed Heddo El Azouzi, that took the responsibility to reorganize the Riffian resistance force against the Spanish imperial occupation. After the death of El Azouzi in 1915, the resistance front got weakened even more thoroughly. This left a vacuum in the Riffian leadership. This moment of lack of leadership was exploited by the Spanish and one by one they bought off or simply took over Riffian tribes with the power of surplus man and firepower.
While this was all going on, the Khattabi family was trying to negotiate with the Spanish to convince them that peaceful economic and political relation maintenance would be better for both peoples. Abdelkrim El Khattabi was of this opinion for quite some time. In 1920 he realized that the Spanish were not in the Rif for peaceful negotiations but for economic exploitation to strengthen the imperial needs of Spain. France would also have a similar vision, although France professionalized its exploitation strategies more thoroughly and penetrated Morocco in the economic sense more deeply.
-1920: Abdelkrim El Khattabi (The father) declares ware to the Spanish Imperial army. At the end of June that same year he had 2000 soldiers under his command with which he decides to form a military base located at Wdhia, in the tribal area of Tafersit. The goal of this military base was to form a buffer/blockade to Spanish imperial forces passing the area to gain more land in the Riffian area. This blockade was successful for 20 days, after which he was poisoned by collaborators that forced him to get back to Ajdir on 07/08/1920. After one day of Abdelkrim El Khattabi’s trip to Ajdir, the Riffian forces that stayed at the camp were overrun and lost to the Spanish after a quick and massive attack on Tafersit.
– Spain used the method of buying off Riffian loyalty to the rebellion of people that had an influence on their tribes. These bought off tribe-leaders would then tell their tribesmen that a contra force against the Spanish would be ineffective and would only lead to severe losses. Spain also had many Riffian infiltrators who would stoke and generate friction within the unifying body force of Abdelkirm. The goal of these infiltrations was to tire the forces and prevent total unification against the imperial forces. As an example for those cases of infiltration: Spain had infiltrated the Ibaqqoyen and Ait Wayagher tribes and had 40 so-called ‘friends’, of which also the family of El Khattabi until 1920. 25 of these important figures and so-called ‘friends’ of the imperial forces, received monthly salaries of 75 pesetas for their collaboration.
– Even though the Spanish military tried to bribe Riffians and set them up against each other, the will of Abdelkrim El Khattabi to liberate the Riffian lands, remained influential and strong among the Riffian followers and fighters. Mohamed, the son of Abdelkrim El Khattabi took over the position of his father that died as a result of poisoning. Mohamed came to be known by the name of his father Abdelkrim Al Khattabi. His real name was Mohamed or Mohend, as the Riffians call him. Mohend Abdelkrim El Khattabi organized a meeting with the Ait Wayagher tribe in Imzouren. The meeting was joined by the leaders of Ait Wayagher and a couple of fighters from surrounding tribes. During the meeting, the decision was made to set up a military revolt against the Spanish imperial forces. Also, the decision was made to end feuds between certain tribes and families.
– 05 December 1920. Spain occupies the tribe of Ait Oulichek and subsequently the tribe of Ait Said. All the tribes east of this geographically linked line fell to the Spanish between 1912 and 1920.
– 12 januari 1921. Spain ooccupies Sidi Hsayn and Ras Afaro.
– 15 January 19121. Spain occupies Annual after they strengthened their camps in Ben Tayeb and Driouch (that fell to the Spanish previously). Annual is located in the tribal area of Ait Oulichek that neighbors the tribe of Temsamane and is also close to the highlands of Ait Said. Annual is distanced 16 km from Ben Tayeb, 35 km from Driouch and 106 km from Melilia.
– 12 ch 1921. Spain occupies Sidi Driss where the Amegan river mouths. Abdelrkim Elkhattabi had already warned the Spanish not to cross the Amegan river.
