Stolen Lives Study Guide

Stolen Lives By Malika Oufkir

At age 5, Malika Oufkir, eldest daughter of General Mohamed Oufkir was adopted by the King and went to live in the palace in a land of unimaginable privilege and luxury, treated as nearly an equal to the King's own daughter. When King Muhammad died and King Hassan II took his throne, General Oufkir was displeased, and staged a failed coup against the new regime, getting himself executed and the rest of his family thrown in prison despite being completely ignorant of and not complicit in the act of rebellion.

At first, the once-well-off family was held in an abandoned military installation, and they were allowed to keep many traces of their old lives, such as books, clothing, and other finery. Over time, they were slowly disallowed these luxuries, and eventually, they were transferred to a much less comfortable place. Time and time again, they moved, each time to a prison more remote, horrifying, and dangerous than the last.

Finally, they were taken to an isolated desert prison where they were to live through a decade of humiliation, starvation, torture, solitary confinement, and a complete absence of sunlight. Malika's descriptions of the horrifying conditions are hypnotic, particularly when contrasted with her young life as an adopted princess of King Muhammad V. The sheer graphicness of the images will haunt readers for quite some time.

Finally, on the brink of starvation and insanity and dimly aware that they had been left to die, Oufkir and her siblings tunneled out of the underground prison with their bare hands and teaspoons. They were caught, but their attempt called attention to their situation, and they were moved to house arrest, where they were allowed to eat and see the sun. Still prisoners in their own mind, however, the family fought to escape, finally slipping outside of Morocco and finding the freedom that many of them hadn't experienced since their early childhoods.

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