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November 21, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-11-21

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Number 53

Night Editor: Sara Fitzgerald

Sunda, Nove t er 21, 1971


Poli ics




IT DIDN'T TAKE me .long to learn
about Moroccan politics.
First, I noticed all the police who
stroll down the streets twirling ma-
chine guns instead of billy clubs.
Then three times in one week, I
couldn't buy my favorite newspaper
L'Opinion, which I read every morn-
ing munching croissants and sipping
cafe au lait in a cafe. The govern-
ment had seized it. *
One day the paper was censured
because it reported a riot at the Uni-
versity of Rabat, where police shot 15
students protesting final exam sched-
ules. Another day L'Opinion was
seized because the government didn't
approve, its coverage of a massive
political purge trial in Marrakesh.
The third day it was seized because-
I never did find out why.
But my friend Mohamed told me,
"L'opinion is seized any time it prints
the truth about politics." L'opinion
didn't reach the newsstands many

Daniel Zwerdling, Daily Magazine Editor in 1970-71, enrrenitl'j writes for the New
Republic. This is the second in a series of five articles he is u riting for The Daily on con-
fenPorary life in North Africa and the Middle East.

said. "Everyone wants to
it's impossible."

leave. But

know about Greece, Vietnam, and
hear vague hints about our oblique
support of South Africa. But Moroc-
co? Most of my friends ask: Is Mor-
occo one of those countries at the top
of Africa? and I tell them it sits at
the northwest corner, bound by the
Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Algeria
on the east and the Mauritanian Sa-
hara on the south.
Little has changed in Morocco for
one thousand years. The French nev-
er invaded and directly controlled
Morocco as they did Algeria. Long
after Algeria had been burned to
the ground and reconstructed in the
French architectural and cultural
tradition, Morocco maintained its
cultural and social heritage and its
sultan. He was a puppet, but Moroc-

ing for a routing into Morocco, be-
tween Spain and Greece.
RUT MOROCCANS hate their coun-
try, and fear it. "All the young
are dissatisfied," says a young stu-
dent whom I met south of Marra-
kesh, in an old town called Tarou-
dant. He wouldn't say that in public,
but we are walking outside the an-
cient town walls of mud and straw,
which flow over the southern bad-
lands like lava.
We were alone except for the Atlas
mountains filtering through the haze,
some women washing their clothes in
an irrigation ditch, and an old man
digging holes in the earth and mak-
ing mud bricks.
"There is no work, "no factories. no
jobs, no money, not nothing," he said.
"All the young despair. If I could vet
the money I would leave Morocco and
lve forever in another country. And
if I could get the passort."
It is virtually impossible to ob-
tqin a passport in Morocco, except
for the few who attend foreign
schools or work in other countries.
Only the rich can attend foreign
schools; if you find a foreign iob you
must usually leave a wife and kids
back home as collateral which as-
sures the government you will re-
turn somedav. Domestic students
have no chance for a passport. They
can't even visit Algeria.
A photo of King Hsssan II and
his late father. Mohamr'ed. hne In
every shon and cafe in Morocco. So
I asked shopkeepers "What do you
think of the King?"
Some smiled and said no+hin.
Others told me. "He is our kine,"
and fell silent. Only voinnr Mroc-
cans stuidertz will seak honestly,
but like my friend in Taroudant only
in absolute private.
Do you remember the movies in the
Fifties about life behind the Iron
Curtain? In the towns, like Fz. or
Rabat, or Teto'nn or Marrakesh. I
would act out the same script with
different faces, different friends.
"ir' are thins in Morocco9" I
ask. Their faces drain white. They
look ouickly over each shoulder.
"Shhh." one whisners. "There are
eyes and eqrs in the shadows. You
Another walks more q u i c k 1 y
through the twisting bazaars of Fez.
"Tasan II is the glorious soverein,.
kne of our nation," he nroclaims
loudly, then leans to my ears and says
softly. "For vou there is no risk talk-
ing nolitics. You are a stranger. But if
T sneak about Morocco. it will be very
bad. They will arrest me and . . ." he
stonned and drew a finger across his
throat. Melodramatic stuff, but it
Thev take me to their homes, we
close the door, their mothers or sis-
ters bring, us silver trays and pots
of mint tea and cookies, and we speak
alone. "Morocco is terrible," they

