Updated date:

The Oufkir Family Story: Trapped in a Desert Jail For 20 Years

Mona is a veteran writer, columnist for Enrich Magazine, and life coach. She holds webinars and seminars on writing and emotional health.

Stolen Lives by Malika Oufkir

Malika, her mother Fatima and four other siblings spent 20 years in a desert jail, including the youngest, Abdellatif, who was 3 years old

Malika, her mother Fatima and four other siblings spent 20 years in a desert jail, including the youngest, Abdellatif, who was 3 years old

Morocco's General Mohamed Oufkir was assassinated, and his family paid the price

Stolen Lives is a shocker, an eye-opener, and a page-turner. Imagine coming from a wealthy and powerful family in Morocco, where the father, General Mohammed Oufkir, is the right-hand man of the King. The wife of Oufkir is an heiress, and money was never a problem. Imagine, too, having spent 10 years living in the palace, where everything was beautiful and expensive and food was always excellent.

Malika Oufkir, author of Stolen Lives, lived in the palace as the adopted daughter of the King of Morocco from age five to 10. She then returned to live with her own family, the wealthy and powerful Oufkirs.



King Mohammed V

King Mohammed V

Two failed coups d'etat

After King Mohammed died, he was succeeded by his son, King Hassan II.

All went well until there were two failed coups d'etat, which the new King blamed on General Oufkir. The general was killed with five bullets on his body, and that same day the rest of the family was placed under arrest. From 1973 to 1977, Fatima, 35 and the wife of Oufkir was arrested on December 3, 1972, along with their children Malika (author of the book), then 20 years old, her sister Miriam, 19, her brother Raouf, 18, sisters Maria, 9, Soukaina, 8, and another brother, Abdellatif, age 3. They lived in a dwelling in an army barrack in the middle of the desert, in the city Assa. In prison, the family:

1. Was beaten. 2. Had to clean their own excrement. 2. Was poorly fed. 3. Had no time nor space to exercise. 4. Was subject to sandstorms that broke their windows and filled the house, their faces and bodies with sand. 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.

After a little less than a year, they were transferred to a crumbling fort that was in ruins, located east of the Atlas Mountains, where they stayed for four years. During that time the following happened:

  1. Myriam’s epilepsy worsened, with progressively more vicious episodes.
  2. Soukaina experienced manic depression.
  3. Malika was afflicted with and almost died from peritonitis. She lost all her hair and became exceedingly thin.


Tazamart Prison in Morocco was a place where many political prisoners died under the reign of King Hassan II.

Tazamart Prison in Morocco was a place where many political prisoners died under the reign of King Hassan II.

An appeal to King Hassan II, Malika's adopted father

  1. In 1977 the Oufkirs wrote a letter to King Hassan II, appealing for better treatment, and signed by their blood. Instead, the King sent them to a far worse prison in the Sahara desert that was situated 45km from Casablanca.

    There, they were placed in three separate cells where they lived for 15 years. One cell was inhabited by Fatima and her youngest son, Abdellatif. The second was occupied by all the sisters, and the third one kept Raouf in solitary confinement. This was their life:

    1. They were kept in almost constant isolation.

    2. They were kept in darkness.

    2. They were fed very little, just enough to keep them alive.

    3. All their possessions were burned by the guards.

    4. The only clothes they had were now torn and ragged.

    5. The cells were seasonally infested with mosquitoes, scorpions,

    mice, rats, frogs, cockroaches, fleas, and huge aggressive rats.

    6. They bathed themselves using detergent.

    5. All their possessions were burned by the guards.

    7. They had diarrhea, fevers, and other infections.

    8. Myriam, because of her epilepsy, rarely left her bed for eight years.

    9. Raouf lost all his teeth.

    10. Abdellatif, 8, tried to commit suicide, as did his mother, Fatima, and older brother, Raouf.

    11. Malika, in an effort to end her sister’s suffering, tried but failed to slit her sister’s wrists using a knitting needle and a can.

    When their suicide attempts failed, their weaknesses transformed into a formidable force, leading them to plan and successfully escape from their prison. They did this by digging a tunnel using a spoon, a tuna can, and their hands.

    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 escaped 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.

    They also spoke to Paris Match about their condition. But on the fifth day of their escape, they were recaptured and placed under house arrest in 1987. The article in Paris Match however drew international attention to their plight, and they were released with three other political prisoners in 1991.

    Stolen Lives was published in 1999. This was followed by a second book, Freedom. But it is largely agreed that to appreciate the second book, you have to read the first.

    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 on July 23, 1999.


"A Purpose Built Dungeon"

"Tazmamart was a purpose-built dungeon situated in the Atlas mountains, searing in the summer, freezing in the winter, cramped and hellish all year round." It is not known if this was the jail that the Oufkirs were in.

"Tazmamart was a purpose-built dungeon situated in the Atlas mountains, searing in the summer, freezing in the winter, cramped and hellish all year round." It is not known if this was the jail that the Oufkirs were in.

Malika's life before the family was arrested

Life in the Palace

1. Malika's father was the right - hand man of King Muhammad V of Morocco. 2. The King adopted Malika (upon order, not on request) when she was five, to be a playmate to his youngest daughter, Lalla Mina. 3. In the palace, Oufkir describes the King's slaves (and I thought they were gone with the American revolution). The children of his slaves also could only be slaves. 4. Malika spent a lot of time with the women in the King's Harem. The women spent a lot of time dressing up, putting on makeup, taking care of their skin, and fixing their hair. 5. The harem had the most beautiful women from 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 horseback riding. It seemed to be a charmed life, but it was a cloistered life, almost like a prison.

