Tazmamart, Ominous Days, Past & Present

Tazmamart, the now closed secret detention center in the south of Morocco, had been at the epicenter of the gloomy and ominous days of torture and other human rights abuses in Morocco during the seventies and the eighties of last century. The disconsolate prison was host to most of the army officers involved in the 1972 and 1973 failed coup d’etats against late King Hassan II and to other political opponents.  Moroccan officials denied the existence of such prison for many years. Caving in to criticism from foreign countries, namely the American government, and human rights organizations led by Amnesty International, Rabat released all the detainees and closed down the prison.
 Among the dozens of detainees who” resided” in Tazmamert, none were as intriguing as the Bourequat Brothers. Bayazid, Ali and Midhat were arrested in 1973; spent few years in special detention centers before being sent to Tazmamart in 1981. The three brothers would stay incarcerated for 18 years.
The Bourequats trace their origins to Turkey from where the patriarch of the family left for Morocco via Tunis. Ali, Bayazid and Midhat were all born in Morocco but hold French citizenship. According to Ali, his mother had family ties to the late King Hassan II and had access to the Royal Palace during her life. Further more, the Bourequat father was close to the late King Mohamed V and played a key role in setting up the early Moroccan intelligence services. Obviously, the Bourequat brothers had privileges and access in Morocco. They lived the good life and enjoyed every bit of it. They used their prominent connections to mange several successful businesses up until their arrests and subsequent confinements.  No wonder, they were surprised by their capture.
Upon their arrival to Tazmamert where they joined few existing “residents”, the Bourequats stood out. In fact, the brothers were among the rare civilians in detention. Never the less, most of the jailed military enjoyed their company. As the former Tazmamert detainee Ahmed El Marzouki would tell Al-Jazeera network, Ali Bourequat, who has an amazing memory, would take all his former cellmates in ‘tourist tours” of major Western Capital. Ali would later tell me how he would relive and share in vivid details his visits to Paris, New York and Rome. The Bourequats brought a rare relief to a desperate bunch of forgotten souls.
The capture and incarceration of the Bourequats without due process has been an enigma. The official reason given by Rabat was never concise as it stated that the brothers were involved in some type of espionage activities and represented a threat to National security. However, statements given to the French press by Ali concerning his knowledge of details surrounding the disappearance of the exiled Moroccan opposition figure Mehdi Ben Barka in Paris in 1965 raise more questions than answers. Ali seems in the know.
After their release from Tazmamert, the Bourequat brothers moved to Paris where the French government was not to eager to discuss their ordeal. After all, they are French citizens that felt abandoned by their government while they were melting away in a secret detention center in Morocco. Now, Ali lives in Texas where he was admitted as a political refugee, while his brothers stayed put in France.
Even tough Morocco had tormented the Bourequats, Ali and Bayazid had longed for a visit to their homeland. It was to happen for Bayazid who took the trip after the arrival to the Throne of King Mohamed VI. During my meeting with Bayazid in Rabat, I noticed a  twinkle in his eyes as he able to reunite with  several of his friends who were so happy to see him and welcomed his presence. It was an emotional trip.
As Morocco continues to close this dark and sad chapter of its history, Moroccan officials should not repeat the same mistakes while the country faces the danger of “politically motivated” violence. While it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens and ensure law and order, due process and fair trials should not go by the way side for the sake of security. While the danger confronting Morocco today is different than the one from the Bourequats days, the risks to the Moroccan authorities of making the same mistakes are real and present.  The Moroccan authorities should insure that the current trials of members of “Islamic movements” such as “Assalafiya” and “Belarej cell” are transparent, fair and open. The New Morocco can not afford the shame of having another Tazmamert in the Twenty First century.