– 13 April 1921. Spanish cannons were set up on the island of Noukour, localized in front of the bay of Alhoceima, to bombard a weekly market in Ait Wayagher. This was meant as a punishment because the unwelcome attitude of the notables of the tribe towards the Spanish Resident-General Berenguer. The canons also bombarded a couple of residential buildings surrounding the market in Ajdir. This bombardment of civilian targets resulted in some deaths and casualties but did not reap the desired effect (fear and terror). Instead of fleeing their houses, the Riffians of Ait Wayagher grabbed their flint rifles and shot at the artillery position on Nekor. This was, of course, a symbolic response as the firepower of the used flint rifles and projectiles was not effective enough to reach the Spanish artillery forces. Abdelkrim spoke to his people uttering the following words: Dying while you protect your land is better than surrendering to an infiltrator. In the end, the bombardment from the island of Nekour had the opposite effect. The Riffian tribes even more strongly and increased their alliance to the resistance lead by Mohend El Khattabi.
– Notables of Temsamane were doubtful about the resistance against the Spanish imperial forces. Many of them followed the orders of the Spanish to spare their people from suffering. As a result of these developments and because Temsamane was of strategic value to the Riffian resistance, a camp was built at the end of y 1921 on the mountain of Qama. This camp was had 500 fighters defending it. Their main task was to keep an eye on any Spanish. In April, the camp was strengthened with even more fighters. In total there were 3000 fighters from Ait Wayagher, Ibaqqoyen, Ait Touzine and Rabae n Truggut (subtribe of the Ait Temsamane tribe)
-13 April 1921. The Riffian resistance spreads to two other camps in Sidi Boyaccoub and in the place called Aliman close to Sidi Chaib. This was to watch the Spanish front Annual-Sidi Driss alertly to evade any surprise attacks. The resistance was planning to build up a camp on Dhar Abaran to control the perimeters over the river Ameqran.
-General Silvestre, a friend of the king of Spain Alfonso XIII, supreme commander of the army in Melilla (that was responsible for the eastern and mid area in the Rif) and leader of the Spanish offensive, underestimated the creation of the Riffian camp on the Qama mountain. Silvestre thought that Abdelkirm was just planning to elevate his negotiation position with the Spanish, but after the formation of two other camps, Silvestre realized Abdelkrim had different plans. The Spanish general had plans to cross the Ameqran river in August or September. To subsequently occupy the Abaran mountain. The growing numbers of Riffian fighters made him deice to come into action faster than planned. Especially after some bought Riffian off traitors told the Spanish that most Riffian fighters and their leader Abdelkrim left the Qama camp to attend a meeting in Sidi Bouhfaf.
– 01 June 1921 (24th day of Ramadan). At 01:00, 1500 Spanish soldiers march to occupy Abaran under the lead of Villar and accompanied by 485 mules that were packed with ammunition and food. Even though the mountain is located only 6 km away from Annual, it took the Spanish troops roughly 4 hours to reach the top of Abaran. At their arrival, the Spanish quickly transformed the mountaintop into a strong camp surrounded by trenches, barricades and barbed wires. After the reinforcements and fortifications on this camp were finished, most soldiers returned to the base in annual. Only 278 soldiers remained at Abaran as a defensive unit. 200 of them were Riffian . The Abaran camp had two canons at her disposal.
-01 1921. At sunrise, the Spanish military activity on Abaran surprized the Riffian fighters in Qama. They sent signals quickly to the other positions to let everyone know the Spanish crossed the Ameqran river and that Abaran fell to the Spanish. Within no time they arrived with a force of 500 Riffian fighters that took the responsibility to retake Abaran from the Spanish. This Riffian force was divided into three parts, the first group attacked Abaran from the west (from Ait Bouyacoub), the second group attacked from the north en the third group attacked from the east (from the village of Ifassia). The Riffian siege began at 15:00 and ended at 17:00. The fight lasted 2 hours and resulted in a Riffian victory and the liberation of Abaran.
– Only 20 Spanish (some sources report 6) managed to reach Annual. Fifty of the two hundred soldiers survived the attack.
– Roughly 150 soldiers were killed among which a couple of officers. The Riffians took two canons, flint rifles, machine guns, ammunition, and food. Food was important around this time. Arif was dealing with a heavy famine that made it easy for many Riffians to collaborate to remain in life.
– The attack took the lives of four Riffian fighters.
After the liberation of Abaran the Riffian fighters attacked the Spanish camp in Sidi Driss, but the attack failed because Sidi Driss was better defended and the Riffian had a hard time breaching the barbed wires around the perimeter.
