Mohamed Ameziane, Precursor of the Rif War

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orn in Zeghanghane (Azghenghan), a city occupying the east of the Gelaya tribal region in the province of Nador in 1859, Mohamed Ameziane, nicknamed El Mizian by the Spanish, will mark history by his military exploits against them and by becoming a precursor to the Rif War. In fact, he fought more than a hundred battles until his death in 1912.

Coming from a prestigious family that built the Zaouia Qadiriya of Sidi Ahmed or Abdesallam in Zeghanghan, Ameziane studied Islamic jurisprudence, literature and theology at Qaraouiyine University in Fez. He then became Qadi from the Beni Bou Ifrour tribe who would later oppose Bouhmara, the Sultan's Rogui. The latter making agreements with the Spanish was threatened by the tribes of the Rif and the army of Sultan Abdelaziz.

Ameziane is an authority figure highly respected by his peers, it is said about him:

Sidi Mohand Ameziane is the last and most prestigious sharif of Baraka, not only because he displayed all the qualities of his predecessors, but because he played an important historical role. His reputation was great both among the Iqariyen, and among the Ichebdanen and the Aït Said, who are sedentary, as well as among the Imetalsen nomads. When he accompanied the emigrants to Algeria, no one dared to attack the passenger convoy, so much was his curse feared.
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In May 1909, a Spain eager for iron deposits will carry out mining work in the Rif. There was no resistance among the Riffans who were disunited until Mohamed Ameziane, coordinating with several tribal leaders, visited several mosques and markets in order to raise awareness about jihad.

An uprising began in the Ameziane tribe, following an attack on June 9 in Sidi Musa that left 6 Spaniards dead and one injured. Despite this defeat, a determined part of the Rif was organized and met very gradually under the dome of Mohamed Ameziane. When the facts were known by the Spanish government, chaired by Maura, it decreed on 10 July the mobilization of three mixed fighter brigades, mostly formed by reservists from the Fifth Divisions of 1903 and 1904, causing riots in Madrid and Barcelona, where intense demonstration events known under the Castilian name of Semana Trágica (the tragic week) took place.

Meanwhile, the Riffans are arming themselves and digging trenches in order to prepare for war.

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Spanish soldiers in the quarries of Sidi Musa, 1909.

The Spanish could never have predicted the extent of dissent. However, the Rif, hit by a great famine, was attacked by Spain taking advantage of its weakening. In total, more than 40,000 Spaniards will be deployed for the offensive, 100 million pesetas will be spent and 4 months of war failed to retake the territories of Ameziane.

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To return to context, the tribes around Melilla were controlled by Rogui Bou Hmara in 1902, an usurper pretending to be the brother of Sultan Abdelaziz to the point of constituting a resemblance of a small kingdom in the Eastern Rif.

The Rogui Bou Hmara.

He will negotiate with Spain the exploitation of the deposits, which will lead to the creation of La Compagnie Espagnole des Mines du Rif. The Riffans led by Mohamed Ameziane revolted by attacking these mining operations on August 8, 1908. Bou Hmara was finally beaten by the Iqeriyen in the Eastern Rif and his former collaborators ended up paying heavy fines to the Imgharen. He would end up tortured and publicly executed on September 2, 1909 by Sultan Moulay Abdelhafid in Fez.

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In the same spirit, a series of Rifan assaults led by Ameziane were launched on July 9, 1909 against Spanish industrial interests. In order to protect Melilla from attacks, Spain will send between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers commanded by General Marina.

General José Marina Vega.

General Marina was informed a few weeks later of an attack on Mount Gourougou and decided to organize a new convoy of troops. This convoy was immediately attacked on July 27 near the Wolf Ravine by the Riffians, pushing the Spanish to retreat. At the end of these fierce fighting, the Spanish were heavily affected, causing more than 1,000 deaths including General Pintos, General Marina and about 600 injured.

General Guillermo Pintos Ledesma.

September 29 will mark a new defeat of the Spanish troops at Souk el-Khemis, with 300 dead including General Vicario.

The Wolf Ravine disaster is one of the bloodiest Spanish defeats in Africa, going so far as to inspire a song:

“In the Barranco Del Lobo there is a fountain that flows the blood of Spaniards, who died for Spain.
Poor mothers, how much you will cry when you see your children go to war!
I don't wash, comb my hair, or put on my mantilla until my boyfriend comes back from the Melilla War.
Melilla is no longer Melilla, Melilla is a slaughterhouse where Spaniards will die like lambs.”
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It was at dawn on May 15ht, 1912, leaving the Fajr prayer that an enemy troop of Regulares clashed with Mohamed Ameziane and surrounded him. Without the means to confront them, he tried to communicate but, having not been recognized, will be shot down.

Dressed in a blue vest, a brown jellaba and two silk shirts, we'll also find on his possession a Quran, a rosary, weapons as well as a letter declaring himself Sultan of the Rif and in which he calls on the Ait Ouriaghel tribe to rebellion. The Spaniards transport his body to Melilla in plain sight, displayed like a trophy, and then it will be handed over to his brothers who will bury him in their grandfather's cemetery in their hometown of Segangan.

After his death the thirst for resistance in the Rif will not disappear and the Riffians will keep in them the memory of a great courageous and pious man, whose name is associated with memorable battles: Kebdana, Selouane, Segangan, Diwana etc... With the most important among them being that of the Wolf Ravine. A decade later, the history of the resistance was once again written by the advent of one of the greatest anti-colonial figures to date, Mohamed bin Abdelkrim Al-Khattabi.

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