The 1952 Tangier Spring


TALIM Tangier Spring 1952 cropped


"… are standing by in case they are needed in Tangier."

Thanks to Trove, the "Digitised Newspapers and More" service of the National Library of Australia, we find the above clipping from the 05 April 1952 Sydney Morning Herald.  From what I can determine, those "British troops at Gibraltar" were not in fact needed in Tangier, though the "Moorish troops from Spanish Morocco and armoured cars from the French Protectorate," as the 4 April 1952 Tangier Gazette put it, were necessary to quell the riots.


TALIM 1952 Riots Tangier Gazette

 From the Tangier Gazette at the TALIM research library:

The riots which broke out in Tangier last Sunday seem to have taken the authorities completely by surprise.  Lt-Colonel Artous was on leave and the police arrangements were inadequate. [Note: This refers to the tabor or Tangier's small force of Moroccan police, commanded by a Belgian officer].  It is hard to understand why greater precautions were not taken as all followers of Moroccan affairs were aware that trouble was possible on the anniversary of the Fez Treaty.  [Note: In 2012, retrospectives have been going back 100 years to 1912 and the Treaty of Fez which established the French and Spanish Protectorates over Morocco.  Sixty years ago, in the spring of 1952, the situation was less of historic inquiry and more of using the anniversary to militate for Morocco's independence.  At the time, Tangier was still the International Zone].

Professor Mohamed Elkouche of the University of Oujda, in the 2004 "Writing Tangier" conference, reminded us of Paul Bowles' view of the events of 1952:

In the Introduction he added retrospectively to Let It Come Down (in 1980), Bowles notes that this novel “was first published early in 1952, at the very moment of the riots which presaged the end of the International Zone of Morocco. Thus even at the time of publication the book already treated a bygone era, for Tangier was never the same after the 30th of March 1952. The city celebrated in these pages has long ago ceased to exist, and the events recounted in them would now be inconceivable.”

Bowles would stay on in Tangier for the rest of his life, chronicling the evolution of his adopted city from International Zone, through reintegration with Morocco under Mohammed V, to conscious disregard under Hassan II.  Bowles died within months of King Mohammed VI's 1999 accession to the throne, so never experienced the city's rebirth under his enlightened rule.

Tangier's Arab Spring began 60 years ago, in 1952.  The beginning of the end of Tangier, International Zone, and a hint of the impending independence of Morocco in 1956.

Gerald Loftus

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