Touching a nerve: a case study in propaganda

When I set up this blog I didn’t intend it to be so heavy on Western Sahara. However, the more I’ve worked in Western Sahara the more I have been exposed to the politics of the region –  in particular the anti-independence, anti-referendum, and especially anti-Polisario propaganda that emanates continuously from Rabat and supporters of Morocco’s occupation. This runs the gamut from laughable through inventive to sometimes offensive, and can be quite sophisticated. Having an over-developed social conscience I sometimes feel compelled to address this propaganda, and expose it where I can (although I really don’t want to end up as an apologist for the Polisario – the issue to me is not the nature of the Polisario, but rather Morocco’s occupation and the issue of self-determination, which would be at the heart of the Western Sahara question whether opposition to Moroccan occupation was led by Polisario or Mickey Mouse). My efforts in this regard are necessarily small, as countering the Moroccan propaganda machine could easily be a full-time job, and not one I’d want, even if someone was paying me (and they’re not, despite rumours to the contrary).

There are plenty of people on the Moroccan side (and the Polisario side – let’s be fair) for whom “information management” is a full-time job. Perhaps foolishly, in terms of time costs, I allowed myself to get drawn into a discussion with someone whom I presume is one of these professionals, over at Global Voices Online. The gentleman in question calls himself Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad, and he claims to be a “Unionist Sahrawi”. (i.e. in favour of the forced union between Western Sahara and Morocco). I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and we had a long exchange, which eventually fizzled out. He paid me the compliment of commenting on Sand and Dust at long last, under a recent post. Now, when people post on your blog you can see their IP address, so I established that Ahmed Salem, or at least his internet connection, is based in Casablanca, with the IP address registered to the Office National des Postes et Telecommunications (based on plugging the IP address into the free web software at

After my last post on the McDonald’s and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s maps (I wonder if they’re now using the same source, or should that be sauce?), Ahmed Salem underwent a veritable eruption on Global Voices online, which had linked to my ramblings. Apparently I hit some sort of nerve. This is what he wrote:

“The article above comes from the blog of a very well known Polisario supporter under the name of Nick Brooks. His pro-polisario blog is about biases he is far from the situation on the ground. I have already discussed with Nick about his position. He always argues that he is impartial in his blog ?!#2~à@)&°0 !!!!! I told him so why putting just pro-polisarian links on your blog? Why not putting URLs form the unionist sahraouis website as CORCAS and many others supporting unionism in the region of Western Sahara? No way. Nick is not credible at all. He is supposed to conduct some research work in a buffer zone established by the UN in 1991 just after the war held between the moroccan army and the polisario troops supported by Algeria & Lybia. HE IS SPONSORED BY AN ALGERIAN STAKEHOLDER OIL COMPANY ;-). He is very closed to Polisario troops in the buffer zone.

I believe Nick is among those who would like to maintain the status quo in the Western Sahara issue to keep alive his research work and SPONSORING.

Nick has no lesson to give to the international community about the reality on the ground in Western Sahara. It becomes clear to everyone that Polisario leaders were lying and they are still continuing to lie on Human rights in Western Sahara.”

Of course I replied. In fact I was quite flattered to have generated such a response. Whatever its other impacts, this blog appears to be raising the blood pressure of at least one Moroccan propagandist, and the fact that the practitioners of the Maghrebian dark arts find it necessary to indulge in such slander suggests that they feel my views have some relevance, and that’s gratifying. By the way, he’s right about my not being impartial (but wrong about my claims to be) – as another blog puts it: “truth not balance”

I have to say I’m not sure whether to be amused or disapproving of Ahmed Salem’s accusations, which I suspect are a little hypocritical, given that he’s probably employed to peddle propaganda. Out of interest I googled Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad” to see what his web footprint was like – i.e. how busy he is on the web with his propaganda. Not huge, but significant. Maybe this isn’t his full-time job but he’s certainly pretty active, and his arguments are well-rehearsed and often inventive. In any case his arguments provide a good case study of the Moroccan propaganda machine, and anyone interested in what sort of arguments and tactics the Moroccans are using to persuade, cajole and insist would do worse than look at the works of Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad.

In addition to Global Voices and this blog, he crops up on: Flickr; Magharebia; Wikipedia (as Moroccansahraoui, claiming to be from Laayoune); Palestine Think Tank (under his own name alongside another “Moroccan Sahrawi” using similar language and levelling the same accusations at the author of the article in question as he levels at yours truly: you looks well paid by the Algerian regime to defend a false cuase, from the bigining and Algeria is spending money to find people like you to spread this kind of lies….the only HYPOCRIT HERE IS YOURSELF); and Christianne Vienne’s website (she’s a Belgian senator, from what I can see). So he’s certainly busy, pushing the same line – that the majority of Sahrawi want to be Moroccan, that Polisario is a Marxist (or post-Marxist, now Islamic fundamentalist) organisation holding people against their will, that only a small percentage of the people in the camps around Tindouf are Sahrawi, the remainder being economic migrants from the Sahel, and so on, and accusing anyone who disagrees with him of being on the Algerian payroll.

Ahmed Salem likes to point to the CORCAS website a lot. CORCAS is the Royal Advisory Council on Saharan Affairs, appointed by the Moroccan government to give the appearance of a legitimate devolved administration. Their website has lots of articles about how great the Autonomy Plan is and how wicked the Polisario are, and not a few pictures of King Mohamed VI. I couldn’t help but think of the Egyptian Gazette, which I used to glance at in the early 1990s when I was living in Cairo, and which always kicked off with a story about President Mubarak.

Ahmed Salem also likes to argue that Morocco is bringing the benefits of development and modernity to poor primitive, neglected Western Sahara, and points to a number of Moroccan sites boasting about investment in the territory. His Flickr account (westernsaharaoccidental) consists of photos presumably intended to illustrate modernity and abundance in Laayoune and Dakhla, in the Moroccan-controlled areas of Western Sahara (market stalls groaning with fresh produce and aerial shots of modern conurbations). Most of these photos are captioned “Autonomy and more development to face the Globalization”. Of course different kinds of images can be found on sites such as ASVDH, which monitors human rights abuses in the occupied areas.

So, why am I bothering to devote attention to this propaganda merchant? Partly as a sort of right-to-reply after his outburst at me, but also (and more importantly) to cast a spotlight on the Moroccan propaganda machine while it’s in action and allow the few readers of this blog to scrutinize the arguments and tactics that form its backbone. The propaganda of Ahmed Salem and his fellow practitioners follows a number of key principles, which seem to include the following:

1. Steer the debate away from the issue of Morocco’s occupation and the holding of the referendum, and turn it into one about the Polisario, whom you should portray as a separatist group driven wholly or predominantly by Marxist or Islamist ideology. Ideally you should transform the debate into one about the historical origins and legitimacy of the Polisario, which you should misrepresent. Your aim should be to discredit the Polisario through accusations of slavery, child abuse, terrorism, human rights abuses, communism, and Islamic fundamentalism. People should be left with the opinion that the Polisario are so reprehensible that the Sahrawi, whom they represent, do not deserve independence. By contrast Morocco should be portrayed as a champion of democracy and human rights which offers a much better future.

2. Emphasise that independence is not realistic and that those who support the referendum are seeking to prolong the conflict and are just causing more suffering for the people in the Tindouf camps. Pretend that your concerns are for the well-being of the Sahrawi refugees (although insist elsewhere that they are not refugees and many are not Saharawi), thus making your opponents appear callous and uncaring about the refugees – make it clear that anyone who disagrees with you is guilty of using the refugees as political pawns in pursuit of a sinister political agenda.

3. Portray the Tindouf camps as detention centres in which people are held against their will. Morocco has the best interests of the people in the camps at heart – they want to be Moroccan.

4. Emphasise the nature of the conflict as one between Algeria and Morocco, rather than between Morocco and the Polisario, and insist on Algeria’s links to terrorists, Marxists/communists and Islamic fundamentalists. Always emphasise the leftist or “eastern-block” nature of the countries that have historically supported the idea of independence – your audience is predominantly a western one and this will help to discredit the idea of a referendum on independence.

5. Accuse any foreigners supporting the referendum of being in the pay of Algeria, and any Sahrawi or Moroccan groups who question Morocco’s occupation of belonging to irrelevant, extremist, fringe political groups. It is very important to persuade people that those who disagree with the position of the Moroccan government are a tiny minority whose views do not count.

6. Emphasise the benefits that Morocco is bringing to the occupied areas of Western Sahara – the issue is really one of development, not invasion and occupation. Opponents of autonomy within a greater Morocco are ill informed extremists and are against modernity and development.

7. Deny that the Polisario controls a significant part of Western Sahara and portray this as a buffer zone set up by Morocco in cooperation with the UN. Accuse anyone talking about the “Free Zone” of propaganda. Very few people have been to the Polisario-controlled areas, and most people do not know that they exist, thinking instead that Morocco controls all of Western Sahara. It is very important to maintain this impression.

8. Give the impression that the UN and the international community support Morocco’s position and its autonomy plan, and see this as the only realistic option. Insist that Morocco’s autonomy plan is compatible with the principle of self-determination.

9. Invoke the views of international bodies when they support the Moroccan position, but dismiss views from the same bodies when they appear to support the holding of a referendum or the idea of independence. For example, cite UN envoy van Walsum’s controversial comments that independence is unrealistic, but dismiss the original UN resolutions on Western Sahara as irrelevant.

10. Dismiss countries that recognise Polisario as the legitimate government of Western Sahara as irrelevant, usually Marxist, regimes. Similarly, argue that the original rulings of the UN on the need for self-determination are irrelevant because the security council was dominated by leftist governments whose opinions should not count.

11. Portray the conflict as a hangover from the Cold War rather than a conflict about decolonisation.  Emphasise that it was a manifestation of the conflict between Western capitalism and Eastern communism, which the West won. Emphasise that the Polisario and the independence cause had support from the East – the message should be that, being on the losing side in the cold war, the Polisario and Algeria should give up the independence struggle as the world has moved on.

12. Make lots of stuff up and don’t worry about consistency – it doesn’t matter if many of your assertions contradict each other: if you push them hard enough some of them will stick.

13. If people remain unconvinced by all the above tell them to shut up and write, PREFERABLY IN CAPITALS, that they are not impartial/objective,  that they have no credibility or authority to speak about the topic, that they do not understand the situation, and that they must be in the pay of Algeria and the Polisario.

I’m sure we can add to this list – suggestions are welcome.

