Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail

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Overview

Malika Oufkir was born into extreme privilege as the daughter of the king of Morocco's closest aide. But in 1972, her life of luxury came to a crashing halt. Her father was executed for attempting to assassinate the king, and she and her family were imprisoned for two decades. Stolen Lives is the story of their resilience and their resolve to live in freedom.

A heartrending account in the face of extreme deprivation and the courage with which one family faced its ...

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Overview

Malika Oufkir was born into extreme privilege as the daughter of the king of Morocco's closest aide. But in 1972, her life of luxury came to a crashing halt. Her father was executed for attempting to assassinate the king, and she and her family were imprisoned for two decades. Stolen Lives is the story of their resilience and their resolve to live in freedom.

A heartrending account in the face of extreme deprivation and the courage with which one family faced its fate, Stolen Lives is an unforgettable story of one woman's journey to freedom.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
On August 15th, 1972, Malika Oufkir was probably the most privileged teenager in all Morocco. The eldest daughter of King Hassan II's top aide, she had been raised in the opulent seclusion of the monarch's harem. But within 24 hours, her father would be tried and summarily executed for treason, and she and her entire family would be arrested and imprisoned in a remote desert penal colony. For the next 20 years, her accommodations would only grow worse.

Malika Oufkir's memories of her 20-year incarceration -- most of it in vermin-infested solitary confinement -- rivets your attention and educates your senses.

Glamour
Oufkir's harrowing memoir details the unfathomable conditions [her family] endured and the remarkable will and sense of humor that kept them alive.
Booklist
An extremely effective and graphic picture of what evil is like from the vantage point of its most innocent victims.
Time Out New York
Stolen Lives is a riveting and profoundly affecting account of survivval that, while life-affirming, never sinks to cliched reassurances about the human spirit.
Washington Post Book World
Gripping memoir....the reader is left in awe of Malika Oufkir, who relates her story in plain but moving prose, and who wrestles with ambivalent emotions toward her past.
Cosmopolitan
This awe-inspiring survivor published her memoir...a harrowing account of her two decades behind bars.
Publishers Weekly
While accounts of the unjust arrest and torture of political prisoners are by now common, we expect such victims to come with a just cause. Here, Oufkir tells of the 20-year imprisonment of her upper-class Moroccan family following a 1972 coup attempt against King Hassan II by her father, a close military aide. After her father's execution, Oufkir, her mother and five siblings were carted off to a series of desert barracks, along with their books, toys and French designer clothes in the family's Vuitton luggage. At their first posting, they complained that they were short on butter and sweets. Over the years, subsequent placements brought isolation cells and inadequate, vermin-infested rations. Finally, starving and suicidal, the innocents realized they had been left to die. They dug a tunnel and escaped. Recapture led to another five years of various forms of imprisonment before the family was finally granted freedom. Oufkir's experience does not fit easily into current perceptions of political prisoners victimized for their beliefs or actions. In fact, she was the adopted daughter of King Muhammad V, Hassan II's father, sent by her parents at age five to be raised in the court with the king's daughter as her companion and equal. Beyond horrifying images such as mice nibbling at a rich girl's face, this erstwhile princess's memoir will fascinate readers with its singular tale of two kindly fathers, political struggles in a strict monarchy and a family's survival of cruel, prolonged deprivation. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Oufkir, the child of a general, was adopted at the age of five by King Mohammed and brought up as a companion to his daughter. Eleven years later, she returned home to a three-year adolescence of wealth and privilege, where she consorted with movie stars and royalty. In 1961, Hassin II succeeded his father as king, and Oufkir's father was executed after staging a coup against the new regime. For the next 15 years, Oufkir, her mother, and her five siblings were confined to a desert prison and subjected to inhuman conditions. Oufkir's description of their day-to-day survival during these years is the heart of the book. The family finally escaped by digging a tunnel, were recaptured, and today live in Paris, where Oufkir eventually found love and marriage with a French architect. A best seller in France, this riveting story will find an audience here, but just how much of an audience is yet to be determined. Recommended for all general collections. Frances Sandiford, Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568951911
  • Publisher: Gale Cengage Learning
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Malika Oufkir lives in Paris.

Michele Fitoussi, who cowrote Stolen Lives, is a French journalist who writes regularly for French Elle.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail (Oprah Edition)

Malika Oufkir tosses her fur coat onto the bed in her midtown Manhattan hotel room. She's elegant, slender, and quite beautiful, but, as she says, "I am not normal."

In truth, there is almost nothing normal about Oufkir. More than four years after she left Morocco, where she and her mother and brothers and sisters spent 20 years in prison, Oufkir still panics when she is out in the open. She craves quiet, dark rooms where she can be alone. New York frightens her. She hates crowds. She likes to eat alone, in silence.

"If I talk about it too much, think about it too much, I could become crazy or have a very violent reaction," Oufkir says of the time she spent in Bir-Jdid prison for a crime in which everyone knew she had taken no part. She was just 19 when her father, a powerful Moroccan general, led a failed coup against King Hassan II; the monarch immediately ordered General Oufkir's execution and banished his widow and six children, Malika, Myriam ("Mimi"), Maria, Soukaina, Raouf, and three-year-old Abdellatif, into internal exile.

Shuttled from prison to prison for five years, Oufkir and her family were eventually dispatched to Bir-Jdid, a prison barrack near Casablanca. Locked in separate cells around a central corridor, unable to see one another, Oufkir and her siblings spent their youth in Bir-Jdid, plagued by insects, vermin, and brutal deprivation.

"Hassan enjoyed keeping us in prison, starving us, freezing us, leaving us without beds or sheets or medical care. I think he took pleasure in it every day," Oufkir tells me, as if speaking of something that is both vaguely remote and entirely present. "He could have killed us. But he preferred to have us die slowly." Desperately-and miraculously-Oufkir and her family defied the fate Hassan intended for them when, using a spoon and a sardine can lid, they dug their way to freedom.

In heart-stopping and suspenseful portions of Stolen Lives, Oufkir's remarkable memoir, she recounts the days she and three of her siblings spent racing from embassy to embassy, attempting to gain political asylum after their escape from Bir-Jdid. The outcasts, now fugitives, faced unspeakable retribution if discovered. Hollow-faced, destitute, dressed in 15-year-old rags, they hitchhiked across Morocco, seeking help from former friends who, fearing the king, again and again turned them away. After five days on the lam, they succeeded in getting a hotel guest to phone Alain de Chalvron, a French radio reporter in Paris. "An incredible scoop," said de Chalvron, who alerted the French embassy to the Oufkirs' plight. Once their story was out, the condemnation of the international community made it impossible for Hassan to punish the family; Moroccan authorities nonetheless managed to keep them under house arrest for another three and a half years.

Even before her family's exile and escape, Oufkir led an extraordinary life. Born into an affluent and powerful family, she was chosen-at age five-by King Muhammad V to be a companion to his own small daughter, Princess Lalla Mina. The king moved Oufkir into a villa near the palace that she shared with his daughter. After three years Muhammad died, and his son Hassan II inherited the throne and guardianship of both Lalla Mina and Oufkir. Like his father, Hassan lavished attention and kindness on the girls and retained a strict German governess to ensure that they would be raised properly. Oufkir fondly recalls sitting around the piano, singing and dancing and otherwise enjoying good times with Lalla Mina and the new king. For 11 years Oufkir lived a sumptuous, if sheltered, life among Moroccan royalty, leaving the palace only occasionally for spa trips and ski vacations.

At 16, she says, Oufkir hungered for a taste of real life and at last prevailed on the king to let her return to her own father and mother. She looked forward to life as a normal person-and to falling in love. But she didn't get the chance. Three years later her father attempted a coup against Hassan II, the man who had raised her for eight years. It was Hassan who would banish her family to prison.

Traces of both the prisoner and the princess Oufkir has been are evident as we speak; there is a regal quality to her great grace and poise, but there is no mistaking the haunted look in her eye. "I wrote the book in a crashing hurry," she says softly of Stolen Lives. "My friends could not understand why. I told them, `If this is published after Hassan dies, it would be terrible. Through his sister he invited me back to the palace. But I refused. He did not want me to talk, to write. With this book I defied him." Hassan II died five months after Oufkir's gripping, remorseless memoir was published (under the title La Prisonnière) in France-where it quickly became a best-seller.

Today, Oufkir lives in Paris with her husband, a French architect raised in Lebanon who is fluent in Arabic and whom she met at a Moroccan wedding eight years after her escape from Bir-Jdid. Unable to bear children because of an infection she suffered while in prison, she acts as head of her extended family; Abdellatif, the brother who was incarcerated as a toddler and is now deeply wounded by his stunted, aberrant childhood, lives with her, as does her sister Myriam.

At 47, Oufkir has found the freedom-and love-she craved so desperately for so long. But it has not brought comfort. "I don't know what it means to be free," she says. "It is easier to be a prisoner." There is no self-pity as she explains how difficult it is for her to live in Paris. "Every day I suffer. I'm surviving, not living. I want to be like everyone else. I try, but I can't. There are two decades of prison between me and the world." She draws her hunter-green suede jacket close around her slender frame.

"Anyway, I do not really want happiness, because that would deny my experience. I am like a person who has lost a limb and tries to act normal. They can't. Neither can I. I have arms and legs, but inside something has changed." The strength and resolve that enabled Oufkir to survive are visible on her face, as is the fragility that is the legacy of her ordeal. "Prison stole the best things from me. Yet my experience is so rich. Prison was a detour, the way in which I managed to avoid mediocrity. Without it I would be a normal woman, with money and power. But inside? Nothing."