Comments (7)  

+1 #1 a ShameMBoarder 2009-04-24 03:57
For Morocco, Tazamamart Prison is the stain of shame that will never go away and as well it should not.
To resolve many of its problems, Morocco needs to become a nation of laws and has to do away with bending the rules based on who's who. The judiciary system needs major reform -In a nutshell, there is an urgent desparate need to tackle social ills. Tazmamart prison? What a shame!!!!
+1 #2 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Tazmamart, Ominous Days, Past & PresentHmimarmad 2009-04-24 11:44
I am afraid they are too many self serving people who thrive on the status quo. Tazmamart had been eradicated and you would think that things will get better, none of that is happening.
Ok few advances here and there, but then what about the marche arrieres? The self serving officials have a real stronghold on the country. Some were saying " do something don't blame only the government", I say to those people, stop dreaming, you cannot do a thing if you are not allowed to breath and if you are not given a chance.
I am afraid that the country that we love, most of us will die without ever seeing it advance. The Moroccan system is based on the " La loi du plus fort" . I have not seen a single person in the government who is not an insider, just last week, Fassi fihri's brother got the head of the football federation position.
The sad part is that we are a bunch of helpless spectators,all we can do is relieve our chest when given a chance.

Lastly, I was surprised that you have not mentioned Abraham Serfati whose wife was among the first ones to bring Tazmamart to the forefront.
Abderrahmane Sakkaki
-1 #3 COMMENT_TITLE_R E Tazmamart, Ominous Days, Past & PresentAbderrahmane Sakkaki 2009-04-27 12:09
When I heard about this secret detention center the first time, my mind was pushed in every direction, like an earthquaque inside my head, almost disoriented and not able to conceptualize or fathom the whole human tragedy..I cannot find words or images to describe this crime against humanity..Fortu nately today, we live in a different era, and let's not be consumed with hatred and revenge because it's counterproducti ve..Morocco is better today ; forgiveness is the only remedy..


Mohammad ibn Mohammad
+1 #4 Bones of bloodthirsty criminalsMohammad ibn Mohammad 2009-04-28 06:27
Sooner or later, we drag out the traitors and enemies of the Moroccan people on public places so that justice will be done.
Even if we unearth the bones of bloodthirsty criminals, even if it is contrary to Islamic laws, for the simple reason that the rights of Muslims are broken and transgressed daily.
-1 #5 Say what?MBoarder 2009-04-28 06:51
“Fortunately today, we live in a different era, and let's not be consumed with hatred and revenge because it's counterproducti ve..Morocco is better today; forgiveness is the only remedy..”

This is not about revenge or hatred but about justice, undoing wrong, accountability, and prevention.
I will have more to say about this very soon -
+1 #6 Supplement to the forgotten HM 2009-04-28 08:55
Appel de la mère du détenu disparu Houcine El Manouzi !

Le 29 octobre 1972 mon fils Houcine, militant syndicaliste et membre de l’UNFP, a été enlevé de Tunis par la police politique marocaine.

Le 13 juillet 1975, il a pu s’évader du centre secret de détention, le PF3 à Rabat. Il a été arrêté de nouveau le 19 juillet 1975 par la gendarmerie royale.

33 ans dans l’enfer de la disparition forcée, alors qu’on est à 33 jours de la fin du mandat de l’IER (Instance Equité et Réconciliation) , institution chargée par le Roi Mohamed VI de régler le dossier des détenus-disparus.

Aucune nouvelle de mon fils Houcine.

Pourquoi cet acharnement, ces souffrances et cette attente étouffante dans un Maroc officiel qui se réclame respectueux des droits de l’homme tels qu’ils sont universellement reconnus.

Khadija Chaou (83 ans)
Mère de Houcine El Manouzi
+1 #7 nightmare over?soulman 2009-04-30 06:48
for those of you who keep saying "we are in a new era' morocco has changed"...etc. ..you are so mistaken ..the human right abuses are still going on...the changes are superficial..an yone who dares to talk about it will pay for that dearly..the easy way to persecute people in morocco nowadays is to label them under the counter-terrori sm effort so they won t be asked any questions from the west..there is torture in morocco...get real...don t lie to yourselves ...you have nothing to be proud of...sure the king is a person with a kind heart but abuses are still committed.

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