I hope Ahmed Salem appreciates the attention I’ve devoted to him. He’s always telling me off for not linking to pro-Moroccan websites on this blog. While this is a bit rich given his sole focus on links to CORCAS and other pro-Morocco, anti-Polisario websites, I’ll let that pass and hope that this post redresses the balance. I’m sure he’ll appreciate my collecting his works and presenting them as a set of handy links alongside the one to CORCAS. Maybe he’ll do us the honour of commenting again here, saving me the trouble of more harvesting of his opinions from other sites.


41 Responses to Touching a nerve: a case study in propaganda

  1. Nick, my favorite Polisario propagandist

    When you set up this blog to support Polisario troops, you didn’t know that one day someone or some people could make your story in trouble. You were posting and posting all what you were receiving in your mailbox without any human responsibility vis-à-vis the sufferings of people in Tindouf camps. Finally, you became after many years of supposed ‘scientific research’ a great propagandist on Internet for the account of Polisario leaders and Algeria as well, one of the most credible thanks to your ‘scientist’ position. Your claim was always that you are against the Moroccan occupation and that you have no closed intellectual relationship with Polisario leaders #{°@&+=}!!!! You invented some words or expression like ‘Free Zone’ and ‘Liberated territories’ to make your posts plausible. As all Polisario propagandists, you have put forward the VICTIMIZATION as a manner to get more support. As all Polisario propagandists, you spread some wrong or incomplete information on the history of the conflict and as all Polisario propagandists, you refuse to consider the genesis of the Polisario Front and the morrocanity if I can say of its founders as well as the relationship of the Front with the Soviet Union block. Unfortunately, you do proof in many occasions of your bad faith treating the Western Sahara issue.

    Regarding your interest on my IP address and as you are talking about what you don’t really know, let me inform you that Internet infrastructure of Western Sahara is connected to the national Internet infrastructure which is connected to the European Internet infrastructure through Rabat and Casablanca. Again for your information, ONPT is the old name of Itissalat Al Maghrib before privatization. The IP addressing allocated to the region of Laayoune, Dakhla, Smara, Boujdour and Aousserd have the same network address as all the other regions of Morocco ;-). You have never been in these cities so you couldn’t know!

    I definitely assume the eruption you are talking about. In fact, when I saw a few months ago some blogs, websites…etc spreading some fabricated information on the Western Sahara issue, I decided as a patriot act to react to face darkness on Internet. I am proud to be one of the voices of the unionist sahraouis in Western Sahara who are representing the majority in the region. I am sure they will be more and more to face propagandists like Nick & friends.

    Of course I will reply despite my business constraints to each of your propagandist post and comment to illuminate people on the reality on the ground in Western Sahara. Of course, I will maintain the same style to inform i.e. positivity and peace to achieve reconciliation of all sahraouis. We, the sahraouis, don’t need your propagandist blog. We don’t need people like you looking to maintain the status quo in Western Sahara. We don’t need people like you spreading wrong information on the life in Tindouf camps. Who are you finally to interfere in OUR conflict? Why not caring of your country, your community and your family if any? What’s your motivation on that?

    “Mère thérèsa” was human and has never taken care of politics. You will be credible and “useful” if you take care of the humanitarian issue of people retained in Tindouf camps. Why always lying about the life in Tindouf camps? Why always looking to show that the life in the camps is about PARADISE?

    I really thank you to have pointed out some important ideas on the propaganda machine of Polisario. I though a while that you “returned your jacket” to support Morocco 😉

    I can’t believe that you have no personal interest to support Polisario troops. You made so much time to write the last post. I am sure you have been rewarded somehow.

    Now, that we all know your true face I believe you have to reconsider your blog to retrieve your credibility. Again, as you claim that you are impartial I propose to you to put on your blog URLs of CORCAS websites to demonstrate your good faith on the issue. If you put the links I promise I will be one of the readers ;-). If not, you will remain in my eyes a hard propagandist for the account of Polisario troops.

    And yes, I would be everywhere on Internet if I can. More, I will ask more unionist sahraouis to participate to the reestablishment of “the hidden truth” on the Western Sahara issue. You induce people into error with your fabricated words and expressions.

    Actually, I am not paid for my contributions but I am open for any donation or sponsoring. I will share with you Nick if any sponsoring as you will probably lose your contract in the coming weeks 😉

    Long life to the sahraouis, the unionists, the ones living in Tindouf camps and the Diaposra.

    Down to darkness and personal benefits

    Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad
    Unionist Moroccan Sahraoui (and proud of it)

  2. nickbrooks says:

    AS. Just approved your comment, despite the wild accusations and general bile therein.

    No point on my commenting on your list of assertions about my purpose and motivation.

    As for IP addresses – note my comment that “Ahmed Salem, or at least his internet connection, is based in Casablanca”. So all possibilities covered there. I also note that your network details on the automatically generated “WHOIS” info on your comment are associated with the African Network Information Center, as are a number of previous comments claiming to be from regular folks spontaneously expressing their approval of the autonomy plan.

    As for my “rights” to comment on the political situation, all I can say is that many Sahrawi have expressed approval of my activities, and are appreciative that I’m fighting their corner on the web, given the limited access they have to the web. Insist all you like that most Sahrawi want to live under Moroccan occupation and control. But don’t expect to be believed. If you are really a Sahrawi you are in a very small minority from what I can see.

    You keep saying that I claim to be impartial. I keep saying that I am not. But you are using the age-old tactic of setting up a straw man to knock down. Why would I link to Moroccan government propaganda sites except to show them for what they are? You might have noticed that the purpose of my posts on Western Sahara is advocacy in favour of the referendum and independence (if that is what the Sahrawi want), and to counter Moroccan propaganda. I’m happy to admit it. I’m not interested in making anything up – Morocco’s behaviour is bad enough for me to make the case without having to invent anything.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m trying to argue life in the Tindouf camps is paradise. Hardly. I stayed there recently and did without running water or a reliable electricity supply (these are available in some locations but generally not in people’s houses, except for the elecrticity can be generated from solar cells linked to batteries). They are not gulags as you claim, but conditions leave much to be desired.

    If I put links to Moroccan propaganda sites on my blog will you advertise links to sites that question the Moroccan position? No, of course you won’t. So why not drop this “you are not impartial” nonsense?

    Neither am I paid for my contributions to the debate. Perhaps we are too suspicious of each other’s roles and motivations. But I suspect this mutual suspicion will continue.

    “Unionist Sahrawis” (i.e. Moroccan propagandists) seem to have a pretty high profile these days on the web and elsewhere. So i don’t think you need to worry too much there.

    Truth not balance, and a referendum on self determination. That’s what it’s about. Not weasel words about how occupation and oppression can be compatible with self determination, and examination of the tiniest stains on the Polisario’s dirty laundry to persuade people that the Saharawi somehow don’t deserve or won’t benefit from independence.

  3. nickbrooks says:

    AS: One more comment on the “on the ground” comments. If you are in the occupied territories then you may claim to have access to the reality on the ground. But so may those of us who travel in the Free Zone and spend time in the camps. There is plenty of ground there too. I may not have access to the occupied areas, and don’t claim to. You certainly don’t have access to the camps or the Polisario controlled areas. You need to accept that. Instead you hysterically insist that the Free Zone does not exist. You say I am “far from the situation on the ground” – your ground maybe, but I have plenty of experience on the ground in the camps and in the Free Zone. And these are the areas about which I speak. Live with it.

  4. Nick, as you can’t put up links to CORCAS websites for some sponsoring reasons, let me put them below by myself : (politics and international support to Autonomy in Western Sahara) (satellite views, history conflict, Sahara TV/Radio…) (culture of Western Sahara) (different views of main cities of Western Sahara) (Economic development of Western Sahara) (Social developement of Western Sahara).

    Referendum is a blocking issue and the autonomy initiative is in conformance of the international legality. You as well as all the other Polisario propagandists will never stop the reconciliation process initiated by the UN. Sorry for that!

  5. kamal lebardy says:

    I think my brother you don’t know the history of the region and you have to do some more work to know why Morocco is defending it’s terittories,that’s the only advice I give you. long live the Moroccan Sahara,and death to the algerian generals that kill milliOns of their own poeple just because they freely choose islamic party in the 1992 election ,this generals talk about supporting the sahraouis and in the contrary they kill their own blood.

  6. nickbrooks says:

    Ahmed – apologies. Your comment was identified as spam. Thanks for the handy set of links to the Moroccan state propaganda websites.

    You know I disagree with your assessment of the referendum, which is actually at the heart of the process initiated by the UN – if fact, organising a referendum IS the process initiated by the UN, who have subsequently failed in this self-appointed task.

    The autonomy plan cannot work unless it includes Polisario and the exiled Sahrawi, and this will require Polisario to relinquish control of the areas east and south of the Berm. Essentially it demands the complete capitulation of one side in this conflict. In doing so it is unrealistic.

    The autonomy plan is also based on the fiction – perpetrated by you and your fellow propagandists – that Morocco controls all of Western Sahara except for a very small buffer zone, and that Polisario has no presence in Western Sahara. The reality is a very different one of partition between areas controlled by Morocco and areas controlled by Polisario. The Moroccan-controlled areas are much larger, but the Polisario-controlled areas are also extensive, as I know from the maps produced by the UN and from my travels throughout these areas. It’s my suspicion that acceptance of the autonomy plan would act as a prelude to further territorial expansion by Morocco into the Polisario-controlled areas, which would destabilise the region and probably draw Algeria and Mauritania into the conflict. If this is not Morocco’s intention the plan has no value other than as a PR exercise. I seriously doubt that Morocco would want Polisario operating as a political party in Western Sahara, even if Polisario agreed to give up its territorial claim. I also seriously doubt that Morocco would welcome tens of thousands of independence-minded Sahrawi back from exile. Of course Morocco might choose to implement the autonomy plan in the areas it controls and ignore the Polisario-controlled areas, but the result would be a rump Sahrawi state governed by the Polisario (effectively the situation at present), and I doubt this is on Morocco’s agenda. The autonomy plan is unworkable without real agreement between the two parties, and does not address some absolutely key issues. Compromise seems impossible given the current attitudes of the parties.

    Polisario’s position is more flexible than Morocco’s, as they at least entertain all possibilities – an independent Western Sahara, a semi-autonomous Western Sahara as part of Morocco, or complete integration of Western Sahara as part of Morocco. Morocco is only prepared to consider the last two options. So Morocco is the problem – the party that is blocking a solution through a lack of flexibility and a narrow, orwellian interpretation of the UN requirement for self determination. Morocco has set a precondition that states that complete freedom of self-determination is not on offer, because it will not allow it. Morocco insists that the forcible occupation and annexation of one territory by a neighbouring country is compatible with the principle of self-determination. I, and many others, disagree with this interpretation of the situation.

    We’ve both made our thoughts clear on this issue now, several times both here and at Global Voices Online.

