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Digital Archive International History Declassified

1950

THE COMMITTEE FOR THE LIBERATION OF THE ARAB MAGHREB IN CAIRO

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    Description of the new office of the Committee for the Liberation of the Arab Maghreb in Cairo, as well as activity in the Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria offices, consideration of opening a Tunisian main office in Lebanon, and progress of the Tunisian and Moroccan independence movements.
    "The Committee for the Liberation of the Arab Maghreb in Cairo," 1950, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 8, File 1A/8, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176440
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1A/8

The Committee for the Liberation of the Arab Maghreb in Cairo

The Committee for the Liberation of the Arab Maghreb in Cairo moved to its new offices (at No. 32, Abdel-Khaleq Tharwat Pacha Street) at the beginning of this year. There are six rooms in this office, two of which are occupied by the Tunisians, two by the Moroccans, one by the Algerians, and the one closest to the entrance is for the intelligence staff. Beyond the entrance, the office comprises a large hallway on the walls of which are hung two large boards for appending news, one for Tunisia and the other for Morocco, that appear in the series of reports that this office issues regarding various events.

''Yousef and Mohammad Badra live together in an apartment at No. 21, Mohammad Said Street.

Sheikh Bachir al-Ibrahimi lives in a different apartment in that same building.

‘Alal al-Fasi and his assistant, Ahmad bin al-Mleih, live in Bahri Building in al-Ismailia Place, apartment no. 32.

The Tunisia Office is headed currently by Mohammad Murad bou Kharis and Ibrahim Toubar, both of whom are officially appointed by Hizb al-Desrouri al-Hur, which is represented in Egypt by Saleh bin Yousef and Mohammad Badra.

The Morocco Office is headed by 'Alal al-Fasi and his two Moroccan assistants.

The Algeria Office is headed by Algerians other than al-Shadli al-Makki who was relieved from his duties as party representative in Cairo. I could not establish contact, however, with these people because they very rarely go to the office, since I never saw them there in spite of my frequent visits.

Cooperation between the three offices is absent, so much so that some of the employees of the Tunisia Office do not bother to greet those of the Morocco Office, and vice versa.

They also do not know anything about each other’s activities, for their offices follow separate political lines.

The Arab League helps both the Tunisia and Morocco offices with a sum that does exceed 100 guineas per month which they spend on office rent and other necessary expenses.

They claim that other expenses, such as the employees' salaries, rent of their private apartments, and the leaders' expenses, come from supporters and party members in their own countries.

The Tunisians’ activities are much more substantial than the Moroccans'; below is a number of important news items I learned about:

In addition to Arab countries, Tunisian leaders have directed their propaganda and efforts towards Asian countries and succeeded in influencing them.

After earning the Asian countries' sympathy, they convinced them to open Tunisian propaganda offices at their own expense in their respective countries.

The Governments of India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Iraq have allocated funds in their budgets to open offices for Tunisian delegates, cover its expenses and those of its employees and give each a private car.

Tunisia is represented in India by al-Tayeb Salim, in Indonesia by Rachid ldris, and in Iraq by Ali Bahlaouan; in Pakistan a budget is already available awaiting the arrival of the Tunisian delegate.

Saleh bin Yousef is in charge of appointing Tunisian representatives and Arab and Asian countries consider him the legitimate Tunisian Minister.

There will be reshuffles among a number of Tunisian representatives as part of an effort to placate Yousef al-Rouaysi by appointing him to one of these offices, probably in Iraq or Pakistan, on condition that he give up his opposition to the Party's activities.

There is still tension between Yousef al-Rouaysi and Hizb al-Destouri al-Hur and he still clings to his opinion. However, party members still respect and honour him and seek to please him because he never strayed from his nationalist ideology.

When al-Shishakli visited Egypt, he met with Ibrahim Toubar and Mohammad Murad bou Kharis who, as representatives of the Tunisian Hizb al-Destouri, wanted to discuss the opening of a large official Tunisian office in Damascus such as in other Asian countries (i.e. financed by the Syrian Government). Al-Shishakli apologised to them because he did not want to anger France under the present circumstances, on account of its valuable assistance to Syria. He, however, promised to help in the future and to use all available opportunities to quietly assist Tunisia. He also promised to allow Yousef al-Rouaysi to work in Damascus, within the limits set by the Syrian Government, until such time when Syria is able to offer practical assistance to the Tunisian cause.

The two representatives were convinced by al-Shishakli's excuses.

Saleh bin Yousef and Mohammad Badra told me that they are seriously thinking of opening a Tunisian main office in Lebanon. They told me: most foreign espionage agencies that maintained main offices in Cairo have moved to Lebanon and opened offices under assumed identities, such as commercial companies and the like, to cover their operations, and their Egypt offices have become secondary.

