by Malika Oufkir
In 1972 Mohammed Oufkir, the right hand man of the king of Morocco, was killed after being involved in a failed coup d'etat. His widow and six children were imprisoned under terrible conditions until some of them managed to escape in 1987, at which point media attention led to better treatment and, eventually, release. Stolen Lives is told by Malika, Oufkir's oldest daughter and also an adopted daughter of Hassan II, the king. The book begins with her spoiled childhood in the royal palace and her adolescence in Morocco, Paris, and other places around the world. Then, at 18, Malika and the rest of her family were thrown into prison where they grew up hungry, mistreated, and isolated from the rest of the world.
I was personally interested in this story since my family lived in Morocco for three years. In fact, I was going to school in Rabat during the spring of 1987 when the Oufkirs traveled through there after their harrowing escape. In general this is a gripping book -- fascinating and hard to put down. The Oufkirs' story is told in a very subjective way; this is as it should be, but at times I wanted more objectivity. For example, Malika says that people were often frightened of her father, but this fails to capture what I've read elsewhere: that he was the most feared and hated man in the country, who ordered police to shoot demonstrators and who personally tortured political prisoners. So it seems that there is a certain amount of wishful thinking in Malika's portrayal of her family and, in particular, her family's relationship with the rest of the country. Still, the children should not be held responsible for the sins of the father. This is a valuable story that's worth reading.
copyright © 2001 John Regehr