High Desert Jail -- Breakout
Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir
When Morocco's General Mohamed Oufkir was assassinated, his family, including a 3 year old boy, lived in a desert jail for 20 years.
I read Stolen Lives twice. The first time, I couldn’t put it down because it was just shocking. The second time I read it, (for this review), I found new things to be shocked by. Talk about shock overload.
Malika Oufkir wrote Stolen Lives, published in 1999. Since then she has written a new book, Freedom. But it is largely agreed that to appreciate the second book, you have to read the first.
What shocked me? Malika was the daughter of the late General Mohammad Oufkir, the right hand man of King Muhammad V of Morocco. The King adopted Malika (as an instruction to her parents rather than a request) when she was five years old to be a playmate for his youngest daughter, Lalla Mina.
Oufkir describes a seemingly fairytale life in the palace of Muhammad V. He had slaves (and I thought they were gone with the American revolution). And the children of his slaves also could only be slaves.
He also had a harem. Malika spent a lot of time with the women in the Harem, who spent a lot of time dressing themselves up, putting on makeup, taking care of their skin, and fixing their hair. The harem was comprised of the most beautiful women in the provinces of Morocco. Once they came to the palace, the older harem women had to teach them social graces.
Lalla Mina had every single toy she ever wanted in her and bedroom, which she shared with Malika. Lalla Mina also loved horses, and Malika, who hated them, was forced to learn to become an equestrian. It seemed to be a charmed life, but it was a cloistered life, almost like a prison.
Oufkir's second book is better appreciated if her first book is read beforehand.
Malika returns to her family
When Muhammad V died, according to The New York Times, there was suspicion that his son and heir Hassan II had something to do with it. Life remained the same for Lalla Mina (Hassan II’s youngest sister from another woman in the harem) and Malika.
Muhammad V’s harem remained, but Hassan II built a new complex in the Palace grounds for his own harem. This is where you see the difference between the outward modesty of dress required of the Harem, and Hassan II’s having nude parties in the pool with his entire harem. Malika was nine years old when she first joined these swimming parties. She refused to take off her underwear, causing King Hassan II to tear it off her.
At 15 Malika asked to return to her family. The King had planned to either add her to his harem (which she didn’t want to do) or marry her to the son of a general. Since she went home, neither happened, and she finally experienced freedom and a life of sophistication far different from the cloistered Palace life.
Her mother often brought her to Paris to go shopping at the most expensive stores and she went to bars with her friends and met the crème de la crème. Everything changed when her father, General Mohammed Oufkir, attempted a failed coup d’etat. Oufkir was killed at the palace, and his family lived in a desert jail. The youngest child, Abdellatif, was 3 years old. He grew up in prison for the next 20 years.
The Oufkir family in jail
A daring escape
They lived in filthy surroundings, had very little food, often fell ill and were not given medical treatment. Miryam, the middle sister, was epileptic. Initially they lived in a broken down, filthy home but they were together, had access to newspapers, books and radios. They were also given medicine for Miryam.
But over time they were moved from prison to prison, each worse than the last, until their final one which where they could not see each other and the rooms were locked. Fatima, the mother, shared her room with Abdellatif, the youngest son. Malika shared her room with Soukaina and Miryam. Raouf was alone in his room.
Their spirits were so low that they went on a hunger strike. When Raouf fell down in the garden on his daily walk time, he was left there in a half coma. He overheard the guards say that they were meant to die there. At that point he forced himself up and back to his room..
The family had devised a communication method, through which Raouf revealed the police’ conversation that he overheard. They decided then to escape. They had a spoon and the cut top tin of a can of sardines and their hands. Raouf told them to dig down until they hit clay, then to dig horizontally.
Every day they had to hide their hole from the police who regularly checked their rooms and their things. Eventually, they managed to dig beyond the area of the prison, and Raouf, Malika, Soukaina and Adellatif excaped together.
More shocking stories followed. The very good friends of the Oufkirs refused to know them or to help them. A stranger however let them stay overnight and gave them food. When Malika took off her shoe it was stuck to her foot, and her dress was stuck to her leg. They were given new clothes.
The irony of the story of the Oufkirs, as I see it, is that despite all of the pains they went through in prison, including seasonal pests – frogs, scorpions, mice, rats, cockroaches that were so plentiful they just crawled on their faces – they all outlived their captor, King Hassan II, who died in July 23, 1999.
And where are the Oufkirs now? What are they doing? Malika and her siblings have all converted to Catholicism while her mother remains a Muslim. Malika married Eric Bordreuil in 1998. They now live in Miami, Florida and have two children. Malika wrote a second book, Freedom.
The rest of the information that follows is dated and may have changed. From what I researched online, Fatima, the mother, lives in Paris and is trying to recover the family wealth in Morocco. Soukaina is an artist and singer. Abdellatif is very close to his mother and wants to be a pilot. Raouf works as a journalist in a Berber paper and travels between Paris and Rabat. He has a daughter. Myriam, according to a 2006 post on Skyrock.com, lives in Paris and is writing a book.
Adellatif, all grown up
I tried to find tapes of Malika being interviewed, but they weren't in English. However, I did find this video of Soukaina singing. I think she is really good.