When Ibrahim Toubar was in the Tunisian office in Cairo, he was in charge of contacts with foreign propaganda bureaux working in favour of the Tunisian cause to supply them with regular information about Tunisia. When these offices moved to Lebanon, the employees of the Tunisian office thought seriously and increasingly about opening an office in Lebanon and moving the latter to it in order for him to pursue his contacts with these agencies.

Saleh bin Yousef and Mohammad Badra are trying their best to obtain the approval of high Lebanese officials to open an office in Lebanon. They said that now Lebanon, under the presidency of Camille Chamoun, has changed its policy towards France there is therefore a big chance that they would be welcome.

If, however, Lebanon does not allow the Tunisians to open a large office, as they hope to do, they will open a small one for the distribution of newsletters and make it a communications centre. In any case, they nominated me to be directly in charge of it.

Saleh bin Yousef and Mohammad Badra negotiated with 'Alai al-Fasi about opening a joint office for the Maghreb in Lebanon; he replied that the Moroccans have already delegated Abdel-Salam al-Jaza’iri and would not want to replace him.

Mohammad Badra told me that they are not at ease regarding Abdel-Salam al-Jaza'iri because of his suspect connections with a foreign country.

He also told me that Fadeel al-Ouartalani’s many suspect trips around the Arab and Islamic worlds, as well as information reaching them from various sources, confirm that he is working for the British on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the assistance of Said Ramadan.

When the Tunisians learned that Egypt intends to give up its support of Arab causes, they turned to their Asian friends and convinced them to hold a joint conference with the Arab countries in Egypt, under the title of ‘The Asian Conference.’ They then succeeded in eliciting from countries participating in the conference a commitment to assist Tunisia and Morocco financially and morally, and collect financial donations from their populations.

The Tunisians boast chat they were the ones who made the Asian Conference a reality.

I understood separately from Mohammad Badra and Ibrahim Toubar that the Tunisians have three military training centres for young men in Tripoli (Libya). They organise and send them to Tunisia gradually to bolster the revolution and train nationalists on the ground to keep the revolution going. So far the number of fully trained young men sent to Tunisia is in the hundreds.

The above-mentioned have also told me chat these centres receive directions and instructions from the Tunisian Hizb al-Destouri al-Hur.

Tunisian leaders in Cairo are considering establishing a secret transmission station through which they can, if necessary, send directives to Tunisian revolutionaries regarding activities against France. They have not yet decided whether the station will be located in Egypt or somewhere else.

The leaders told me that following the recent United Nations meetings, America and Britain gave France another chance to seriously consider relinquishing its hold on Tunisia and Morocco and grant them their freedom and independence, like the British did with most of their colonies.

If France insists on being obstinate, it will be driven out of the Maghreb by force as it was from Syria and Lebanon.

I came to the conclusion after various conversations with Tunisian leaders, that America is the one guiding and supporting them financially, and that Britain is pleased with their work.

Mohammad Badra told me: America does not respect populations but those in power. It recognises that Saleh bin Yousef and I are members of a legitimate government that has the entire Tunisian population, and that is why it respects and helps us.

The Tunisians asked me to write to Habib Bourguiba in exile to reassure him that the cause is progressing successfully, because he likes to hear new information from his friends. So I did what they asked and wrote to him, but so far did not receive any answer.

‘Alal al-Fasi is very worried about his fate in Cairo; he told me that Cairo is seriously considering giving up on Arab causes, and that if this happens, other Arab countries will definitely follow suit. This, he continued, would have a very negative effect on the Maghreb cause and on him personally, because he would probably be expelled from Egypt and would have to find a new place from which to purse his activities.

Al-Fasi’s activities are confined to holding official meetings and making publicity for Morocco and for himself.

Al-Fasi hopes that the Tunisian and Moroccan issues will be raised at the upcoming session of the United Nations because Arab and Asian countries, as well as a number of foreign countries, have promised him to keep supporting their cause until Morocco and Tunisia regain their freedom and independence. He said that the two countries are gaining more and more supporters to their cause as time goes by.

I asked the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr Abdel-Khaleq Hassouna Pacha, about the Tunisian and Moroccan issues and he answered me as if he did not care much about them.

When I asked Ahmad al-Shouqairy the same question separately, he said: These two causes are very important to Arab and Asian countries, and are given top priority. They have to be raised at the upcoming session of the United Nations and at every other session; all these countries, whether together or separately, will support Tunisia and Morocco in every forum until they regain their freedom and independence.

Al-Shouqairy went on to say: Some Asian countries - by which he meant India, Pakistan, and Indonesia - have already recognised Tunisia's independence and have even accepted to open accredited Tunisian offices (which are like legations). These accredited offices are just like Embassies.

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