Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri

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Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri (1908–1962) was a prominent member of the royal court of Morocco during the protectorate period. His name was also transliterated as Si Hamed Ben Baxir Escuri or Escurri, Sidi Ahmed Bel Bashir Haskouri, Ahmer Ben Bazir Hasqouri, Ahamad Benbachir Scouri, Sid Ahmed Ben El Bachil Scuri, and Ahmad Ben Bachir El Hascori.

After independence in 1956, he aided the administrative merger of the two previously separated zones.[citation needed] He then became a Moroccan diplomat, appointed by the palace rather than the Foreign Ministry, to the United Kingdom,[1][2] where he worked for Algerian independence.[citation needed]. Belbachir is known as a philanthropist, according to the Moroccan writer and historian, Mohammed Raissouni.[2]


Ben Azouz, the first prime minister[citation needed] of Spanish Morocco around 1912, was the most powerful Moroccan in Spanish Morocco at the time and was also known to be a nationalist[citation needed]. Since Belbachir's father was previously a military governor in charge of royal protocol in Marrakesh during pre-colonial times, Ben Azouz, a native of Marrakesh, was able to befriend him.[clarification needed]

Structure of the protectorate[edit]

Spanish and French Morocco were protectorates rather than colonies.

The relationship between French and Spanish Morocco was an agglutinative one as per the Algeciras Conference. This conference that took place shortly before 1912, the year of occupation, stated that Spain and France shall divide Morocco and that the former occupier shall leave whenever the latter occupier does so. The Concise Encyclopedia of Arabic Civilization states that the sultan appointed as representative a viceroy holding, by delegation, sovereign power.[3] Ferro's article in Le Monde newspaper states that even though the sultan was technically Morocco's sovereign, the Spaniards, for the most part, increasingly treated the khalifa (viceroy), representative of the sultan in Spanish Morocco, as an independent entity.[4][unreliable source?] Abramovici's article in the French newspaper called L’illustre, supports Ferro's statement about the khalifa's autonomy, but further defines the khalifa's position by stating that he had his own flag, decoration and hymn and that he was referred to by the public as “Sidna” (Sire).[5][unreliable source?] A Spanish newspaper called La Offensiva, complements both Ferro and Abramovici by stating that the khalifa had his own throne.[6][unreliable source?]

The Spaniards treated the khalifa as a head of state in many different situations. For example, when Marshal Philippe Pétain was ambassador to Spain, he made it a point to visit the khalifa. During other visits in Spain, the khalifa would sit in the same car with General Francisco Franco as the car paraded the streets in Madrid. In sum, to make it clear to the world that the Spaniards viewed the khalifa as a head of state, the Spanish government awarded him the necklace of the order of Carlos III, an award that can only be bestowed upon heads of states by the Spanish monarch.

Rise to power[edit]

Belbachir made sure that such khalifal power maintained its sovereignty by enforcing and enlivening it[citation needed]. As time went by, the Spanish authorities came to the realization that the dialogue was strictly with Belbachir[citation needed]. After much political discussion with the Spanish authorities, Belbachir acquired enough leeway to act on his own initiative under certain circumstances[citation needed]. At one point, Belbachir chose to decorate Mustafa el-Nahhas, the First Secretary General of the Arab League, in the name of the khalifa[citation needed]. Furthermore, Dr. Shuqairi, the undersecretary of the Arab League, personally visited Belbachir in Tetuan to further reinforce Spanish Morocco's position in the Arab League.[7][8] Belbachir also awarded a medal to Shuqairi in the name of the khalifa[citation needed]. This gave Spanish Morocco (in the name of the khalifa) certain credibility in the eyes of the Arab World.[clarification needed]

To maintain solidarity in the name of the khalifa with French Morocco, Belbachir saw to it that the foreign policy was always balanced by keeping the sultan in French Morocco aware[citation needed]. This was primarily maintained by keeping Ahmed Ben Masoud, the sultan's private secretary, posted.[citation needed] For the most part the sultan had no serious grievances, given the delegated powers bestowed upon the khalifa. There was only one exception to the rule when the sultan sent Belbachir several messages insisting that the khalifa should not wear an Ottoman outfit, a perceived symbol of a “western” imperial power, especially when foreign dignitaries were present[citation needed].