  7. kamal lebardy says:

    Mr nick I just want to reply that I don’t even agree with the king decisio,n by giving the sahraouis autonomie ,cause I don’t thing that any country in the planet would do that to it’s territories ,consider it’s land.Nick why you don’t tell the Spanish goverment to give the basque their autonomie and freedom ,they called them terrorist,haha!.Ithink you should stick with that probleme instead of working for the algerians generals.I just wanna mansion also that the father of abdelaziz the president of polisario live in morocco and he is loyal citizen including he’s two sons and daughter,have you heard in history about state called arab sahraoui republic,but of course you heard of the great morocco.the issue of moroccan sahara is conflict betwen morocco and algeria ,that did so by supporting the polisario ,in away to hold morocco of getting it’s east sahara and you coud google the war that happened between the two states in 1963

  8. nickbrooks says:

    Kamal, you are demonstrably wrong about no country granting even limited autonomy to “its territories” – Indonesia allowed East Timor to become independent, the UK has allowed the establishment of a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assesmbly, Czechoslovakia split into the Czech and Slovak Republics, the Soviet Union split into the independent states of the CIS. Over the last half the 20th century European countries gave up their empires and colonies as dozens of new states were created, and so on. History is replete with examples of governments giving up territory or granting greater autonomy to their territories. In the case we’re discussing, Western Sahara isn’t even recognised as part of Moroccan territory in the first place, so Morocco has an even weaker case for holding onto it than most countries that have ceded power or independence to their regions had for maintaining their “territorial integrity”. As for Basque independence – great, I’d be very happy to see it if that’s what the Basques want. Similarly for any other region within a European or other state. Within a democratic Europe the Basque region has a better chance of determining its own future than does a Western Sahara occupied by an undemocratic Morocco, and the Basques don’t need my intervention.

    We’ve heard all the guff about Abdelazziz many times from your fellow nationalists.

    I’ve heard quite a lot about the state called the SADR – in fact I just participated in a consultancy bid for an EU funded project on desertification in the Sahel-Sahara region, and this bid asked for consultants with experience in the Sahara-Sahel region including in the SADR. The reason the EU was recognising the SADR in this instance was that the proposed project is a joint undertaking with the AU, most of whose members recognise the SADR. In contrast no-one formally recognises Morocco’s control over Western Sahara.

    Algeria plays a big role in the Western Saharan conflict, but to pretend that it is just a conflict between Morocco and Algeria, and that Polisario is not relevant, is disingenuous and you know it.

  9. Nick, you are really incredible. Everything becomes allegation and manipulation when it comes to Morocco and somehow the reality on the ground. When it’s about Polisario & Algeria, everything becomes clear and justifiable and credible. Woww!! You claim that ‘SADR’ were reconginzed in an European instance, you are simply dreaming, lying and propagating for their account. The EU has never recognized ‘SADR’ and will never do even at the smallest instance. STOP you propagation please and let the UE and the UN make the reconciliation possible.

    The UE signed an advanced statute with Morocco including the Western Sahara region. So please, stop it.

  10. nickbrooks says:

    Ahmed Salem

    Here is a link to the terms of reference for some consultancy work on the “Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative”. This document was forwarded to me by a consultancy firm and originated with the EU. See the bottom of page 7 for the paragraph where the ToR specify a very good understanding of land degradation in a number of countries including the SADR as a condition of the contract being awarded.

    Of course this doesn’t mean the EU has formally recognised SADR in a diplomatic context. But it is a surprising example of an EU initiative recognising the SADR in some, very small, capacity. This is, of course, because the initiative in question is a collaboration with the African Union, which certainly does recognise the SADR.

    So you are wrong about SADR not being recognised in the “smallest instance” by the EU (although it is very small), even as the EU rewards Morocco’s aggression by granting it Advanced Status. If they do so they will be undermining the UN, which still has a force in Western Sahara mandated with organising a referendum on self-determination (which has been systematically blocked by Morocco). By your argument it would seem that any such referendum could only result in the Sahrawi voting to be part of wonderful Morocco. Yet you oppose the referendum. Very odd….

    There is a petition going around for the EU Advance Status agreement with Morocco to exclude Western Sahara in order to ensure that the EU does not collaborate in Morocco’s occupation. I hope it will be successful and am playing my small part in supporting it where I can. But we will see.

    And I won’t stop it. Do you think you can just order me to stop? Remember, the mandate of your thought police stops at the border, and those of us living outside Morocco are free to discuss the Western Sahara issue in terms of independence and referenda, unlike those subject to the authority of your king, who forbids such discussion.

  11. lixy says:

    Tough topic that you’re covering here.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the general let-the-people-decide sentiment. And, yes, propaganda reached comical heights on both sides. But let’s be practical for a second: Do you seriously believe there’s any chance of the Western Sahara splitting from Morocco?

    The country doesn’t spend 5% of its GDP on military expenditures to let a bunch of sand-people claim sovereignty. And the Moroccans, they’re at 99.9% convinced that the Sahara is indisputably theirs. If you’ve been through the Moroccan school system (and its infamous civic education God-bless-the-king skit), you’d realize that there’s no need for the government to hire full-time lobbyists on the web. It’s a grassroots movement. There are plenty of Moroccans whose biggest regret in life is to not have participated in the Green March. It’s sad, but true. As for Sahrawis, it’s hard to know where they really stand given Rabat’s intolerance for criticism.

    Please keep an open mind. Some of your posts don’t sound very intelligent (a reaction to the idiots calling you Algiers’ agent?). The issue is far from being a black/white one.


  12. nickbrooks says:

    Oooh – that’s a bit harsh. I’m happy for you to point any any specific instances of extreme stupidity. I know I do get carried away from time to time.

    Morocco is certainly unlikely to endorse a solution based on independence for Western Sahara under current circumstances. I agree that the majority of the Moroccan population are behind the government on this and that it is in that sense a grassroots issue – grassroots support for the occupation and annexation of Western Sahara.

    However, I disagree that the fact that a majority of the population in a country is in favour of expansion into neighbouring territories is a reason for the rest of the world accepting such territorial expansion. This is an argument for kowtowing to aggression just because this is the easiest option.

    I also take issue with the statement about Western Sahara “splitting from Morocco”. This suggests that it is fully part of Morocco, which it is not. While Morocco controls the majority of Western Sahara, the Polisario controls a sizeable portion of the territory, which it runs as a de facto independent state, albeit one whose putative population is mostly living in exile across the border in Algeria.

    Morocco certainly did take the areas of Western Sahara that it now controls through the use of military force. Its occupation is partial, and the territory is now partitioned. That seems pretty clear cut to me.

    As for the views of the Saharwi, to a man and woman, all the ones I have met support the idea of independence. I am sure there are those who don’t, but I strongly suspect these are in a very small minority. Again, there is an easy way to resolve this mystery – through a referendum as mandated by the relevant UN resolutions.

    Returning to the issue of popular support within Morocco for the government’s position, this is a support that has been manufactured by the state, as you indicate. I am sure that, should it wish to do so, the state could manufacture a consensus in favour of self-determination or even independence.

    I think we are on very dangerous ground when we accept military expansion, occupation and annexation on the grounds that the world is a complex place and that it is too much like hard work to do anything else. But then perhaps this isn’t very intelligent of me.

  13. lixy says:

    I understand what you’re saying but, for all intents and purposes, the bulk of the Western Sahara is under de facto Moroccan rule. And the status quo is in Rabat’s favor. So when I say “splitting”, it’s more language abuse than subliminal political trickery.

    For lack of a referendum, I can only cite anecdotal evidence myself. And most Sahrawis I have met were more happy to pledge their allegiance to Morocco. But the mere fact that Rabat has been postponing the vote, suggests that they know something I don’t and that your the sample size of Sahrawis you met is more representative.

    If I said that some parts don’t sound intelligent, it’s because of the idea that the Moroccan government actually recruits people to disseminate e-propaganda. That’s underestimating the level of incompetence and backwardness of said government, and the grassroots attachment (manufactured or not isn’t really the point) of Moroccans to the Sahara.

    Anyway, saying that it’s a lost cause is the understatement of the decade. Talks are stalled because the UN represent ant considers POLISARIO’s position “unrealistic”. And don’t even get me started on the big powers (US, EU, etc.) and where their interests lie. I don’t see Morocco letting it go before a Basque and Tamil states are acknowledged, but I may be wrong…

  14. nickbrooks says:

    I think the language issue is important. What we’re dealing with is a partial occupation of a formally contested territory, and to talk about Western Sahara splitting from Moroocco completely misrepresents the situation.

    I don’t doubt that there are some Sahrawi who are happy to live under Moroccan rule. However, I suspect that they are in the minority. No doubt the breakdown in opinion is different according to whether we’re talking about exiles, those living under occupation, or the diaspora. And Rabat’s vehement opposition to the long-promised referendum speaks volumes, I think.

    As for the Moroccan government deliberately propagandising on this issue, I’d find it absolutely astonishing if they didn’t. So I disagree with you here. Certainly some their efforts are or have been very amateurish. But if you look at websites that have been set up with the sole purpose of attacking the Polisario (e.g. Polisario Confidential, Polisario Think Twice, and the possibly now defunct Together Foundation) these are manifestly propaganda sites. Now a lot of propaganda seems to be undertaken by third parties acting effectively on behalf of the government in Rabat, such as the Moroccan American Centre for Policy and the Morocco Board. There is certainly an orchestrated propaganda campaign going on, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this extends to people trawling the internet so they can respond to material sympathetic to the idea of the referendum. This might not all be undertaken by agents of the government, and there are plenty of Moroccan nationalists who object to the idea of Sahrawi independence who no doubt post the odd comment here and there on the web. However, I’d be very surprised if some of these posts weren’t part of a wider campaign orchestrated by or on behalf of the Rabat government. I know the staff at the Moroccan embassy in the UK keep a close eye on this blog (I met some of them at Adbelhamid el-Ouali’s book launch in London, and they were quick to fill in the author on my activities). So, like all regimes, the Moroccan one may be stupid and incompetent, but that doesn’t mean they don’t engage in (albeit sometimes clumsy) orchestrated propaganda campaigns to promote their views. That doesn’t mean everyone who posts on my blog or anywhere else against the referendum is a government stooge, but I strongly suspect some of them are in the pay of Rabat or it’s foreign affiliates.

