1925 - 1950

A speech about the city of Salé awakens several causes for pride deep within my heart, whether the speech is wrapped by an emotional element or it is marked by objectivity. A speech about the city of Salé is a self-reflection. It leads me to an introspective analysis ever since I adopted the motto "The love of country is an act of faith" and since I became fascinated by Ahmed Chawki's poems, including his verse:

Oh Fatherland, if I aspire to eternal life far from thee,
All my rights to you, my heart shall wrench from me.

Hence going forward, my speech will in some part be about me as well. I therefore will talk about the city that saw my birth and where I grew up. This was where I was weaned from the bosom and where I was raised by my family in an intellectual environment which contributed to my education. This was where I was taught to love and to be true to the city of my birth and origin and where I was at any moment ready to be of service. This was where I learned to sing glorious hymns in memory of its heroes who distinguished themselves over the course of Moroccan history and to be proud of its influence and its arguably rightful place among the most civilized and frequently mentioned in humanity's history.

But beyond this, my speech will be dominated by my desire to be objective in as much as it is true that the city of Salé stands as a veritable monument in the political, economic, social and cultural history of Morocco. For it was the cradle of patriotism at the local and national level since the beginning of the sad history of the implementation of the protectorate treaty.

I will also touch upon the National Movement by means of several particular elements taking into account their ramifications, their entanglements and their impacts as they crystallized with respect to knowledge, nationalism and the militant struggle. Thus it will be possible to list in successive steps the most salient aspects of their civilizing contributions of our city.

The awakening of national consciousness

This awakening was clearly manifested by the creation of independent centers of primary education at the end of the second decade of the past century. These were established in the various quarters of the city. One of these schools, Al Maktab Islami is considered the nucleus of what later became the Anahda School (Revival School).

These independent primary schools had the privilege of benefiting from the support and encouragement of King Mohammed V, the liberator of our nation. He enlisted Princess Lalla Aicha, his daughter to preside over the inauguration ceremony of one school named after her. Another institution was opened at the urging of the King as a counterweight to the French scholastic system established by the French Protectorate; a system which had aimed to spread discord among the ranks of the youth and to create social and cultural dissension between the children of the city.

Fortunately, the protectorate power's intentions did not achieve the success they counted on. On the contrary, they had to confront an unanticipated phenomenon, namely the countermeasures taken by the leaders and parents of the students including those who enrolled their children into the French schools for the "sons of notables." They instructed their children to go each evening after prayers to the Great Mosque to proclaim verses of the Koran. The students attended courses specially formulated for them in the (neighboring) independent schools during the summer and during the vacation periods scheduled by the Board of Public Education.

Among those students who took part in this dual personal education it suffices to mention the most famous of them, the late (and patriot) Aberrahim Bouabid.

Thus these independent schools with nationalist loyalty, provided a protective screen or guard to battle the venom secreted by the colonial power. These schools had a common purpose: to avoid letting the Sale children fall victim to colonial's ruse or to the traps they laid out for them.

The Literary Club of Salé

This was unique in the annals of literary clubs in Morocco. The latter did not become popular until after the promulgation of the Berber Decree in 1930. They spread to neighboring Rabat, to Fez, to Marrakesh and to other Moroccan cities as well as to the region of Souss in the form of high level literary gatherings where one exchanged views on political, social and cultural issues amongst other topics. However one could not say that they were by modern definition forums for (organized and serious) discussion.

The Literary Club of Salé was created in 1927 as reported by a mailed-in letter published by the Assaâda newspaper which stated,

"The commitment of enlightened youth for literature led to the creation of a club whose objective is to encourage its members in cultivating a mindset for research and a desire for knowledge by disseminating scientific ideas and by organizing literary events."

Despite all that has been said about and interwoven within the circumstances of its creation, a patriotic mindset prevailed over all its activities. They were not deterred by the colonial authority's attempts to monitor its function by encouraging some members of the club, who were also employees of the French administration under the Comptroller of Civil Order, to report on their activities.

Thanks to this institution, the minds of Salé's youth had access to Arab-Islamic culture by means of thematic conferences such as "It's never to late to learn" , "The revival of Arab literature"[28] and "The University of Paris during the Middle Ages." (Reference Assaâda edition, 1933).