After Abaran the roles were switched. The Riffian forces went in the offensive mode and the Spanish went to hide in camps around Annual. These camps were fortified. The victory of the Riffians in Dhar Abaran spread quickly between the tribes and convinced many doubting Riffians to join the cause and ranks of Mohend El Khattabi that rapidly counted around 4000 fighters. The role of women should not be underestimated. These women were the main spreaders of news of the resistance around the tribes. The Riffian women operate as motivators and kept the men focussed as they chanted izran about the heroic acts of their men that were defending their lands.
– 12 June a Special unit of the Riffian forces that had proved their capacities in previous battles, crosses the Ameqran river.
– On the 14th of June, the group d at Amzawrou at which the Spanish had a camp for a certain period. Amzawrou lies in the heart of Temsamane shortly distanced from the Spanish camp in Boumejjan and 9 km from Annual. Between Amzawrou and Boumejjan there was a natural geographical barrier that made it hard for the Spanish forces in Annual to watch the Riffians in Amzawrou. On the 14th of June, the Riffians were attacked from Boumejjaan and Annual. The Spanish wanted to push them out of their strategic location. The Riffian forces were under constant suppression fire so they decided to hide at daytime and to dig trenches at night time. When the got far enough the Amzawrou camp became an important position for the Riffian military resistance
– To keep an eye on the Riffians in Amzawrou the base in Annual sent a group consisting of 50 soldiers to scout an area close to Sidi Brahim and between Amzwroue and Annual, on a daily basis. These Spanish scouts watched the Riffians during the day and returned to their camp in Annual at night time.
– On the 15th of June, a group of 50 soldiers leaves Annual to never return. The group was killed by Riffian flint rifle soldiers. Even though they had canon cover from the hills, the fight ambush did not take roughly 10 minutes and resulted in roughly 200 deaths and casualties.
– When sidi Ibrahim fell into the hands of the Riffian forces the resistance continued with secret contacting of the mercenaries that fought for Spain. Also fast and short lasting attacks were executed by the Riffian fighters with a quick change of position to distract the Spanish forces and keep them busy with extrapolating where the next attacks could take place and where the weak spots would be in the defensive fronts of the resistance.
– On the 17th of June, the Spanish forces arrive in Ighriben that lies in Temsamane, near Tizi Azza and distanced from Annual with 6 km in the direction of Ben Tayeb. 500 Spanish soldiers under the lead of the famous Benitez, built their fortifications and transformed Ighriben in a strongly defendable camp. The Riffian response was rapid. Thee Riffian units attacked the fortified base from two directions. The first group attacked from Sidi Bouacoub and the second from Tizi Azza. The Riffian fighters did not succeed to retake the base and thus surrounded it from different positions. The Riffian found the weak spot of the Spanish forces protecting the base. The Ighriben camp was located 4 km from the closest water source in Sidi Abderrahman. From their camp in the situation. Silvestre sent several units to break the Riffian encirclement and to transport water to the military base. Not a single convoy managed to reach the base at Ighriben and every trial failed. All units were defeated and the forces were forced to retreat to Annual with many casualties in the process.
– On 17 June The Spanish forces arrived in Ighriben, a location that lies in Temsamane, closeby Tizi Azzza and 6km from Annual in the direction of Ben Tayeb. 500 Spanish soldiers under the lead of the now famous Benitez built their fortifications and transformed Ighriben into a strong camp. The Riffian response was however fast. Two Riffian units executed a collective attack on the Spanish. The first group attacked from Sidi Bouyacoup and the second group from Tizi Azza. The Riffian fighters did however not manage to retake the heavily fortified camp and so it was encircled. The Riffians knew to find the weak spot of the camp in Ighriben. The camp was 4km away from the closest water source that was located in Sidi Abderrahman. From the camp in Sidi Btahim, the Riffians encircled the camp to prevent the Spanish from restocking their water reserves. The Spanish tried several times to occupy the water source of Sidi Abderrahman with every trial losing a significant amount of men, weapons, and ammunition due to the sniper fire of the Riffian fighters. It was clear the Spanish were encircled critically in Ighriben and the for water only the situation in the long run. Silvestre sent several units to break the Riffian siege and restock the encircled camp in Ighriben with water. Not a single convoy could reach the location without getting destroyed by the Riffian forces. All the intervening forces were forced to return to Annual after having to take heavy casualties.