In the following exclusive excerpt from Stolen Lives Oufkir chronicles her life in a Moroccan prison and describes the family's death-defying escape. -Amy Wilentz the great escape: an exclusive excerpt from stolen lives

It was around four o'clock on August 16, 1972, and I was at my family's house in Casablanca with some friends, talking and laughing in the living room. Prompted by an intuition I can't explain, I switched on the television. A newscaster was announcing that there had been a coup d'état and that the king's plane had been fired on. It was unclear who was responsible.

I rushed over to the radio, frantic for more news yet dreading what I might hear: that it was my father who was behind the coup. He was a powerful general in the Moroccan army and had been at increasing odds with the king, Hassan II. But information on the radio was hazy too. No one seemed to know anything for certain. There was only speculation that my father, General Oufkir, was involved and that the coup had succeeded. Order had not yet been restored in the capital. One of my friends, though, was convinced my father was involved. She got up and pointed at me, hysterically babbling that the army would surround us, that I would be killed and so would they. She urged everyone to leave at once. I sat, terrified, not knowing what to do. I tried calling my mother and brothers and sisters at our house in Rabat; the lines were busy or there was no answer.

Around seven o'clock the phone rang. It was my father. He spoke with the voice of a man who has decided to commit suicide and is recording his last message. It was as if a ghost was talk- ing to me. He told me he loved me and that he was proud of me. Then he added, "I ask you to remain calm, whatever happens. Don't leave the house until the escort comes to get you."

I began to scream. He kept saying things I didn't want to hear. I wanted him to reassure me, to tell me it hadn't been him. But from the start of our conversation I understood it was. And that he had failed.

I couldn't sleep and couldn't stop thinking about my father's last words-his warning not to leave. Something terrible had happened. Around 5 a.m. the next day the phone rang again. It was my mother. Without hesitating she confirmed what I was most afraid to hear: "Your father is dead. Pack your things and come back to Rabat."

Four months later, once the official mourning period for my father had ended, the head of police arrived at our house and told my mother to get the family packed. We left on Christmas Eve-my mother, her six children, and Achoura and Halima, two loyal members of the household staff. Mother had just turned 36. I was 19, my sister Mimi was 17, my brother Raouf 14, and the girls, Maria and Soukaina, were just 10 and nine. My baby brother Abdellatif was three and a half.

We were told we would be going away for two weeks. We would never really return. Our first jail was a filthy mud house of flaking plaster walls and sand floors-part of an army barracks in Assa, a town near the Algerian border. I found everything there repulsive, from the coarse military blankets to the thin foam mattresses to the lack of proper toilets. All nine of us shared the small house together and were under constant surveillance. But by and large the guards showed us sympathy. We could listen to the radio and were given plenty of bread, goat meat, and honey to eat. We were also allowed to go into the nearby town with a police escort for two hours every day. I refused to go-I did not want to be dependent on our captors' goodwill-but the visits were very important for the children. The escorts always treated them very well, and the villagers would send them back with cakes and treats.

Fundamentally this was not much of a change from our past life. As far back as I could remember, I had never lived without several armed police responsible for my safety. The only difference here was that instead of protecting me they were keeping watch. My life was a fairy tale in reverse. I had been brought up as a princess and was now turning into Cinderella. Gradually I was shedding my old habits. We had brought around 20 designer suitcases with us-Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci-filled with Paris couture and children's clothes from Geneva, but the idea of wearing any of it soon became ludicrous. After a few months we always wore the same old clothes.

After about a year we were told that we'd be leaving. There was no explanation, but on thinking about it a little later I concluded that the villagers must have been growing too sympathetic toward us and word of this had gotten back to the king.

We were taken to an abandoned military fort in Tamattaght, a town even more remote than Assa. There conditions were dramatically worse. The nine of us were given two rooms inside an old and crumbling fort. There was a hole that served as a toilet, and a little dirt enclave we used as a kitchen. A small but mostly enclosed outdoor space provided us with our only fresh air. This would be our home for almost four years.

As at Assa, we were generally well treated. Of the 25 policemen under orders to guard us day and night, around three-quarters had previously done security duty at our house in Rabat. They had known my father, directly or indirectly. They respected my mother and loved us children in a paternal way. When they could, they would bring us contraband food as well as occasional books and letters. But they could never let us out, which meant that while we were there, enclosed in the fort's towering walls, we almost never saw anything but the smallest patch of sky.

And so we learned to live together. In wretched, cramped, filthy conditions-in darkness, isolation, and confinement. We tried to impose a structure on our days. We would al-ways eat three meals a day together, and sit down for tea. I also created an informal school for the children, setting up "classes" in which to teach them French and math. It was difficult for all of us, increasingly so. Raouf was not yet over the loss of his father, at an age when a boy probably needs his father most. Soukaina was entering a moody adolescence. Maria was extremely fragile-when something upset her she often would not eat, speak, or move for hours. As for Mimi, she was in the most difficult straits of all. She had epilepsy, and though the guards were able to sneak drugs to her, the stress of prison caused her fits to increase anyway. Abdellatif adapted to it most readily.

At night I'd hear my mother sobbing. Alone in her bed, she wept over the loss of her husband. As for me, especially during those early years in prison, I dreamed only of the king, Hassan II. I relived my life at the palace: my pranks, our laughter, my tête-à-têtes with him, our special moments. I never revisited happy family scenes, or painful ones-my father's death or the mourning that followed it. There was no resentment in my dreams, no confrontation or rebellion. I had nothing but happy memories of my childhood, even though in a sense it had been stolen from me. I would wake up overcome with shame and guilt. My feelings toward the king were complicated: My own father had tried to kill my adoptive father and as a result he was dead. Sometimes I didn't know which father I missed most, which one to grieve for. I was the product of my palace upbringing; everything I was, I owed to the man who had raised me and who was now keeping me imprisoned. At the same time I loved my real father so much.

But if I still respected Hassan II as my adoptive father, I hated the despot he had become the day he began to persecute us. I hated him for his hatred, I hated him for my ruined life, for my mother's misery and the mutilated childhood of my brothers and sisters. I hated him for the irreparable crime he had committed in locking up a woman and six children for such a long time and in such inhuman conditions.

We continually implored Hassan to release us. Every year on his birthday we wrote letters. We even wrote him a petition for a pardon, signed in our blood.

Then one day, after almost four years in Tamattaght, we were told to pack. The children were glad. The rest of us were torn between hope and dread.

Our next journey lasted 24 hours. The nine of us were divided into three armored trucks with blacked-out windows. We were under constant surveillance and could not even find a discreet spot when we got out to relieve ourselves; the police came with us and watched until we had finished. It was February. As we drove, I noticed the air beginning to smell damp and the sound of frogs croaking so I concluded that we had left the desert and were now near the coast. It turns out I was not mistaken. The Bir-Jdid barracks, where we were being taken, were 27 miles from Casablanca. This we discovered much later.

Finally the trucks slowed to a halt. We were blindfolded and led through one door and then through another. The blindfolds were removed, and we found ourselves in the small courtyard of what seemed to be a former farmhouse-now converted to a prison. The walls of the enclosure were so high that we couldn't see the sky. Soldiers stood at arms in each corner.

Four doors opened onto the courtyard. The rooms behind them, we were told, would be our cells. The first, which Mother was to share with Abdellatif, was at right angles to the other three. The second I would share with my sisters. Achoura and Halima would share the third, and Raouf would be alone in the cell on the end. Each of the cells included several little rooms. Ours included a main room with a toilet, one larger room, and a smaller room, where we would end up storing the suitcases we were still lugging around.

The appearance of these new quarters did not bode well for our future comfort. Even though we were already accustomed to discomfort, filth, and minimal amenities, these cells were squalid. Rivulets of moisture ran from the ceiling down to the stone floor. The only light would be dim, coming from a generator that operated a few hours each night. The mattresses were just thin layers of foam with covers of dubious cleanliness set on rusty metal bed frames.

Right away we were told that we would be separated at night. We would be allowed to see each other during the day and to eat together, but at night each person would have to go back to his or her own cell. This news made us all sob. Mother cried and pleaded, saying they didn't have the right to separate her from her children. But we were told that these rules could not be relaxed.

Under this new regime, from eight in the morning until nightfall the doors were unlocked and we could go in and out of one another's cells. Generally we all gathered in mine. This freedom of movement allowed us to carry on the routines we'd grown used to-we would cook and eat together, and play with the children during the day. But here our lives were much more closely monitored. And unlike our former captors, those at Bir-Jdid showed us little sympathy. The commander, a man named Borro, was utterly devoid of compassion and seemed to take his orders directly from Rabat. Four other guards worked under his command-they would be rotated every month or so, apparently to prevent them from developing any sympathy for us. Outside our small prison, we were informed, even more guards were stationed. They would stop anyone from coming to help us. Inside the prison walls Mother, Raouf, and I seemed to be the guards' main concern. Mother because she was the wife of the hated general, me because they were aware of my influence over the rest of the family, and Raouf because he was his father's son and it was natural that he would want to avenge him. Of us all it was Raouf who suffered the most physically, who took the most knocks. I lived with a permanent fear in the pit of my stomach: fear of being killed, beaten, or raped; fear of constant humiliation. But we were never seriously beaten-only Raouf. The first search took place at the beginning of April, two months after our arrival. The aim was to intimidate us. Borro's men locked us up in Raouf's cell until nightfall. Inside we could hear dull thuds, the sound of hammering. When we were finally allowed out, the damage was impressive. They had gathered our most valued belongings-our trinkets and books, Abdellatif's toys, much of our clothing, Mother's jewelry, and my photo album-and had lit a huge bonfire with everything that was combustible. (We took the fact that they did not burn our luggage as a small sign of hope: Someday we would be leaving.) The children were all the more traumatized when Borro forcibly searched Soukaina, who was only 13. Afterward she ran a high temperature for 10 days.