An inherited "colonial" problem[edit]

In essence, Belbachir entered this political scene after the khalifa's position was fully defined, but it was not enforced at the time that the Spanish protectorate came into existence[citation needed]. He entered this political scene after the occupation was already in place for almost twenty years. Belbachir's tenure was during the second khalifate, a period that starts two years after the death of the first khalifa in 1923 in Spanish Morocco.[9] During the period from 1923 to 1925, a regent was playing the role of the khalifa. Upon the recommendation of a few potentates such as Ben Azouz, the second son of the first khalifa seized the throne.

Absence in major Moroccan and world history books[edit]

In 1949, Ben Brahim posed the "big" question about who was behind the major and increasingly ceremonial activities from way back that culminated with one that was tantamount to One Thousand and One Nights that occurred in Spanish Morocco[citation needed]. As implied by Ben Brahim, this politician's political biography cannot be found anywhere because Spanish/Moroccan history has not mentioned Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri enough.[clarification needed] Consequently, the world as a whole has known less about him. This understanding holds water partly because Morocco's curricular canon during post-independence was primarily shaped by the dominant elite and secondarily shaped by the political parties. Furthermore, provincialism, coming form the city of Tetuan, the capital of Spanish Morocco and the city where he had no pre-existing roots, has also made a contribution to a greater or lesser degree along those lines insofar as official publications are concerned.[citation needed]

On the other hand, historians during the Spanish government under Franco were unwilling to write about a politician who was a Moroccan nationalist and who was an obstacle to Spanish interests in Northern Africa[citation needed]. However, his name is omnipresent in the Spanish archives about Spanish Morocco that belong to Spain's national libraries[citation needed].

In contrast, some Moroccan historians and writers felt awkward about giving credit to someone who was operating in juxtaposition with the Spanish occupiers, thereby becoming a protectorate authority. This belief is erroneous[citation needed] for Belbachir who was born when the colonizers were already at the doorsteps of Morocco. Furthermore, someone needed to fill this position from the Moroccan side.

Other earlier, but less biased historians[who?] (Moroccan or Spanish) have erroneously thought that, by using the term khalifa, the laity would interpret the achievements to be coming from Belbachir. This thinking was due to the life-time symbiotic existence between the khalifa and Belbachir.[citation needed]

Overarching terms such as the makhzen, government, khalifa and other terms have been used (intentionally or unintentionally) to circumvent giving the politician credit.[10][unreliable source?] By fully analyzing the term khalifa and the marginal role that the person holding this title can be limited to, due to circumstances, one can say that there is nothing incongruous and/or innovative about giving credit to the decision-maker rather than to the one who signs and seals the documents. In fact, the khalifa's seal was in Belbachir's possession[citation needed].

Family and educational background[edit]

Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri was born in Marrakesh, Morocco. Mohammed Daoud tutored both the khalifa and Belbachir in Tetuan's palace where they both grew up.[2] Belbachir was born into an aristocratic family allied to the Alaouite dynasty [2] of Morocco through previous marital alliances and a long-standing high level service to various sheikdoms under the sultans of Morocco. He was equally a direct descendant of the Hafsid dynasty[citation needed] (1229-1574). Eventually, some of the Hafsids settled near Marrakesh in Haskoura (Scoura) and adopted the name “Haskouri”[citation needed] from the area that became their new home. In the course of time, the Haskoura tribe became one of the building blocks as well as one of the dominant tribes in Moroccan tribal history[citation needed].

Having been raised and primarily educated in the palace, Belbachir was partly influenced by the makhzen, the ultimate political power historically and primarily incarnated by the sultan. By extension, this incarnation includes those who are historically close to the sultan and continue to unconditionally support him. This power overrides the governmental power and is geographically headquartered in the central palace. Similarly, having received his secondary education in El Pilar, a Spanish School of the Marianistas order, administered by Spaniards and located in Tetuan, coupled with his higher education in banking and in protocol in Spain, he was partly influenced by Spain’s educational system[citation needed].