    It’s true that the major powers and elements within the UN either actively support or tacitly accept Morocoo’s claim. But to argue that this means we should all sit back and accept things as they are is a bit, well, dismal, surely. Perhaps there are other things we should sit back and accept as inevitable too, simply because that’s the way things seem to be. For my “day job” I work in the field of climate change, and the chances that we’re going to meet the targets set by the likes of the EU and endorsed by most scientists and policymakers are pretty damn slim. I suspect the chance of an independent Western Sahara is greater than the chance that we’ll avoid warming the world by more than 2 degrees Celsius and setting off potentially catastrophic climate change. Yet plenty of people are trying to make sure we achieve the latter. Perhaps I should tell them to give up because they’re being unrealistic.

    I guess I’m enough of a romantic to believe that we should stand up for what we believe in and what we think to be right, even if the chances of success are slim. I know such a view is unpopular with self-styled ‘political realists’, who often have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo (I’m not suggesting for a moment you have a vested interest here, of course). If we don’t fight for a better, fairer, more just world then what’s the point of our existence? The argument that we should simply kow-tow to the positions and interests of the powerful is, to me, abhorrent. If everyone adopted this attitude we in the West would have no democracy or freedom of expression, women (and most men) wouldn’t be allowed to vote, and we’d still have slavery and serfdom. People across the globe would not have won their independence from colonialism. All of these were fought for by people who were told they were being naive and unrealistic. Sure, some causes may seem hopeless, and those who support them mail fail in their objectives. But that’s no reason for not trying.

    However, I don’t think the Sahrawi cause is as hopeless as you make out. With enough pressure from the currently indifferent big powers (even just the US, perhaps), Morocco might change its stance. Indonesia did over East Timor, which was a broadly similar case. The folks at the UN just want an easy life (although some are more prepared to stand up for the UN’s principles than others – van Walsum was in the ‘others’ category here). If powerful member states changed their tune then the UN would follow suit. That’s how it works. And said powers might be persuaded to do so if they had a better understanding of the realities and implications of Western Sahara’s partition, which means that Morocco’s autonomy plan is a non-starter, due to it’s failure to even recognise, let alone address, partition.

  15. Dear Nick,

    Some time ago I read a long post from you about the presentation of a propaganda book from Morocco’ “Sociologist” Mohamed Cherkaoui (in Oxford?).

    Now the same propaganda book has been orchestred and presented in Madrid.

    Could you please give me some indication about where your comment was posted?

    In the event, you can send me an e-mail, of course.

    I know that also qualified researches belonging to the French CNRS have wrrtten a very critical (“pure Morocco’s propaganda”) paper about the book of Cherkaoui, but I don’t find it now.

    Luis Portillo (Spain)

  16. nickbrooks says:

    Dear Luis

    The two posts on Abdelhamid el-Ouali and his book are here:

    The launch was a low-key affair in the Houses of Parliament packed almost exclusively with Moroccan embassy staff and high-profile Moroccan ex-pats. There was negligible interest from anyone else as far as I could see (an elderly politician was hanging around but left early, and that appeared to be the extent of UK political interest, at least from Parliament).

    My views on why the “autonomy plan” is unworkable can be found here, for what they are worth (download the briefing note, which I will try and update):

    All the best


  17. Hi Nick,
    As You censored my previous posts. I would like to tell you that you are all except democrate. I can’t accept it from a mind from the West. You are behaving exactly as the leaders of Polisario : no way to negotiate, no way to debate, no way to hear/read another point of view. It’s a bit sade from a man who mostly lived in a democratic world.
    Anyway, I will stay at your disposal if you want to continu to give and take ideas on the WS issue.
    Finally, I feel myslf more open that many of (declared) western minds supporting Polisario leaders and Algeria on Internet.


    Ahmed Salem

  18. nickbrooks says:

    AS, I didn’t approve the last post I saw from you as (i) it contained torrents of personal abuse, and (ii) you were simply repeating yourself. Forgive me for having the temerity for believing that the purpose of my blog should be something other than providing a forum for people who disagree with my political opinions to hurl personal insults at me. I forgot that supporters of the Moroccan stance should have the right to attack whomever they want and say what they like wherever they like, while insisting that those who disagree with them shut up.

    Second, I’m not interested in having the same argument with you again and again. There is no need to approve comments that repeat earlier comments. This is simply tedious.

    It’s laughable that you choose to attack me for my “undemocratic” approach here, while supporting a regime that is based on the principle of the divine right of kings, and which refuses to allow the people of Western Sahara a referendum on their own future. In fact it’s worse than laughable, it’s shameless.

    By the way, my support for the Polisario is associated with my support for a free and independent Western Sahara – whatever their faults they at least represent that. I do not support the Algerian regime in any way, shape or form, and have no love for it.

  19. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    i must say that i have followed this BLog content with a faily interest , to find out how European and others who are using nicknames for some reasons or others are involved somehow in the ongoing discussion about the WS issue
    Iam not ready to take part of such argument that is not helping us and for that matter the local/regional and internatiobnal opinion public to understand the real and main reasons behind the Western sahara conflict . This is to my mind the real issue , in another word why some of he western activists and even researchers and academics who have decided to get involved in terms of participating in the on-going dialogue and discussions about the western Sahara region issue . Therefore it is one of he basis of research or rather scientific research , before any respectable and objective writer/reporter/analyst and so on and so forth , starts dealing with any serious matter has the obligation to learn about every aspect of the issue and for the case of WS the main aspects which relate to history and legal documents throughout centuries that prove from the international law point of view that Western sahara region was and remain an integral part of Morocco, in fact even those who have opted to rally to the Polisario front their parents and anscestors were Moroccans , in this respect it is notable that most members of The Moroccan liberation army against the Spaniard in the sahara who fought for years were the inhabitants of WS in another word Sahraouis.

    Unfortunately a number of the New sahraoui generation are not aware of the real reality of their region , they were somehow influenced by the Propaganda machine of The Polisario front anf their allies .

    In this context , talking about Propaganda machines: every country in the entire world , uses Propaganda machine as a mean to explain its policy towards a particualr issue, so the argument should not be about the principle of having a policy of propaganda machine or not; because the issue here to what extent the propaganda machine is useful or useless, and in this particular point, i would like to confirm that the Polisario propaganda machine did not reach its goals in terms of creating an uprising in the Wsahara region , because the majority if not the entire sahraouis of in the WSahara region have made up their minds once and for all that the Polisario seperatist dreams of creating a state in the Wsahara region is out of place, and reach , not only this conviction is spread out among most Sahraouis even those who are still trapped in the Tindouf refugee camps, i will mention another example among others , that is at least 6000 ex polisario political military leaders and officials have regained their homeland as they came to the conclusion that W sahara is an integarl part of morocco and that they were and remain Moroccans.

    I will be happy to carry on discussing this vital issue in this blog with the blog owner or anybody else provided that the level od discussion is appropriate and constructive , obviously other aspects of the issue were mentioned i would rather discuss them seperatetly

  20. nickbrooks says:

    Well Taoufiq, thank you for you continuing interest in the blog. It’s interesting that I’ve had no comments for a some time (and I have also been too busy to write new entries), and then two from supporters of the Moroccan stance on the same day, one after the other. To me this suggests an orchestrated response, which is not surprising. I’m not sure what you’re referring to in terms of nicknames – I for one use my own name, as I’m not interested in hiding behind pseudonyms. Hell, you can even see a picture of me on the “about” page. So if that was a slur thrown in my direction it was miscast.

    The historical claims were assessed back in the 1970s by the International Court and found not to be strong enough for a ruling in Morocco’s favour. I know that the usual response to this from the Moroccan camp is to dismiss the Court as irrelevant and biased against Morocco. Further, I think the potential for proving what is right and what is wrong in terms of historical claims is limited at best – one can hardly apply what you and AS might call a “scientific” approach to a non-scientific problem. I really don’t understand this constant reference to scientific research with respect to the conflict. It’s not a scientific issue. There have been many attempts to apply “scientific” approaches to societal problems that are more to do with subjective beliefs and ethical issues, and these have generally ended in failure or worse.

    And that’s often the point here – a lot of the issues here come down to subjective judgment, ethical viewpoints and world-view. I prefer a world in which people are free to determine their fate and are left to govern themselves. I prefer a world in which the forcible integration of one territory into another against the will of the former’s inhabitants is not tolerated, whatever historical justifications are wheeled out. My Moroccan antagonists have a completely different view of the world. We will never convince each other of our absolute rightness here. You and Ahmed Salem insist that this is a problem that can be addressed “scientifically”, like a puzzle in physics or mathematics for which there is some objective or “true” solution. Of course you do this in order to persuade people that this is an issue on which only a select few “scholars” steeped in Moroccan imperial history are qualified to comment. Your aim is to convince people that “outsiders” do not understand the conflict and that their views should be ignored. This is a perversion of the idea of research, and a dishonest use of the idea of science. Science has nothing to say here, and historical analysis is not physics.

    The claim that the Sahrawi in the camps have concluded that an independent Western Sahara state is “out of place” is inaccurate in my view. Those who want to leave tend to leave, and cannot be seen as representative of those who remain. I’m sure that there are incentives for Polisario leaders to defect – they might reap rich rewards from a Moroccan government that can exploit them for propaganda purposes. I take the figure of 6000 with a pinch of salt in the absence of supporting information or independent verification.

  21. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    Good Morning to you Mr Brooks

    If you allow me i would like to comment your response to me , as obviously i do not agree with you in most of the points you have mentioned .

    first of all to say that ” to me this suggests an orchestrated response” seems to me a bit too much , i have no time nor any eason to take part of any orchestrated response, as if the final settlement of the Western sahara issue will will come ouit of your blog . Iam Moroccan journalist / researcher , i do read a lot articles about this issue because it is one of my main interest, so i do not need to play games with you , in order to expres my views about th future of Western sahara, as iam convinved that Western sahara is an integarl part of Morocco , and that gthere is a legal and historical relationship between Morocco and the sahara region . *

    As to the international court of justice resolution every party of the conflict interpreted it according to its belisfs and interest, therefore the final resolution of the ICJ can not be taken into account as it was politicised, in this respect i would advice to consdult douments and letters sent gto and from European countries during the past 4 centuries or so , and once you read them you will automatically find out that the international community and the European countries recognized that the “SULTANS” of Morocco were in control of that region , and that the inh

  22. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    Good Morning to you Mr Brooks

    If you allow me i would like to comment some points of your response to me , as obviously i do not agree with you in most of the points you have mentioned .

    first of all to say that ” to me this suggests an orchestrated response” seems to me a bit too much , i have no time nor any reason to take part of any orchestrated response, as if the final settlement of the Western sahara issue will come out of your blog . Iam Moroccan journalist / researcher , i do read a lot articles about this issue because it is one of my main interest, so i do not need to play games with you , in order to expres my views about the future of Western sahara, as iam convinved that Western sahara is an integarl part of Morocco , and that there is a legal and historical relationship between Morocco and the sahara region .

