Hassan II of Morocco

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Hassan II
الحسن الثاني
Amir al-Mu'minin
King Hassan II in 1983.jpg
Hassan II in 1983
King of Morocco
Reign26 February 1961 – 23 July 1999
PredecessorMohammed V
SuccessorMohammed VI
Prime Ministers
Born(1929-07-09)9 July 1929
Dar al-Makhzen, Rabat, Morocco
Died23 July 1999(1999-07-23) (aged 70)
Rabat, Morocco
SpousePrincess Lalla Latifa
PartnerEtchika Choureau
Hassan bin Mohammed bin Yusef al-Alawi[2]
الحسن بن محمد بن يوسف العلوي
Arabicالحسن الثاني
FatherMohammed V
MotherLalla Abla bint Tahar
ReligionSunni Islam
Military career
Allegiance France  Morocco
Service/branchFrench Army
Royal Moroccan Armed Forces
French Navy
Rank21-Moroccan Army-FM.svg Field Marshal

Hassan II (Arabic: الحسن الثاني, romanizedal-Ḥasan aṯ-ṯhānī;[a] 9 July 1929 – 23 July 1999) was the King of Morocco from 1961 until his death in 1999. He was a member of the 'Alawi dynasty. He was accused of authoritarian practices and human rights, civil rights abuses, By giving his orders to Driss Basri, general Mohamed Oufkir and Ahmed Dlimi to carry out extrajudicial assassinations and commit crimes against humanity against political opponents and all the Moroccan people, the Sahrawis and Riffian particularly during the Years of Lead. A truth commission was set up after his death to investigate allegations of human rights violations during his reign.[2][3][4] [5][6]

He was the eldest son of Sultan Mohammed V, and his second wife, Lalla Abla bint Tahar.[6] He was the first commander-in-chief of the Royal Armed Forces and was named crown prince in 1957. He was enthroned as king in 1961 following his father's death.[6] Hassan's reign was marked by the start of the Western Sahara conflict and the Sand War. He was also the target of two failed coup d'états that were opposed to the absolute monarchy rule the 'Alawi dynasty rule in Morocco: one in 1971 and other in 1972. The coups and protests aimed at overthrowing the authoritarian monarchy the Alaouite dynasty in Morocco and forming a democratic republic that represents the Moroccan people instead. Hassan's conservative rule reportedly strengthened the his royal family the authoritarian monarchy the 'Alawi dynasty's rule over Morocco from 1957 and over the Western Sahara from 1978. Hassan II was not imposing his authority, his rule, and his king on the peoples of the countryside, Rif, Western Sahara, and southern Morocco, as the peoples did not recognize him as their king or Amir al-Mu'minin, or judge them so he made an alliance with the French Army and the Spanish Army to extend his control and authority by force over the peoples all over Morocco.[7] He was accused of authoritarian practices and human rights, civil rights abuses, By giving his orders to Driss Basri, general Mohamed Oufkir and Ahmed Dlimi to carry out extrajudicial assassinations and commit crimes against humanity against political opponents and all the Moroccan people, the Sahrawis and Riffian particularly during the Years of Lead. A truth commission was set up after his death to investigate allegations of human rights violations during his reign.[2][8][9]

Early life[edit]

Mawlay Hassan studying at the Royal College in 1943
Mawlay Hassan and his father, Sultan Mohammed V in 1950

Mawlay al-Hassan bin Mohammed bin Yusef al-Alawi was born on 9 July 1929, at the Dar al-Makhzen in Rabat during the French Protectorate of Morocco as the eldest son to Sultan Mohammed V and his 2nd wife, Lalla Abla bint Tahar, as a member of the 'Alawi dynasty.[2][6]

Hassan first studied Islamic sciences at the Dar al-Makhzen in Fez, he later went to the Royal College in Rabat, where instruction was in Arabic and French and a class was created for him, Mehdi Ben Barka was notably his mathematics teacher for four years at the Royal College.[10][11][12]

