Some people qualify it as “the miracle of the century;” others as the “most striking peaceful march in human history.” But the 1975 Green March is much more than that. It is the unifying factor for a new, ambitious post-colonial Morocco.
On Oct.16, 1975, scarcely a few hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague had given its verdict recognizing that the Sahara was not a region without a ruler and that “there exists legal and allegiance links between the Sahara and the Moroccan Kingdom,” the late King Hassan II announced the organization of the “Green March.”
A peaceful March of 350,000 men and women, armed with the Qur’an and their faith, responding to their Sovereign’s oak, advanced determinedly into the desert behind their flags.
“Tomorrow, you will cross the frontier. Tomorrow, you will begin your March. Tomorrow, you will walk on the land that is yours; you will feel the sand that is yours. Tomorrow, you will kiss a ground which is an intrinsic part of your dear country,” affirmed the late King Hassan II in the Green March Speech of Nov. 5, 1975 in Agadir, 344 miles (554 Kilometers) South West of the capital Rabat.
“The Green March was an important historical event for Morocco, unique of both its kind and its philosophy. It was a means of liberation and unity. It was a reference for the peaceful struggle of nations and people to win back their deported rights,” said Belkhdar Attahar, 59, a participant in the 1975 march.
“We did not hesitate to respond to the noble call because we love our country and because we are ready heart and soul to defend its soil,” he added.
The brilliant initiator of this peaceful March, the late King Hassan II kept engraved in his mind the will of his father, the late King Mohammed V. The father of Moroccan independence had declared in substance “I recommend for your beloved country, your fatherland Morocco… safeguard its independence; defend its historical territorial unity. Don’t tolerate that its liberty and integrity be touched one inch. Take care not to accept any bargaining concerning its safety and that of its inhabitants…In danger’s time, and when the enemy threatens your country …beat the head of its defenders…”
Belkhdar Attahar still remembers the day when the young and the old of his neighborhood in Casablanca, Hay Mohammadi, were all mobilized.
“The Green March was the miracle of the century. We were very delighted to triumph. That was a great lesson that I will definitely teach to my children. I still recall the view of the 350,000 volunteers from all around the Kingdom enthusiastically advancing towards the usurped southern provinces,” he said.
“We, Moroccans, are ready to defend our country at any time and under any circumstances. Whenever Morocco commemorates the anniversary of the Green March, I have an exceptional feeling because I was part of the event. We spent two months as a solidly homogeneous family,” he added.
Attahar recalled his view of Spanish helicopters flying above their heads when they entered the desert. “It is indelibly imprinted in my memory. We did not tremble, neither did we withdraw,” he stressed.
Another participant who went especially to cover the 1975 March, the late Steve O. Hughes, a British journalist and author of Morocco under Hassan II, said that “the Green March proved to have united Moroccans regardless of their political or ideological tendencies.”
“This great event threw the door of democracy wide open for Morocco. As for the Sahara, it is self-evident that it is part and parcel of Morocco. Moroccans have earmarked millions of Dirhams to construct and develop the southern region, and I don’t believe they will let it down,” said the British journalist who died in July 2005 in Rabat.
King Mohammed VI in his 2004’s speech commemorating the 29th anniversary of the Green March, expressed his pride over what has Morocco accomplished in its recovered southern provinces, in terms of liberation, stability, development and integration into the motherland.
“If we were to sum up what we have achieved over the last 29 years since this epic event, we could say, and rightly so: Morocco is in its Sahara, and the Sahara is in Morocco, where it belongs,” said the King.
The monarch added that “the Green March was, above all, an opportunity to confirm the symbiosis between the Throne and the people, a relationship that challenges make even stronger. It also marked the beginning of across-the-board mobilization and reflected our commitment to a civilized approach based on peace, dialogue, good neighborliness and international legality, both to put an end to the occupation of our southern provinces – thereby ensuring their return to their motherland, Morocco – and to solve the artificial dispute over the Moroccan status of these provinces.”
In keeping with the spirit of the Green March, Morocco remains committed to the peaceful settlement of the Sahara-related dispute, within the framework of the current United Nations process.
“We shall exert every effort possible to contribute to its success and will continue to co-operate fully with the United Nations. However, our quest for peace and our commitment to a negotiated solution should not be perceived as a sort of weakness on our part. Today, more than ever before, we are determined to defend the legitimacy of our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the dignity of the Moroccan people and our single – yet exceptionally rich and varied – identity,” stressed the King.
The Green March is a memorable epic that changed Morocco’s history. The event is celebrated on a yearly basis as it has become an essential part of Morocco’s culture and heritage. Its importance and philosophy is imprinted in the memories of all Moroccans and transmitted through generation.