Friday, May 9, 2014

Journal d’un Prince Banni or Diary of a Banished Prince - A Critical Look at the Moroccan Monarchy

Here is a piece from the NYTimes about the latest book by Prince Moulay Hicham which gives some insight into palace politics and makes a call for real political change in Morocco.

Morocco’s Rebel Prince Shines Harsh Light on the Kingdom

by Aida Alami

PARIS — He sat in the car, frozen with fear, as gunmen pointed rifles at his pregnant mother in the driver’s seat beside him. They were rushing to the king’s birthday party because they had heard there was a commotion. It was the summer of 1971, and the Moroccan Army killed over 100 party guests in its attempt to overthrow the monarchy. The gunmen spared the pregnant woman and her 7-year-old son. Later that day, the coup failed.

With his monarchy preserved, King Hassan II sharply tightened his grip on his subjects, including his own family.

It was a shift that the 7-year-old, Prince Moulay Hicham El Alaoui, still remembers well. The eldest son of the late King Hassan’s only brother, Moulay Abdellah, he is also the first cousin of King Mohammed VI — making him third in line to the Moroccan throne.

Nicknamed “the Red Prince,” he grew up to become a political activist whose public support for democracy has put him at odds with his family in Morocco. He exiled himself to America and was banned from the presence of the king for advocating a constitutional monarchy, like that in England or Spain.

In a culture where princes are expected to hold their tongues and where family affairs do not leave the palace walls, Prince Moulay Hicham isn’t welcome.

“It’s been traumatizing. I have seen a father destroyed. It is a world where everything is artificial and nothing is genuine,” the prince, now 50, said during an interview at his hotel in Paris. “I am happy to live far away. Instead of having 100 friends, you have five friends, but at least you know that they are here for you.”

In April, he published a new autobiography, “Journal d’un Prince Banni,” or Diary of a Banished Prince, that weaves together a series of vignettes and anecdotes to give readers a rare glimpse into Morocco’s royal family. But it also serves as a harsh political critique of the kingdom from an insider.

The book, which will be translated into English in a few months, details how King Hassan, who died in 1999, constructed an opaque system of rule in which an elite could flout the law with impunity. Though he celebrates the late king’s undeniable grandeur, the prince describes him as an evil genius who brought Morocco onto the world stage. He also gives an intimate view of life inside the palace, growing up among the intrigues, and the mind games between him and his uncle.