    As to the international court of justice resolution every party of the conflict interpreted it according to its beliefs and interests, therefore the final resolution of the ICJ can not be taken into account as it was politicised, in this respect i would advice to consult douments and letters sent to MOROCCO and from European countries during the past 4 centuries or so , and once you read them you will automatically find out that the international community and the European countries recognized that the “SULTANS” of Morocco were in control of that region , and that the inhabitants of WS used to be seen as Moroccan citizens , having said that the discussion in this particular aspect of the crisis can last for a long time , it will be interesting to go back to history and to documents in British Library for instance to learn more about the real facts of the disputed area .
    Although i have to respect your points of view concerning the ICJ, but again i think when you said ” we will never convince each other” that you are a party of the problem , if your name is actually Nickbrooks it means that you do not belong to the area , and there fore your knowledge of all the aspects of the issue, is somehow not solid and deep enough , you may sympathise with the sahraoui people , i can understand this , but introducing yourself as somebody who knows more about this issue than the people of the area i think is n ot acceptable , as i will never claim that i know better than you what is going on in your proper country or area .

    Now, i will sugest to send you one of my articles about this issue

  23. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    GOOD Morning tio you MR Brook

    as i mentioned in my message to you iam sendfing you one of my article concerning the WS issue



    The world political landscape knows a number of disputes, and conflicts that are threatening directly, or indirectly peace, and stability around the world. In fact some of these conflicts deserve the international community full attention in order to solve them, having said that others are simply unfounded, but unfortunately continue to exist for some reasons or others, draining out financial resources, as well as putting tremendous pressure on the international community. As to the Western Sahara conflict, it is a result of regional politics in the North African area, during the seventies, and particularly between the two most powerful countries in the region i.e.: Morocco and Algeria. Vital economic and strategic interests where undoubtedly behind the three decade crisis over Western Sahara.

    The legal ties between Western Sahara and the kingdom of Morocco were actually recognized in the treaties which took away Moroccan independence. These treaties are the basis to assess the ties that always existed between Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco. To start with, there is the Anglo-Moroccan agreement of 13 march 1895, clause I of which reads as follows: “If this government buys the building etc…in the place above – named From the above-named company, no-one will have any claim to the
    Lands that are between Wadi Draa and cape boujdour, and which are called
    Tarfaya above-named, and all the lands behind it, because all this belongs to the
    Territory of Morocco”

    Great Britain thus recognized that Moroccan territory extended to cape boujdour, including SEGUIA AL HAMRA. Moreover, the letters annexed to the treaty of 4 November 1911 signed between France and Germany, state: “Germany will not intervene in any special agreements which France and Spain may think fit to conclude with each other on the subject of Morocco comprises all the part of northern Africa which is situated between Algeria, French west Africa and the Spanish colony of Rio de Oro (wadi dahab)”

    The Alaouite dynasty has ruled Morocco since the mid-seventeenth century. In pre-colonial times, three of the Alaouite Sultans: Moulay Rachid, Moulay Ismail, and Moulay Hassan, were already pursuing active Saharan policies. In 1905-1906, Sultan Moulay Abdul Aziz sent military support to sheikh Maouelainin to support him in his fight against the French. Morocco continued the struggle against its division and occupation at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Moroccan resistance on the central government as well as the popular level, prevented the entire occupation of Western Sahara and the rest of Moroccan territory until the beginning of the last century, when this became unavoidable. However, the fight continued in different forms and finally led to the recognition of Morocco’s independence in 1956. The Moroccan Spanish declaration of 7 April 1956 and one signed with France on 2 march of the same year, contained confirmation of Spain’s desire to “respect territorial unity guaranteed by international treaties” and the commitment to “take all necessary steps to put this into effect” . In the same year the Moroccan army of liberation started organizing guerrillas for an offensive against the Spanish at Ifni, and Western Sahara. In 1957, the Moroccan Liberation army succeeded in pushing the Spanish back to the coast. It was only with the aid of French troops that Spain was able to re-establish itself in Western Sahara.

    After Morocco independence late King Mohammed V formally claimed Western Sahara as an integral part of the Kingdom. In 1957, he set up the “direction des affaires sahariennes et frontalieres”, and on 25 February 1958 he formally demanded the return of Western Sahara to the motherland Morocco. He said in a famous speech in the little oasis town of M’hamed on the edge of the Sahara: “we will continue to do everything in our power to recover our Sahara and all that which, by historical evidence and by the will of its inhabitants, belongs as of right to our kingdom”

    Late King Hassan II’s initiative in organizing a peaceful march to the Sahara, in November 1975 led to the Madrid agreement of 14 November 1975, it was in practical terms, the first step towards the process of decolonization of the west Saharan territories.
    The green march (Al Massira al khadra in Arabic), could be described as the master stroke which resolved the dispute between Morocco and Spain. Plans for the march, which was named after the holy colour of Islam, were first announced by King Hassan II on 16 October 1975.recruting offices were set up throughout morocco, and by 20 of October as many as 524,000 volunteers were said to have registered. The march caught the imagination of the Moroccan people. It was portrayed as a holy march (jihad), and its participants were told that they would be armed only with the coran and they should consider themselves as Mujahidin, or holy warriors, in a campaign to reclaim Islamic territory from the Spanish invaders. The marchers numbered 350,000 volunteers and gradually assembled in a vast tent city near Tarfaya .It became evident to the Spanish government as much as to western observers of this remarkable mobilization, that King Hassan II would be unable to call off the march or fail in his pledge to send the marchers across the border even if he had wished to do so , he said : “ I can not turn 350, 000 Moroccans who have responded to my call with enthusiasm into 350,000 frustrated Moroccans”.

    As soon as Spain accepted the reopening of negotiations, on 9 November 1975, late king Hassan II ordered the marchers to return to their homes. On 14 november 1975, an accord was signed in Madrid to crown the negotiations with Spain By Morocco and Mauritania, in accordance with article 33 of the United Nations charter, and resolution 380.

    The difference of opinion over Western Sahara which, until 1975, divided Morocco and Spain does not therefore date from the time when the United Nations organization took an interest in the issue. It dates back to the period in morocco’s history when, during the nineteenth century, the country was faced with the ambitious appetites of the colonial powers and their desire to divide Morocco in order to subjugate it.

    King Mohammed VI, immediately after his enthronement in 1999, set forth a development strategy built on social and economic development. Initially, the new young king is seen as a reformer, keen to liberalize the economy, root out corruption and establish the rule of law and democracy. When he was crown prince he was beside his father late king Hassan II in most the national and international activities, and in particular when it comes to the Western Sahara issue. In this respect during summer of 1996 a delegation of the Polisario front led by Bachir Mustapha Said met the crown prince then Sidi Mohammed, that was in practical terms his first direct and secret meeting with the polisario delegation in Morocco, the aim of the meeting was about the application of Autonomy principle in western Sahara, in fact the polisario delegation was in favour of such settlement and also of continuing direct negotiations with the late king Hassan II

    Even if the idea of autonomy is not new, Morocco has recently proposed a project for
    A substantial autonomy of Western Sahara. The project consists of giving Western Sahara
    a Large autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Sahraouis are expected to be offered a
    Parliament with power over local policies in terms of management and decisions
    Concerning southern provinces ; cabinet ministries, and their own judiciary, but the
    Moroccan flag would fly over the territory, the currency and stamps would be Moroccan,
    and the Moroccan king would remain the highest religious authority in the land.

    It is in the same context that the royal advisory council for Saharan affairs, commonly
    known by its French acronym CORCAS, was created by King Mohammed VI in march
    2006, by enhancing its official status and defining its role to “foster the culture of dialogue,
    and thus pave the way for our citizens to help in this process and make practical proposals
    on matters pertaining to our country’s territorial integrity” (speech of 25th of march
    delivered by the monarch of Morocco). This culture of dialogue is the king’s innovative
    initiative to seek solutions to significant issues facing Morocco. In 2004, Morocco’s truth
    and reconciliation commission was created to investigate past human rights violations and propose political and judicial reforms which were approved by the king. CORCAS was another example of the king innovative approach to make use of dialogue to find solutions to complex social and economic issues. It is worth mentioning that CORCAS is composed of 140 members (among them 14 women) they represent an ethnic, political, and tribal section of Moroccan society most of CORCAS’s members are representatives from all Sahraoui tribes, including the father of the Polisario leader Mohammed Abdelaziz.

    The plan of a substantial autonomy transfers competences and creates local institutions (legislative and executive) within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty .again autonomy is seen by experts in international law as a very advanced form of self determination. This plan was prepared by the Royal Advisory Council for Sahara Affairs (see and it has been subject to large consultations with the sahraoui populations and Moroccan political parties, before being approved by the young king. On Wednesday, April 11, 2007 the Moroccan government submitted its proposal for a substantial autonomy for the Western Sahara region to the newly nominated secretary general of the United Nations organization, taking the first step, which the international community has called for repeatedly, toward a political direct dialogue with the parties concerned.
    In its 1754 resolution, on Monday, April 30, 2007 the UN Security Council “calls upon the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions in good faith. The security council in its resolution concerning western Sahara has taken note of the Moroccan proposal presented to the UN secretary general “…and welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution” it is an explicit recognition to the efforts made by Morocco, after long and various consultations with the international community ..The 1754 resolution is a fruit of Moroccan endless efforts to overcome the present deadlock.
    Morocco’s proposal was in no doubt supported by a large number of countries all over the world, among others the USA ,France, and Spain which openly congratulated Morocco for proposing and submitting a courageous and revolutionary project entitled “Moroccan initiative for Negotiating an Autonomy Statute for the Sahara region” whereas the Polisario proposal as the UN’s secretary general personal envoy for Sahara, Peter Van Walsum described it «it is consistent With Polisario well known positions” he added that self- determination does not have to mean independence. There are many examples in the world where concerned populations chose, following referendum consultations or other, autonomy or total integration».
    The young King’s proposal was prepared upon the request of the international community, and it has been a subject to large consultations with sahraouis, IT is wise that all parties concerned including Algeria consider the King’s proposal as a basis for any future settlement . Morocco remains open to this solution that preserves its sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and that allows populations to manage directly, and democratically their local affairs. Morocco is ready to engage in a constructive negotiation to contribute concretely
    In the process of achieving a last and fair settlement to the Western Sahara issue.

    In this respect the Moroccan government submitted its proposal for a substantial autonomy for the Western Sahara region to the secretary general of the United Nations organization, on Wednesday, April 11, 2007 taking the first step, which the international community has called for repeatedly, toward a political direct dialogue with the parties concerned ie Algeria and the Polisario front.

