On August 9, 1907, when Georges Bourdon, special envoy of the Figaro, landed in Casablanca in the luggage of 3,000 French soldiers led ashore by General Drude, he discovered a terrible sight. The Arab quarters, massively bombarded from August 5 to 7 from the sea by the French armada of the Galilee, looted by the tribes of Chaouia, “country of sheep breeders” which surrounds Casablanca, are a charred mass grave. What has happened since, at the end of July, delegates from the Chaouia tribes came to demand from the wali of Casablanca the dismissal of the French controller imposed on customs and the cessation of the modernization works of the small port undertaken by a subsidiary of the company French from Le Creusot?
Pour them French officials at the time, there is no doubt that it all started on July 30, when German enemy intrigues heightened Muslim hostility towards Europeans, leading to the lynching of nine European workers on a construction railway for the construction of a modern port in Casablanca: “If some of these ringleaders were guided only by a narrow and crude fanaticism, the greater number of them were bribed and received the word by order of our enemies [allemands, ndlr] », proclaimed the consul Maigret during the tenth anniversary of the landing, in the middle of the First World War.
Indeed, the dismissal opposed by the Makhzen, because of past commitments, to the demands of the representatives of the Chaouia tribes led them to direct action: “At the mosque, the sermons of a man named Haouissne el -Ziani spoke out against Christian businesses. In the streets, passers-by were also stopped by the apostrophes of a marabout in rags, named Zoor, who, accompanied by a negro, preached holy war. […] A young Portuguese, who indulged in shrugging his shoulders near a gathering where Zoor was arguing, received a saber cut on the head from the negro. […]. On the beach, thugs attacked a French child who was playing on the sand,” reports military doctor Brunet, a member of the first landing of 66 men who, on August 5, were to secure the consulates. strangers threatened by the anti-European insurrection.
[Série] Algeria-France: Abdelkader, an emir in Amboise
Driven by the desire to stop the little train that runs in front of the seaside ramparts to transport the stones needed to build the new pier, “a band of Arabs occupy the rails two hundred meters from the city they cover with stones”, continues Dr. Brunet. The train workers try to clear the way but the “gang” opposes it and takes them to task. Nine of them were lynched with stones, knives and truncheons.
“The crowd outraged the mutilated bodies of the nine victims, dragged them across the sand, opened the stomach of one of them, stuffed it with straw and set it on fire. Most of them are not French, but “the workers were hit because we thought they were all French.” From then on, all the Europeans in the city, numbering 1,000, were threatened. Most took refuge on merchant ships anchored offshore, the others took refuge in consulates.
Warned, Auguste de Saint-Aulaire, who heads the French legation in Tangier, then summons the sultan to send a troop of several hundred askaris to restore order and security under the command of Moulay Lamine, the uncle of the sovereign, and he dispatched the first warship available nearby, the Galileo, which steamed ahead to protect the members of the European community who remained at terre.