Rabat – While Madrid has agreed to respond to the Amazigh World Assembly’s (AMA) request concerning the use of chemical weapons by King’s Alfonso XIII military during the Rif War from 1921-1926, the language used by the foreign minister demonstrates that Spain continues to refuse to apologize to the Moroccan people for the use of prohibited chemical weapons.
In a video posted on AMA’s YouTube channel, the Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said that “as a result of the request of the king, they were received in the Spanish embassy to submit their demands and also examine possible ways of cooperation;we will see the follow up to this question.”
The head of the Spanish diplomacy was answering a question raised during a parliamentary meeting by Joan Tarda, member of the Esquerra Republicana, who for more than a decade has been at the forefront of efforts aimed at pushing the Spanish government to admit its use of chemical weapons in the Rif war.
While the Spanish Minster used diplomatic language, showing his willingness to hear AMA’s demands, he fell short of expressing his country’s readiness to admit its wrongdoings during the Rif war and apologize to the Moroccan people for the use chemical weapons on the civilian population in the Rif region.
The AMA request calls the Spanish authorities to make an official apology to the Rif people and to compensate the victims or their dependents. A previous letter concerning the same topic was submitted by AMA to King Felipe VI on February 12, 2015.
The AMA calls coincided with the call addressed by another Moroccan ONG. According to Middle East Monitor, the Moroccan Centre de la Mémoire Commune, la Démocratie et la Paix (Center for Common Memory, Democracy and Peace) called on the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs to make good on his pledges to respond to the requests of Moroccan civil society organizations calling on Spain to shed light on its use of chemical weapons against the Moroccan population of the Rif region between 1921 and 1926.
It seems that Spain is still not ready to open an investigation on this incident during its colonial period in northern Morocco.
Following the crushing defeat of Spanish troops in the Annoual battle in July 1921, which resulted in the death of over 14,000 soldiers at the hands of the Moroccan resistance led by Mohammed Bin Abdelkrim El Khattabi, historians, and many Spanish and foreign observers report that Spain used chemical and toxic gas indiscriminately against the civilian population of the Rif. British scholar Sebastian Balfour and Spain María Rosa de Madariaga are among the scholars that testify to Spain’s chemical retaliation, which was intended to inflict the maximum damage to the population in the Rif by targeting the most populated towns and villages and intensifying attacks during market days. The attacks represent an egregious violation of the Treaty of Versaille of 1919, which prohibited the use of chemical weapons, and to which Spain was a party.
This violation of international law has left long-lasting disastrous effects on the population of the region. As of today, the pervasiveness of cancer in the population of the Rif is the highest among all Moroccan regions. Though no empirical study has established so far a causality between the use of chemical weapons and the prevalence of cancer in the region, many believe that this prevalence is due to the use of chemical weapons. According to Reuters, 80 percent of cases of larynx cancer in Morocco are found in the Rif region.