Then, on January 30, Raouf's 20th birthday, we were informed that he would be locked up for all but two hours a day. A few days later my sisters and I met the same fate. Next it was Mother and Abdellatif. During this phase we were allowed to go out into the courtyard for a breath of air, but only in shifts. Mother and Abdellatif went out in the morning until 10; then it was my turn, with my sisters. We would stand under Raouf's window, he'd cling to the bars, and we'd chat. He was so desperate to express himself that he would monopolize the conversation. He would talk about our father and his longing to avenge him. And about sex. He suffered far more than we did from our forced abstinence and would tell the girls stories of his early trips to prostitutes-accepted practice for bourgeois boys in Morocco-that would have them howling with laughter.

After a few months, however, even these brief hours outside were forbidden. We were all locked up 24 hours a day.

I was 24 years old, and for the next nine years the only faces I saw were those of my sisters and the guards. My mother, Abdellatif, Raouf, and Halima and Achoura were mere voices through a wall. For more than five years we had managed to preserve a family life, a cocoon in which we protected each other. At Bir-Jdid, family life was out of the question. Everything was out of the question.

Once we were confined to our cells, our lives became completely regulated by the guards. They stopped by three times a day to bring us meal trays, and at midday to give us bread. For the first few months my sisters and I clung to a semblance of a timetable. In the morning we would exercise-I concocted a "bums and tums" workout, and we tossed a bag of rags around as a makeshift volleyball. In the afternoon we told stories. Later we gave up physical activity. Our bodies no longer responded; we just sat around.

Our biggest enemy was time. It was tangible, monstrous, threatening, and almost impossible to master. In the summer, dusk brought back memories of the sweetness of the old days, the end of a day at the beach, time for an aperitif, the laughter of friends, the smell of the sea, the tang of salt on my bronzed skin. I relived the little I had experienced. We didn't do anything. We'd follow the progress of a cockroach from one hole in the wall to another. Doze. Empty our minds. The sky would change color and the day draw to a close. A week felt like a day, the months like weeks; a year meant nothing. And I was wasting away. I learned to die inwardly. I often had the feeling I was living in a black hole.

Despite everything, my sisters and I got along well. The lack of privacy was torture, especially for two young women and two teenage girls. Washing, going to the toilet, and moaning in pain were all public acts-but we quickly got used to it. Unable to divest myself of my palace upbringing, I wouldn't allow the slightest breach of manners. We behaved properly at the table, we chewed delicately, we said please and thank you and excuse me. We washed ourselves scrupulously every day, especially when we had our periods, despite the freezing salt water we were given in the middle of winter that turned our skin bright red and made us shriek. ...

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Malika Oufkir tosses her fur coat onto the bed in her midtown Manhattan hotel room. She's elegant, slender, and quite beautiful, but, as she says, "I am not normal."

In truth, there is almost nothing normal about Oufkir. More than four years after she left Morocco, where she and her mother and brothers and sisters spent 20 years in prison, Oufkir still panics when she is out in the open. She craves quiet, dark rooms where she can be alone. New York frightens her. She hates crowds. She likes to eat alone, in silence.

"If I talk about it too much, think about it too much, I could become crazy or have a very violent reaction," Oufkir says of the time she spent in Bir-Jdid prison for a crime in which everyone knew she had taken no part. She was just 19 when her father, a powerful Moroccan general, led a failed coup against King Hassan II; the monarch immediately ordered General Oufkir's execution and banished his widow and six children, Malika, Myriam ("Mimi"), Maria, Soukaina, Raouf, and three-year-old Abdellatif, into internal exile. Shuttled from prison to prison for five years, Oufkir and her family were eventually dispatched to Bir-Jdid, a prison barrack near Casablanca. Locked in separate cells around a central corridor, unable to see one another, Oufkir and her siblings spent their youth in Bir-Jdid, plagued by insects, vermin, and brutal deprivation. "Hassan enjoyed keeping us in prison, starving us, freezing us, leaving us without beds or sheets or medical care. I think he took pleasure in it every day," Oufkir tells me, as if speaking of something that is both vaguely remote and entirely present. "He could have killed us. But he preferred to have us die slowly." Desperately-and miraculously-Oufkir and her family defied the fate Hassan intended for them when, using a spoon and a sardine can lid, they dug their way to freedom.In heart-stopping and suspenseful portions of Stolen Lives, Oufkir's remarkable memoir, she recounts the days she and three of her siblings spent racing from embassy to embassy, attempting to gain political asylum after their escape from Bir-Jdid. The outcasts, now fugitives, faced unspeakable retribution if discovered. Hollow-faced, destitute, dressed in 15-year-old rags, they hitchhiked across Morocco, seeking help from former friends who, fearing the king, again and again turned them away. After five days on the lam, they succeeded in getting a hotel guest to phone Alain de Chalvron, a French radio reporter in Paris. "An incredible scoop," said de Chalvron, who alerted the French embassy to the Oufkirs' plight. Once their story was out, the condemnation of the international community made it impossible for Hassan to punish the family; Moroccan authorities nonetheless managed to keep them under house arrest for another three and a half years. Even before her family's exile and escape, Oufkir led an extraordinary life. Born into an affluent and powerful family, she was chosen-at age five-by King Muhammad V to be a companion to his own small daughter, Princess Lalla Mina. The king moved Oufkir into a villa near the palace that she shared with his daughter. After three years Muhammad died, and his son Hassan II inherited the throne and guardianship of both Lalla Mina and Oufkir. Like his father, Hassan lavished attention and kindness on the girls and retained a strict German governess to ensure that they would be raised properly. Oufkir fondly recalls sitting around the piano, singing and dancing and otherwise enjoying good times with Lalla Mina and the new king. For 11 years Oufkir lived a sumptuous, if sheltered, life among Moroccan royalty, leaving the palace only occasionally for spa trips and ski vacations. At 16, she says, Oufkir hungered for a taste of real life and at last prevailed on the king to let her return to her own father and mother. She looked forward to life as a normal person-and to falling in love. But she didn't get the chance. Three years later her father attempted a coup against Hassan II, the man who had raised her for eight years. It was Hassan who would banish her family to prison.Traces of both the prisoner and the princess Oufkir has been are evident as we speak; there is a regal quality to her great grace and poise, but there is no mistaking the haunted look in her eye. "I wrote the book in a crashing hurry," she says softly of Stolen Lives. "My friends could not understand why. I told them, ‘If this is published after Hassan dies, it would be terrible. Through his sister he invited me back to the palace. But I refused. He did not want me to talk, to write. With this book I defied him." Hassan II died five months after Oufkir's gripping, remorseless memoir was published (under the title La Prisonnière) in France-where it quickly became a best-seller.

Today, Oufkir lives in Paris with her husband, a French architect raised in Lebanon who is fluent in Arabic and whom she met at a Moroccan wedding eight years after her escape from Bir-Jdid. Unable to bear children because of an infection she suffered while in prison, she acts as head of her extended family; Abdellatif, the brother who was incarcerated as a toddler and is now deeply wounded by his stunted, aberrant childhood, lives with her, as does her sister Myriam.

At 47, Oufkir has found the freedom-and love-she craved so desperately for so long. But it has not brought comfort. "I don't know what it means to be free," she says. "It is easier to be a prisoner." There is no self-pity as she explains how difficult it is for her to live in Paris. "Every day I suffer. I'm surviving, not living. I want to be like everyone else. I try, but I can't. There are two decades of prison between me and the world." She draws her hunter-green suede jacket close around her slender frame.

"Anyway, I do not really want happiness, because that would deny my experience. I am like a person who has lost a limb and tries to act normal. They can't. Neither can I. I have arms and legs, but inside something has changed." The strength and resolve that enabled Oufkir to survive are visible on her face, as is the fragility that is the legacy of her ordeal. "Prison stole the best things from me. Yet my experience is so rich. Prison was a detour, the way in which I managed to avoid mediocrity. Without it I would be a normal woman, with money and power. But inside? Nothing."

In the following exclusive excerpt from Stolen Lives Oufkir chronicles her life in a Moroccan prison and describes the family's death-defying escape. -Amy Wilentz the great escape: an exclusive excerpt from stolen lives

It was around four o'clock on August 16, 1972, and I was at my family's house in Casablanca with some friends, talking and laughing in the living room. Prompted by an intuition I can't explain, I switched on the television. A newscaster was announcing that there had been a coup d'état and that the king's plane had been fired on. It was unclear who was responsible.

I rushed over to the radio, frantic for more news yet dreading what I might hear: that it was my father who was behind the coup. He was a powerful general in the Moroccan army and had been at increasing odds with the king, Hassan II. But information on the radio was hazy too. No one seemed to know anything for certain. There was only speculation that my father, General Oufkir, was involved and that the coup had succeeded. Order had not yet been restored in the capital. One of my friends, though, was convinced my father was involved. She got up and pointed at me, hysterically babbling that the army would surround us, that I would be killed and so would they. She urged everyone to leave at once. I sat, terrified, not knowing what to do. I tried calling my mother and brothers and sisters at our house in Rabat; the lines were busy or there was no answer.

Around seven o'clock the phone rang. It was my father. He spoke with the voice of a man who has decided to commit suicide and is recording his last message. It was as if a ghost was talk- ing to me. He told me he loved me and that he was proud of me. Then he added, "I ask you to remain calm, whatever happens. Don't leave the house until the escort comes to get you."