– 700 Riffian soldiers besieged the Spanish military camp in Ighriben. They dug themselves in small and deep trenches along the most important routes that lead to Ighriben along the Aghzar Hmam river that separates Ighriben from Annual. Along with this line, 100 Riffian fighters were positioned. They were the most brace and skilled fighters from the resistance that were known within the army of Abdelkrim as one of the best sharpshooters.
– The siege of Ighriben lasted for 5 days from 17 July until 22 July.
– 18 July 1921. Riffian fighters bombard the Spanish forces in Ighriben with the canons they obtained in the previous battle in Abaran. The first couple of shots fell far from their targets. But as the Spanish noticed in Annual, the Riffian fighters learned with eager will and haste. The canons started to hit targets which had a huge impact on the moral of the Spanish Imperial forces. Not only in Ighriben but also in Annual and the rest of the camps, the Spanish had to often see how their soldiers were killed by their own weaponry and artillery fire.
– 19 July 1921. The Spanish imperial forces use their air force to break the siege, with little to no result.
– 20 July 1921. General Navarro arrives in Annual traveling from Melilia accompanied by 1400 soldiers. Abdelkrim El Khattabi (also called Moulay Mohend) saw the possibility of demoralization. To prevent this from happening he visited his forces at the front and spoke to them in a way that gave them bravery and focus. Abdelkrim called Benitez (Leader of the Spanish Imperial forces in Ighriben) to cease fire and return to Annual, but Benitez refuses the proposal of Abdelkrim because he was expecting the joining of the forces of general Navaro soon. Benitez chose to wait for the reinforcements of Navaro. Even though his troops were drinking the juice of potatoes and sometimes even their own urine as a result of lacking water reserves at their position.
– 21 July 1921. As expected by Abdelkirm, Silvestre and Navarro led the attack on the Riffian positions personally. Three thousand Spanish soldiers participated in this operation. The military activities started in the early morning and lasted for more than 8 hours. The Riffian positions stood their ground and sharpshooters hidden inside hidden trenches dealt great damage to the attacking Spanish forces. It was clear for Silvestre and Navarro that the Riffian positions were stronger than they previously thought. After the sight of seeing the casualties pile up, Silvestre ordered his troops to recapitulate and head back to their base in Annual.
– 21 July 1921. On the night of the same day of the retreat from sniper fire, Silvestre ordered Benitez to clear out the camp in Ighriben and return to Annual. It was a suicidal mission, considering the fact that the Riffians had already encircled Ighriben. Still, Benitez follows the orders his general Silvestre. Just 9 soldiers (some sources claim 20) reached Annual. At the end of that long day, 50 Riffian fighters died and 165 got wounded. The retake of Ighriben resulted in the takeover of 4 large cannons, mules (that were used for the transport of equipment and food) and weaponry consisting mainly of flint rifles and machine guns.
-After the fall of Ighriben, the moral of the Spanish soldiers fell to a rock-bottom. Especially after the stories of the survivors were shared among Spanish forces spread out over Arif. At the other side, the Riffian moral was high. This was mainly because the resistance was looking more and more like an army defending its people. This was mainly due to the strategic implementations of Abdelkrim El Khatttabi.
After the fall of Ighriben, the Riffian forces strengthen the grip on Annual and aligned themselves along the Aghzar Hmam in front of the gates of Annual at wich roughly 6000 Spanish soldiers were stationed with more than 84 canons. The Riffian resistance form at that time and location consisted of 1500 fighters. Even though this high difference in numbers the Riffians could still operate effectively by using Guerrilla tactics like spreading out and opening fire from many directions. Because the Spanish imperial forces are used to imperial style warfare this spread out tactic of the Riffians gave them the impression they were fighting a 10.000 strong Riffian force. The low morale and fear on the Spanish side also played a role in this over expectation they had of the capabilities of the Riffians to dissolve their forces.