Dâr-al-Makhzen is the primary and official residence of the king of Morocco.

Dâr-al-Makhzen is the primary and official residence of the king of Morocco.

Malika returns to her family at age 15

When King Muhammad V died, there was a suspicion that his son and heir, Hassan II, had a hand in it, The New York Times reported. Still, 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. Hassan II had nude parties in the pool with his entire harem. Malika, then nine years old, joined these swimming parties. She refused to take off her underwear, causing King Hassan II to tear it off her.

At age 15, Malika asked to return to her family. This is because 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 was jailed.

Oufkir's second book is better appreciated if her first book is read beforehand.

stolen-livesa-review

From Failed Suicides to a Daring Escape

They lived in filthy surroundings, had very little food, often fell ill but 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 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 escaped 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 on July 23, 1999.

The Oufkir family in jail

L-R Abdellatif, Malika, Fatima (mother), Raouf, Miryam, and Soukaina

L-R Abdellatif, Malika, Fatima (mother), Raouf, Miryam, and Soukaina

Where are the Oufkirs now?

And where are the Oufkirs now? What are they doing? Malika and her siblings have all converted to Catholicism while her mother remained a Muslim. Malika married Architect Eric Bordreuil in 1998. She also adopted the daughter of Myriam when the child was 2 1/2 years old. They then moved to Miami, Florida.

Malika tended to spend a long time in her dark room (similar to her cell) and would sleep to the sound of the television (in contrast to the screeching silence of the desert).

Malika's prison experience affected her ability to give birth. In Florida, they finally adopted a little boy from Morocco. However, the most recent article about this adoption noted that the couple were hoping for intervention as they only had resident status which meant a long wait before their son could join them.


Fatima, wife of General Oufkir

The rest of the information that follows is dated and may have changed. From what I researched online, The Oufkirs attained refugee status in France in 1996. Fatima, the mother, spent her life trying to recover the family wealth in Morocco, with no success. She died in December 2013 in Casablanca after experiencing a cardiac arrest. She was 78 years old.

She met her future husband when she was 15 years old, and he was twice her age. In 2010 she told Maroc Hebdo, “Oufkir arrived home on a Ramadan night, he looked weird. As soon as he saw me he decided to marry me. He was the first man in my life, he was affectionate, courageous, honest."

At one point the couple divorced, but they reconciled with the birth of their youngest child, Abdellatif.



SAKINA OUFKIR COURS.wmv

Soukaina

Soukaina wrote A Biography of General Oufkir, and another book, La Vie Devant Moi, which described prison life through her lens. She is a composer and singer. Two of her songs are Il Y A Toi, and Cours. She has done a few concerts. Soukaina is also a painter. As of this writing (updated in 2021), she is 58 years old. Soukaina finished her education at age 36. According to a 2009 article in Le Monde, ever since Soukaina came to France, she has awakened every day surprised to be alive. Musicologist Martin Guerpin said, “Her great strength is to succeed in making people forget who she is. We listen to her for her personality, the beauty of her music, the extreme poetry of her lyrics, not for the names of Oufkir.

Abdellatif

Abdellatif, according to a 2006 article, remained very close to his mother. Because of this, he was often with her in Morocco where Fatima tried to claim her proper family inheritance. She also remained very interested in Morocco's politics. Abdellatif wanted to be a pilot, but lacked the finances needed to pay for his education to earn a pilot's license. He has a passion for soccer. It isn't known what happened to him after his mother's death. It has been said he avoids family get togethers because they remind him of prison. Also, he is very much a loner.

stolen-livesa-review

Raouf

Raouf works as a journalist in a Berber paper and travels between Paris and Rabat. He wrote the books, Life Before Me, Why Fundamentalism Threatens Us, and of his prison experience in the book, The Guests: 20 Years in the Prisons of Hassan II. A review of his book noted that it stood out as "a perfect mix between the history of the imprisonment of the Oufkir family and that of Morocco in the 60s and 70s." It has been cited for its great detail and observations of the political scene in Morocco at that time, contributing a fine combination of history and autobiography. Raouf has one daughter.

Myriam is the woman reading from a folder

Myriam is the woman reading from a folder

Myriam

Myriam, according to a 2006 post, lives in Paris. She was, as of that year married with a child. However, her epilepsy and the effects of life in prison left her often ill and incapable or caring for her daughter. Malika adopted Myriam's daughter when she was 2 1/2 years old. Myriam worked on writing poems and collecting photos to go with them. She also has a bachelor's degree in psycho-pedagogy, and specializes in educating children in difficulty.

I really learned a lot from this book, and have read it more than once. I think it's a good investment. You can buy it through this link, and I hope very much that you do.

Comments

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on January 14, 2020:

Thank you very much for the visit, Mr. Singh:). The actual book is very arresting, indeed. Yes, you're right, thankfully for this family, it's all over, and one woman from this family was able to share her experience through this book. Have a wonderful 2020!!!

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 07, 2020:

I happened to read this article pretty late but I was struck by the graphic depiction and engrossing subject. This is something I never knew and I loved reading every word of it. Perhaps all one can say is I am glad its all over and for me, I never wish to travel to Morocco.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez (author) from Philippines on November 08, 2014:

Hi Hendrika, my sympathies are with you and the people in South Africa. Much of the continent is in distress and you wonder why they can't make something workable out of it. People will always choose peace, but factions is a different thing alttogether. Thanks for reading the book review.

Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on November 07, 2014:

It is awful what people can do to other human beings. It is actually scary because I live in South Africa and in Africa anything is possible. Regimes take over and murder. You always live in fear that it can happen to your country as well even though at the moment South Africa is a very good and prosperous country to live in.

Related Articles