I began to scream. He kept saying things I didn't want to hear. I wanted him to reassure me, to tell me it hadn't been him. But from the start of our conversation I understood it was. And that he had failed.

I couldn't sleep and couldn't stop thinking about my father's last words-his warning not to leave. Something terrible had happened. Around 5 a.m. the next day the phone rang again. It was my mother. Without hesitating she confirmed what I was most afraid to hear: "Your father is dead. Pack your things and come back to Rabat."

Four months later, once the official mourning period for my father had ended, the head of police arrived at our house and told my mother to get the family packed. We left on Christmas Eve-my mother, her six children, and Achoura and Halima, two loyal members of the household staff. Mother had just turned 36. I was 19, my sister Mimi was 17, my brother Raouf 14, and the girls, Maria and Soukaina, were just 10 and nine. My baby brother Abdellatif was three and a half.

We were told we would be going away for two weeks. We would never really return. Our first jail was a filthy mud house of flaking plaster walls and sand floors-part of an army barracks in Assa, a town near the Algerian border. I found everything there repulsive, from the coarse military blankets to the thin foam mattresses to the lack of proper toilets. All nine of us shared the small house together and were under constant surveillance. But by and large the guards showed us sympathy. We could listen to the radio and were given plenty of bread, goat meat, and honey to eat. We were also allowed to go into the nearby town with a police escort for two hours every day. I refused to go-I did not want to be dependent on our captors' goodwill-but the visits were very important for the children. The escorts always treated them very well, and the villagers would send them back with cakes and treats.

Fundamentally this was not much of a change from our past life. As far back as I could remember, I had never lived without several armed police responsible for my safety. The only difference here was that instead of protecting me they were keeping watch. My life was a fairy tale in reverse. I had been brought up as a princess and was now turning into Cinderella. Gradually I was shedding my old habits. We had brought around 20 designer suitcases with us-Vuitton, Hermès, and Gucci-filled with Paris couture and children's clothes from Geneva, but the idea of wearing any of it soon became ludicrous. After a few months we always wore the same old clothes.

After about a year we were told that we'd be leaving. There was no explanation, but on thinking about it a little later I concluded that the villagers must have been growing too sympathetic toward us and word of this had gotten back to the king.

We were taken to an abandoned military fort in Tamattaght, a town even more remote than Assa. There conditions were dramatically worse. The nine of us were given two rooms inside an old and crumbling fort. There was a hole that served as a toilet, and a little dirt enclave we used as a kitchen. A small but mostly enclosed outdoor space provided us with our only fresh air. This would be our home for almost four years.

As at Assa, we were generally well treated. Of the 25 policemen under orders to guard us day and night, around three-quarters had previously done security duty at our house in Rabat. They had known my father, directly or indirectly. They respected my mother and loved us children in a paternal way. When they could, they would bring us contraband food as well as occasional books and letters. But they could never let us out, which meant that while we were there, enclosed in the fort's towering walls, we almost never saw anything but the smallest patch of sky.

And so we learned to live together. In wretched, cramped, filthy conditions-in darkness, isolation, and confinement. We tried to impose a structure on our days. We would al-ways eat three meals a day together, and sit down for tea. I also created an informal school for the children, setting up "classes" in which to teach them French and math.

It was difficult for all of us, increasingly so. Raouf was not yet over the loss of his father, at an age when a boy probably needs his father most. Soukaina was entering a moody adolescence. Maria was extremely fragile-when something upset her she often would not eat, speak, or move for hours. As for Mimi, she was in the most difficult straits of all. She had epilepsy, and though the guards were able to sneak drugs to her, the stress of prison caused her fits to increase anyway. Abdellatif adapted to it most readily.

At night I'd hear my mother sobbing. Alone in her bed, she wept over the loss of her husband. As for me, especially during those early years in prison, I dreamed only of the king, Hassan II. I relived my life at the palace: my pranks, our laughter, my tête-à-têtes with him, our special moments. I never revisited happy family scenes, or painful ones-my father's death or the mourning that followed it. There was no resentment in my dreams, no confrontation or rebellion. I had nothing but happy memories of my childhood, even though in a sense it had been stolen from me. I would wake up overcome with shame and guilt. My feelings toward the king were complicated: My own father had tried to kill my adoptive father and as a result he was dead. Sometimes I didn't know which father I missed most, which one to grieve for. I was the product of my palace upbringing; everything I was, I owed to the man who had raised me and who was now keeping me imprisoned. At the same time I loved my real father so much.

But if I still respected Hassan II as my adoptive father, I hated the despot he had become the day he began to persecute us. I hated him for his hatred, I hated him for my ruined life, for my mother's misery and the mutilated childhood of my brothers and sisters. I hated him for the irreparable crime he had committed in locking up a woman and six children for such a long time and in such inhuman conditions.

We continually implored Hassan to release us. Every year on his birthday we wrote letters. We even wrote him a petition for a pardon, signed in our blood.

Then one day, after almost four years in Tamattaght, we were told to pack. The children were glad. The rest of us were torn between hope and dread.

Our next journey lasted 24 hours. The nine of us were divided into three armored trucks with blacked-out windows. We were under constant surveillance and could not even find a discreet spot when we got out to relieve ourselves; the police came with us and watched until we had finished. It was February. As we drove, I noticed the air beginning to smell damp and the sound of frogs croaking so I concluded that we had left the desert and were now near the coast. It turns out I was not mistaken. The Bir-Jdid barracks, where we were being taken, were 27 miles from Casablanca. This we discovered much later.

Finally the trucks slowed to a halt. We were blindfolded and led through one door and then through another. The blindfolds were removed, and we found ourselves in the small courtyard of what seemed to be a former farmhouse-now converted to a prison. The walls of the enclosure were so high that we couldn't see the sky. Soldiers stood at arms in each corner.

Four doors opened onto the courtyard. The rooms behind them, we were told, would be our cells. The first, which Mother was to share with Abdellatif, was at right angles to the other three. The second I would share with my sisters. Achoura and Halima would share the third, and Raouf would be alone in the cell on the end. Each of the cells included several little rooms. Ours included a main room with a toilet, one larger room, and a smaller room, where we would end up storing the suitcases we were still lugging around.

The appearance of these new quarters did not bode well for our future comfort. Even though we were already accustomed to discomfort, filth, and minimal amenities, these cells were squalid. Rivulets of moisture ran from the ceiling down to the stone floor. The only light would be dim, coming from a generator that operated a few hours each night. The mattresses were just thin layers of foam with covers of dubious cleanliness set on rusty metal bed frames.

Right away we were told that we would be separated at night. We would be allowed to see each other during the day and to eat together, but at night each person would have to go back to his or her own cell. This news made us all sob. Mother cried and pleaded, saying they didn't have the right to separate her from her children. But we were told that these rules could not be relaxed.

Under this new regime, from eight in the morning until nightfall the doors were unlocked and we could go in and out of one another's cells. Generally we all gathered in mine. This freedom of movement allowed us to carry on the routines we'd grown used to-we would cook and eat together, and play with the children during the day. But here our lives were much more closely monitored. And unlike our former captors, those at Bir-Jdid showed us little sympathy. The commander, a man named Borro, was utterly devoid of compassion and seemed to take his orders directly from Rabat. Four other guards worked under his command-they would be rotated every month or so, apparently to prevent them from developing any sympathy for us. Outside our small prison, we were informed, even more guards were stationed. They would stop anyone from coming to help us. Inside the prison walls Mother, Raouf, and I seemed to be the guards' main concern. Mother because she was the wife of the hated general, me because they were aware of my influence over the rest of the family, and Raouf because he was his father's son and it was natural that he would want to avenge him. Of us all it was Raouf who suffered the most physically, who took the most knocks. I lived with a permanent fear in the pit of my stomach: fear of being killed, beaten, or raped; fear of constant humiliation. But we were never seriously beaten-only Raouf. The first search took place at the beginning of April, two months after our arrival. The aim was to intimidate us. Borro's men locked us up in Raouf's cell until nightfall. Inside we could hear dull thuds, the sound of hammering. When we were finally allowed out, the damage was impressive. They had gathered our most valued belongings-our trinkets and books, Abdellatif's toys, much of our clothing, Mother's jewelry, and my photo album-and had lit a huge bonfire with everything that was combustible. (We took the fact that they did not burn our luggage as a small sign of hope: Someday we would be leaving.) The children were all the more traumatized when Borro forcibly searched Soukaina, who was only 13. Afterward she ran a high temperature for 10 days.

Then, on January 30, Raouf's 20th birthday, we were informed that he would be locked up for all but two hours a day. A few days later my sisters and I met the same fate. Next it was Mother and Abdellatif. During this phase we were allowed to go out into the courtyard for a breath of air, but only in shifts. Mother and Abdellatif went out in the morning until 10; then it was my turn, with my sisters. We would stand under Raouf's window, he'd cling to the bars, and we'd chat. He was so desperate to express himself that he would monopolize the conversation. He would talk about our father and his longing to avenge him. And about sex. He suffered far more than we did from our forced abstinence and would tell the girls stories of his early trips to prostitutes-accepted practice for bourgeois boys in Morocco-that would have them howling with laughter.

After a few months, however, even these brief hours outside were forbidden. We were all locked up 24 hours a day.

I was 24 years old, and for the next nine years the only faces I saw were those of my sisters and the guards. My mother, Abdellatif, Raouf, and Halima and Achoura were mere voices through a wall. For more than five years we had managed to preserve a family life, a cocoon in which we protected each other. At Bir-Jdid, family life was out of the question. Everything was out of the question.

