Friday, October 21, 2011


As peaceful protests take place in over 80 countries around the world against the corrupt financial and political systems one only has to go to the Western Sahara to see the other side of the coin. Since the peaceful protest by tens of thousands of Saharawis last October at the Gdeim Izik protest camp Morocco has been turning up the desert heat. What was the largest ever protest in the occupied territories culminated on Monday, October 10, with Moroccan forces brutally attacking peaceful protesters in El Aaiun. The Polisario claims some 30 Saharawis were injured and many others arrested.

It was against this background that the President of the Republic and Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Mohamed Abdelaziz, called on the United Nations to impose sanctions against Morocco. The purpose is to make Rabat comply with the mandate of the UN and end its colonial policy in Western Sahara.

Mohamed Abdelaziz wrote to the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon denouncing the situation of terror, siege, abductions and imprisonments, which take place in the occupied cities of Dakhla and El Aaiun and all the occupied territories of Western Sahara at the hands of Morocco.

The president wrote: “It’s clear that Morocco does not respect the provisions of international humanitarian law, clings to continue its flagrant violations of human rights in Western Sahara, which is under direct UN responsibility, pending decolonization and exercise of inalienable right to self determination and independence.” He then went on to urge the imposition of sanctions against Morocco to fulfil the UN mandate which affirms the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.

Mohamed Abdelaziz also drew the attention of the UN Secretary General to the situation of the family of Saeed Dembar to recover its rights as well as finally being able to bury their son who was brutally murdered by Moroccan police on December 23, 2010

The various peaceful protests by the Saharawi are an attempt to show their deep frustration over the lack of political progress in the Western Sahara to the outside world. The only meaningful activity in the region is Morocco’s plundering of their natural resources.

The Saharawis have now lived through 36 years of illegal colonisation; nearly 20 years of waiting for a referendum on the status of Western Sahara. The referendum is demanded by international law and promised by the UN yet nothing has happened hence Mohamed Abdelaziz’s strong letter to the Secretary General.

The Saharawis are not totally alone and both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused the Moroccan authorities of allegedly torturing many Saharawis. Amnesty International’s 2011Report accuses Rabat of “beatings, electric shocks and threats of rape.” It adds the detainees face military courts on trumped up charges after forced confessions.

As the protestors in New York, London, Madrid and around the world receive front page coverage in the press the authorities in Morocco maintain a media blackout in the Western Sahara. Morocco has banned the entrance to Western Sahara of media and independent observers as well as the Spanish International Association for the Observation of Human Rights (AIODH) from visiting Saharawi human rights activists held in prisons in Morocco. However the Saharawi voice has not been silenced and cries out for justice.

(A version of the above article appeared in the Morning Star on Friday October 21 2011)

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