Moreover with the intent to broaden the understanding of club members in different fields of knowledge, other topics were treated such as a discourse titled Cancer given by Dr. Abderrahman Zniber, who was among the first graduates of Morocco's doctors and the speech by Dr. Mehdi Benaboud on The Unity of Existence to name but a few.

The Literary Club of Salé contributed to the promotion of cultural events by presenting a series of theatrical plays such as Haroun El Rachid and the Barmakids or by organizing cultural gatherings to mark some theater event such as the reception to honor the great Middle Eastern actress, Fatima Rochdi, on the occasion of her tour of Morocco in 1932 with a young Egyptian troup.

The club had engendered enormous public interest. It created a passionate culture based on a strong grasp of awareness of the national identity and it cultivated in the public's mind a firm determination to use culture and intellect as the basic and most effective above all tools to fight against colonialism.

Undoubtedly activities enacted today by the residuals of colonialism in countries who achieved independence are a mean of keeping minds on a leash with the creation of (foreign) cultural centers and the resort to all means likely to have a certain impact on the minds in as much as they are receptors and emitters of ideas. The Literary Club has persevered in meeting its cultural obligation thus continuing to pursue the struggle at the national level, a struggle that was crowned by the events of January 11, 1944 unleashed by announcing the Independence Manifest.

As a consequence these events led to the closure of the Literary Club of Salé, the squandering of its library resources and the incarceration of the majority of its active members.

However, despite these repressive measures, the people of Salé found other meeting places. Hence they were able to continue to exchange views, to debate burning current issues and to refine the strategy they agreed to adopt with respect to the colonial administration which had stifled public and private freedoms, sent youth into exile, proceeded to arbitrary arrests within the ranks of militants and did not hesitate in 1944 to spill blood of the innocent in the public places of the city.

Salé's youth confront the Berber Decree

The Berber Decree promulgated on May 16, 1930 provoked a provoked a positively nationalist reaction from Moroccans. They rejected all its clauses and fought those who had initiated it in their attempt to create a split between elements of society so that they no longer would speak with one voice. Salé's residents were the first to demonstrate their indignation.

Let us hear what Abou Bakr Kadiri said on the matter in his Memoirs (1/50):

"The first person who became aware of the danger posed by the decree of May 16, 1930 was the late Abdellatif Sbihi who played a leadership role on this issue. He read the text of the decree before it was published in the Official Journal because he was employed by the Bureau of Cherifian Affairs that handled communique's between the Royal Palace and the French General Residence in Rabat."

Abdellatif Sbihi put all his efforts into getting all members of the Literary Club of Salé as well as the national intellectual and individual luminaries of Rabat, Fez, and Marrakesh to unanimously denounce the decree and to oppose it by all means. This included in particular the launching of the appeal to the Latif prayer within the Great Mosque of Salé on Friday, June 20, 1930.

The fervor expressed by Salé's youth led by Abdellatif Sbihi, Abdelkrim Hajji, Mekki Sedrati, Mohammed Hassar and others who later were subjected to repressive measures by the colonial administration, played a determinant role in the Moroccan people's success in denouncing the Berber Decree and in their struggle to repeal it. Thanks to their patriotism, their tenacity and their endeavors, they demonstrated that their city was a cradle of valuable men who strengthened the foundations of independence by their courageous and honorable stand.

Similarly the participation of Salé's women in the opposition to the Berber Decree is worthy of praise.

The courage of Abdellatif Sbihi's mother after it was announced that her son was to be exiled, rekindled the patriotic fiber of the youth who had come to console her. She revealed her pride in her son's stand against the colonial authority's maneuvers and for the fight he was waging against the Berber policy that Protectorate Administration sought to impose on the Moroccan people. In the speech she gave on this occasion, she told them that she was happy for their united and common goal to wage a battle to liberate our country and happy for Moroccan's determination to oppose by all means at their disposal and at no matter what price, the hegemonic aims and policies of the colonialists.

The Salé press

As soon as the exiled returned to Salé in 1932, they were led by Abdellatif Sbihi to demand their right to have a free press able to express public opinion. They decided, as Abou Bakr Kadiri said in his Memoirs (1/16) to circulate a newspaper "whose mission was to create the conditions for national awakening and to explain the goals that new generation propose to achieve." The core demand was to be able to publish a newspaper called The Action.