In 1943, a 12-year-old Hassan attended the Casablanca Conference at the Anfa Hotel along with his father, Muhammad V, where he met U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Charles de Gaulle.[13][14]

In 1947, Prince Hassan participated in his father, Sultan Mohammed V's speech in Tangier (then part of the Tangier International Zone). In the speech, Sultan Mohammed wished for the French Protectorate of Morocco, the Spanish protectorate of Morocco and the Tangier International Zone to be unified into one nation.[15] The speech quickly became a reference for Moroccan nationalists and anti-colonial movements,[16] according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Former Resistance Fighters and Members of the Army of Liberation, the speech was a "a turning point in [Morocco's] march for independence and its fight for the solemn claim of its independence, the recovery of its sovereignty and the consecration of the unity of the nation".[17][18]

Hassan later claimed that he had "profound resentment" towards the protectorate and that he felt "deep humiliation" from French colonialism,[19] despite paying hommage to Hubert Lyautey, the first resident-general of the French protectorate, he was highly critical of Lyautey's successors, noting their "stubborn stupidity" and "total insensitivity".[19][11]

In 1952, Prince Hassan earned a master's degree in public law from the University of Bordeaux before serving in the French Navy on board the Jeanne d'Arc cruiser.[6][20][21][22]

He was forced into exile by French authorities on 20 August 1953, along with his family and father, Sultan Mohammed V, they were deported to Zonza, Corsica. Their deportation caused protests and further fueled the anti-colonial movement.[15] They moved to the city of L'Île-Rousse and were living in the Napoléon Bonaparte hotel for five months before being transferred to Antsirabe, Madagascar in January 1954.[23][24] Prince Hassan acted as his father's political advisor during the exile. They later returned from exile on 16 November 1955.[6][25] During the exile, Mohammed Ben Aarafa was named as the Sultan by the French government in Morocco, however, the Moroccan government doesn't recognize the title.[26][27]

Prince Hassan participated in the February 1956 negotiations for Morocco's independence with his father.[6] Following Morocco's independence from France, his father appointed him as the first Commander in Chief of the newly founded Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in April 1956.[6]

The same year, he led army contingents to victory after defeating rebel militias during the Rif revolt.[28]

It was during his tenure as Commander in Chief of the Royal Armed Forces that Hassan met General Mohamed Oufkir,[29][30][6] who became the Minister of Defense during Hassan II's reign.[31] Oufkir was later suspected of orchestrating a failed coup d'état to kill Hassan.[32] After Mohammed V changed the title of the Moroccan sovereign from Sultan to King in 1957, Hassan was proclaimed Crown Prince on 9 July 1957.[33][34] He was named prime minister in 1961.[6]


On 26 February 1961, Crown Prince Hassan became the King of Morocco after his father's death from heart failure following a minor surgery.[6][10][35] He was enthroned in the Royal Palace of Rabat on 3 March 1961.[20] His first official visit to a foreign country as King was when attending the 1st Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade.[36][37]

Domestic reforms[edit]

King Hassan II greeting the public on his way to prayer in Marrakesh, 1967.

In 1962, Hassan II and his aides wrote the Kingdom of Morocco's first constitution, defining the kingdom as a social and democratic constitutional monarchy, made Islam the state religion, and gave the king, whose person was defined as "inviolable and sacred", the title of Amir al-Mu'minin and "supreme representative of the nation". The constitution also reaffirmed Morocco's choice of a multi-party political system, the only one in the Maghreb at that time.[38][10] The constitution provoked strong political protest from the UNFP and the Istiqlal and other leftist parties that formed the opposition at the time.[39]

In June 1965, in the aftermath of prior riots, Hassan dissolved the Parliament and suspended the constitution of 1962, declaring a state of exception that would last more than five years, he ruled Morocco directly, however, he did not completely abolish the mechanisms of parliamentary democracy.[40][41][10] An alleged report from the U.S. Secretary of State claimed that, during this period, "Hassan [appeared] obsessed with the preservation of his power rather than with its application toward the resolution of Morocco's multiplying domestic problems."[39]

