The story of a protracted idyll that lasts regardless of every little thing

We are in 1920. Nationalist Morocco opens up to the West without renouncing its ideals. It contrasts the protectorate imprinted in the personality of General Lyautey, with another aspect of the protectorate that evolves towards direct rule, without breaking the transition from one to the other.

The number of Moroccan graduates who benefited from a scholarship in France between 1920 and 1934 was 53, as we learn from several history books. “Since the 1920s, several dozen pioneers, including Istiklal founders such as Ahmed Balafraj, studied in France. After 1945, there are several hundred of them, from Muslim colleges and French secondary schools of the protectorate, to study in France”, explains Pierre Vermeeren, historian and expert on the history of the French protectorate in Morocco.

And let me add, not without significant details: “Paris was a dream destination, but the protectorate distributed young people to the provinces to avoid the contagion of ideas about independence. Moulay Hassan studied law in Bordeaux. Then we built the Maison du Maroc at the Cité Universitaire in Paris, shortly before Morocco’s independence”.

The cracks of Baca of this time knew Morocco with the melodies of renewed life after the First World War. However, the financial crisis of the 1930s ended a decade of strong economic growth. The national intelligentsia went to France, under the auspices of the Protectorate, but nurturing patriotic perspectives. In other words, these predecessors went to arm themselves with knowledge and experience for the benefit of the mother country.

However, we cannot talk about the 1930s without mentioning the nascent national movement or one of its initiators, Hassan El-Ouazzani. The spokesman of this movement, the late Allal El Fassi, returned from France to Fez in 1934, where he participated in the Moroccan Action Committee in drafting a reform plan. Elected president of the new National Party formed in 1937, he was soon afterwards exiled to Gabon, with a measure taken by the French government to suppress Moroccan nationalist movements, for a period of nine years. Cut off from the world and his family, his detractors took up the floor.

Francophone returnees

The 1930s were also marked by the dominance of colonialist newspapers such as “La Quinzaine coloniale”, “Le progress coloniale” and “La renaissance coloniale”, which wanted to make Morocco a French colony like “French Algeria”.

Far from boycotting studies and writing in Moliere’s language, and still less from bowing before so many admonitions, Istiklalian intellectuals responded with daggers drawn to these bitter and no less dangerous chronicles, in French as flawless as that of their detractors. Thanks in large part to the Moroccan students in France and their immense nationalism, this newspaper ended up empty when its harsh criticisms of the Moroccan Nationalist Movement did not achieve the desired goal.

El Fassi disciple, El Fassi leader

What the Protectorate and the French school could not control was that the experienced student who responded to the name of Allal El Fassi did not know his glorious years and did not publish his most widely read works only during and after the exile. Thus, without expecting the least in the world, France made him an idol in several cities and areas of the Kingdom.

Moreover, in Paris he met Emir Chekib Arsalan, a supporter of pan-Arab thought, who fostered his desire to become the leader of the first independence party in the history of Morocco. Thus, in 1943, he founded the Istiqlal party, renewed the stormy experience of exile and became one of the most prolific writers, because in 1948 he wrote “Movements for Independence in the Maghreb”.

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