Rabat – July 22: the date represents the pride of all Moroccans and activists as it reminds them of the famous Annual Battle in 1921.
With limited resources, brave Moroccan soldiers did all they could to defend Morocco’s Rif region from Spanish colonizers.
While the battle resulted in a victory for Moroccan soldiers and their Riffian military leader, Abd El Krim El Khattabi, Spanish historians named the battle the Disaster of Annual.
July 22, 2018, is a walk to remember the achievements and glorious victory of Moroccan soldiers after a successful rebellion against the Spanish army.
This year marks the 97th anniversary of the battle in which all Moroccans take pride, from the eldest to the youngest generations. It is a battle that made the list of Morocco’s exemplary accomplishments against colonizers.
Dive into history
The movement, led by prominent icon El Khattabi, was characterized by careful planning, determination, tactics, action plans, and a masterful performance.
El Khattabi’s fierce army and guerilla tactics led Manuel Fernandez Silvester and his forces to withdraw. Silvester himself, and an alleged 13,000 Spanish soldiers, lost their lives in the disastrous defeat.
The forces then settled in the city of Melilla, and Morocco’s National Liberation Movement received support and admiration from many liberation movements worldwide.
The national movement aimed to stand against colonizers and to free Moroccan territory from the control of colonists.
The Moroccan movement resisted Spanish campaigns for a year, which led to the intervention of the French army.
The Spanish-French alliance did not stop El Khattabi and his army. In July 1925, El Khattabi confronted the French army by mobilizing 25,000 soldiers and 50,000 tribesmen from the region around Fez. El Khattabi’s siege of Fez resulted in the death of 6,000 French forces.
The two powers then called for negotiations with the Moroccan movement. After several meetings with military forces, El Khattabi agreed to end the Rif war, but refused to hand over the weapons his men had looted from fallen Spanish soldiers.
The alliance between Spain and France, however, stopped El Khattabi in September 1925 as the powers sent their troops into the Rif and the south resulting in several battles.
The two powers used chemical grenades and other weapons that had been used in World War I. The massive attack led the Riffan leader to hand himself over to to the French occupier for the first time on May 26, 1926.
France then exiled El Khattabi with his family to the island of Réunion, a French territory in the Indian ocean, where he lived for 20 years.
When he was later deported from Réunion to France in May 1947, El Khattabi fled to Egypt while crossing the Suez Canal. Egypt then refused to hand him over to the French governors in Morocco, and he lived in Egypt for the rest of his life.
In Morocco, resistance against the colonists continued under the leadership of the late King Mohammed V, who ascended to the throne on November 18, 1927.
The Annual battle remains one of the most famous battles in the heart of the immortal ancestors of Morocco. Morocco will keep celebrating the anniversary of the battle of bravery and resistance.
Spain’s propaganda fails
Despite Spain’s propaganda attempts to show the war was going in its favor, the world recognized their calamitous defeat at Annual.
Spain launched an unsuccessful propaganda campaign to portray the Moroccan army as savage, bloodthirsty, and greedy. To justify their allegations against Moroccans, the Spanish military propaganda insisted that Moroccans were good in “cheating the Spaniards from behind.”
Never forget El Khattabi
Throughout the years, El Khattabi’s name has resounded in the memory of historians and activists. The icon served as an example of an outstanding leader for the liberation of the Maghreb countries.
El Khattabi was born in Ajdir, a small town near Al Hoceima. In his twenties, El Khattabi moved to Fez and studied in the famous Quaraouiyine University, where he graduated in 1908.
El Khattabi had a dual education as he studied Arab Islamic cultures and Western Spanish culture. He mastered Arabic, Amazigh (Berber), and Spanish.
The Moroccan politician then worked as a teacher and a judge in the city of Melilla after graduating from the University of Salamanca, Spain.
He also worked as a translator and for the Spanish native affairs office. He also became a journalist for the Spanish newspaper Telegrama del Rif between 1906 and 1915. In 1907, El Khattabi was also an editor and wrote articles in Arabic for the same Melilla-based newspaper.
The leader of the Annual battle led several other battles against the Spanish colonizers, including “Dahar Abbaran” and “Sidi Biban.”