In 1990, following riots in Fez, Hassan set up the Consultative Human Rights Council to look into allegations of abuse by the State.[42] In 1991, he pardoned 2000 prisoners, including political prisoners and people held in secret prisons including the ones in Tazmamart.[43] In 1998, the first opposition-led government was elected by Hassan.[44]

Attempted coup d'états[edit]

Hassan's damaged Boeing 727 after the 1972 Airmen's coup attempt.

In the early 1970s, King Hassan survived two assassination attempts. The attempted coups reportedly enforced Hassan's rule over Morocco.[45] The first coup attempt, dubbed by the media as the Skhirat coup attempt, occurred on 10 July 1971, at 14:02 (GMT),[46] during Hassan's forty-second birthday party at his palace in Skhirat, near Rabat. The attempted coup was carried out by an armed militia of approximately 1,000 led by General Mohamed Medbouh and Colonel M'hamed Ababou. Hassan was reported to have hidden in a bathroom whilst grenades were thrown and rapid shots were fired.[6][10] After firing died down, Hassan ended up face-to-face with one of the rebel commanders; he reportedly intimidated the leader of the rebel troops by reciting a verse of the Quran, and the commander knelt and kissed Hassan's right hand.[6] An estimated 400 people were killed by rebels during the attempted coup; loyal troops within the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces under the command of Hassan killed more than 150 and detained 900 people in connection with the coup.[6][10] The rebels also raided the offices of the RTM, Morocco's state-owned broadcasting company, and took over broadcasting during the coup, with propaganda being broadcast claiming that the King had been murdered and that a republic had been founded.[10] M'hamed Ababou gave orders to rebels through Radio-Maroc, ordering the execution of everyone in the palace by asking that "dinner be served to everyone by 7 pm" on air.[47] The coup ended the same day when royalist troops took over the palace in combat against the rebels. It was subsequently claimed by the Moroccan authorities that the young cadets had been misled by senior officers into thinking that they were acting to protect the king.[46][48] Hassan himself supported the thesis that the coup was supported by Libya, raising tensions between the two countries.[49][50] The next day, Hassan attended the funerals of royalist soldiers killed during the attempted coup.[46]

On 16 August 1972, at 17:05 (GMT),[51] during a second attempt, dubbed by the media as the Airmen's coup, six F-5 military jets from the Royal Moroccan Air Force opened fire on the King's Boeing 727 while flying at 3,000 metres altitude over Tétouan on the way to Rabat from Barcelona, following a meeting with Gregorio López-Bravo, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time,[52] killing eight people on board and injuring fifty. A bullet hit the fuselage but they failed to take the plane down despite it being badly damaged.[53][54][10] The military jets were loaded with practice ammunition rather than missiles, severely impacting the coup's effectiveness.[55] Hassan hurried to the cockpit, took control of the radio, and reportedly shouted: "Stop firing, the tyrant is dead!";[55][56][6] however, conflicting reports state that he posed as a mechanic and stated that both pilots died and the king was badly injured, convincing the pilots to stop.[53][52] 220 members of the Royal Moroccan Air Force were arrested for partaking in the coup plot, 177 of whom were acquitted, 32 were found guilty, and 11 people were sentenced to death by a military tribunal.[57][58] After doing an emergency landing at Rabat–Salé International Airport, Hassan escaped to his palace in Shkirat in an unmarked car.[46] Mohamed Amekrane, a colonel suspected to be a main part of the coup, attempted to flee to Gibraltar; however, his asylum application was declined and he was sent back to Morocco. He was later sentenced to death by firing squad.[59][51][58] General Mohammed Oufkir, Morocco's defense minister at the time, was suspected to be leading the coup and was later found dead from multiple gunshot wounds, the death was officially declared a suicide.[60][32][58] Hassan declared that he "must not place [his] trust in anyone" after what he perceived as treason from Oufkir.[46]