– 22 July 1921 Silvestre negotiates with the Spanish army elites about the possible actions to be taken. After heated discussions between the different generals and officers, the decision was made to launch a surprise attack on the 24th of July and after that push the Riffian fronts with large numbers. Two of Abdelkrimsbe involved, the total estimation of firepower that would be used and the moral of the military at the camp.
– 23 Juli 1921. The Spanish base in Annual was completely encircled by the Riffian forces. Abdelkrim El Khattabi was ready to send the signal of attack but waited on the play of Silvestre.
– 24 Juli 1921 The Spanish air force and Artillery division bombs the surrounding areas of Annual to increase chaos and spread among the Riffian positions. In the night of that same day, Riffian collaborators, led by the Riffian traitor Bouthnachnouchth.
– 25 July 1921. At 10:00 Silvestre orders his soldiers to clear out the camp and return to Ben Tayeb. Navaro remained in Annual with a unit to cover the units that were moving out. However the preplanned stable coordination the execution ended up in total chaos. Soldiers did not follow the orders of their officers. It was a kind of free for all situation. Every Spanish soldier tried to save his own life with severe consequences for the entire army. Only a small group of soldiers survived and managed to reach Arouit via Driouch. It is at Driouch that a big disaster was awaiting the Spanish imperial forces.
– After the fall of Annual, the Spanish positions (Boumejjan, Tmamist, Ben Tayeb, Dar Bouzian, Driouch, Dar El kebdani etc) fell to the Riffian forces. A lot of these positions were liberated without any military operations. In Sidi Driss, there was a military between the Spanish and Riffian forces with the Spanish being supported from the sea. After this conflict, also Sidi Driss fell to the Riffian forces.
– Every tribe that was liberated, joined the imperial opposition forces which made the number of fighters grow constantly. At the same time, it was more difficult to control all these tribes and the growing number of men joining the forces. Many of those tribesmen had an uncontrollable hate for the Spanish because of the not too old humiliations they experienced.
– 02 Augustus 1921. Fighters besiege Nador, some of the newly joined fighters don’t conform to the behavior codes/orders of Abdelkrim El Khattabi and were out to plunder the property of the Spanish colonists that were to be found in Nador at that time. After this plundering happened Abdelkrim sent a group of organized fighters to Nador to restabilize the matter, make the plunderings stop and most importantly stop the Riffan fighters that were motivated to hurt Spanish civilians in name of revenge.
-03 Augustus 1921. Liberation of Selouane.
– Since 02 August 1921, the Spanish camp Arouit was besieged by the Riffian resistance forces. It was a strategic location 40 km from Melilia. The camp on the highest point of Monte arouit had vision over the Bouaarg valley and from Arouit, the mines in the Ikhsan mountain and the used railways could be protected. The Spanish had 3000 soldiers at this base of which 70 officers. The siege lasted 10 days during which the Spanish did not any water nor food. This forced Navaro to negotiation with Moulay Mohend. The mediators in this negotiation process were Driss Bensaid (official for the Spanish in Titawin/Tetouan) and Benchellal, a notable from Ait Bouyafrour. A deal was made between Abdelkrim and Navaro. It was requested of Navaro to order his soldiers to leave the base leaving weapons and ammunition behind. If they accepted Abdelkrims terms he would guarantee a safe passage out towards Melilia.
On the 12th of August, the Spanish army cleared out its camp according to the terms. However, a couple of Spanish soldiers could not accept the defeat and kept some weapons with them. These soldiers surprised the Riffians when they started shooting. As a reaction, the Riffians started shooting back. Unarmed Spanish soldiers were also hit by this unexpected conflict. Abdelkrim was very upset about this event considering the fact that 2000 Spanish soldiers and only 70 Riffians died. 400 Spanish troops were taken as prisoners of war of which also general Navaro. Abdelkrim was outraged about the killings of unarmed Spanish soldiers or captives of war that were attacked by Riffian forces while the codes of war were made clear by Abdelkrim for the whole resistance force.
– The Riffian fighters of the recently liberated tribes had a deep-rooted hatred for the imperial Spanish forces that occupied their lands for many years, during which many Riffian lost relatives. The raping of women, stealing of fertile land and gifting to Spanish colonists was also common in many areas. When the Riffian forces saw how the Spanish collapsed they felt it was the right time to deal the blows of bitter revenge.
