Feminine Spaces and Places in the Dark Recesses of Morocco's Past: The prison Testimonials in Poetry and Prose of Saida Menebhi and Fatna El Bouih
Since the late 1990s and the end of the era known as ‘les années de plomb’ (the Lead Years), Moroccan women have spoken out in French and Arabic on a variety of issues including past socio-political and human rights abuses in Morocco. From the prison accounts authored by several former women detainees during the Lead Years to the documented revelations about Morocco's street children and ‘petites bonnes’ (girl maids often held as prisoners in the homes of the wealthy and made to work with little or no compensation), women point fingers with their pens at abuse and neglect in the past as well as in today's New Morocco. Prison literature, although overwhelmingly written by men, includes several notable testimonies by women incarcerated during the most repressive period of the Lead Years (1973–1988). These include: Femmes–Prisons: Parcours croisés (Women–prisons: traveled journeys, 2001), which is a collection of letters mothers wrote to their sons and husbands in prison, and Saïda Menebhi: poèmes, lettres, ecrits de prison (Saïda Menebhi: Poems, Letters and Writing from Prison, 2000), a compilation of prison writings by the Marxist-Leninist Saïda Menebhi, who died in prison following a hunger strike. Additionally, Hadit al-‘atama by Fatna El Bouih was translated into French as Une femme nommée Rachid (A woman named Rachid, 2002) and affirms the resistance of women even as they were tortured in prisons across Morocco. Although the government of King Mohamed VI since his coronation in 1999 has sought to improve material means and living conditions for all Moroccans, there is much that needs to be done in terms of repairing historical memory. The female voices of Moroccan poets and authors, some still living, others long gone, explore, reveal, probe and make inquiries that seek to reconcile and rectify the wounds of Morocco's dark past. Their prose and poetry establish humanity and dignity to the formerly abused that must bear witness about the past for those who are building the present.