But although this demand to publish this paper was categorically refused for years, the effort bore fruit with the circulation of Al Maghrib daily by its founder and chief editor, Said Hajji.

He deserves credit for opening the doors of the press by obtaining the required authorization to release his newspaper after years of waging a thankless struggle and ceaseless initiatives.

Said Hajji is considered in Salé to be the uncontested pioneer of journalism for the struggle and in general he is recognized as the leader of the national press in Morocco.

"The Al Maghrib newspaper," wrote Abou Bakr Kadiri in his book Said Hajji (1/34), "was considered the first national newspaper from its first edition released on April 16, 1937. At the start it circulated three times each week then,after a short period, it cruised forward as a daily."

In 1938 Al Maghrib enriched its offering by adding a cultural supplement. It is a fact that Said's journalistic mindset was stirred by his deep patriotism. He sought to expose the most difficult issues in a manner that highlighted his sense of responsibility and that of his colleagues for the awakening of his nation and for its liberation.

"We have taken destiny in our own hands," he said, "our responsibility is committed in front of history." Said Hajji (1/36)

The circulation of this newspaper contributed enormously to the evolution of the National Movement in the heart of Salé society. It allowed the movement to draw from the positive aspects of social reform recommended by the newspaper.

The different strata of the city's inhabitants became aware of their identity. They united together around the same ideals, no matter their different leanings or whether they were part of the secret cells, the Zaouia or the Tafia, of the National Movement or from other political and militant groups. They were all motivated by a common objective: the fight for independence and liberation from foreign occupation.

In order to enable his journalistic project, Said made a timely decision and established a printing shop in Sale that he named Al Maghrib Printshop. He entrusted its management to Bensalem Sayagh, who later would assume the same role at the Omnia Printing House that Said acquired in Rabat. I

"Our struggle," Said stated, "is both a beam of light and a blazing fire. It enlightens the path for truth and it reduces to ash that of tyranny."

Said had interests beyond journalism and a printing house. Collaborating with the late Haj Ahmed Bennani and Abou Bakr Kadiri he established the Moroccan Society for Publications with the mission to publish a number of ancient documents and manuscripts which are part of our cultural heritage reflecting Moroccan character from bygone periods of our history.

He ensured the publication of the first two volumes of Ibn Abi Zaraâ's book, Difficult relationship activities of Moroccan Kings and the history of the city of Fez (titled abridged to Al Qirtas) whose authenticity was verified by Hachmi Filali. This work was projected to be published as three volumes but Said only completed the first two.

Meanwhile he proceeded to publish several other works including Abdelwahed Marrakchi's book, Extraordinary Tales of Moroccan Chronicles whose authenticity was verified by the historian, Mohammed El Fassi and the book by Abdelwahab Ben Mansour, The Wonders, dedicated to studying the works of Moroccan poet. Abdelwahad Alami.

Said Hajji wrote the following commentary with regards to his publication projects:

"There are numerous valuable works in Morocco in various fields that were tackled by our predecessors and these represent a cultural legacy that will endure forever.

Unfortunately this legacy has fallen into neglect, especially by our current generation. That is the reason why we thought it was our duty to acquit ourselves to some degree of the responsibility incumbent on Moroccan intellectuals by republishing these works hidden in private libraries or those which used very poor print. Neither of the current state of affairs encourages nor enables research or even less allows one to read them from end to end.

Hardly had this idea crossed our minds then we began to study all its aspects, both materialistic and scientific. And despite all the difficult matters that tempered our optimism, we made a firm resolution to pursue to the end our project's schedule so as to see it fulfilled. We were confident that we had the support of those intellectuals interested in studies and research in addition to those experienced men with a high level of education to allow us to properly carry out this venture." -- Said Hajji (1/102)

The Salé press contributed to propagating mindfulness within the ranks of the young, the craftsmen, the workers as well as the pupils, students, intellectuals and many others. It promoted organized revolutionary effort, study and assimilation of knowledge, writings and publication so as to hear the voices that were muzzled by the misdeeds of the protectorate, by its repressive measures, exile and imprisonment. The militants have faced these with courage and determination, not fearing the abuse they were subjected to nor the arbitrary arrests nor the sanctions imposed on them.