IF THE students won't speak out
loud, who will? The political par-
ties spar a bit, but the government
muzzles them, too. Communists were
banished long ago. A student group,
the Union Nationale des Etudiants
Marocains, protests from time to
time but can't muster any strength.
A student in Rabat wanted to tell
me, as we munched sardines in a
cafe, one night, what organization
organized the student protests at the
University. He wrote the name on a
slip of paper, showed it to me, then
tore the paper into shreds and burned
Istiglal, the remnants of the old
independence party, offers some lib-
eral criticisms but the party paper
L'Opinion can scarcely get to the
stands. The last hope is the leftist
Union Nationale des Forces Ponu-
laires (UNFP)-and it's a dying one.
I went to the purge trials in Mar-
rakesh - the latest government ef-
fort to liquidate the UNFP opposi-
Every so often the government
drags scores of radicals into- jail and
accuses them of subversion. The last
time was 1964. when eight persons
were executed.
This round, the government accused
193 lawyers, merchants, farmers, me-
chanics and students of plotting to
overthrow Hassan II and establish a
"socialist and democratic republic."
The government arrested the first
few in December 1969, then grabbed
the others (except for 32 who fled
the country, and were tried in ab-
sentia) the next spring. They all lan-

Royal palace at Rabat

A farmer spilled the beans. He said
that some of the accused sent him a
correspondence course in revolution
(the Guevara manuals?), and he got
frightened reading the materials and
called the police. The defense pointed
out that the farmer can't read or
write, but the contradiction slipped
There was more convincing evi-
dence, such as secret passwords ex-
changed at revolutionary rendezvous:
"Is the muzzein at the top of the

It didn't surprise me to learn that the United States contri-
butes $30 million each year to Morocco ... a miserably poor
nation ruled by a royal despot and a corrupt military.

King Hassan II: The 'glorious sovereign'?

more times last summer, so I can tell
you that there were many truths
about Morocco which I never dis-
But I can report one more inci-
dent: two days after I visited the
purge trials in Marrakesh, 30 truck-
loads of military cadets, led by the
nation's 11 top generals and colonels,
attacked the King's summer palace
and slaughtered over 100 digntaries
celebrating his birthday, The king
hid in a bathroom and was saved.
IT DIDN'T SURPRISE me to learn
that the United States contri-
butes $30 million each year to Mor-
occo-more than the U.S. gives to al-
most every other country (Morocco is
moderate on Israel). Morocco is a
miserably poor nation ruled by a
royal despot and a corrupt military.
I was surprised that almost no one
in America knows either fact. We

can nevertheless.
After independence in the fifties,
the country retained its other sig-
nificant features- dictatorship by
the monarchy, the military and the
landowners (the landowners come
chiefly from the military). The rest
of the people live and die in miserable
poverty. I got used to children
sleeping in gutters, dressed in scrap
rags, and with maggots crusted
around their eyes.
The beggars, the cripples deform-
ed by malnutrition, and the perva-
sive stench of human excrement as-
tonishes tourists who flock to this ex-
otic mecca where dope comes cheap-
er than Coca-Cola, where double ho-
tel rooms with persian carpets and
private baths rent for $4, and where
craftsmen still make brass teapots
and silver platters by hand. American
tourist agencies tell me that more
and more "tour packages" are ask-

guished in jail until the trial began
this summer.
I went to the courthouse, walked
past the machine gun sentries with
a press pass, and sat down with the
business suits on one side of the
courtroom in the scorching after-
noon heat.
ACROSS THE aisles, the 161 men
sat in 13 rows, dressed in doomed
gray. They looked like sad men, with
tired faces. Most of them, probably
all of them, had been tortured. They
sat passively while the government
revealed, bit by bit, their onerous
In the front of the courtroom there
were two tables with tangible evi-
dence: A half dozen pistols, two gre-
nades, a machine gun, some Che
Guevara books, a duplicating ma-
chine, several typewriters and a bot-
tle of nitroglycerine.

