Western Sahara

3 April 2011Letter

The Western Sahara Campaign is leading a worldwide campaign to expand the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). As regular readers of PN know, Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. MINURSO is a UN peacekeeping mission – the only one in the world without a mandate to monitor human rights. The UN is currently failing in its responsibility to protect the victims of this conflict, as demonstrated by the recent violence…

1 April 2011News in Brief

A conference in Spain concluded on 12 March that the EU–Morocco fisheries agreement was illegal and immoral because it includes fishing in waters belonging to Western Sahara, a country illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.
Juan Soroeta, an expert in international law, argued that the accord was illegal, because the natural resources of Western Sahara “can’t be exploited to the detriment of the population and without the approval of the legitimate representatives” of Western Sahara…

1 March 2011News in Brief

At the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in February, hundreds of Moroccans forcibly prevented the holding of a conference of solidarity with the Sahrawi people. About 500 Moroccans stormed the room with Moroccan flags, shouting insults, snatching the flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic from the podium. Western Sahara was invaded and occupied by Morocco in 1975.
Speakers Pierre Galand, Belgian senator and Willy Meyer, Spanish MEP, were among those beaten and shoved during…

1 February 2011News in Brief

Western Sahara

As PN went to press, the Western Saharan resistance movement Polisario was holding its third round of talks in two months with the Moroccan government, which illegally occupied Western Sahara in 1975. The talks, on the outskirts of New York, were under the auspices of the UN.
Meanwhile, Morocco is facing some pressure from the EU, as the renewal of the €36.1m a year EU-Morocco fisheries agreement expires on 27 February. As previously reported, a European…

1 December 2010News in Brief

A protest camp in the desert in Western Sahara was closed down brutally by Moroccan security forces on 11 November. At least eight people were killed. Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975.

The Gadaym Izik tent city, set up in October, was home to 12,000 Sahrawis protesting against unemployment and poor living conditions in nearby Western Saharan capital Laayoune.

Moroccan troops used live ammunition, tear gas and water cannon to shut down the camp,…

1 November 2010News in Brief

The latest movement on the position of Western Sahara, illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975, has come from the EU. The European Union signed a fishing agreement with Morocco in 2006, whereby the EU would pay Morocco €144 million over four years for fishing rights in Moroccan and Western Saharan waters. In 2009, the EU’s legal department ruled that this violated international law by ignoring the rights of Western Sahara.
When Maria Damanaki became European commissioner for fisheries…

1 October 2010News in Brief

On 2 September, activists from Western Sahara, and solidarity activists from Spain announced their decision to launch a flotilla for the independence of Western Sahara. The plan is to set off from the Canary Islands and dock in Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco since 1975. The fleet, which has been named “Mahfoud Ali Beiba”, will set off in the first quarter of 2011 with the aim to breaking the “information blockade suffered by the Sahrawi people.” A Moroccan…

1 September 2010News in Brief

Before the general election, Conservative MP William Hague, now British foreign secretary, supported the introduction of UN human rights monitoring in Western Sahara, a country illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.
In March, Hague wrote to constituents that the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara should be “renewed with a clear human rights monitoring role”.
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey also called for human rights monitoring in Western Sahara…

1 July 2010News in Brief

At the end of May, Algeria and South Africa issued a joint condemnation of Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara, describing the conflict as a “question of decolonisation”, and calling for the people in the region to be able to exercise their right to self-determination through a referendum.
Morocco has illegally occupied Western Sahara since 1975, and refuses to allow a referendum. Also in May, the seventh FiSahara international film festival took place in a Sahrawi refugee…

1 June 2010News in Brief

Three Sahrawi hunger strikers in Moroccan prisons (see PN 2521) won their freedom in mid-May. Six Western Sahara human rights activists were arrested last October on their return from Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria. Three (Saleh Bouih, Rachid Sghir and Yahdih Terroussi) were released on bail by the appeals court in Salé on 18 May. The six began a hunger strike on 18 March but ended it six weeks later at the end of April. On the same day, 28 April, Sahrawi Mohamad Dayhani was abducted by…

1 May 2010News in Brief

As PN went to press, 36 Sahrawi human rights activists in seven Moroccan jails were entering the fifth week of their hunger strikes in protest against their detention without trial.
The first wave of hunger strikes began on 18 March, with the first group (which includes Rachid Sghir, see PN 2520) suffering critical symptoms of medical deterioration as PN went to press. In December, “the Sahrawi Gandhi”, human rights activist Aminatou Haidar, fasted for a month in a successful protest…

1 April 2010News in Brief

Sahrawi human rights activist Aminatou Haidar announced on 10 March that the Moroccan authorities had “violently” crushed peaceful protests in Western Sahara on 8 and 9 March.
Human rights activists Ennaama Asfaria and Sabbar Brahim were among the “many” people who were injured in 9 March protest in Fajla protest. Later in March, a Sahrawi human rights campaigner was beaten by Moroccan police after giving an interview to the BBC.
Rachid Sghir told BBC TV: “We can’t campaign for…

1 March 2010News in Brief

At the end of January, the Moroccan government shut down the independent newspaper, Le Journal Hebdomadaire. Journalists working on the paper believe the last straw may have been their recent interview with Aminatou Haidar.
The Sahrawi activist fasted for 32 days in December in Lanzarote airport for her right to return to Western Sahara, under illegal occupation by Morocco since 1975. Aminatou Haidar remains under house arrest, and Morocco continues to impose travel restrictions on…

1 December 2009News in Brief

As PN went to press, Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar was entering the second week of a hunger strike at Lanzarote airport. Haidar was protesting against her deportation from her homeland by Morocco, which has been illegally occupying Western Sahara since 1975.
Moroccan authorities arrested Haidar on 13 November on her arrival from Spain’s Canary Islands, as she returned from a human rights prize award ceremony in the US (see PN 2515).
Haidar, who is called…

1 November 2009News in Brief

On 21 October, Aminatou Haidar, 42, known as the “Sahrawi Gandhi”, won the Civil Courage Prize, awarded to individuals who have demonstrated steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.
“This prize gives me the courage to pursue the nonviolent struggle that I have been leading since I was 23,” Haidar said after receiving the award in New York from The Train Foundation along with a cheque for $50,000.
Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.