2015 will mark the 40th anniversary of the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco. With the UK’s concernabout the rising threat of insecurity from the region, and a renewed focus on British values and human rights promotion within foreign policy, the UK can lead progress towards concluding the Western Sahara issue.
Western Sahara lies on the northwest African coast and is south of Morocco, north and west of Mauritania, and south west of Algeria. It is worth noting that Sahrawi society is one in which men and women play equally important roles. From 1884 to 1974 the territory was a Spanish colony but in line with the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960, the Sahrawi people were to vote on self-determination and independence upon decolonization.
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US sides with a colonizer: Africa’s Forgotten (And Festering) Freedom Struggle in Western Africa (opednews.com)
The Western Sahara is a country on the Atlantic Ocean coast of North Africa with the dubious distinction of being the “Last Colony” on the vast continent of Africa. The current colonizer of this mineral-rich nation is the neighboring country of Morocco, which for decades has been conducting a viciously brutal occupation. A long history of human rights violations by Morocco in the Western Sahara have drawn wide condemnation from diverse entities including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United States, ironically an ally of Morocco.
The plight of the Saharawi people, the indigenous population of the Western Sahara, was the focus of a conference in Algiers last weekend that attracted participants from across Africa , Europe and the Americas. That conference featured Saharawians who have been tortured and imprisoned by Moroccan authorities as well as experts who detailed various facets of Morocco’s illegal occupation, including that country’s failures to comply with United Nations mandates to conduct a voter referendum for determining the future of Western Sahara.
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A line in the sand: Fighting 40 years of exile in the desert of Western Sahara (The Washington Post)
“The Polisario Front is now ready to take up arms again as the international community and the UN mission MINURSO [the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] have been unable to solve the crisis in 40 years,” Clavarino says. “Sahrawis have been in exile since 1975, when it was annexed by Morocco, and since 1991 MINURSO has been working in Western Sahara to organize a ‘negotiated political solution’ for the independence of this region.”
Clavarino had access to the military bases in Western Sahara, the counterterrorism patrols in the desert, military exercises and parades. He spoke with Polisario Front ministers and army commanders and with activists who fled Morocco and the occupied territories, where there was daily violence against the Sahrawis. Clavarino visited the refugee camps and saw the difficulties of living for 40 years in tents and makeshift houses and relying on humanitarian aid that, with the growth of the terrorist threat in the region in the last three years, has decreased by nearly 70 percent.
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Morocco’s foremost civil liberties activists won’t attend an international human rights forum that the government launched Thursday in the tourist hub of Marrakech. After numerous attempts this year to bar them from organizing, the activists call the event “a farce” designed to perpetuate misconceptions about the state’s self-branded progressivism.
The Moroccan Association of Human Rights, known by its French abbreviation AMDH, says that this year’s World Forum on Human Rights — an annual gathering of international rights activists — is a “masquerade” designed to deceive Western political and business partners about the North African kingdom’s 2011 political reform project, launched in response to an ongoing popular movement for civil liberties. A handful of other rights groups, including free press as well as gay and reproductive rights advocacy organizations, are also boycotting the event.
Illegal Military Occupation in North Africa: Human Rights & Conflict Irresolution in the Western Sahara (Muftah.org)
Sitting in a large sitting room on the third floor of my host mother’s house, seven female activists gathered around in a circle. The women passed around a bowl of dates, served each other milk, and waited for the tea to be prepared. My host mother, a member of the Committee for the Defense of the Right of Self-Determination of the Western Saharan People, had been imprisoned for nine years in three separate prisons located in Morocco and the Occupied Territories of the Western Sahara. The women she brought together in this room had been imprisoned with her for varying periods of time. “We were all in Kela’at Megouna [a prison located in the Western Sahara] most of us from 1980 to 1991. After the ceasefire we were released. We were beaten, tortured, and our families thought we were dead…for years,” she said.
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