Later, he married Lalla Zoubeida Raissouni in 1950. She was a direct grand-daughter of Muley Sadiq Raissouni, a grand mufti of Spanish Morocco and recipient of La Gran Cruz Isabela La Catolica, a medal obtained under Alfonso XIII[citation needed]. Sadiq was also ex-finance minister of the first khalifal government and both cousin and previous “interlocuteur” (political broker) of Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni. Mulai Ahmed was the most adamant rebel against both domestic and foreign powers during pre-colonial and colonial times and was later portrayed as the hero in the American movie called The Wind and the Lion. This alliance politically upgraded Belbachir in northern Morocco.[11][unreliable source?][12][unreliable source?] Consequently, it made the public more receptive to the position of the khalifa, a khalifa who pre-eminently accepted Belbachir’s socio-political ideologies[citation needed].

Political ideologies[edit]

Belbachir was anti-Nazi,[13][unreliable source?] anti-communist [10] and pro-monarchist with progressive views.[9] These political ideologies can be understood in a nutshell via those leaders whom he admired and those leaders who made comments about him[citation needed].

Belbachir's political ideologies can be further understood through future encounters with the Spanish leaders. When Bachir, Belbachir’s oldest son, met Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, son of Alfonso XIII of Spain, in 1979 in the UAE, the count reported that Belbachir was an unsurpassed monarchist[citation needed]. This historical tie was further reinforced and extended when Juan Carlos Bourbon, the current king of Spain, met Bachir again in May 2008 in the UAE and requested that a picture be taken immediately together to highlight the shared monarchical history[citation needed].

Place in Moroccan and world history[edit]

Belbachir was one of the most prominent political figures in Spanish Morocco and was often alluded to as the “Éminence grise” of the caliph of Spanish Morocco as conveyed in 1988 by a Moroccan historian, Abdelmajid Benjelloun.[14] Jean Wolf, a Belgian historian, further supported the term “Éminence grise” in 1994.[15]

He was the intermediary between the Sultan Mohammed V in French Morocco and the caliph of Spanish Morocco.[citation needed] He was also the only negotiator between Franco and the caliph as regularly evidenced by the Spanish newspaper called ABC especially by 1956.[16][unreliable source?] For example, given that Franco’s body guards were virtually all Moroccans, it was incumbent upon Belbachir to pre-screen the potential body guards for the Spanish head of state[citation needed]. Furthermore, Belbachir, at times, intervened to obtain a promotion for some of Franco’s bodyguards[citation needed].

Additionally, he was the[citation needed] politician from Spanish Morocco who could socially and politically communicate, especially during times of crises, with nineteenth-century politicians who were still around in the 1950s. Thami El Glaoui, the Pasha of Marrakesh and the supreme head of the Glaoua tribes at the time, had to pay top-secret visits to Belbachir[citation needed] to maintain balance and unity between the two protectorates. Furthermore, Belbachir was the politician from Spanish Morocco who could socially bond with Muhammad al-Muqri (Mokri)[citation needed], the Grand Vizier of French Morocco at the time.

Similarly, Belbachir is historically known to be in the higher social circles a[citation needed] politician from Spanish Morocco who negotiated, to the satisfaction of all domestic and foreign powers as well as Abd el-Krim's, the last phase of the latter's exile. That came to pass when Belbachir successfully secured permanent residency in Egypt for Abdelkrim by intensively negotiating with king Farouk's palace representatives[citation needed]. He concurrently successfully negotiated with the Arab League to secure a monthly stipend for the same[citation needed].

Belbachir was a politician from Spanish Morocco who could communicate and financially support all the political parties in “colonial times”.[17] He was continuously touching base with the Istiqlal, Reformist (Islah), Unionist (Wahda) and Council (Shura) parties.[17]Belbachir sustained and controlled the Unity party both politically and economically[citation needed]. Ideologically, he empathized with the Council party due to its progressive views[citation needed].

Similarly, Belbachir was the makhzen politician from Spanish Morocco who financially supported the Army of Liberation. He was constantly in touch with all the major rebel militia leaders/coordinators from both the Spanish and French zones. The resistance (armed or unarmed) depended on Belbachir due to the position he held and due to the fact that he was one of the few "millionaires" who were around in the latter part of the occupation. In other words, poverty was ubiquitous and the number of rich people was readily countable[citation needed].