    Even if the idea of autonomy is not new, The Moroccan Proposal for substantial Autonomy is the first, and the only practical proposed framework for a political solution, and from it the two sides can craft a final agreement. IT preserves Moroccan sovereignty, but gives the Western Sahara sufficient autonomy to become effectively self-governing. The project consists of giving Western Sahara a substantial autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. According to the autonomy proposal sahraouis will have an elected regional parliament, with power over local policies in terms of management, and decisions, and president of a local government, the right to create local laws, as long as they do not contradict Morocco’s constitution, regional judiciary to rule regarding local laws, and control of local police, schools, economy, infrastructure, taxation and housing. The Kingdom of Morocco would control external defence and foreign relations, national judiciary. Plan of substantial autonomy which transfers competences and creates local institutions (legislative and executive) within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty is seen by experts in international law as a very advanced form of self determination. This plan was prepared mainly by the Royal Advisory Council for Sahara Affairs, under a close and direct supervision of the King Mohamed VI (see and it has been subject to large consultations with the sahraoui populations and Moroccan political parties. The majority of Sahraouis back the process of autonomy under the Moroccan sovereignty. They are proud to belong to the Moroccan nation. Through out the history not even one sahraoui opted for separatism, not even the parents and families of the present polisario leadership. Having said that the present deadlock is a result to the Algerian non commitment to its explicit statement, which says that it does not consider itself as part of the dispute, facts on the ground shows unfortunately that Algeria encourages the non elected and non democratic polisario leadership to radicalism, on one hand, and to refuse any peaceful settlement within the framework of a large autonomy. Despite of the Algerian continued sabotage, Sahraouis fully and unconditionally support the autonomy project, whether they are in LAAYOUN, SEMARA, BOUJDOUR, DAKHLA, AWSSARD, and even in the Tindouf camps.

    Morocco has submitted a courageous and revolutionary project entitled “Moroccan Initiative for Negotiating an Autonomy Statute for the Sahara region” whereas the Polisario proposal, as the UN’s secretary general personal envoy for Sahara, Peter Van Walsum described it “ it is consistent with Polisario well known positions” he added that self-determination does not have to mean independence. There are many examples in the world where concerned populations chose, following referendum consultations or other, autonomy or total integration”. The Moroccan proposal is an answer to the UN Security Council resolutions and to the constant international community appeals for a political solution to the Western Sahara issue, as it is a fruit of national and international consultations.
    Although both Algeria and Polisario refused the Moroccan proposal, before it was submitted to the UN, and even before finding out about the content of it .the secretary general personal envoy for Sahara Van Walsum stated that the Moroccan proposal to grant substantial autonomy to the western Sahara “was the result of an extended political process of national and international consultations». As far as the role of Algeria in the conflict Mr Walsum recognized the pre-eminent role of Algeria, “Algeria has in this whole dossier (Sahara issue) played an absolutely pre-eminent ,dominant role ever since1975” this is the first time that a senior UN official dealing directly with the western Sahara issue that recognized explicitly in a diplomatic Worthing the extent of Algerians direct involvement in the western Sahara dispute ,and even in the decision making on behalf of the separatist movement called polisario while Algiers keeps insisting that “it is not a part in the conflict”.

    The majority of Sahraouis support the substantial autonomy project under Moroccan sovereignty, since it was elaborated by the CORCAS , whose members represent undoubtedly two thirds of the the Sahraoui population, even those who are living in Tindouf camps (in most cases against their will) have expressed loudly their approval to the Moroccan proposal
    The Moroccan Substantial autonomy Plan should be seen by parties concerned as an initiative that achieves the principal of self-determination, through a free, modern and democratic expression regarding the autonomy statute .It is in no doubt in conformity with international legality as well as with international norms, and standards applicable in area of autonomy. Therefore it is wise for all parties concerned, and particularly the Polisario to consider the substantial autonomy proposal as a basis for any future settlement because it aims to come up with a peaceful solution where there is neither a winner nor a loser, and in respect of dignity of all parties. The UN charter, the ultimate international jurisprudence stipulates that self-determination must take into account the territory integrity and unity, so autonomy remains one of the best solutions for self –determination, this type of substantial autonomy exists in the most highly developed countries across the world. The Moroccan’s language was purposefully broad to allow for open debate, Morocco remains open to this solution that preserves its sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and that allows populations to manage directly, and democratically their local affairs .Morocco is ready to cooperate with other parties, as well as with the general secretary, and his special representative to reach a solution that is accepted by all parties.

    To this aim, Morocco is already engaged in direct negotiations with the Polisario to contribute concretely to its success. In the pursuit of this objective the kingdom of Morocco hopes to rely on the good will of all those who are committed to create favourable conditions for a realistic and consensus –based solution of the western Sahara conflict, a political solution that enables the populations in the refugee camps inside Algeria to finally join their families and that allow Maghreb states to find unity and solidarity.

    The United Nations charter, the ultimate international jurisprudence, stipulates that self-
    determination must take into account the territorial integrity and unity, that is exactly why autonomy remains one of the best solutions for self-determination, this type of autonomy exists in the most highly developed countries across the world, this conflict created a centre of tension in the northwest of Africa encouraged by the proliferation of human traffic, in particular in the form of clandestine immigration, weapons trafficking, drugs, the deviation of goods in Tindouf refugee camps, as well as the appearance of terrorism

    The Moroccan proposal is in line with the international standards, and respects the regional specifities and the expectations of local populations; it is an open and constructive response to the expectations of the UN Security Council. Most of the world countries welcomed with interest the autonomy proposal, as to the United Nations the message was crystal clear, through its resolutions 1754,1783, and 1813 “welcoming serious and credible Moroccan efforts to move the process forward towards resolution”. The international community would like to see “entente” takes shape between all the parties; it does advocate political dialogue because it is the shortest path so that peace and harmony prevail in the North African country .

    The young King’s proposal was prepared upon the request of the international community, and it has been a subject to large consultations with sahraouis, IT is wise that all parties concerned including Algeria consider the King’s proposal as a basis for any future settlement . Morocco remains open to this solution that preserves its sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and that allows populations to manage directly, and democratically their local affairs

  24. nickbrooks says:

    Hmm. It still seems significant that both your responses were posted on the same day, on the same, rather old, thread. Not conclusive proof I agree, but suggestive nonetheless. And your arguments are the same as Ahmed Salem’s, although that’s not surprising – there does seem to be a party line here.

    I certainly don’t think that the issue of Western Sahara will be decided by bloggers, but blogs like this, however humble and insignificant, are read and monitored by both parties to the conflict – I know that Sahrawis from the Moroccan-controlled areas of Western Sahara and Moroccan embassy staff in the UK follow them to mention just two audiences. So, despite its low traffic, this blog is not completely ignored and presumably has some relevance to some people. You are obviously one of them given your continued engagement with it. As for your status, perhaps you are simply a humble independent journalist as you claim. However, it is sad to see independent journalists simply following the line of their governments – the result is journalism as de facto propaganda whatever the affiliation of the journalist in question. Even in Morocco there are plenty of journalists who are prepared to challenge the government and risk fines, prison or worse as a result. They should be saluted. Obviously they don’t all oppose the government on Western Sahara, but the job of journalists is to question, challenge and report, not to haunt the web defending their government and promoting its views.

    You seem to have changed your position on the Western Sahara issue. You have previously argued that the requirement for self-determination is compatible with Morocco’s autonomy plan, in at attempt to square Morocco’s territorial aspirations with UN rulings on the rights of the inhabitants of Western Sahara to determine their own fate. From paying lip service to the idea of some sort of autonomy you seem to have reverted to the idea that Western Sahara is part of Morocco, period.

    The historical argument is one that is always wheeled out when Rabat’s apologists feel that the “autonomy = self determination” argument has failed to convince. However, it is no more convincing. There were certainly links between parts of Western Sahara and the Moroccan state in earlier times, but there has been a lot of argument about the nature of these links – they certainly did not represent a straightforward case of Western Sahara being integrated into a coherent, well-defined Moroccan state. They are explored in Tony Hodges book “Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War”, which remains the most authoritative treatment of the earlier days of the conflict. You will no doubt dismiss this book as anti-Moroccan propaganda and favour the likes of Abdelhamid el-Ouali’s recent “Saharan Conflict”. However, I would take the account of Hodges over that of a self-confessed supporter of the autonomy plan based in Morocco and in receipt of support from the Moroccan government any day.

    The use of the historical argument is interesting for another reason. Supporters of the autonomy plan are always talking about how Morocco is bringing modernity and development to Western Sahara. They see no contradiction in promoting modernity on the one hand and arguing for a political settlement based on the relationships between tribes and sultans in the pre-colonial period on the other.

    Even if one accepts the argument that the inhabitants of Western Sahara used to be Moroccan citizens (which is nonsense – certain tribes paid tribute to Moroccan rulers at certain times in the past, while others didn’t, and the relationship was very fluid), this hardly makes the case for integration of Western Sahara into Morocco. We could look back to the Austro-Hungarian empire or any one of a number of historical political entities and make similar arguments for redrawing the map of Europe. We could similarly redraw the maps of Asia based on pre-colonial politics. In Africa we would have to abolish most modern nation states if we wanted to reunite peoples and regions split by colonialism. Are you really suggesting that the political map of the world should be redrawn in order to reconstitute empires that existed hundreds of years ago? I think the absurdity of such a suggestion speaks for itself.

    As I’ve said before, you can’t ‘prove’ moral legitimacy by invoking history – history is not physics and there is no mathematical ‘right’ answer, just opinion and argument. The arguments you and Ahmed Salem are using – based on who paid tribute to whom and which bit of land was formally or effectively a province or protectorate of what empire in the past – are similar to those used by Saddam Hussein to justify his invasion of Kuwait. The difference is that Moroccan has the support of at least two members of the security council for its actions (and the indifference of the others), whereas Saddam Hussein’s Iraq didn’t.

