Firstly, I want to point out that this letter belongs to Nasser Zafzafi, who is being held in Morocco, and that I read it on his behalf.
Ladies and gentlemen, MEP’s and the rest of the noble attendees. As a Riffian being and as dictated by the values and principles of the family in which I grew up and the Riffian civilization that taught me what I did not know, I send the warmest congratulations from the bottom of my heart to Mr. Oleg Sentsov on the occasion of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for the year 2018 which is awarded and donated by the European Parliament. I also wish that he will be released because the bitterness of imprisonment is only known to those who have tasted it.
Ladies and gentlemen, because it is self-evident that this is the result of initiators, I have the honor to convey the greatest thanks and appreciation from this platform, which stems from the conscience of an improperly held activist because of his involvement in the People’s Movement in the Rif, known as the Hirak movement. The Hirak movement that has bewildered all five continents because of its peace and refinement. I also bow out of respect for the deputies of the European nations with all their different ideological preferences, both for those who voted for me and those who did not. I also give a warm heart to the following respected individuals, who were mentioned by my father during his visits in prison, in particular:
Kathleen van Brempt
Marie Christine Vergiat
I already apologize for the ones I have forgotten to mention.
Dear guests, I will try, very briefly summarized, to outline the situation in which I have been arrested. I belong to an area called the Rif that is located in the Northern part of Morocco. The Rif has suffered, suffers and will suffer because of the permanent marginalization that is deliberately imposed to bring about poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and other negative consequences. When a resident of this area protests against the above, the state intervenes in a barbaric way through its army, the gendarmerie, the auxiliaries and the police. This is applicable to the recent repressive operations as well. Not to mention what happened in 1818, or in 1898 when a complete tribe was exterminated in Al Hoceima province. Let us not go into the events between 1921 and 1926 or the events of 1958 when a royal decree was issued against the Rif in which the province of Al Hoceima was declared a military zone on the 24th of November 1958, a decree that is still valid until today. In that same year, the army, heavily armed, intervened to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Rif: mass murders, large-scale rapes, bellies of pregnant women were torn open, houses that were demolished with their residents in it, property that was looted and orchards that were burned. We must not forget the 1984 massacre, nor the year 2011 in which five young people were killed in a police station, after which their bodies were strategically placed in a bank building in order to merge it into flames together with the bodies of the five young men.
In this context of systematic criminal facts, the fishmonger Mohsine Fikri was ground in a garbage truck on October 28th, 2016. This led to the emergence of a People’s Movement whose epicenter was in Al Hoceima, and then reached all areas of the Rif through demonstrations and protest marches, in a civilized way. This was demonstrated by protesters carrying candles and flowers and surrounding the protest marches by human chains to protect government buildings and private property, and then leaving the public space clean after the protest. One of the most beautiful gestures shown by the demonstrators is that they shared their food with the repression troops.
At that time, during the protest marches and sit-ins I called to implement the list of demands, with its three main components: A university, building a hospital specialized in cancer treatment and the creation of employment. I also called for the fight against corruption and advocating human rights and tackling the causes of illegal migration. We have summarized this in the slogan: ‘’Freedom, dignity and social justice ‘’.
I have also called for the consolidation of the dignity of the Riffian woman, she has been known for over the centuries. Because the Riffian woman deserves all respect and appreciation. From this place I repeat what I always chanted: A belligerent greeting to the great Riffian woman whose forehead I kiss reverently, because she was present in large numbers during the protest marches and sit-ins of the peaceful popular movement in the Rif and because she is a symbol of respect for the Riffians.
We walked in peaceful marches and asked for the implementation of the list of demands. Seven months later, on May 26th, 2017, the state’s response came to repeat the same aforementioned repressive actions. It started with my house being robbed in a barbaric way by the police after the outer door was destroyed, in my absence. This act was without legal permission. Then my mother was attacked after which she lost consciousness and my father had to transfer her to the hospital.
The agents continued to search the house and checked every object as if they were looking for something but did not know what it was. They turned everything upside down, while they caused vandalism in the house. After this, the raids started on the houses of the other activists and the abductions from their bedrooms. Some naked before the eyes of their wives and young children. The total number of arrests exceeded the thousand. Most of them were tried in Al Hoceima and then distributed over the prisons of the whole country. This caused terrible suffering for the families of the inmates during their visits and the suffering of these often poor families continues to this day.
On May 29th, 2017 I was kidnapped from a place on the coast after the area was besieged by warships, military helicopters and military vehicles accompanied by large numbers of heavily armed soldiers. All this to kidnap an unarmed man. Here I was subjected to the worst forms of torture: Beaten with sharp objects, metal objects and billets, which resulted in serious bleeding. I was also subjected to physical, verbal and moral torture and the most extreme form of torture: rape. This all happened when we were still on land. The violence continued undiminished in the air as I was transported by a helicopter from Al Hoceima to Casablanca 620 km away. While I was bleeding heavily and my head was covered, 50 agents tortured me in turn. In the office of the ‘Brigade Nationale’ the cops filmed me naked and published the video on the news site barlamane.com. A scandal for which the perpetrator still goes free.
Then they made up serious accusations against me on which the death penalty lies.
Together with the 52 co-activists we got a sham process for seven months. During this sham process, I was confined for 15 months in a place unlivable for even the most hardened animals. In the end I was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Not because of a crime but because of my desire to one day awaken in an armless world, where the boundaries would be lifted and the humanity lives in peace on this beautiful blue planet. However, I was awakened by the noise of the jailer who reminds me that I will spend the next 20 years behind the bars. At that moment I lost all hope, but nevertheless I call upon all free people in this world to strive for that one dream in my dark cell.
I greet you and a thousand thanks to all.
Translated by Rachid Amejjodh