– Arouitin Melilia. After the fall of the camp in Annual Melilia had no defense perimeter and was basically to be liberated by Abdelkirm without any significant military resistance or risk of casualties. Against all odds, Abdelkrim did not give the order to storm take Melilia. Melilia did only have a few soldiers to maintain order and there were large crowds of people who were trying to get on boats to flee the city and cross the Mediterranean sea. A state of chaos and fear was existent in the harbor city and Abdelkrim refrained from sending in his troops out of fear that his soldiers would act in name of revenge. Something that went against his codes of war.
– The battles started on op 01-06-1921 and ended with the surrender of Navaro on 12-08-1921, in 72 days the Riffian forces of Abdelkrim achieved to liberated what the Spanish had captured in 11 years of military occupation. In 72 days the Spanish lost more than 15.000 soldiers and 1.100 Spanish soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. The Riffian forces gained 192 canons, 350 machine guns, 20.000 flint rifles, a couple of million munition rounds, other ammunition, food, medicine, transport animals like mules and other military equipment.
The consequences of the Annual battle:
– Silvestre commits suicide in Annual after the major defeat.
– The defeat of the Spanish at Annual led to the coup of 1923. Primo de Rivera removed king Alfonso as the ruler of Spain and took over as a dictator. This event was consequently the main reason for the Spanish civil war between 1936 – 1939.
– This major victory gave Abdelkrim El Kattabi more momentum as an influential leader. He managed to unify the Rfiffian tribes even more effectively.
– The large quantities of weapons and ammunition that were acquired on the battlefield, were sufficient to reequip, strengthen and organize the Riffian Army in more effective ways.
– 18 September 1921: Creation of the independent Rif Republic with Abdelkrim El Khattabi as president.
– The Rif Republic survived from 1921 until 1926. During this period it fought a brutal war against a coalition consisting of French, Spanish, British, and Alaoui forces. The British provided the coalition with a guaranteed sea blockade that made it impossible for Arif to receive food, aid or weaponry to defend itself. Germany was also involved by providing and allowing the use of chemical weapons by the Spanish imperial forces on the Riffians. These chemical weapons have to lead to higher rates of cell mutations and thus high occurrences of cancer in the later generations that stem from the Riffians that were affected by these German chemical weapons. A military force between 700.000 and 900.000 in size, was forged to fight the Riffians in this pacification and destruction of any opposition to imperial exploitation by the French and Spanish forces. The Riffian forces of Abdelkrim El Khattabi consisted of a mere 70 thousand fighters. The population size of the whole Rif area at that time consisted of roughly 500.000 people.
The Rif region was attacked with tonnes of chemical bombs sometimes wiping out complete villages when dropped ad hoc. There was also a relatively large amphibious landing at the coast near Sabadilla. The goal of the amphibious landing was to isolate Ajdir and capture it. The land offenses but especially the chemical bomb raids were too devastating and would lead to immense casualties if a surrender was not handed over.
On the 26th of May 1926, the Republic of Abdelkrim and his fighter fell. The technical war was lost due to a severe difference in firepower and military capacity and the use of chemical weapons. Abdelkrim had to surrender to prevent large domestic casualties. Briefly, after the fall of the republic, the leader of the Riffian army was exiled and put far away from the land he loved the most and wanted to free like a dove in a cave.
More than 70 generals, hundreds of military airplanes, battleships and the most modern weaponry built at that time were needed to destroy a small army of flint rifled farmers. Abdelkrim El Khattabi knew how to unify simple men and women to fight for their independence. The urge for freedom in Arif still lives on in the hearts of the children of those men and women who saw the ambition of the imperials and did not surrender. Even though the Riffians lost the war against the overpowered coalition, the dream and the vision of their leader Abdelkrim still whirls inside the minds and hearts of many Riffians and Imazighen today in Tamazgha. Defeating Abdelkrim by overpowering his independence rebellion and taking away his homeland by putting him in exile the Imperials have done. Instilling his vision in the minds of his people, however, is a victory that the Imperials could never take away from him.
