Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail
This memoir recounts the story of Malika Oufkir, whose father was the closest aide to the King of Morocco. We follow Malika from the age of five, as she is raised in the palace as the princess’ companion. While life in the harem is a kind of imprisonment itself, it is nothing compared to what awaits her, her mother, and her siblings after her father is executed for an attempt to assassinate the King.
She and her family spend the next 20 years in prisons. Sixteen years into their ordeal, sickly, starving, and desperate to the point of suicide, Malika and some of her siblings manage to dig a tunnel with their bare hands and escape. They barely manage to catch the attention of the international press before being recaptured and imprisoned for another 4 years. The escape attempt eventually leads to their release, but Malika wonders what kind of freedom they can enjoy after so many years of physical and psychological damage.
The story, transcribed by Michèle Fitoussi and told by Malika, is at times fascinating and compelling, and at other times a bit slow. It takes a while for the reader to enter her world, and at times the narrative is choppy. But it’s a worthwhile read all the same because it gives us a window into the fate of many political prisoners that suffer human rights abuses around the world, and reminds us of how precious our time on earth is.