Once we were confined to our cells, our lives became completely regulated by the guards. They stopped by three times a day to bring us meal trays, and at midday to give us bread. For the first few months my sisters and I clung to a semblance of a timetable. In the morning we would exercise-I concocted a "bums and tums" workout, and we tossed a bag of rags around as a makeshift volleyball. In the afternoon we told stories. Later we gave up physical activity. Our bodies no longer responded; we just sat around.

Our biggest enemy was time. It was tangible, monstrous, threatening, and almost impossible to master. In the summer, dusk brought back memories of the sweetness of the old days, the end of a day at the beach, time for an aperitif, the laughter of friends, the smell of the sea, the tang of salt on my bronzed skin. I relived the little I had experienced. We didn't do anything. We'd follow the progress of a cockroach from one hole in the wall to another. Doze. Empty our minds. The sky would change color and the day draw to a close. A week felt like a day, the months like weeks; a year meant nothing. And I was wasting away. I learned to die inwardly. I often had the feeling I was living in a black hole.

Despite everything, my sisters and I got along well. The lack of privacy was torture, especially for two young women and two teenage girls. Washing, going to the toilet, and moaning in pain were all public acts-but we quickly got used to it. Unable to divest myself of my palace upbringing, I wouldn't allow the slightest breach of manners. We behaved properly at the table, we chewed delicately, we said please and thank you and excuse me. We washed ourselves scrupulously every day, especially when we had our periods, despite the freezing salt water we were given in the middle of winter that turned our skin bright red and made us shriek.

And we were always hungry. Rotting vegetables, two bowlfuls of flour, a bowl of chick peas, a bowl of lentils, 12 bad eggs, a piece of spoiled meat, a few lumps of sugar, a liter of oil, and some detergent for washing-this was what was divided between the nine of us for two weeks. Achoura and Halima would prepare what they could with the meager supplies, and then the guards would distribute it.

We became experts in the art of salvage, scavenging for crumbs on the floor, even eating bread soaked in the urine and feces of the mice. I can still picture Mimi, sitting up in bed, picking off the little black droppings sprinkled all over the bread with the delicacy of a duchess, before raising the morsels to her lips. All our rations were fouled by rodents. Both mice and rats overran our cell.

We all could have died 20 times over, but every time we emerged unscathed. Some of our illnesses were serious: fevers, infections, diarrhea. Others were less so: sore throats and bronchitis, headaches or toothaches, hemorrhoids, rheumatism. Maria became severely undernourished. She suffered fevers and violent sweats that were so bad that she stayed in bed all the time. I had to wash and dry her four or five times a day. Mimi was the sickest of us all. The guards at Bir-Jdid had confiscated her epilepsy pills, and her constant fits left her exhausted, bedridden, and severely depressed. She stayed in bed almost without moving for eight years. I had to force her to wash.

But more than anything else, the worst thing about those years was being separated from our mother, only a few feet away. We spoke to her constantly through the wall, and she was an example to all of us. She never expressed the slightest complaint, yet she must have suffered even more than we did.

Since the day I was born, my relationship with Mother had never been less than passionate and heartbreaking. We were incredibly close in age-she was 17 when I was born-and shared a striking physical resemblance. We had also each seen our chance to be fulfilled as women savagely destroyed. The thought that I might not ever have children distressed her.

In prison, however, there was a growing ambiguity in our roles. Unwittingly, and against my will, I had usurped her role. I had become the mother of her other daughters. I can still picture Maria and Soukaina snuggling up to me in my bed, questioning me about the meaning of life. They told me all the secrets they would never have told Mother, first of all because at that age you don't confide in your mother, and secondly because they were separated from her by a solid wall.

I looked after them, brought them up, and tried to keep them from despair. I was their big sister, their mother, father, and confidante. I loved them more than anything else and, like Mother, I suffered a lot more for them than I did for myself. I remember instigating dancing lessons in the cell because Maria was crying over her shattered dream of being a ballet student at the Paris Opera. I remember nursing Mimi and telling stories to Abdellatif through the wall. Yet throughout it all I always waited impatiently for nightfall, for the peace it brought me. During the day I wore a mask: I was Malika the strong one, the authoritarian, the person who breathed life into the others. At night there was nothing to do but think. As soon as dusk fell I dropped my defenses. When my sisters fell asleep at last, I would often get up and just sit. I often wondered why Hassan II had imposed this long-drawn-out death instead of killing us right away. Our disappearance would have made matters much simpler. I thought about my father, too. Each time I pictured him I imagined the moment of his execution. That terrible moment when he realized that he was going to be killed like a dog. I swung between humiliation, pain, and rage.

And each of my birthdays was like a dagger piercing my heart. At the age of 33 I became resigned. I would never experience a great love, I would never have my own family, no man would ever take me in his arms and whisper sweet nothings or words of burning passion in my ear; I would never know the physical and mental thrill of being in love. Instead I was condemned to wither like a wrinkled fruit. At night I dreamed I was making love, but I learned not to think about it. I could not burden myself with these little troubles when I had so many others. I tried to remain in control of my body, to suppress everything to do with desire, hunger, cold, and thirst.

Despite her courage and dignity, Mother was still very naive. She firmly believed that we would be pardoned on March 3, 1986, for Throne Day, the anniversary of the king's ascension to the throne. Yet the day came and nothing happened. The next morning, however, it seemed she might be right. At about 8:30 the guards unlocked all our doors and shoved us outside.

We staggered, squinting at the light. We were thrilled to see each other, but we looked like walking corpses-gaunt and pale, with dark rings around our eyes, bloodless lips, and bodies bloated from malnourishment. Mother didn't even recognize her little girls. She had last seen Soukaina and Maria when they were 14 and 15 years old. Now they were young women of 22 and just 24. Raouf was a man, resembling my father in build. Abdellatif was a youth of 17. Mother was as beautiful as ever, but the hardship and grief had taken a terrible toll. Achoura and Halima had gray faces and hair, the color of ash.

We were overjoyed, yet we found ourselves torn between the natural urge to touch each other and kiss and the determination not to show our tormentors how cruelly we had missed this contact. So we restrained ourselves. Astonished, Borro encouraged us to approach one another, then told us that, in celebration of Throne Day, from then on we would be allowed to be together from 8:30 in the morning until 8 at night. We were being granted this concession after 14 years in prison.

At first the elation of being reunited eclipsed the grimness of our situation. Mother gazed at us for hours. She never tired of looking at us, but it must have been torture for her to see us so emaciated, so starved. Nevertheless we had decided to relish every joyous moment of being together again. To entertain ourselves we organized circus shows. Raouf would crack a pretend whip, and Mimi, the elephant, would make her entrance. She was painfully thin. When Raouf cracked his whip a second time, Mimi had to raise her legs in the air. We shrieked with laughter. We never tired of joking, touching each other, and embracing.

These relatively happy times lasted until the early signs of winter. Then one day, without any explanation, the guards split us up again. The next morning they told Mother that we would be locked up 24 hours a day as before.

She immediately went on a hunger strike in protest. The others, except for me, followed suit. My body cannot tolerate fasting, so I merely ate as little as possible. For 45 days we starved ourselves. Soukaina even tried going without water but after a day became too ill. We were nothing but skin and bone and yet nothing happened. Nobody cared.

Then, sometime during the sixth week of fasting, Raouf overheard two guards talking outside his cell. "This situation has ruined my life," one said. "I'm ashamed to look my family in the eyes. I am haunted by what we are doing. Murdering children is beyond me. I can't carry on. What do they want?"

"Don't you understand?" replied the other guard. "They are going to die. All of them. And they will be buried here. We'll just wait as long as we have to. Those are our orders." Raouf reported this conversation to us through the walls. Everyone was terribly feeble. We all longed for death. Yet the words hit us like an electric shock. At some level we had believed our release was coming, that the king could not punish us forever. Now we knew we were simply expected to disappear. It was then that our will to live became overpowering. We resolved to escape.

The first task was to decide where to dig. After endless discussion we decided to start from the cell I shared with my sisters. One of the rooms was too cold to live or sleep in, so we had ended up using it as a place to put all our old suitcases. The advantages to this site were that it was unused during the day and that the floor's stone slabs were in good condition. This would make them much easier to maneuver. We would obviously have to work at night, preferably during the hours when the generator was running in order not to be heard.

On January 27,1987-directly after one of our triweekly searches-Maria, Soukaina, and I pried up the first stone slab with a spoon, a knife handle, the lid of a sardine tin, and an iron bar from one of our beds. In two hours we had pried up eight more.

For the next two weeks we did nothing but practice removing and replacing these slabs so that any sign they had been touched would be undetectable. Meanwhile, Mother, Abdellatif, Raouf, Halima, and Achoura worked on creating passages between all the cells. This was probably the most dangerous part of the plan, but it was crucial for two reasons. First, to escape, the others would all have to get from their cells to ours. Second, as we were soon to learn, we would need their help as we dug. We found that by removing stones from the walls under our beds we were able to create spaces large enough to squeeze through. We were always scrupulous about closing the holes up each morning.

Finally my sisters and I started digging in earnest. Raouf had studied some engineering in grade school and explained to me the various levels of soil I would find. When I reached clay I was to start digging horizontally. Then, we estimated, it would take 16 feet to clear the outside edge of the cell's wall. We worked like robots. Down in the hole I'd fill an empty one-gallon oil can with earth, which my sisters would then haul up from above. Mimi would add water to the dirt, making it more dense, and she would hand it through the wall to my mother. Mother would sew balls of the dirt up in old, unused clothes and send them back through the wall. We would store these bundles in our tunnel to keep it from sounding hollow during searches.