By Riftime — 4 years ago
The Moroccan army, Forces Armées Royales, abbreviated as (FAR), was founded on 14th of May 1956. This was after the dissolution of the French protectorate in Morocco, which lasted from 1912 to 1956. When it was founded, the ‘new’ army consisted of 30,000 people: more than 14,000 people, including 200 officers, from the French army, 10,000 from the Spanish army and about 5,000 from the resistance movement Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN) (1).
The new officers of this army received accelerated training in the schools of the occupiers, Spain and France. The Stakeholders of the FAR were General Mohamed Mezian (1897-1975) who served in the Spanish army and Kettani Ben Hammou (1910 – 1965) who served in the French army: both officers reached the rank of general in the Spanish and French army respectively during the occupation of Morocco.
Moroccan soldiers in the French army have fought against compatriots and neighbors such as Algerians and also fought under French flag in Vietnam.
Most of the Riffians in the occupying army have fought on the side of dictator Franco in the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1939. Before that they fought against their own Rif population in the Rif-war (1911-1927). They served mainly in the Spanish infantry units called the Regulares and the Spanish Foreign Legion La Legión Española.
The Moroccan armed forces consists of the army, the air force and the navy. The latter was founded in 1960. The gendarmerie and the Royal Guard are officially part of the army.
(1) ALN is a resistance movement that sought the decolonization of North Africa, it was founded in the Rif in 1954.
Source: Amazigh Informatie Centrum
Translated by: Najat M.
To be continued
By Riftime — 3 years ago
Every year on the 28th of October, the world’s Riffians commemorate the terrible and barbaric murder of the fishmonger Muhsin Fikri. On that day, 31-year-old Muhsin Fikri was crushed by Moroccan officials in a garbage truck in 2016. This crime was recorded on video footage showing how he was slaughtered in the presence of bystanders. This black day is permanently engraved in the Riffian collective memory just like the many other crimes the Moroccan regime committed against the people from the Rif.
For the new generation of Riffians, the cowardly murder of Muhsin Fikri is a tangible proof of the crimes committed over and over by the Moroccan regime in the Rif.
There have been and are still many crimes: during the popular uprisings of 1958/1959, just after the withdrawal of Spain and France from the Rif in 1956, the Moroccan regime massacred the Rif population. Subsequently, in the 1960’s, there was a mass deportation of Riffians to Europe under the guise of employment as a guest worker. In the 70’s, Riffians who were active in the opposition and trade union movement were arrested and imprisoned. During the student protests in 1984, many Riffians fled their country for fear for their safety. And this development continues to this day, as the report below will show.
Massive protests after a barbaric murder
It did not stop at the deaths in 1984. In 2011 there were another five deaths, this time in Al Hoceima, which happened during February 20 movement, although these young people were not actively involved in the movement. All the evidence of murder of these young people point at the regime. In 2015, the lifeless and beheaded body of the rapper and activist Rifinox (Hussain Bellagrache) was found in the Nador region. The regime is held responsible for this macabre murder by Riffian activists.
From 1956 to the present day, many Riffians go missing, some of them disappear on the orders of the regime, another part is swallowed up by the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing the repression of the regime.
These events and the assassination of Muhsin Fikri prompted the population of the Rif to take immediate and massive action. Thousands of Riffians took to the streets and demanded an end to the militarization of the Rif, an end to the humiliation, contempt and killing of the Riffians.
These protests culminated in a popular movement called the Hirak Reef. For months, the Moroccan regime ignored the large and peaceful protests. The peaceful and massive demonstrations of the Hirak took place every week in different regions of the Rif.
Kidnappings and rape in the Rif
However, in May 2017 the Moroccan regime reacted with an unprecedented repression on the demands of the peaceful demonstrators.
More than a thousand Riffians were abducted from their homes by force, forcing the house doors in the middle of the night, tearing the victims away from their families and taking them to unknown destinations, leaving their loved ones in bewilderment and ignorant of the fate of their loved ones.
This fate did not only affect young healthy adult men, but also people with disabilities, women and minors did not escape state terrorism. The young singer Salima Ziani (1994) better known as Silya Ziani from Al Hoceima was kidnapped by Moroccan police on June 5, 2017 and taken to Casablanca where she was tortured, filmed naked and threatened with rape.