Belbachir is also known to be a Moroccan politician who overhauled the inherited government and palace under the first caliph who died around 1923. Together with the Spaniards, Belbachir established a system of financial accountability and work ethics for the palace and government employees[citation needed]. As time went by, he also chose many new employees that the Spaniards did not hesitate to approve of. In other words, the lack of a well-defined structure historically experienced gave way to the eventual crystallization of a new system that kept the former and new employees in check within the hierarchy. Miguel Marin stated that, by 1955, a new caliphal government emerged that included nationalists such as Abdallah Guennoun.[10] However, the missing fact in Martin's account is that Belbachir caused the emergence of that new government and that he was the only politician who had a foot in the palace and a foot in the government, thereby creating a solidly new link between those two institutions[citation needed].

Belbachir is also known to be a politician in the entire history of Spanish Morocco who politically dealt with fifteen consecutive High Commissioners, most of whom were generals, representing the Spanish government. Some of these commissioners were from the pre-republic, republic and Franco's time. In light of this, it goes without saying that every newly appointed High Commissioner had to inform Belbachir about his forthcoming arrival to Morocco to initiate a new dialogue.[18][unreliable source?] What is noteworthy herein is that General Franco was one of these commissioners at one point.

Belbachir is also known to be the politician who sent a cultural representative from Spanish Morocco to the Arab League. This contrasts with French Morocco; for this zone had no representation in the Arab League. As a matter of fact, French Morocco counted on Spanish Morocco’s ability to maintain and cultivate such ties[citation needed].

At the request of the Muslim community in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Northern Morocco occupied by Portugal in the early fifteenth century and given to Spain in the late sixteenth century in a peace treaty, Belbachir built the first mosque yonder. He came up with a budget drawn from the palace for that mosque and supervised its construction[citation needed].

Belbachir was also popularly known to be a long-term and gainfully employed politician from Spanish Morocco who administratively helped link the two protectorates after independence. The country’s perception was such that the country could not do without him until such a matter is settled. After the matter was settled, the nation was able to move to "base one". That is to say, a unified army, palace and government emerged shortly after independence. In more accurate terms, Belbachir literally and figuratively turned in the keys of the mentioned institutions to the newly centralized government and palace[citation needed].

Belbachir is socially known to be a pioneer of the first Moroccan embassy at Great Britain. He chose most of that staff that went to Great Britain. He was also in charge of promotions, demotions and terminations of almost all the staff. He was the diplomat from that group who went with a Moroccan princess to visit Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom upon his arrival to Great Britain. Later on, Belbachir visited Winston Churchill as a sign of gratitude for the latter's contributions to the reconstruction in the wake of the 1960 Agadir earthquake[citation needed].

Belbachir was a politician from Spanish Morocco who successfully but, progressively negotiated with the Spanish authorities to compensate the Moroccan soldiers who fought against Abdelkrim, but were abandoned thereafter. Some of these Moroccans were handicapped or permanently injured. In this case and under these circumstances, the discussion with the High Commissioner was strictly an economic one[citation needed].

Finally, Belbachir was the first rebel during the Spanish Civil War to express a religious motivation.[citation needed] This was achieved by placing such dissidence on record in the name of the caliph. Therefore, the caliph's name went down on record to that effect.[19]

Positions in the khalifate[edit]

Belbachir held high positions during the Spanish occupation, including Chief of Staff of the khalifa,[20] Chief of the Civil Household, Director General of the Secretariat of the khalifa, Secretary General of the Privy Council of the khalifa and Secretary General of the makhzen. Other positions were not officially granted, but implied, where the khalifa had no objections to Belbachir playing the chamberlain's role. American writers Dmitri Kessel and Paul Bowles described him as "advisor to the khalifa".[21] Similarly, in November 1949, La Ofensiva, a Spanish newspaper, referred to him as the chamberlain, receiving top officials of Franco's government in celebration of the khalifa's throne day.[6]

The accumulation of high positions together with his makhzen background and Spanish education allowed him to dominate Moroccan politics.[citation needed] Abdelmajid Benjelloun, in his doctoral dissertation, summed up Belbachir as the major architect and the pillar of the vice-regal system, the khalifal government, and key to communication with the Spanish authorities.[9]

Later career[edit]

Belbachir used his power in Morocco to create and improve social programs and education,[citation needed] in discussion with the Spanish High Commissioners. This included preservation of Andalusian music in Morocco[citation needed], and allowed Morocco to get into a more accommodating common platform with its Eastern and Northern neighbors. Belbachir worked on these social and political ties with Europe and the Arab World in a time of turmoil. During World War II he used the Spanish government to thwart the Nazis by offering visas and passports from Spanish Morocco to Jews.[13]

When Belbachir went to the United Kingdom, he helped Algeria gain its independence by serving as the makhzen arms coordinator in London for the FLN (Algeria), which was affiliated with the Algerian government in exile.[citation needed]

Belbachir died in London in 1962.