Armed conflicts[edit]

On 14 October 1963, the Sand War was declared as a result of failed negotiations over borders inherited from French colonialism between Hassan II and Algeria's newly elected president Ahmed Ben Bella.[10][61] The war heavily damaged both countries economy, Hassan asked citizens to not celebrate Eid al-Adha due to the economic recession caused by the war.[62] A peace treaty and armistice ended the war in on 15 January 1969.[63][61] He later claimed that the Sand War was "stupid and a real setback".[10] Hassan sent 11,000 troops, one infantry brigade to Egypt and one armored regiment to Syria during Yom Kippur War in 1973. 6 Moroccan troops were captured during the war.[10][64][65] During Hassan II's reign, Morocco recovered the Spanish-controlled area of Ifni in 1969, and gained control of two-thirds of what was formerly Spanish Sahara through the Green March in 1975.[66]

Foreign policy[edit]

Hassan II and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser meeting during preparations for the 1965 Arab League summit in Casablanca

In the Cold War era, Hassan II allied Morocco with the West generally, and with the United States in particular, after his death, The New York Times called him "a monarch oriented to the west".[6] There were close and continuing ties between Hassan II's government and the CIA, who helped to reorganize Morocco's security forces in 1960.[67] During Hassan's tenure as prime minister, Morocco controversially accepted Soviet military aid and made overtures towards Moscow. During an interview, Hassan stated that "as an Islamic people, [Morocco has] the right to practice bigamy. We can wed East and West and be faithful to both".[6] In 1974, he created the Bayt Mal Al Qods Acharif Agency (BMAQ), a non-governmental organization created to "preserve the Arab-Muslim character" of Jerusalem, the agency works on the restoration of mosques and the creation of hospitals and schools in the city.[68][69] BMAQ also gives out scholarship to students living in the city, as well as donating equipment to schools and kindergartens.[70][71]

Hassan II was alleged to have covertly cooperated with the State of Israel and Israeli intelligence.[72][73] In Operation Yachin, he allowed over 97,000 Moroccan Jews to be migrated to Israel from 1961 to 1964 in exchange for weapons and training for Morocco's security forces and intelligence agencies.[72][74] In an arrangement financed by the American Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Hassan II was paid a sum of $500,000 along with $100 for each of the first 50,000 Moroccan Jews to be migrated to Israel, and $250 for each Jewish emigrant thereafter.[75][76][74]

Hassan II and Yasser Arafat meeting in Benghazi in 1991
Hassan II and Shimon Peres at a press conference during the Casablanca Economic Conference, 1994

Hassan served as a mediator between Arab countries and Israel. In 1977, he served as a key backchannel in peace talks between Egypt and Israel, hosting secret meetings between Israeli and Egyptian officials, these meetings led to the Egypt–Israel peace treaty.[72]

According to Shlomo Gazit during an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, then-leader of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Hassan II invited Mossad and Shin Bet agents to bug the Casablanca hotel where the Arab League Summit of September 1965 would be held to record the conversations of the Arab leaders and helped Israel win the Six-Day War.[77][72] This information was instrumental in Israel's victory in the Six-Day War. Ronen Bergman claimed in his book, Rise And Kill First, that Israeli intelligence then supplied information leading to Mehdi Ben Barka's capture and assassination in October.[78] Bergman also alleged that the Moroccan DST and Mossad collaborated in a 1996 plot to assassinate Osama bin Laden, the plot involved a woman close to bin Laden who was an informant for the DST, however, the mission was aborted due to rising tensions between Morocco and Israel.[72][79]

