Aziz Benhaddouch was an important Amazighi scholar, public intellectual, activist, poet, and teacher, who died at age 49 in a tragic fishing accident. Trained in sociology and philosophy (taught as linked subjects in the Moroccan system), Benhaddouch had published academic work on the phenomenon of high school drop-outs, and was working as a high-school philosophy teacher when he began to write fiction. Benhaddouch’s first novel Isle of Males is a central example of the Moroccan post-1960s genre الأدب المتزم (‘engaged literature’), in which the writer’s biography intersects with their protagonist’s, granting the book authenticity and heft in the eyes of a politically engaged reading public. But it was partly this very intersection between life and art that led to the work being misread as a journalistic piece, and Benhaddouch’s prosecution under journalism laws: his fictional portrayal of the real-life ‘phantom kids’ phenomenon, in which children were invented on paper by returnees from Europe in order to claim benefits, was seen as documentary work about specific people. The legal case dragged on even after Benhaddouch’s tragic death in 2016, and although he was eventually cleared of all charges, the accusations have contributed to the mythology around Benhaddouch’s work and the book in question within Morocco.
His website (in Arabic): azizbenhaddouch.com