Nasser Zefzafi the spokesperson of the movement was kidnapped by Moroccan police officers, raped with a bat and urinated on him. At the police station, he was filmed naked like other abductees and DNA material was taken without permission.
Protests for the Rif in Europe
The Riffians of Europe also reacted fiercely and massively to these crimes committed by the Moroccan regime. After the murder of Muhsin Fikri, they took to the streets to stop killing, humiliating and expelling Riffians from their own country. Because of their open criticism of the Moroccan regime and organizing protests, many European Riffiand activists did not dare to travel to Morocco for fear of arrest in the knowledge that they too are controlled by the regime. Even though these citizens have a European nationality, Morocco continues to see them as its own nationals. The Dutch and Belgian governments have let it be known that there is nothing they can do about this.
Morocco has tried to accuse a well-known Riffian activist who is in Dutch government service of subversive activities. Morocco then asked the Netherlands for his extradition. After a thorough investigation by the Dutch government, Morocco got zero on the petition.
However, a Belgian from the Rif was arrested and imprisoned in Morocco. Belgium did not take any action for this citizen, it is said that the country did not want to damage its good economic and political relationship with Morocco.
Killings during demonstration
During the last protests in the Rif, 22-year-old Imad El Attabi was killed by a police bullet during the demonstration of 20 July 2017 in Al Hoceima. The cab driver Abdelhafid El Haddad died from the effects of the inhalation of tear gas, which was frequently used during this demonstration.
Many Riffians participating in the protests received a call to report to the police station where, under threats and humiliation, they were forced to sign a statement promising not to demonstrate again. During show trials more than a thousand Riffians were sentenced to prison terms ranging from a few months to 20 years imprisonment. Among the long sentences are several activists such as Nasser Zefzafi, Mohamed Jalloul, Nabil Ahemjik etc.
Militarization and economic embargo
In order to strengthen this policy of repression, the Moroccan regime had new prisons, police stations and barracks built in the Rif. In addition, the borders with the ‘Spanish enclaves’ Ceuta and Melilla were closed, causing thousands of Rif families to lose their livelihood.
These illegal and semi-illegal practices such as smuggling oil from Algeria, drug smuggling and human trafficking, and smuggling products from Ceuta and Melilla and Algeria, which are a large part of a parallel economy, have been promoted, to say the least, and partly set up by the regime. They are now partly restricted in order to affect the population.
This parallel economy was created so that the Riffian could never form an economic power. Even Riffians that want to invest their money in Rif do not get a license to do so, but are told to do so in other parts of Morocco. Also, the hard currency of Riffians in Europe and the real estate profits benefit the Moroccan regime through the Moroccan banks.
After the popular protests and the subsequent show trials, nothing has changed, the provocation, intimidation and humiliation of the Riffians by Moroccan officials both on the streets and in government buildings are the order of the day, Riffians are bullied with the words like, son of a Spaniard.
King Hassan II called the Riffians ‘scum’ in his speech of January 1984. His son Mohammed VI called them ‘nihilists’ in his speech from the throne in 2017. Moroccan politicians follow the good examples of their king and express hurtful insults about the Riffians, which they put on social media and in the Moroccan media, including terms such as scum and nihilists.
The persecution in the Rif continues as well, recently two youngsters have been sentenced by a Moroccan court to imprisonment for wearing the Rif flag.
The situation in Rif is worrying
All this makes the situation in the Rif very worrisome, the regime has curtailed important sources of income in the Rif, in addition, the fishing port of Al Hoceima had to make way for a pleasure port. Many wipers lost their jobs as a result. The trade in products from the ‘Spanish Enclaves’ Ceuta and Melilla has been stopped by closing the borders. There is hardly any employment in the Rif, so people are struggling from craftsmen and manual workers to businessmen. There are currently families who can no longer do their shopping and are forced to sell their furniture in order to stay alive.
Riffians fleeing to Europe
To escape this reign of terror, thousands of Riffians flee their homeland and leave for Europe. Among them are women and minors. A new phenomenon is that whole families are now fleeing from the Rif. In Europe there is no end to their suffering because they disappear into ‘illegality’ and end up in wretched conditions. This stream of refugees continues.
Translation: Najat M.