  1. ^ “Ambassadors’ Night”, Tatler and Bystander Magazine, 1960, p 515.
  2. ^ a b c d Raissouni, Mohammed Muntasir(1995). "Sha'ir El Wazir Mohammed Ben Musa" (Poeta Ministro Mohammed Ben Musa)Rabat, Marruecos: Companía de Publicación Okad p. 40
  3. ^ Ronart S. & Ronart, N. (1966). Concise Encyclopedia of Arabic Civilization. (Rev. ed.) New York, N.Y.: Frederick A. Praeger. p. 309.
  4. ^ Ferro Maurice (January 1947). Lutte d’influence en Proche Orient. Le Monde, p. 1-2
  5. ^ Abramovici Rene (June 23, 1949). Pendant Trois Semaines Tetouan a Vecu Les Mille Et Une Nuits. L’Illustre
  6. ^ a b El Jalifa celebra el anniversario de su exaltacion al trono. (November 10, 1949). Ofensiva, p. 1.
  7. ^ “Ductur Ahmed Shuqairi Fi Tetuan” (Doctor Ahmed Shuqairi in Tetuan) (December, 1953) Ma’ rifa p. 7.
  8. ^ Hakim, Mohammed Ben Azouz (2008). "Mawqif Shamal Min I'tidae 'ala el 'Arsh Ghair Majri Tarikh" (Posicionalidad del Norte Acerca de la Injusticia sin Precedentes Cometida en contra del Trono). Tetuán, Marruecos: Compania de Publicacion Shuiakh. p.110
  9. ^ a b c Benjelloun, Abdelmajid (1988). Approches du colonialism espagnol et du movement nationaliste marocain dans l’ex-Maroc Khalifien. Rabat, Morocco: OKAD Publishing Company
  10. ^ a b c Marin Miguel (1973). El Colonialismo espanol en Marruecos. Spain: Ruedo Iberico
  11. ^ “Afrah Tetuan fi bayt rais diwan el amer” (Celebrations in the house of the khalifal chief of cabinet) (1948, May 21). Rif, p. 1.
  12. ^ Proxima Boda del Jefe de la Casa Civil de S.A.I. el Jalifa (1950, May 19). Espana, p. 2.
  13. ^ a b Baker, J. C. & Chase, C. (1993). Josephine: The Hungry Heart. New York: Random House
  14. ^ Benjelloun, Abdelmajid (1988). Approches du colonialism espagnol et du movement nationaliste marocain dans l’ex-Maroc Khalifien. Rabat, Morocco: OKAD Publishing Company p. 289
  15. ^ Wolf, Jean (1994). Les Secrets du Maroc Espagnol: L’epopee D’Abdelkhalaq Torres. Morocco: Balland Publishing Company p^. 282
  16. ^ El Jalifa llega a Madrid. (March 18, 1956). ABC, p. 23
  17. ^ a b Benaboud, Amhamed (1992). "Maktab El Maghrib El Arabi Fil Qahira" (Oficina del Magreb Arabe en Cairo)Rabat, Morocco: Compania de Publicacion Okad
  18. ^ “"Telegramas entre S.A.I. El Jalifa y El Nuevo Alto Comisario". (1951, April 4). ABC, p. 14
  19. ^ Raguer Hillary (2006). Gunpowder and Incense: The Catholic Church and the Spanish Civil War Volume 2. London: Routledge, p. 48
  20. ^ "...al jefe del gabinete del jalifa, Ahmad Belbachir Haskouri", in España en Marruecos (1912-1956): discursos geográficos e intervención territorial. Milenio, 1999. Page 168.
  21. ^ Bowles, Paul (1952). Let it Come Down. (1st edition). London: John Lehman. p. 113.


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See also[edit]