“The spoon wasn’t enough.
If I could have ripped the earth with my teeth, I would have done.
I dug, I scooped out the earth, I no longer existed.
I had become a machine. Digging, scooping, digging, scooping…
I had to succeed.”
- Malika Oufkir
Malika Oufkir was born into a life of great privilege as the eldest daughter of the king of Morocco’s closest aide. At the tender age of 5 she was adopted by the king to live in the palace as the companion to his daughter the princess until Malika was 16. But soon after being reunited with her family her heady days of freedom were cut short. When she turned 19 in 1972 her father was executed for allegedly attempting a coup against the king. This would mark the turn of Malika and her family’s lives from privilege to prison for two decades.
Imprisoned were Malika’s mother Fatima, Malika as the eldest daughter, and her five younger brothers and sisters Myriam, Raouf, Maria, Soukaina, and little Abdelatiff. They were 19, 17, 14, 10, 9 and 3 respectively when they were taken in 1972.
Photo from Stolen Lives. (1974: Photos smuggled out of gaol)
From left to right: Abdellatif, Maria, Malika, Raouf, Myriam and Soukaina
The Oufkir Family's ordeal was incredible. As prisoners Malika describes the heartrending desert prison environment she and her family had to endure:
- On the cell conditions: “Our respective cells…was downright squalid. The walls…were so damp that rivulets of moisture ran from the ceiling down to the floor. The wan electric light…operated only for an hour or two at night. The mattresses were just thin layers of foam with covers of dubious cleanliness. Each of our cells comprised… a tiny open roofed recess with thick bars over the opening. That would soon be our sole source of air.“
- On supplies: “We were allowed a wheelbarrow-load of firewood once a month for cooking. We were allowed a small packet of Tide each month, with which we had to wash ourselves, our clothes, and the pots and pans. We used salt to clean our teeth. “
- On food: “Every two weeks, [they] delivered provisions…and that was very little. We never had any milk, butter or fruit, except a few shriveled dates and mouldy oranges from time to time. Rotting vegetables, two bowlfuls of flour, and a bowl of chick peas and one of lentils, twelve bad eggs, a piece of spoilt meat, a few lumps of sugar, a litre of oil per month, and a little tub of Tide-that was all were were given.”
Do you want to see Malika Oufkir herself and hear her speak? Click here to watch the video of Malika’s interview at ABC where she appeared in 2001.
For the transcript, click here.
Malika talks to her readers after the show with Oprah.
Click here for the transcript.
Malika lost the prime of her life in jail and was 43 by the time she was able to start living a normal life. Listen to Malika talk about how this impacted her life, and about her second book Freedom: The Story of My Second Life.
Today Malika is married to French architect Eric Bordreuil.
This is their photo with their adopted son Adam.