Demolishing and digging was easy. The hard part was reconstruction, which could take hours. First we returned the bagged dirt to the hole. Then we spread a layer of red dirt on top and replaced the stone slabs. To finish off, we filled the cracks with a fake plaster made of detergent and flour we had saved from our rations. Once everything had dried I would sweep it up.

We had some terrible scares. During the searches we would stay in our beds without budging, pretending to be ill. The guards carried out a painstaking inspection, even in the little room where the tunnel was. They shone their torches into corners, looking everywhere-under the beds, at the ceiling, in the cavities. They tapped the floor with their feet, listening for a different sound, the faintest echo. It is a miracle, but they never set foot on the slabs we were digging under.

By April 18 I had tunneled down and out the agreed distance, and I stopped digging. I had no nails left, my skin was covered with eczema, and my fingers were bleeding sores. We had all agreed that the escape should be in December, on a moonless winter night when the guards-who were sensitive to the cold, like all Moroccans-would be ensconced in the snuggest corner of their watchtowers, their faces muffled by warm hoods. So we sealed the tunnel one last time. Two weeks before the escape we would finish digging up the few feet to the surface. Before that it would be too risky.

During the days when we were digging we held countless family consultations to decide who would go, and what to do once outside. Raouf wanted to go alone-he was so afraid for us all-but it was obvious that I would go with him. Maria had declared outright that if we didn't take her she would kill herself. We would also take Abdellatif, who had seen nothing of life, who had no past bearings-he needed to be part of this adventure. Mother wanted to come, but she was physically unable to do so. Her body was bloated, like the rest of ours, and she couldn't even squeeze through the hole between our cell and hers. Only Abdellatif could wriggle through. We couldn't enlarge it for fear of breaking the tiles supporting the wall. Soukaina too agreed to stay behind-a demonstration of her courage and generosity, as we needed her to seal up the tunnel after we left. Mimi was simply too weak to do it. For the same reason it was impossible for her to leave.

Once we got out, our goal was the French embassy, where we intended to request political asylum. We tried to anticipate every possible setback. On the morning of our escape Mother was to waylay the guards as long as possible, to stop them from raising the alarm immediately. In case we were captured, she planned to cause an explosion with the little butane stove Achoura and Halima had in their cell for cooking. We even started saving pepper to fend off any stray dogs.

On Sunday, April 19, 1987, the day after we closed the tunnel, I was sitting on the floor of the cell, my head leaning against a wall. We could hear birds chirping outside the walls. Nature, like us, was awakening from a long sleep. We felt strangely well, despite the prospect of several months' wait. We had emerged from the tomb. At last we had reason to hope. Mimi lay in bed, the other two were cuddling up to me, and we were chatting lightheartedly. Then I heard my mother calling to me. "Listen, Malika," she whispered, "I overheard them. They have been given orders to build a lookout post and a watchtower on the roof of the tunnel cell. The lookout post will be exactly in line with the exit, and there'll be floodlights." "What will we do?"

"There is no choice," she said. "They will have finished in 48 hours. You must dig the escape shaft straightaway and leave tonight."

I had any number of objections. Dig out in a few hours? It wasn't possible. We expected it to take a week.

But she wouldn't listen. "It's that or nothing," she repeated. "If you don't leave tonight, you will never get out. Tell Raouf."

Raouf agreed with my mother-we had no choice.

I started digging around midday, working furiously. The spoon wasn't enough. If I could have ripped out the earth with my teeth I would have. I dug, I scooped out the earth, I no longer thought, I no longer existed, I had become a machine. Digging, scooping, digging, scooping… At one point I came across some deeply rooted ivy. I pulled with all my strength. For hours I battled, digging upward against those roots, straining to pull them out.

And suddenly my field of vision turned blue. I had broken through.

It was the late afternoon sky, swept by a warm spring breeze that gently caressed my cheek. I stood stock-still for a while, just clutching the ivy and looking out with one eye. Weeping, I poked my head through. It was too beautiful. I was afraid of what I could see. Freedom was so close that it frightened me. I rushed back up to tell the others. We were almost there.

At nightfall it was time to say goodbye. Mother was distraught, wondering whether she really ought to let us go. It was the only time I saw her waver. "I'm entrusting my flesh and blood to you," she said to me. "I know that you are also their mother. Promise me you'll bring them back alive." Soukaina shivered. Her teeth were chattering and her eyes were shining, but she didn't shed a tear. She carried an enormous responsibility. She had to cover all our tracks to delay the guards' discovery of our escape for as long as possible. Mimi tenderly clasped me to her and whispered in my ear, "I'm sure you'll make it."

We dressed in silence, picked up our bundles, and one by one lowered ourselves down into the tunnel. Abdellatif and Maria got through the exit without any difficulty. Raouf made the earth shudder. We held our breath, but he managed to push through and free himself without any damage. When it was my turn I managed to get my upper body through the exit hole, but my hips became wedged. I couldn't go any further. I was stuck. My bloated, malnourished body was much too wide for the narrow opening.

Raouf encouraged me, whispering gently to calm me down, but I couldn't. I was unable to budge. I strained, I cried, I was drenched in perspiration. Then I heard Soukaina behind me. "Malika, come back," she said. "You're making too much noise, they'll hear you."

If I persisted I might get us all caught. But once again I summoned all my strength. It was like a second birth. At last I pulled myself from the tunnel. I'd scraped off all the skin on my thighs, but at the time I didn't even notice.

We had been living in the shadows for so long that our eyes had grown accustomed to the dark, and we gazed out at our surroundings without any sense of fear. On the contrary, we were exhilarated. There was no sign of life from the guards' quarters, and we began to crawl across a damp field.

Suddenly we heard the barking of stray dogs. They were racing, making straight for us-aggressive, starving, and more ferocious than watchdogs. There must have been about 10 of them, bounding through the dark behind the leader of the pack. They were getting closer and closer. We could feel their panting breath. Once again we huddled together for protection. Their leader came forward baring his fangs, growled, and looked poised to attack. We froze and held our breath, waiting for a miracle. Which, improbable as it seemed, is what we were granted. The dog gave an unfathomable whine, and he and his pack slunk away.

But the reprieve did not last long. Alerted by the dogs, the guards turned their torches and floodlights onto the field. We froze again, praying that we would melt into the shadows. Certain of discovery this time, we waited there shivering for their shots to ring out. We could hear the guards exchange a few words. At last the lights went off. We crouched there, unable to move for what felt like hours; then we set off again.

We found ourselves in a field of beans, closer to the barracks side. We needed a short rest, so we rolled over onto our backs and looked at the camp facing us for the first time. It was a grim sight. So this was the place where we had spent 10 years of our lives, where we had lost our best years, our hopes, our illusions, our health, and our youth. I looked over at Abdellatif. For the first time in ages I realized just what a terrible state he was in. He had been incarcerated since the age of three and a half. Now he was 18, and it was as though he had never been outside in his life. My sister Maria weighed barely 66 pounds. Her huge dark eyes devoured her tiny, gaunt face. Raouf was as thin as she was but bloated from water retention. He was pale and toothless.

Nearly 15 years had gone by, 15 years of torture that had scarred us terribly. But when I studied the three of them closely I would catch an expression, mannerism, or smile that reminded me of the children they had once been.

Locked up inside, we had tried to forget where we were. But now, in that field, contemplating the place where we had suffered so much, the reality suddenly came home to us. I couldn't stop myself from sobbing. I wept even more when I thought of those we had left behind. I was so afraid for them. My heart contracted and a shudder ran through me. I heard the others crying softly; they all felt the same way.

After a while we got up and resumed walking. In the pitch dark, with no landmarks and no signposts, we realized that we were going around in circles. It was as distressing as being lost at sea or in the desert. There was nothing to give us any clue where the road was, and none of us had a good sense of direction. Mother had taught me to read the stars, but I must have been a very bad student. Despairing, I asked Abdellatif to guide us. "We are adults," I said to him. "We may have committed sins, but not you. You are so pure. If there is a God, he'll take pity on you. You will lead us to freedom." We followed him without a word. Our bodies were aching and our clothes were soaked through, but we had to keep going. "Malika," Abdellatif called finally. "Come and see. There's something hard. I don't know what it is."

I ran up to him. My younger brother didn't know what asphalt was. The others joined us, rolling and kissing the pavement. We were like astronauts, venturing their first steps on the moon.

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Reading Group Guide

"The days dragged on interminably. Our main enemy was time. We saw it, we felt it, it was tangible, monstrous, threatening. The hardest thing was to master it. During the day, all it took was a gentle breeze wafting in through the window to remind us that we were prisoners.
In the summer, dusk brought back memories of the sweetness of the old days, the end of a day at the beach, time for an apéritif, the laughter of friends, the smell of the sea, the tang of salt on my bronzed skin. I relived the little I had experienced."

An Introduction to Stolen Lives
The eldest daughter of General Oufkir, the King of Morocco's closest aide, Malika Oufkir was adopted by the king at age of five as a companion for his daughter. She spent most of her childhood and adolescence within the gilded walls of the palace, living an extraordinarily privileged yet secluded life.