minaret?" Each witness shuffled one
by one to the interrogation stand, lis-
tened to the court clerk read his con-
fession, then disclaims the confession
and said he was tortured. Many pull-
ed up their shirts or removed their
shoes and socks and showed hideous
Finally, the president of the nine-
man tribunal (there are no juries)
told the defendants to skip the hor-
ror stories. "We've heard tor-
ture stories before," he said.
EVEN sympathetic Moroccans think
that the defendants were plan-
ning a revolt, but had barely started
to talk about the idea when the gov-
ernment nabbed them. The defense
attorney, Abderrahim Bouabid, a for-
mer vice president, is pacing up and
down the hallways during a court
recess, his black robes with white
frills and tassles flailing.
"If they want to prove that there
is a revolutionary spirit in Morocco,
then they are right," he says." The
state is trying to prove the accused
have gone beyond intellectual dis-
cussion; they are stopping a revolu-
tion in advance. But I am certain that
things will explode into violence any
day. The only question is when, and
Violence exploded a few days
later, but not how Bouabid expected.
Five top generals, including the chief
of the King's Royal Palace guard, six
colonels, and 30 truckloads of mili-
tary cadets attacked Hassan II's
summer palace halfway between Ra-
bat and Casablanca.
They surrounded the e n t i r e
grounds, killing caddies on the golf
course and guests on the beach. Even
the ambassador from Belgium was
killed: one magazine told in a mov-
ing account how a government of-

The king had somehow escaped to
the bathrooms. Some people suspect
that he was allowed to escape by
generals who promised to take part
in the insurrection and then double-
crossed. Others think that his moral
power conquered the revolt. Govern-
ment 'newspapers tried to explain
how 30 berserk cadets killed 100 and
wounded 130 and still missed the
Here is the most popular story:
First, the military cadets drank some
soda spiked with drugs. Then, the at-
tack. Several cadets rushed up to the
King, intending to shoot him. Sud-
denly, they began trembling, dropped
their weapons and kissed his hand
and asked forgiveness.
in any case. the shooting stooned
s1ddonl- after 30 minutes and the
insurrectionaries piled into their
trucks and drove away. Hassan II
promised "his government would make
a detailed investigation to deter-
mine exactly what happened, then
two days later, a firing squad execut-
ed the ten leaders who could have
told what happened-on television.
The screen blanked out during the
crucial three seconds. but the Picture
reappeared as platoons of soldiers
left their ranks and spit on the
cornses. According to the govern-
ment press, "Justice was done."
j IFE didn't change much after the
revolt. Hssan II gave a brutal,
powerful eeneral unpecedented civil-
ian and militar controls. I sat late
one night watching TV in a small
restaurant, where one hundred
townsmen were eating bowls of chick
pea soup.
We watched a two hour musical ex-
travaeanza featlring m a r c h i n g
troops, large banners of "Vive le ro,"
photos of the king, and men's chor-
uses and orchestras swelling in the
The next day I passed street ven-
dor, who usually sold peanuts, sell-
inz banners with. the Moroccan
colors. Sparse clusters of men,
women and children paraded here
and there in the streets in "snonta-
neous" jovous thanks that King Has-
san II had triumnhed.
I suggested that thev were paid to
demonstrate, and my Moroccan
friends agreed. Moroccans never
demonstrate for anything
As for the rest of us: Buses, which
are intolerably slow, traveled even
slower because nolice barricades halt-
ed and insnected them everv 30 or
40 miles. All the borders were closed
to Moroccans (few could leave before
the attemnted couon anyway), and my
friends carried their ID cards in their
shirt nockets, just like they had done


va ,>F S.

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