The Throne Holiday

Morocco (in Islamic times) has never been subjected to any foreign power be it from the East or the West, until the advent of the protectorate treaty of 1912.

The Moroccan throne attests to its permanence as state structure symbolic of sustainability of the monarchic institution, of its civilizing, political and cultural influence as well as its preservation of its territorial integrity.

So was it feasible for the colonial forces to attempt to annihilate our identity by imposing their authority? For their sole purpose was to benefit from the riches of our land by destroying our unity, by bringing harm to its inhabitants, by raising barriers between its tribes and by trying to exercise a de facto patronage of the royal power under the pretext of its protective and reform minded mission.

The reaction to the Berber Decree disaster ended with a solid bond with the Alaouite throne; a deep loyalty to the young King Mohammed Ben Youssef and a strengthening of the ties between the throne and the Moroccan people.

The dedicated patriots presented to King Mohammed Ben Youssef a petition which expressed their rejection of the decree, their determination to remain beside him while requesting that he consider this affair from all angles and examine it with much attention. Memoirs (1/158)

This petition resonated with the patriotic fiber of Moroccans who began to see in the monarchic symbol of the nation an authority who would fight for independence. The name of the king and his throne were on the tips of all tongues, poets sang hymns to the glory of the Alaouite Throne. We cite a verse from a poem by Allal El Fassi (which we render here in the spirit of a loose translation):

King of Morocco, illustrious descendent of Adnan's sect,
We are your soldiers, the motherland we shall protect
From a bygone era your throne's prestige did hail 
A glorious legacy whose sheen time never let fail.

The bond between the throne and the people crystallized in the concept of celebrating the anniversary of the King's accession to the throne of his ancestors. Abou Bakr Kadiri wrote the following in his Memoirs of the National Movement (1/160):

"The patriot Mohammed Hassar was the first to advocate this concept in an article he titled The Muslim Holidays where he proposed that this anniversary be celebrated as a national holiday. His article was published in early 1933 in Al Maghrib magazine by its Algerian founder, Mohammed Salah Missa." (This publication has the same name as the newspaper founded by Said Hajji in 1937).[29]

This dream came to fruition thanks to the youth who took a very active part in the commemoration of this anniversary. They corresponded with patriots from different cities on the organization of the festivities, publicly announced this event as well as the closure of schools, merchant stores and administrative offices on that day. And when the day came, they wore their best clothes and amply showed their great excitement and joy

The holiday was celebrated on November 18, 1933 to the astonishment and great consternation of the colonial authority. Since that day it has been celebrated as a national holiday to show the deep bond between the people and their young King, Mohammed Ben Youssef.

The joyful and popular celebration of this first holiday took place in Salé. The Salé youth not only organized the festivities they also addressed their best wishes to the King in a letter in which they wrote:

"Salé's yourth take this opportunity of the glorious Throne Holiday to express to Your Majesty our dedication and profound respect and our assurances for our unwavering allegiance to His Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Moulay Hassan. And we call upon your distinguished concern to accord your grace to the political detainees."

This letter was signed by Abou Bakr Kadiri in the name of the youth of Salé (Memoirs - 1/62) It had a most positive impact on the sovereign who did not fail to give praise for the letter and the celebration of the Throne Holiday. This encouraged others who caught on and called for its annual propagation across the nation on that same day.

Thus, despite administrative hassles set up by the protectorate government to divert Moroccans from celebrating this event, their attempts were doomed to failure for the patriots succeeded in having Grand Vizier, Mohammed El Mokri, issue a bylaw which was endorsed by the French Resident General in Rabat, Mr. Ponsot on October 26, 1934.

Hence that is how the protectorate administration was forced to bow to the wishes of the people and allow Moroccans to celebrate each year the Throne Holiday.

The people of Salé and the January 11, 1944 Demonstrations

No one should doubt the effectiveness of the patriots from the city of Salé to do battle (against the colonists) at the intellectual level and that of armed resistance. They figured amongst the pioneers in numerous engagements the most important of which are, as indicated earlier, their contribution to awakening the national consciousness in all circles, their concerted effort to promote a favorable education of the youth and to wage a continuous confrontation with the colonial administration through popular demonstrations, through educational roundtables and seminars and through waves of official protests.

