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Fatema Mernissi






Aziz El Ouadie

"Writing in prison is a kind of running away through imagination. The only difference is that in this case, you can run away without being pursued!"

Aziz El Ouadie, who was born in Fez in 1956, became one of Morocco's youngest political prisoners when he was arrested with his brother Saleh, at age 18 for his political opinions in 1974. This did not surprise his mother, the poet Touria Sekkat, who fell in love with his father Mohamed El Ouadi' al-Assafi, then her teacher at the prestigious Qaraouiyine University, precisely because he was a nationalist hero who resisted the French colonization and was often arrested and jailed.

In Aziz's family, not only being jailed for one's political opinion was the norm, but fighting violence, Saif (the Sword), with the Qalam (the Pen), by writing books or better, short but devastatingly elegant poems and satire was equally the tradition. Not only did his father defy his jailers by exchanging love letters with his wife: "Handkerchiefs and Bars :Letters from Prison" ('Mandil wa-Qitban:Rasa'il as-Sijn'Dar an-Nashr al Maghribia, Casablanca, 1998), but so did his two sons who became two of Morocco's successful advocates of human rights in the 1990s.

But what is fascinating about Aziz is that he is convinced that to defeat your jailers' plans, you have to concentrate on cheering yourself up. "We managed to steal some laughs" ('Sarikna Dahikan', Editions Le Fennec, 2001) is the title of the first book he published after being released from jail in 1984.

Today, Aziz al-Ouadi' is married to Khadija Boutni, an ex-Royal Air Maroc air-hostess and one of the regular writing contributors of the Synergie Civique workshops. Both are caring for their daughter Bouthaina, born in 2001. Besides teaching at a Casablanca high school, and regularly writing advocacy pieces for the press, Aziz, who is a founding member of the Moroccan section of Amnesty International, writes books and animates poetry sessions for Synergie Civique.

To encourage people to fight stupid violence with words, I often quote one of Aziz's short poems at the opening of my writing workshops:

"Writing in prison is a kind of running away through imagination. The only difference is that in this case, you can run away without being pursued!"

Al kitaba fi sijn naw' mina l-firari ibra al-Khayal. Lakinahu firarun biduni mutaba'a!

Fatema Mernissi, June 2003


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Aziz El Ouadie


Related Links:

Le site web de Aziz El Ouadie

His first book:
We managed to steal some laughter


Sole nero
Gli anni di piombo in Marocco
Mesogea, 2004



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