Her world was shattered on August 16, 1972, when her father was executed for his part in an attempt to assassinate the King. Along with her mother and five siblings, Malika, then nineteen, was imprisoned in a penal colony. The Oufkir family spent the next fifteen years in prison, the last ten in solitary confinement, until they managed to dig a tunnel and escape. Their freedom ended five days later, however, when they were captured and returned to prison. In 1996, after twenty-four years of incarceration, the Oufkir family was finally granted permission to leave Morocco.
In Stolen Lives, Malika recounts her family's story with unflinching and heartrending honesty. She recalls their day-to-day struggle for survival in harsh conditions, being watched around the clock by prison guards, and communicating with her family solely through prison walls for more than a decade. She tells of raising her brothers and sisters, teaching them good manners and attempting to provide them with some semblance of a normal life. They celebrated Christmas and birthdays, saving up rations to make cakes and fashioning toys out of cardboard. Through it all, Malika managed to draw upon her sense of humor, which, she says, "allowed us to survive even-and most of all-at the worst moments."
In the Preface to Stolen Lives, co-author Michèle Fitoussi recalls that, upon first meeting Malika, she asked herself, "How can anyone appear normal after such suffering? How can they live, laugh, love, how can they go on when they lost the best years of their life as a result of injustice?" The answers are found in this poignant and inspiring account of a family who endured with courage, determination, and dignity the cruel and unjust circumstances fate had in store for them.

Discussion Questions
1. Malika, whose name means "Queen," considered herself a princess, although she wasn't one by birth. The world view she has in the beginning of the book obviously changes drastically as the story progresses. At what moment does her romantic vision of her life begin to break down?

2. Adopted at the age of five by the King of Morocco, Malika came to regard him as a father figure. How does she reconcile the fact that this man who had taken her into his home is eventually responsible for the death of her father and the imprisonment of her family? What are her feelings towards her father? Does she blame him for her family's ordeal?
3. The Oufkir family is forced to suffer many indignities and hardships in prison. Did these details give you a specific sense of what it is like to be in prison or did you, as the reader, still feel separated from their experiences?

4. Malika and her family strive to keep some normalcy in their lives by celebrating birthdays and other special holidays while imprisoned. It is as though they were opting to create the best possible world for themselves instead of just opting for survival. What do we learn about them from these actions? What heroine from world literature does Malika most remind you of?
5. Malika created The Story to entertain her family and to occupy their minds, fabricating the tale of a Russian prince to which she added new chapters each night for ten years. What did The Story come to mean to the family? Why was it so important to them?

6. Malika wanted to grow up to be a film actress. What elements of her story seem the most cinematic, the ones that would translate the best to the big screen? Do you think that her desire to be an actress actually helped her through this ordeal?

7. What part of the Oufkir family's story did you find the most harrowing? The most uplifting?

8. Do you consider this book to be a memoir, an autobiography or a political story? Discuss what you learned about Morocco and the politics of the country.
9. How does the relationship between Malika and her family change as their years in prison progress? How do they manage to help one another even when, for more than a decade, they are confined to solitary cells?

10. What thoughts and feelings did you come away with after reading this book?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 92 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(63)

4 Star

(16)

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(10)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 92 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2012

    recomended

    Too much Emotion


    Stolen Lives, by Malika Oufkir, tells a great story of suffering through hardships. Malika is imprisoned for 20 years with her family in a desert jail. She attempts to remain strong because she acts like a role model for her family. Malika tries to stay strong on the outside, but in reality, she is doing all of this for herself. She writes as though she is the strongest in the family in an almost arrogant type of way. She just wants to believe that she is the one that led them to freedom and gets them through hardships.

    The author uses the real emotions that she goes through to write this memoir. It feels as though she is pulling all of her feeling right out of her and putting them on the paper. It is very inspirational when you hear how she feels. You can really tell that she forgets about pain and helps lift her family out of imprisonment. After reading, I have a sense of hope, I know that I can't always give up at the first sign of trouble. Knowing that no matter what life throws at me, I will be able to overcome it. Malika writes about fear and hope using these emotions to express everything she wants to say.

    I really enjoy how this book was written. Malika makes it very clear with her feelings on how she feels. Malika didn't reach her goal. She told mostly about her feelings, but she left out details about the main plot. I don't feel like she got her full story across, she does make it interesting when she shows so much feeling. She mostly wants to show the world about the injustice that is this story. But apart from the emotions that takes place in this story, it feels as though we were clueless as what was happening. She focuses on emotions which is great, but I think she needs to find a balance between how she is feeling and actually telling her story. In the end, we knew how she feels, but we should know more about what was going on in the outside.

    Compared to others, this book exceeds them on the subject. Sometimes, in other memoirs like this, you don't get a sense on how they were feeling. They usually more focus on what is happening than what they are feeling. It ties emotions to the book in a whole new way. I really feel the same way that Malika describes. She also makes it so we had a strong idea of the theme. She does a fantastic job on making us believe that everything will always be okay as long as you never gives up hope. But on the other hand, you sometimes never know what is going on in the plot. It is like she is leaving out some important details. On some occasions she states that the guards pays no attention to them and are barley noticeable. But on other occasions, she describes the guards searching them and being very intrusive on all the minute details of their lives. There were times like these that were contradicting. These things make it irritating throughout the book. But overall, I think that her memoir is pretty good.

    Having read this book, I really feels that I knew what hope was. She writes with such strong emotion and sense of hope and believing in yourself. I recommend this book, and I would give it a B-. This is a good book and it is great in the category of suffering through hardships. If she could have just put in more details about the plot. Sometimes, too much emotion will actually start to take away from the memoir.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2002

    Amazing Book

    I believe it is one of the greatest books I ever read. I still remember what they went through, after three years. I couldn't believe the horror and cruelty they felt, and knowing it was a true story, it was more difficult to realise the growth of pain.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2014

    Stolen Lives was a hard book to understand in the beginning and

    Stolen Lives was a hard book to understand in the beginning and throughout the middle. Sometimes the author didn’t give specific names and details which made it difficult for me to understand what was going on. The book was hard for me to get into at first but it slowly got more and more interesting. I liked how the book was told from Malika’s perspective but it also gave some insight on the other characters. In some parts of the book, Malika would explain how some of her siblings were coping with being imprisoned. I also liked how the author included imagery in her writing. Malika gave details about where her and her family was staying and how they were living.
    I would recommend Stolen Lives to anyone around my age and older because you don’t need to be interested in history to understand this book and be able to read it. It isn’t a slow or fast read but it has some harder words. Stolen Lives is actually quite interesting when Malika Oufkir starts to talk about her and her family’s imprisonment. Coming from someone like me who doesn’t prefer reading history books, it is a fascinating read!
    I would recommend Stolen Lives to certain high school students, but not any student. I would recommend this book to a student who needs to read a book for a history report like me, or a student who is interested in reading history related books. I say this because it is not a book I recommend if someone was looking for a book to read just for fun. I think adults would be able to understand Stolen Lives quicker and find it more interesting than people my age. Although, I do believe it was a good book to read for my history report.
    I am glad I chose to read Stolen Lives because I learned a few things from it. I really admire the author for telling her story through this book. I think it’s very neat to read about a true story, especially when it didn’t happen too long ago and they are still alive.

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  • Posted May 26, 2012

    This is one truly emotional & awesome book to read. What thi

    This is one truly emotional & awesome book to read. What this family went through, I don't wish on anyone else. This is one story you'll want to read over & over. You'll be able to feel her pain, the nightmares they lived through, etc. If you buy it, I do hope you like it. Me, I LOVE it.

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  • Posted January 29, 2012

    Palaces to Prisons

    In the early 1970s, a mother and her children were forced to live as prisoners in the deserts of Morocco for the crimes of her husband against the king. It is for the next twenty years that they spend their lives as prisoners. Over this time the family learns of the extent of human cruelty and of the tendency for the rest of the world to just ignore it. This is the basic plot of the story that Malika Oufkir, the eldest daughter of the mother, tells of a very hard time in her life recorded in the book Stolen Lives by Michèle Fitoussi. Through telling her memoir, it is my belief that Malika is trying to open the eyes of her reader to the cruelty and suffering that is still occurring in our world. I believe she wants her readers to stop ignoring this suffering and start acting against it.

    For the most part this book was very well put together, however I did have a few issues with it every now and then. The clarity of the writing would be one of these issues. For most of the book I could easily understand what was going on but there were a few occasions when the family was in prison that I got confused as to how certain things were happening. I think this was a either a result of a slight lack of description of the prison or the book being translated. Small problems such as this one didn’t affect the Malika’s ability to get her point across though. Instead, she was able to use the experiences she and her family went through to create a very persuasive and inspiring work. It makes the reader feel the pain the Oufkirs went through and makes them angry about what happened. This anger creates a want in the reader to do something about this cruelty, fulfilling Malika’s goal.

    Now obviously I have no personal experience on suffering in a prison for twenty years but I have read many books involving human suffering. Compared to theses books, I’ve noticed a few similarities and differences which both contribute and hurt the book. In this book Malika includes a lot about her life prior to the time she spent in prison. Usually books similar to this one include very little about this topic, but in this case much of the first half of the book was based on it. This was important to the story because of the fact Malika lived in the royal palace with the king before she went to prison. However, I would have still liked to see the book focused a little less on this topic. Malika also includes how her family’s experience has affected them in the long run. Most books I’ve read like this one just end as soon as the main character’s experience of suffering is over, but in this book Malika goes on to tell us what her family is like today. This strengthens her message by showing the long-term effects of their suffering. One last thing I was very happy to see was Malika helped the author write the book. I find it crucial for someone who experienced the event to be involved in the writing of the book about it. I think it just makes it more believable and meaningful. Luckily Michèle made the right choice and chose to involve Malika in the writing of her book.

    Due to the fact that Malika was the one experiencing the traumatic event of human cruelty she describes in Stolen Lives, she is able to use her experiences to easily voice her opinion to her readers. This ability along with the incredibleness of her story allowed her to create both a very interesting and informative book. Because of this, I give this book an –A and recommend it to all mature

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  • Posted October 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    True or Not??

