When Abdelkarim Al Khattabi passed away on February the 6th in 1963, after decades-long battles against imperialism, he was probably the best-known leader in the world. He is immensely popular as well as powerful and clever. His hallmark is ‘unity in diversity.’ A cosmopolitan vision encompasses the principles of social and economic justice, both within and between nations; non-adversarial decision making at all levels of society; equality and the willingness to sacrifice for the common good. Other facets of the leader include the promotion of human honor and dignity, understanding, amity, co-operation, peace and tolerance. These are, indeed, the local values rooted in Rif. The Anual Battalion , his inspiring epic of the “third world” nationalism has spawned a new world in its own right, a brave new world, A few years after its first departure in 1921, it continues to generate irritation, veneration and imitation among nations, powers and leaders. Abdelkarim Al Khattabi lived all his life at a tangent to the various causes with which he was associated; namely, freedom and justice that ‘the stolen generation’ seek.
Abdelkarim Al Khattabi led an indigenous resistance against European penetration in Rif that inflicted in frequent disasters on the colonial powers, “sometimes so severe that governments and systems of government were overthrown”. In addition to that, European elites, based in the colonies, changed or adopted a “critical stance towards their circles”.
The victory in Annual transformed the sporadic resistance of the Rifian tribesmen into an insurrection.’ having progressed so rapidly; our warriors had trouble believing in the reality of their victory and in the catastrophe into which the enemy was falling’ Abdelkarim Al Khattabi said. The victory becomes the beginning of a mass construction led by the big imperial powers at that time. Here is a quotation clarifying the point:
“Then France interferes. Paris watched, in concern, the falling down of the Spanish garrisons, despite of its neutral situation. But the entire defeat of the Spanish army threatens us [the French protectorate in the central Morocco], because the founding of a continued free state in Rif is a big endangerment of our large occupied area. And giving support to a focal, (‘Illusionist Rif’, says Lyautey), will be a danger menace to the western civilization and peace.”(Miguel Martin, 1988).
The imperial allies interfered by using chemical weapons to stop ‘natives giving orders and disposes’. The most brutal expression of this militarist strategy was Spain. They had used economic warfare to starve out ‘the enemy’. In these harsh circumstances Abdelkarim Al Khattabi ‘surrenders’. The Rifians left spanish troops a free hand to burn crops, plantations, and villages, and kill whomsoever they come across. In fact, it was a mass extermination practiced by the Spaniards in Rif during the 20th century.
Abdelkarim Al Khattabi performed an inestimable public service for humanity. His passing away opened a yawning void in the Rifian public life and all the indigenous resistant people. He is irreplaceable.
1-Sebastian Balfour. DEADLY EMBRACE, Morocco and the Road to the Spanish Civil War.
2-Miguel Martin. El Colonialismo Espanol en Marruecos (1860-1956).
3-David M. Hart. The Rif and the Rifians: Problems of Definition. in, Tribe and society in Rural Morocco.
4-Edward. Said. The Clash of Ignorance. About the notion ‘Cosmopolitan’.
Article Written by Sabri EL HAMMAOUI