    Finally, on the legitimacy of my daring to voice an opinion on the Western Sahara issue, I think I can claim some justification. Remember that all I’m doing is voicing an opinion. I’m not pretending to provide some sort of historical ‘proof’ of the rightness of one course of action or another. My opinion is informed by my experience of travelling in Western Sahara itself and of spending time with the Sahrawi there and in the camps. This is an experience that many of those promoting the autonomy plan do not have. I do not know how much time you have spent in Western Sahara (possibly a fair amount) or with the exiled Sahrawi in the camps around Tindouf (I’m guessing none). This experience gives me a perspective most people in the English-speaking world do not have. It has enabled me to see Moroccan claims about the nature of its control of Western Sahara for what they are – propaganda and lies. The main lie here is that Morocco controls all of Western Sahara and that the areas outside the berm constitute a Moroccan “buffer zone” set up with the tacit approval of the UN, in which Polisario has no presence. Having travelled in these areas and seen that they are in fact controlled effectively by the Polisario and run as a de facto state, I am in a good position to contribute something constructive to the debate. In addition, my Sahrawi friends and colleagues based in the camps do not have the access that I have to the web, and most are not proficient in English. So I have an opportunity that they do not to represent them and their views, however humbly and incompletely. Given their friendship and hospitality to me, it is the least I can do. Initially I was worried about the presumption of speaking on the Western Sahara issue as an outsider, but many Sahrawi have expressed their appreciation that someone is making the arguments that I am making, however small my audience and impact. So far none have told me I shouldn’t be doing so. I would not presume to speak for them, but I can at least relate my own experiences and do something – however tiny – to respond to the self-serving propaganda and misinformation from Rabat and its allies. The fact that Rabat and its allies (official or unofficial, paid or unpaid) keep telling me to shut up and that I have no right to comment means I must be doing something meaningful. So I have no problem justifying my ‘involvement’ as an outsider.

  25. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    Hello Mr Brooks

    i have not visited your Blog for a while ,having said that i have read your response , and i would like to remind you that my involvment in the Western sahara issue started ever since i was a kid, my late father was one of the leaders of the Moroccan national movement before and after the independence . and thanks to my father that i learned the history of the area and that western sahara was always an integral part of morocco , and that there is an historical and legal relationship betwenn western sahara region and the Kingdom of Morocco . As a matter of fact my MA thesis in international relations was about the WS issue, i had to spend three years researching in he British library / French foreing office documentary center /the royal library in Rabat in addition to the Spanish documents i came accross .
    the fact that iam convinced that WS is and should remain a part of morocco has nothing to do with the regime as such, it is totally wrong to think that way, my conviction has got nothing to do with the nature of the regime in rabat , it is a result of my education and particularly years i have spend doing my own research in this topic .

    Although i have no intention to go back to history , as i still believe it is vital to be aware of historical facts before engaging in any involvement, i would rather discuss the nature of Polisario front and the true face of the refugee camps, which in my view refects the true face of such organization “fighting for the fredom of the sahrawi people”, you should know by now that slogans is one thing and the reality is another thing particularly in this world full of lies and interests at the expense of the wellfare of peoples, in this respect it is worth reminding you that the process of defection from Tindouf camps , and rallying to Morocco started in practical terms at the end of the fighting , thousands of sahraoui refugees have decided to leave Tindouf camps and return to Morocco, among them political and military leaders, heads of tribes, and hundreds of officers of all levels, this situation which is due in part to the failure to reach a settlement as well as to the realities of the four refugee camps in Tindouf, has led to waht many sahraouis denounce as the concentration of power in the hands of a few . Political stagnation and lack of transparency, all of which are blamed for the defection of some members of th Polisario . In this respect Baba sayed , the brother of El ouali Ould Mustapha sayed , the Polisario’s first secretary expressed on 31 october 2006 serious misgivings about the current leadership ” many sahraoui cadres alongside hundrends of simple soldiers fled to Morocco because they could no longer stand the chaotic, static , and unjust status quo … some even say that this exodus towards morocco and other destinations suits the polisaro’s leadership and that , in some way ,they encourage it, this because the Polisario’s leadership refuses to change its practices , reviews its policies and positions , or responds to he totality, or at least to the majority of its critics’ calaims” ( see ” aerretons l’hemoragie” at :

    According to these facts and other major factors, among others the deteriorating of the social , economic status of sharaoui refugees under the close supervision of the Polisario , and the control of the guerilla inteligent service of Abdelaziz, in addition to the open cricism, and opposition from within the Polisario, its leaderr should agree to operate democratically, and call for a national congress to elect a new leader .

    Opposition against policies within the Polisario has taken various forms . Khat al- Chahid ( line of martyr) a faction within the polisario front, is based in the tindouf camps and has supporters and members in Mauritania, Spain and a number of european countries . This organization announced its existence in 2004 . It accuses Mohammed Abelaziz of the following:
    – corruption, clientism, tribalism , and bargaining with the sufferings of the Sharaoui people;
    -having non strategy to face the inteernational developments;
    -refusing to hold the national congress demanded by Khat Al shahid , where the Polisario leadership should be accountable for its policy, and failure in terms of reaching a settlement of the WS issue after a long decades of sufferings of sahraoui refugees in the Tindouf camps, and the undemocratic way of running the Poliario front . Mahjoub salek , the spokesman for the movement in an interview with TEL -QUEL explains that it represents itself as an alternative to the cuirrent Polisarion front leadership( see TELQUEL magazine/ edition N 243);

    I would like to add that the Polisario front has recently lost its touch vis a vis a big number of Sharouis , who some of tem managed to go back to Morocco , and the rest have came to the conclusion after over three cecades that the dream aof creating a state in thev region is and will not be applicable for various reasons, and hat a, substantial autonomy as it is proposecd by Morocco and supported by the international community, being an aédvanced form of self-determination , s the only alternative in order to achiev peace in the area , and stop the sufferings of refugees while the leadership of Polisario is having a good life and enjoying the support of the Algerian regime that everybody knows including the UN officiazls the extent of its involvment in the decision -making process of the present polisario leadership

  26. nickbrooks says:

    TG. I thought as I began to read your latest post that you were about to embark on the usual slander about detention camps, Moroccan nationals being held hostages, and thousands of slaves in the camps. So I was pleasantly surprised to see you delivering a more nuanced and reasonable analysis of the shortcomings of the Polisario. I certainly don’t want to set myself up as an apologist for the Polisario or any political regime. I would welcome their becoming more democratic and transparent. Certainly they are far from perfect. However, given their situation I don’t think they’ve done too badly – for example in terms of providing education (with a lot of outside assistance) and maintaining a relatively coherent society, not to mention achieving a considerable amount of nation building. By the standards of the region I have to say they’re really not so bad – the most that the latest Human Rights Watch seemed to be able to accuse them of was the marginalisation of their opponents. Compared to how some political oppositions are treated in North Africa this doesn’t sound so bad. And despite its moves towards reform, Morocco can hardly be held up as an example of transparency and democracy. So, while your criticisms of the political system in the camps is well taken, I don’t think it can be used as a justification for denying the Sahrawi self-determination. Political reform is bound to be easier under conditions of peace in a self-governing territory, rather than under conditions of war (hot or cold) in a series of refugee camps that exist by the grace of a host nation such as Algeria. And if you talk to defectors who are disillusioned with the Polisario you’re bound to get a particular point of view. If you spoke to their supporters you’d get a different story. I’m sure there is some level of dissatisfaction in the camps with some elements of governance and with certain aspects of the Polisario’s behaviour. However, I’ve always been struck by the apparent solidity of the broad popular support for the leadership, at least with respect to the aspirations to independence. I have heard people voice frustration that the Polisario is too soft on Morocco, and that a tougher line should be taken.

    We’ll have to disagree on the role of historical analysis in demonstrating the desirability or otherwise of a referendum. As for your other, longer post, I haven’t had time to read that yet.

  27. nickbrooks says:

    GT, apologies for the delay in approving your comment of 8 May. I’ve been distracted with other matters. I wanted to read it and respond to various points, but am unlikely to have time for a while, so I’ve simply approved it. Without going through it in detail, but instead quickly scanning, I’ll make the following comments. First, there is a lot that amounts to nothing more than assertion that Morocco’s position is good, just, principled and practical. Second, you seem to have presented this as something approaching an “academic” style or at least research article. However, you have no references to source material, other than the CORCAS website. So we can’t take a lot of your claims at face value. You mention having spent a lot of time researching the historical aspects of and background to the conflict at great length – given the size of this contribution, why not include a list of references to these sources?

  28. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    no apology needed as you seem to be busy , in any case i would rather wait for you to have enough time to read my article, and give me your view and accordingly we can move forward to discuss it; as to your remark concerning the list of references to be included , i agree with that and i will send them to you soon enough .

    Unfortunately the western sahara issue does not seem to be going anywhere for the time being , even the newly appointyed UN mediator has not made any practical diplomatic move , and make sure that parties concerned can get together and find a way to sit down and talk .

    To my mind until hopefully a political resolution is achieved in terms of W sahara conflict , the Human right aspect remains the most important and vital subject to be addressed, i supposed you have read the latest Human right watch report which in my mind was not fair nor just to mention the status quo of the Sahraoui refugees in Tindouf camps, and to what extent the Polisario leadership and for that matter the Algerian officials are ready to deal with the day to day sufferings of refugees at all levels, indeed there are matters of urgency that need to be dealt with immeditely with the hope that a just and fair outcome to the Wsahara issue will be reached soon enough .

    I wonder why the Human rights organizations, among others Amnesty international and Human Right Watch do not spend as much time as needed in the refugee camps as they do in the Westdern sahara region in order to find out about the real human right situations in Tindouf camps, and make sure that independant and genuine information is available about the conditions in the refugee camps run by the Polisario front in Algeria , in fact no steps ( as mentioned in the Human rights watch latest report) have been taken to address the impunity of those accused of committing Human rights abuses in the camps in the 1970s and 1980s .

    To my mind the vital question about the human rights practices inside Tindouf camps is the freedom of expression and even of movement, therefore the phenomenon of defection from the Tindouf camps and rallying to Morocco started in practical terms at the end of the fighting, hundreds of Sahraoui refugees have decided to leave Tindouf camps and to return to Morocco, among them political and military leaders, heads of tribes and army officers at all levels . This situation is due in part to the failure to reach a settlement and the harsh atmosphere where refugees live ,in addition to the concentration of power in the hands of few political figures, and lack of transparency . This is a critical humanitarian situation that in my view even Human rights organizations do not tackle the way it should be , in fact i wonder why western activists and NGO’s do not bother to follow up objectively the non stop defection from the Tindouf camps, and go to the Western sahara region where most of the sahraoui refugees who opted to rally to Morocco live , in order to find out about the main reasons behind their decisions to leave the Tindouf camps .

    i believe that a number of questions are to be answered particularly about the way most of the Western activists behave, because in practical terms all they do is to critisize Morocco , without having the courage to look into the reality of the camps, the nature of Polisario front , and the strategic aim of algeria out of this conflict

  29. nickbrooks says:

    GT, I agree the WS issue seems to be going nowhere. What is needed is international pressure on one or both sides to force a compromise. Jacob Mundy has been writing about this lately advocating compromise on both sides and emphasising the need for external pressure. I agree with him, although my preference would be for pressure on Morocco to hold a referendum which included full independence as an option.

