Fez - A nation that does not preserve its history, celebrate it and bequeath it to the coming generations with its successes and failures will never find the way to the future.
Fez – A nation that does not preserve its history, celebrate it and bequeath it to the coming generations with its successes and failures will never find the way to the future.
It’s like someone traveling on board a train without any specific destination or like a ship far off in the middle of the ocean but without a sail and a compass; stuck nowhere and bound to be stricken by the raging waves. History immunes us against the vicissitudes of life and strengthens our conception of our cultural “self.”
Today February 6th is the fifteenth anniversary of the passing away of the legendary freedom fighter and liberationist Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi. Born in Ajdir in 1882 to a traditional family, Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim started his education at home and was taught the Quran by his father. Then he moved to Essaffarin and Cherratin Madrasas in Fez to pursue his studies to graduate later from the university of Al-Qarawiyyin in 1906. After his graduation and settlement in Melilla (a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco) he held several occupations and worked first as a teacher, then as a judge and finally as a journalist for the Spanish newspaper el Telegrama del Rif.
The legend of Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El khattabi started when the Spanish colonizers set foot in the Rifian land after signing a treaty with the French to share the ‘cake’ of Moroccan territory; France occupying two-thirds and Spain one third. Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi discovered the conspiracy and opposed the rapacious desires of the colonizers. He managed to unite the conflicting tribes of the Rif (Beni Ouryaghel, Temsaman, Beni Touzine, Bquiwa, and other tribes) for the purpose of resisting and fighting colonialism.
Adopting the tactics of guerrilla fighters with very rudimentary means, and thanks to the spirit of bravery he implanted in each and every one of his fighters, Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim inflicted heavy casualties and damage on the Spanish organized army. One of the historic battles in the history of colonial resistance in the world is the battle of Anwal in July 1921 where about 13363 Spanish soldiers were killed and injured. The Spanish troops were under the command of General Manuel Fernandez Silvestre who was a close friend of the Spanish king Alfonso XIII. Before the battle of Anwal, General Manuel Fernandez Silvestre had promised his king and his troops to crush the Rifian resistance in a matter of hours and to drink tea in the house of Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim but the wind blew counter to his expectations. He had to force his troops to drink their urine to survive under the siege laid by the Rifian resistance.
Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi is said to be the first who aspired to unite the peoples of North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya) and he was the first to use the Maghreb as a designation for all these peoples. He also supported the liberation movements in these countries and founded The Committee for the Liberation of the Maghreb in 1947. The main purpose of this committee was to reunite all the forces and the national parties struggling for the independence of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and to lay the foundations of a Maghrebian unity. Mohammed Ben Abdlkrim El Khattanbi died on February 6th, 1963 in Cairo.
Unfortunately, after a history of resistance and sacrifice for the independence of his country, Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi is a forgotten hero and his struggle has gone into oblivion. We barely see, if ever, any TV programs talking about him or mentioning his glorious history. The same neglect applies to cinema, as there has been so far no film about him. When shall we reconcile with our history and revive it for a true breakthrough towards the future? Why do our filmmakers spend considerable budgets of taxpayers on ‘zero’ films that are replete with erotic scenes and vulgar language and almost no aesthetic and cultural value? We need films that respect our intelligence, our history, our present and future. We need films that tell us who is Mohammed Ben Abdelkrim El Khattabi, who is Youssef Ibn Tachafin, Tarik Ibn Ziyad, Allal El-Fassi, Mohammed V, Mehdi Ben Barka… Our dear filmmakers, if you can’t do so you are a total FIASCO!!
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