Relations with Algeria have deteriorated sharply due to the previous Sand War and the Western Sahara conflict, with Algeria unconditionally backing and funding the Polisario Front since its creation in 1973.[80] Relations with Mauritania during the Western Sahara conflict were less than ideal, with Morocco recognizing Mauritania as a sovereign country in 1969, nearly a decade after Mauritania's declaration of independence.[81] During the 20th congress of the Organization of African Unity, Hassan II went on stage and declared that Morocco's membership of the OAU was suspended as a result of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic joining the OAU.[82][83] Morocco entered into a diplomatic crisis with Burkinabe President Thomas Sankara following his decision to recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.[84]

Hassan II was close with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran, even hosting him in 1979 when he was exiled.[85]


Economically, Hassan II adopted a market-based economy, where agriculture, tourism, and phosphates mining industries played a major role.[86] In 1967, he launched an irrigation project consisting of over 1 million hectares of land.[87]

Hassan eventually came to develop very good relations with France, especially with parts of the French media and financial elite. In 1988, the contract for the construction of the Great Mosque of Casablanca, a considerable project in scale, financed through compulsory contributions, was awarded to Francis Bouygues, one of the most powerful businessmen in France and personal friend of the King. His image in France was tarnished however following the publication in 1990 of Gilles Perrault's Our Friend the King, in which the writer describes the conditions of detention in the Tazmamart prison, the repression of left-wing opponents and Sahrawis, political assassinations, but also the social situation and the poverty in which the majority of Moroccans live.[88]

On 3 March 1973, Hassan II announced a "Moroccanization" policy, in which state-held assets, agricultural lands, and businesses that were more than 50 percent foreign-owned were taken over and transferred to local companies and businessmen.[89][90][10] The "Moroccanisation" of the economy affected thousands of businesses and the proportion of industrial businesses in Morocco that were Moroccan-owned immediately increased from 18% to 55%.[10] 2/3 of the wealth of the "Moroccanised" economy was concentrated in 36 Moroccan families.[10] In 1988, he also adopted a privatization policy, by 1993, more than a hundred public companies were privatized.[91]

From the 1990s onwards, a large-scale operation to privatize public companies was carried out by the king and André Azoulay, the monarchy's economic advisor. The French group Accor was thus able to acquire six hotels of the Moroccan chain Moussafir and the management of the Jamaï Palace in Fez. This privatization operation enabled Moroccan notables close to the government to control the most prominent public companies, and French companies to make a strong comeback in the country's economy. The royal family acquired the mining group Monagem.[92]

Human rights[edit]

Hassan II being interviewed by Hugh Downs for Today on NBC, 1963.

Hassan's reign was infamous for a poor human rights record labeled as "appalling" by the BBC.[93] It was however, at its worst during the period from the 1960s to the late 1980s, which was labelled as the "years of lead"[94][95] and saw thousands of dissidents jailed, killed, exiled or forcibly disappeared. During this time, Morocco was one of the most repressive and undemocratic nations in the world. However, Morocco has been labeled as "partly free" by Freedom House, except in 1992 and 2014 when the country was labeled "Not free" in those years respectively. The country would only become more democratic by the early 1990s amid strong international pressure and condemnation over the nation's human rights record. Due to the strong rebuke from other nations and human rights groups, and also because of the realistic threat of international isolation, Hassan II would then gradually democratize the nation over time. Since then, Morocco's human rights record has improved modestly and improved significantly following the death of Hassan II.

Hassan II imprisoned many members of the National Union of Popular Forces and sentenced some party leaders, including Mehdi Ben Barka, to death.[10] Student protests that took place 21 March 1965 in Casablanca, and devolved into general riots the following day; their violent repression caused hundreds of deaths. In the aftermath, on 26 March, Hassan II gave a speech that he concluded with: "There is no greater danger to a country than a so-called intellectual; it would have been better if you had all been illiterate."[10][96][97]

In October 1965, Mehdi Ben Barka, the main political opponent and fierce critic of Hassan II, was kidnapped and disappeared in Paris.[10] In Rise and Kill First, Ronen Bergman points to cooperation between the Moroccan authorities and Mossad in locating Ben Barka.[98]


