Pros: A true princess' memoir; a political thriller
Cons: Political intrigues and cruelty
Just a few weeks ago, while surfing a French web site, I read a mention of this book, "Stolen Lives: My Family's Twenty Year Struggle in a Desert Jail". Two days later, I read a little bit more about it in L'Express. This book has already become a bestseller in France. I knew that I had to make time to read it when of my sisters told me about it. In the French-speaking world, this book has already been the subject of many articles. It was time for me to concentrate on a few books for the last few weeks. For sure, I would add a copy of Stolen Lives to the pack.
Stolen Lives is a memoir that will make you ask questions. You will also ask whether this level of political intrigues, measured cruelty and possible death is possible up to these days in the hands of many foreign governments. Yes, these acts of torture, imprisonment and misery do happen to those who say the slightest things or organize any sort of protest against a regime. Travel through the Caribbean region and Latin America. Many European and African countries employ these kinds of tactics. Stolen Lives is the recreation of the desert jail that Malika Oufkir and her family had to endure for many years. It tells of what extremes the human soul can survive: famine, suicide, but in the end, a strong desire to bear witness will prevail.
Between the extremes: From riches to rags, comes in suffering
Back in the 1970s, if anybody was destined to live happily ever after, it would be Malika Oufkir. She was the child of a general, a highly decorated army man, a close military aide, a man of great wealth. She was born into what's known as the "upper middle class Moroccan family." Basically, she had the gravy, all that was necessary to lead a life of abundance and privilege. In fact, the whole family was living that kind of a life under King Mohammed. Only five years old, Malika was asked and sent away to live in the king's various palaces with one of his daughter to keep her company. She lived there among all the king's wives, the hundreds and thousands of them. (You are talking about a modern-day King David and all his concubines!) Malika participated in all official ceremonies, fun activities and you name it.
Coup d'etat rate: Attempt at King's assassination
Kind of biblical proportions
One thing that was clear was that the king could not control General Oufkir. He did not know what he was about. What he was about turned out to be detrimental to him and his own family. In 1972, he orchestrated attempts to assassinate King Hassam who ended up surviving the coup. Furious, the king ordered him arrested and executed. No one will condone General Oufkir's actions. The man had great political ambitions. One had to give in.
Malika Oufkir and her family bound to suffer in solitary and vermin-infested cells
A Princess sleeps among rats, mice and other insects
With all her books, toys and French-designed clothing, Malika and her family were forced out of all their comfort. They were immediately thrown into jail to rot and know the stings of hunger. They became suicidal and tried to cut their veins, but too thin and malnourished, blood did not rush out. They did not see any way out of this awful situation. Whatever plans they did not have enough time to materialize. The guards moved them all the time. Finally, they managed to dig a tunnel that took out into a corn field. Malika and some siblings were trying to seek asylum at the French Embassy, but it was closed since it was week-end. When they tried to seek assistance from an old friend, they were shooed away. They only had friends when the times were great. By then, the jailers knew they had a breakaway. They started looking for them. Malika and her siblings were soon recaptured and jailed for five more years. Fortunately, they had let the outside world know about their capture through a French program. They had established contact with the French embassy.
This novel will fascinate anybody who reads it. I remain confident that it will help readers understand how awful prisons and jails are in third-world countries. No matter how famous and rich you are, you will be mistreated by these strict regimes even if it was not anything of your doing. The words must be out about those who are falsely imprisoned and tortured on a daily basis.
Buy it and read it. Make it a best-seller on this side of the Ocean! Above all, this book will remove the veils of Morocco's regime. If there is one lesson in this, it is, "Don't take a chance at dethroning a monarchy!" The survivors will drive you nuts. Fortunately, Malika is now living in France with her French husband and family. They have been in exile. The power of information is also revealed in this autobiography.