    This book was not well written. Maybe it was the translation but it really bugs me when words are misspelled or it doesnt even make sense. I'm also caught between this book either not being true or her holding back as to not shame family or goverment intervention. Alot of things bugged me in this book. While in prison she knew where her grandfather lived but when she escaped she didnt??? Claiming her father was a good man but has murdered people??? Just alot of things didnt add up as other reviewers has mentioned.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2010

    Incredible

    Malika Oufkir started out with a fairy tail life, but things changed for her drastically when she was nineteen years old. After her father tried killing the king of morocco and failed, he was executed and her family was put into a secret prison for 20 years. Finally in 1991, her family found freedom, escaping to France. This book really teaches the reader a lot about hope, and finding the good in things in terrible times. Malika and her six siblings were imprisoned when they are young adults and young children, and they never gave up on life. Malika's mother took great care of her children while they were all in jail, and she taught them to never give up and to always have hope. I really like this book, because it taught me a lot, made me think, and made me be appreciative. After reading this book I can look into my own life and find good in even the little things. It makes me realize there is more to life than what is going on in my own little world. The world is huge and I only live in a tiny part of it. The situation that Malika and her family go through made me think about different countries and how they lack the freedom I, as an American, take for granted. It made me think about the different forms of government and that ours isn't the only one out there. Most of all, after reading this book, I have become way more appreciative of the things I have in my life. School is something that I often take for granted, not wanting to get up in the morning and go work on schoolwork, but I now realize that going to school is a freedom that many people around the world simply don't have. As an American teenager it's pretty common to always want more, and I can't say that I have completely changed and will always be content, but I have learned to be less selfish and realized I don't need everything I think I do. Stolen Lives has changed the way I look at my own life and also the world around me. The only thing I disliked about this book is knowing that it is a true story, and that a family really had to endure the trials that the Oufkir family had to go through. I definitely recommend this book for readers in high school especially. It really puts the reader's life in perspective, and helps them to learn about other parts of the world.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Astounding

    This book is one of the best books I have ever read. The things that happen to her and her family are so horrible and unimaginable they almsot don't seem real. I cannot imagine them actually happening and it is heartbreaking that they did.

    I loved this book and definately recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2009

    Stolen Lives

    Reading Stolen Lives, my eyes opened up to something that I would never of imagined possible and how cruel and heartless people can actually be. Seeing through Malika¿s eyes how growing up in the sheltered world of the palace then finally experiencing life and being free for only a couple of years, and then in an instant having everything being taken away from you for an unjust reason. When the Oufkir family was in prison, you would imagine that they would at least be treated like humans because they are and because it wasn¿t them who tried to kill the King. Instead of that, they where treated like dirt and as if they were the source of every ones problems in the world. But the incredible thing about their unfortunate imprisonment is their amazing spirit and their optimism even in the worst of times. Malika said she believed that it was the story she would constantly tell that kept them so close and alive. Because of everything I learned and gained from this book, I would defiantly recommend this book to anyone with a loving heart and some one who wants read a touching, heartfelt, true story that is absolutely unbelievable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2008

    Powerful indignation! Read this.

    Thankfully we live this story only vicariously through the well written words of one translator. The painful suffering of an innocent family, no doubt, evokes the festering madness in our imagination with the turn of every page, but to read of suffering children really got to me. A powerful story with ample emotion. Perhaps this read should be the prescription for those who claim boredom. ...or those who take feedom for granted, or today's youth who think crime is the only way. Read this book, think twice about how fortunate most of us really are.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2008

    A reviewer

    This book was easy reading! It is quite an incredible story and I have reccommended it to many. You will count your blessings when you finish reading this one!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2007

    Wonderful

    I read this book and could not put it down!!! Wonderful reading. My emotions became so tangled when reading the book. I often found myself sad, hopeful, and excited. Great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2007

    This Is a Book That Changed my Outlook on Life

    This stunning memoir is about a woman called Malika Oufkir and her family who were part of the Moroccan elite and in the 1970's were punished for their father's crime of participating in a coup. This was done to them, however, in spite of them having absolutely no knowledge of their father's plans. Their father was killed and her, her mother and all of her sisters and brothers were imprisoned in nightmarish desert jails for most of their adult lives. They were starved, abused, and forgotten. This lack of food plays a particularly prominent part in their story, as there are many parts of the book Malika shares where the whole family had the most basic neccessities witheld from them, and out of desperation would be forced to pluck and eat wild dandelion weeds growing up out of the ground or the rat droppings strewn around their cell. This was especially tough for me to read for their intense suffering seemed so wildly unfair and unjust. What could possibly excuse the suffering of children? Throughout what would seem like insurmountable odds, however, the family kept their sanity, love, and devotion to each other intact. The Oufkir family, in my opinion, are the TRUE definition of heroes, in a world where that word is applied all too lightly. There are very few books that have the capability to change the reader's outlook on life and their fellow man, and Oufkir's outstanding autobiography is surely at the top of that golden list. A solid 5 stars!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    Death in the Form of Life

    Punished, starved, isolated and lifeless for 2 decades. In the memoir Stolen Lives, Malikia Oufkir is presented as a complex character who struggles with her family as their lives are stolen by the Moroccan Monarch and placed into a desert jail where the Oufkir family suffers from physical torture and the mental torture of moving from high class palace live to isolated jail cell far from their world. Growing up Malikia was a spoiled brat she was adopted by King Muhammad V at age 5 and grew up with his daughter, and was just as privileged as the princess. As she grew older, she missed her family immensely and returned home only to be just as spoiled, ¿My life was an endless round of parties and balls, with guest straight out of the society gossip columns¿ (Oufkir 75). Her father, General Oufkir who was a very powerful political figure, provided her lifestyle back at home. Malikia took her upper class life extremely for granted, she recalls, ¿I took everything for granted, money, luxury, power, royalty and subservience¿ (Oufkir 75). Not only did she take the material items for granted she also had an ignorant outlook on her family¿s love for her. Upon her adoption she pondered,¿Did my mother cry till dawn, as I did? Did she open the door to my room from time to time, did she sniff my clothes, did she sit on my bed, did she miss me?¿ (Oufkir 20). Throughout the book it is obvious that Malikia is loved by the mass majority of people that she meets. The concept of acceptance and love for Malikia appears as a challenge that affects Malikia in many ways. After the murder of her father, Malikia is torn between the love she once and thought she would always have for her adopted family and the question of because he was the man that sought out to kill her biological father for political reasons, had that love turned to hate? This is a thought that almost haunts Malikia to her core. This thought only stabs at her heart more after her and her family are sent of to a desert prison for 20 years. ¿This was a county that locked up children for their father¿s crimes. We were entering a world of insanity¿ (Oufkir 103). A world of insanity was right. Lack of noise, lack of time, lack of life. This took its toll on the Oufkir family, but it was only the beginning. It took a toll so much on the family that the youngest boy, Abdellatif who was only 8 years old and had experienced the least of life. Mentally the Oukir¿s were bored and helpless being tortured for someone else¿s crime. However, the torture physically was unbearable and in some causes potentially deadly. ¿We could all have died twenty times over¿ (Oufkir 159). The prison harbored rats the Oufkirs feared and loathed, they would have to hide and battle their food for. At night the rats would run over them and search for crumbs. Fleas were also present in the desert prison.For twenty years the Oufkirs were forced to put up with such appalling conditions. This book teaches not to take your everyday life and shows you the true value of family, friendship and loyalty. I highly recommend this book to almost anybody. Reading this book is one of the smartest things to do in this day and age because we are such a materialistic society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2007

    A reviewer

    I hate to say it, but reading this book was like reading a sappy and very poorly written drama. The subject matter is fascinating, but I felt that the terrible writing really took away from this book. Very amateurish writing, very disappointing....it seems these days that anyone can get away with writing a book and get great reviews if the subject is politically correct enough.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2007

    MUST READ

    This book was GREAT. It kept my attention and was very educational. The story was sad, exciting, and heart-warming. i would recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2005

    Wonderful

    From the title I resisted this read. Once started I couldn't stop. While tragic it was amazing how this family could keep sane and unified. It was also interesting to read the first 1/3 of the book dealing with how a princess lives.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2006

    A Must Read!

    This book was absolutely fabulous. It kept my attention and was very educational. The story was sad, exciting, heart- warming and a glance at a tight family bond. Definately a MUST READ!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2005

    Sad and very touching but very informative.

    I love this book. It was very touching to read and see what some women go through in other countries. I read it in three days as I could not put it down once I started reading it. I love true stories and this is one that really captivated my mind and my heart. It can make one mad to see that those kings/princes can do what ever they please with a woman or a family in this case and that there is no one to defend them. Before I read this book I had no idea of how a life in a Morroccan castle would be. I did not realize of the number of concubines a king might possess and that they can get such beatings. Disgusting. However, I admire and respect Malika for her faith and strength. She deserves an A + for writing this very informative book. Here you read about the inner feelings of this grown up, mature woman who is still a little girl at heart sometimes. This books opens our eyes to see how those governments treat women. Imagine being a concubine all of your life and when your king dies or when you're no longer needed, as in the case of the two Turkish women mentioned in her book, they just discard of you like a piece of junk. It surely made me very happy that I live in the United States and makes me appreciate my freedom even more. Too bad that King Hasan II never paid for the injustice he did to Malika and her family. I would recommend this book to anyone, by all means. Thank you Malika for the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2005

    Geat book a must read

    I really enjoy reading this book it was so good that I finished it in a week. This book will make you mad sad and also be glad that you where born in a great country America

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