On 23 July 1999 at 16:30 (GMT),[99] Hassan II was pronounced dead from a myocardial infarction by the CHU Ibn Sina Hospital in Rabat, having been hospitalized earlier that day for acute interstitial pneumonitis; he was 70 years old.[100][101] The Moroccan government ordered forty days of mourning, while entertainment and cultural events were cancelled, and public institutions and many businesses were closed upon news of the king's death.[102] Days of mourning were also declared in several other countries, the majority being Arab states.[b] A national funeral service was held for him in Rabat on 25 July,[6] with over 40 world leaders in attendance, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. President Bill Clinton, French President Chirac, Chairman of the PLO Yasser Arafat, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Egyptian President Hosni Moubarak, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Emir of Kuwait Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.[106][107]

He was buried in a wooden coffin at the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. During Hassan's funeral, his coffin was carried by his son and successor, now King Mohammed VI, his brother Prince Moulay Rachid and his cousin Moulay Hicham, was covered with a red cloth, in which the Shahada, an Islamic testimony of faith, is inscribed in golden writing.[108][109] His first son, Mohammed VI was enthroned and became the de jure King of Morocco a week after Hassan's death.[110][111]

Honors and decorations[edit]

Royal styles of
King Hassan II of Morocco
Coat of arms of Morocco.svg
Reference styleHis Majesty
Spoken styleYour Majesty

National orders[edit]

Foreign orders[edit]

Honorary prizes[edit]

Personal life[edit]

King Hassan II with his son, then-Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed (later King Mohammed VI)

Morocco's Royal Palace described Hassan in an official biography after his death as "well versed in the fields of architecture, medicine and technology" and that he gave his children a "strong commitment to the search for learning and a dedication to uphold the values of their country and their people".[20] Hassan was fluent in Arabic and French and spoke "capable English".[6]

In 1956, Hassan, who was then prince, started a relationship with French actress Etchika Choureau, who he met in Cannes in 1956.[114] The relationship ended in 1961 after Hassan's ascension to the royal throne.[115][116] In 1961, King Hassan II married Lalla Latifa Amahzoune, an ethnic Zayane. Hassan and Amahzoune had five children:


  • Hassan II, King of Morocco (1976). Le défi : [mémoires]. Paris: Albin Michel. ISBN 2-226-00317-7. OCLC 2877242.
  • Hassan II, King of Morocco (1993). La mémoire d'un roi : entretiens avec Eric Laurent. Éric Laurent. Paris: Plon. ISBN 2-259-02596-X. OCLC 28547610.
  • Hassan II, King of Morocco (2000). Le génie de la modération : réflexions sur les vérités de l'islam. Éric Laurent. Paris: Plon. ISBN 2-259-19321-8. OCLC 45064335.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also known as al-Hassan bin Muhammad bin Yusef al-'Alawi (Arabic: الحسن بن محمد بن يوسف العلوي, romanizedal-Ḥasan ibn Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf), with the prefix "Mulay" before his enthronement
  2. ^ The United Arab Emirates[103] declared forty days of mourning and closure of offices for three days; Bahrain[103] declared seven days of mourning and ordered public offices closed on Saturday; Mauritania[104] declared seven days of mourning; Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen all declared three days of mourning.[105]


  1. ^ Etchika Choureau
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  4. ^ Hazan, Pierre (2006). "Morocco: Betting on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission". US Institute of Peace.
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  9. ^ Hazan, Pierre (2006). "Morocco: Betting on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission". US Institute of Peace.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Miller, Susan Gilson (2013). A History of Modern Morocco. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139045834. ISBN 978-1-139-62469-5. OCLC 855022840.
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External links[edit]

Hassan II of Morocco
Born: 9 July 1929 Died: 23 July 1999
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Morocco
Succeeded by