New York - During a parliamentary session held on Monday, Saad Edine Otmani, Moroccan Foreign Minister, called on the Spanish government to open a dialogue on the use of toxic gas by the Spanish military during the Rif War, which pitted Spain against the Moroccan resistant under leadership of Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi.
New York – During a parliamentary session held on Monday, Saad Edine Otmani, Moroccan Foreign Minister, called on the Spanish government to open a dialogue on the use of toxic gas by the Spanish military during the Rif War, which pitted Spain against the Moroccan resistant under leadership of Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi.
This official request is made a few days after Jorge Días Fernández, Spanish Minister of Interior, expressed his admiration for Spanish soldiers who fought against the Moroccans during the Rif war between 1921 and 1926, especially during the Annoual battle, which took place on July 22, 1921.
After the crushing defeat of the Spanish army against the Rifains resistant under the leadership of Moroccan legend Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim el Khattabi, Spain made an unprecedented retaliatory decision in order to stifle the revolution in the Rif region.
In 1923, under the instruction of King Alfono XIII, grand-father of Juan Carlos, current king of Spain, the Spanish army used toxic gas against the population of the Rif, a step that was in flagrant violation of the treaty of Versailles of 1919, which prohibited the use of toxic gas, and which Spain had signed.
According to many scholars, such as Spain’s María Rosa de Madariaga and British Scholar Sebastian Balfour, the Rif region, which was subjected to this toxic gas, has the highest rate of people suffering from cancer. The same authors add that this gas is believed to be the main cause of this high rate of cancer in the region.
Up until now, despite countless calls from Moroccan and foreign organizations urging the Spanish government to express its mea culpa over the use of this toxic gas against civilian population, Spain has still not expressed any regret or apology to the Moroccan people over its killing of thousands of Moroccans during the Rif war and throughout its protectorate over northern Morocco.
Instead of apologizing and compensating the population of the Rif, the Spanish Council of Ministers on July 1 granted the highest award to the Regiment of Cazadores de Alcantara, “its heroic conduct” during the Annual Battle 91 years ago.