The arrests conducted within the ranks of the militants fanned the flames of public rebellion on the streets to which the patriots went to proclaim the right to liberty and independence. So it was not a surprise that patriots of Salé were among the first to sign the Independence Manifest as soon as the ink ran dry.

The miliant Abou Bakr Kadiri informed me personally that this document was signed in secret at his residence. He had been charged by the ruling body of the National Movement who had overseen its formulation and paragraph layout so that it could be submitted first to the approval of His Majesty the King, may the Lord bless his soul, before being presented to the French Resident General and to other accredited consulates in Rabat.

The Independence Manifest had sixty six signatures coming from eleven cities. Seven of the signatures came from Salé: Abou Bakr Kadiri, Kacem Zhiri, may the Lord grant them a long life, Abderrahim Bouabid, Abou Bakr Sbihi, Seddick Ben Larbi, Mohammed Bekkali and Tahar Zniber, may the Lord bless them.[30]

The belief in independence was simultaneous a belief in the Moroccan character and one in the unity of the nation. That explains why the people of Salé did not hesitate to denounce colonial policy by signing the Independence Manifest. The signers represented the city's intellectuals, political militants, merchants, farmers, students and its popular masses. Moreover many petitions emanated from commercial circles, from notables and respected nobles, who decried the misdeeds of colonialism and proclaimed the right to independence.

Throughout these endeavors, it can be said that the role played by Salé's patriots within the National Movment was effective and successful. This role relied on the cultural movement in all its manifestations. The latter provided support from the beginning and thus participated in its success and in the recognition of the results of its various undertakings.

We, the generation that did not have the privilege to live during these events, are entitled to be proud of the efforts undertaken by our elders from Salé. They led in the struggle to demand independence and liberation of our country and were responsible for raising the national consciousness across all strata of our population.

Their audacity, their courage, their cultural upbringing, their self-confidence and their endeavors were screens that shielded them from fear of confronting the colonial might or from fear of being subjected to reversals in the struggle they were engaged in. These shields incited them to participate effectively from their writings to their ultimate sacrifice of martyrdom in the field of honor in defense of their country's dignity and its aspiration to lead an independent existence. Their sacrifices are recognized with words and pride in the registry of contemporary Moroccan history.

Their examples are many. Suffice to name Abdellatif Sbihi, Mohammed Hassar, Abou Bakr Kadiri, Ahmed Maâninou, Abderrahim Bouâbid, Saïd Hajji, Mohammed Ben Aboud, and Abdelkrim Hajji to name a few.

Undoubtedly the writings of those who were activists among the youth of Salé in the national movement led by the likes of Abou Bakr Kadiri and Ahmed Maâninou have pointed out the milestones and revealed in detail the circumstances leading to the emergence of this movement. They explain its evolution as well as the causes of its success and they reveal the major steps that led our country to recover its sovereignty. Their writings bring light to the historical role played by the city of Salé in recapturing our independence and our country's liberation from the oppressive claws of colonialism.

Dr Najat Lamrini - Univeristy of Mohammed V - Rabat

[28] This conference belonged to a series of conferences driven by Said Hajji within the framework of his participation in the literary and cultural activities of the club.

[29] On the matter of the origins of the concept to establish the Throne Holiday as a tool to demonstration the bond between the King and the people, we refer readers back to Chapter 30, Key Moments in an Ephemeral Life which moves back the origin to the summer of 1932.

[30] Abou Bakr Kadiri affirmed in the speech he wrote and delivered on November 20, 2003 at the commemoration ceremony of the late Abdelkrim Hajji that

"the deceased was one of the pillars of the National Movement, he belonged to the secret cell, Taifa, who had continuous and solid relations well before the 1930s with the dearly departed Haj Ahmed Balafrej and Bouchaib El Yazidi."

Abou Bakr Kadiri in addition emphasized that

"the deceased was living in the United States of America at the time of the presentation of the Independence Manifest in Jaunuary 1944 and because of this reason he was not able to join his comrades in the struggle to bring to bear his signature on this historical document."

And later he added

"Abdelkrim Hajji could have been among the first signers if he had been in Morocco" (refer to Al Alam, No.19598, January 17, 2004)