Born in 1951, in the small industrial city of Berrechid, some 30 kilometers east of Casablanca (Morocco), in a poor working class family, Adbellatif Zeroual was a frail little boy who grew up during the early years of Moroccan independence. He was immersed in politics at an early age. He spent his childhood listening to his father’s passionate account of the epic achievements of the national movement for independence. His Father, Haj Abdelkader Zeroual, was a respected militant, who fought the French during the harshest years of occupation. Haj Abdelkader was determined and stubborn. Although Abdellatif lacked his father’s stamina, he certainly didn’t lack his courage nor his bullheadedness.
Abdellatif successfully completed his schooling in Berrechid and Casablanca and then entered University Mohammed V in Rabat where he graduated as a philosophy teacher. During his years of education, Abdellatif witnessed his country’s backward journey from the early euphoria of independence to the failed attempts of establishing an institutional democracy, right until the complete takeover of the institutions by the palace. Hassan II and his oppressive regime constituted in the eyes of Abdellatif and his generation, the new colonizers. As did the French before it, the system encouraged a minority of wealthy landowners, businessman and some influential military to control most of the country, leaving nothing to the rest of the population but an immiserated wasteland, an economy in ruins and no public service worth a mention.
Like many young Moroccan men and women at the time, Abdellatif must have thought there was a revolution coming down the pipe. He had to join the movement. In the late sixties he was active within the student movement and then in 1970 was elected member of Ila Al Amam (Forward), an underground marxist group, advocating social change. His position forced Abdellatif to live in constant hiding. The regime mounted a brutal repression against the movement and many of Abdellatif’s comrades were disappeared or tortured under obscure circumstances.
Abdellatif was condemned to life imprisonment in abstentia in September 1973 by a court in Casablanca. He knew he was hunted, but he refused to give up and he pursued his activities. In November 1974, while in his way to attend a clandestine meeting with a member of a marxist-leninist group called 23 Mars, Abdellatif was snatched by a group of men in plain clothes and was disappeared forever.
Reports say he was transported to the infamous Derb Moulay Sherif, a torture centre disguised as a police station in the heart of the city of Casablanca, where he was tortured. A week after Abdellatif was disappeared a dead body was registered in Avicenne hospital in Rabat under the name of El Baroudi Abdellatif Ben Abdelkader. Human rights organizations claim that this was in fact the body of Abdellatif Zeroual. The authorities have always refused (to this day) to confirm this claim or to disclose the location of the final resting place of Abellatif Zeroual.
Thirty five years after his assassination, Abdellatif’s family is still waiting for answers to its legitimate demands. The Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH) together with the “Committee for the truth about the fate of Abdellatif Zeroual,” are organizing a news conference in Rabat, today March 17, to shed some light on this affair.