    I really don’t think the conditions in the camps – poor as they are – are anything near as dismal as the Moroccan camp makes out. HRW did address conditions in the camps in its latest report (see my blog post for the link). It concluded that those who disagreed with the Polisario were marginalised rather than persecuted, and that those wishing to leave and go to Morocco were not actively prevented from doing so, although obviously this isn’t looked on favourably by the leadership and possibly by society at large, and this might have implications for family members left behind.

    Movement is controlled – permission needs to be obtained to leave the camps, which are run as a mini-state. I’m sure the Algerians don’t just want people from the camps wandering freely into and around Algeria either. However, there is a lot of movement in and out of the camps. Many residents of the camps travel to the Polisario-controlled areas of Western Sahara, particularly during wet periods when there is good grazing – some families keep animals there and travel there to enjoy something approaching a traditional lifestyle when they can. I’m sure it’s much easier for some people to leave than it is for others, and that we’re talking about the better off here. However, movement is not restricted to the extent claimed by the anti-Polisario lobby.

    Conditions in the camps are hardly ideal – there is malnutrition, and health, water and power facilities are very basic. This is ultimately the result of the conflict and the resulting displacement, precipitated by Morocco’s invasion and partial occupation of Western Sahara. So I think it’s a little bit hypocritical to blame the Polisario or the Algerians for the state of the refugees. Of course Morocco would love to see the refugees simply assimilated into Algeria so that the problem went away.

    I think by the standards of the region freedom of expression and freedom of movement are not particularly bad. How free are people in Morocco to criticise the king? How long will people in Algeria, Tunisia, or many other countries in the Arab world get away with speaking out against their government? I think a lot the criticism of the political regime in the camps from the Moroccan side is very much a case of people in houses made of very thin and fragile glass thinking they can safely get away with hurling rather large rocks.

    At the end of the day, the camps are there because of Morocco’s actions, all the governments of the region have their deep flaws, and all have their own strategic aims (Morocco included, and arguably more than most). Moroccan commentators always try and turn this into a beauty contest between Morocco and the Polisario. One the one hand this is a dangerous game as neither are politically gorgeous. More importantly, what “activists” are interested in is the injustice of the Moroccan invasion and occupation, and the resulting displacement of those in the camps. No-one thinks the Polisario are saints (but neither are they demons) – this isn’t the point. Let’s sort the conflict out equitably and then put pressure on all governments in the region to be more accountable. I’d be delighted to criticise the Polisario as the government of an independent Western Saharan state.

  30. gazoulit Taoufiq says:


    As you may know that the 11th session, of the United Nations human rights council is taking place in Geneva under the theme of ” Global economic crisis and its impact on migration and development”, with the participation of a number of UN state members in addition to international human rights organizations and various NGO’s.

    In this respect the “internationale democratique du centre” a french speaking NGO which deals with democracy process and human rights practices informed the UN Human rights council (HRC) of the persistence of denying the sahraoui refugees in the four camps in Tindouf in Southwest of Algeria the basic human rights.

    This report handed over by IDC to the UN HRC added that these refugees , which enjoy none of their social , economic and cultural rights , live in an appalling conditions , deprived of the freedom of movement, the people detained in the said camps are held hostage in an open-air prison by the leaders of the polisario front seen as a separist movement, the leaders of the Polisario exploit their state of destitution to claim and embezzle humanitarian aid , the NGO said .

    In this respect the internationale democratique du centre called upon the UN bodies in charge of Human rights and humanitarian issues to help these refugees to enable them to enjoy all rights guaranteed by the international conventions. It also called on Polisario to abide by bthe UN security council resolutions in order to enter into a substantive phase of direct negotiations to reach a political solution to the conflict over western sahara issue, towards putting an end to the sufferings of the sahraouis in the refugee camps, and make it possible for them to enjoy their rights .

    the IDC made a pressing call for the UN chief and the HRC to do their best in order to achieve family reunion in both sides , through the autonomy initiative , which set the stage for a diginfied return to the homeland

    I thought to share this news about the state of Human rights in Tindouf camps with you as seen by a European NGO, which in my mind means only that the human rights principle are somehow violated inside the camps, and that the refugees are paying highly the price of the status quo , whereas the Polisario political and military leadershipdo enjoy a good life under circomstances.

    I have to add up one more thing in this respect that is to say iam not discussing the main issue about the future of the Western sahara region future , but iam trying to attract your attention to the fact that several human rights organizations , among others the famous ” France liberte” led by the wife of the late french socialist president Francois Mitterand have expressed their concern over the conditions of refugees located in refugee camps in southwest algeria .

    Regardless of the future status of the ongoing Polisario Moroccan conflict over the Sahara , thousands of mostly civilian population , need immediate Humanitarian help ; it is the Algerian government responsability to ensure the safety and well being of the Sahraoui refugees in its own soil, under international law , the Algerian government refusal to grant the camps inhabitants the right of movement mounts to refugee warehousing for political leverage. international refugee laws are clear: since Tindouf is on Algerian soil, the thousands of refugees camped in the region should be allowed to choose to stay put in the camps , move to other parts of Algeria or apply to the United Nations UNHCR to move to other countries that would accept them .
    As long as you claim that the main aim of this blog is to defend the right of sahraouis , why don’t you start by tackling the Human rights issue which is in my mind very close to the heart of Europeans, as it seems to be a priority , while the conflict is defenitely going to take a long time before we can expect any final settlement .

  31. nickbrooks says:

    TG, I’d be very interested to see a copy of this report. Perhaps you could forward one to me, or at least send me a link to where it can be downloaded. I’m aware that there are a number of “NGOs” that support the Moroccan position, and I presume this is one of them. I’d be interested to see if this was based on extensive travel and time spent within the camps, or whether this is another claim made a distance. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the camps and conditions are basic to say the least, but I have seen no evidence of the horrific detention centres that pro-Moroccan propagandists constantly harp on about.

    The main human rights violations are associated with the displacement of the Sahrawi resulting from Morocco’s invasion, and with the actions of the occupying Moroccan authorities, which routinely repress, beat and detain (and indeed torture) Sahrawi who would like to see the country independent. As usual, the defenders of Morocco’s invasion are inverting the truth and turning black into white in their standard orwellian manner. Morocco has caused a problem by flouting international law and UN resolutions and obstructing a UN-sanctioned peace process, and now blames everybody else for the problem. I’m sorry, but it wont’ wash.

    Sure the Algerians use the situation and the refugees for political leverage, but Morocco similarly uses them as pawns for its own purposes by misrepresenting their situation. There is not total freedom of movement between the camps and Algeria by any stretch of the imagination, but Sahrawi teenagers are schooled in Algeria and other countries, and the people in the camps (at least some of them – I can’t say what proportion) are free to move across the border into Mauritania and Western Sahara itself. There is a lot of traffic in and out of the camps. I see this all the time when I’m in the region. So, there is not total freedom of movement into Algeria, but neither is there “warehousing” to anything like the extent you claim.

    You want the refugees to be assimilated into Algerian society so that the Sahrawi nation-in-exile ceases to exist. That’s understandable, as Morocco sure as hell doesn’t want anything between 100,000 and 200,000 independence-minded refugees returning to live in a Western Sahara that Morocco claims as part of its territory.

    You are very concerned to tell me about the situation in places I have visited myself. How much time have you spent in the camps, in northern Maurtiania or in the Polisario-controlled areas of Western Sahara yourself? Might the answer be “none at all”? Might you have no first-hand experience whatsoever of what conditions are like in areas you claim to speak about with authority?

  32. gazoulit Taoufiq says:

    Is it a shift in the Algerian policy on the Western Sahara issue?”

    By : Terry Batcher

    The observers who are following closely the Sahara issue have expressed their surprise to the content of the recent letter sent by the Algerian president bouteflika to the leader of Polisario front or the president of the so-called sahraoui state following the end of Ramadan and the celebration of Al – Aid

    The content of a such a short letter is seen by observers as a change of tactics or possibly a strategy of the Algerian president, I fact this is almost the first time that the Algerian president avoided to mention terms and sentences such as: the right of Sahraoui people for a self-determination, the western Sahara colonized by Morocco, the Algerian position to support the United Nations attempts to decolonize Western Sahara.

    Such a substantial change in the spirit of the short letter of Mr Bouteflika has created an argument within observers and even policy makers in the North African countries. Although it is not advisable to come to any conclusion whether Algeria is about to change its foreign policy towards the Sahara conflict or not, it is worth mentioning that Algeria was and still is under a lot of pressure from the international community to moderate its position and pave the way to the UN security council , and the UN general secretary’s envoy to the area to create a positive atmosphere aiming at searching a political settlement based in principle on the Moroccan proposal to grant sahraouis a substantial autonomy . This pressure comes as result of the UN officials’ decision to give a political solution a chance, as the war and different attempts to organize referenda have failed for various reasons.

    Even if the idea of autonomy is not new, Morocco proposed during 2007 a project for
    a substantial autonomy of Western Sahara. The project consists of giving Western Sahara
    a Large autonomy within Moroccan sovereignty. Sahraouis are expected to be offered a
    Parliament with power over local policies in terms of management and decision in the Sahara region; cabinet ministries, and their own judiciary, but the Moroccan flag would fly over the territory, the currency and stamps would remain Moroccans. The plan of a substantial autonomy transfers competences and creates local institutions legislative and executive within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty .Again autonomy is seen by experts in international law as a very advanced form of self determination.

    It becomes obvious that the international community wants to see the end of this conflict very soon , throughout the last three decades or so Polisario front lead a war against the Moroccan army which led to a ceasefire, and Polisario gained nothing out of this guerrilla war, then the UN former envoy James baker came up with two suggestions to organize referendum which faced a refusal by Algeria , Polisario and even Morocco , this failure led to the resignation of the American diplomat , and the conclusion that such referendum is difficult to organize if not impossible .
    Although both Algeria and Polisario front refused the Moroccan proposal it was in no doubt supported by a large number of countries all over the world, among others the USA ,France, and Spain which openly congratulated Morocco for proposing and submitting a courageous and project entitled “Moroccan initiative for Negotiating an Autonomy Statute for the Sahara region” whereas the Polisario proposal as the UN’s secretary general former personal envoy for Sahara, Peter Van Walsum described it «it is consistent With Polisario well known positions” he added that self- determination does not have to mean independence. There are many examples in the world where concerned populations chose, following referendum consultations or other, autonomy or total integration».
    It is too early to even predict that there is a shift in the Algerian foreign policy towards the Sahara dispute, but undoubtedly there is a change of political vocabulary , which makes some observers see President Bouteflica’s letter as a start for a new Algerian outlook to the Sahara conflict, particularly that the Algerian diplomacy have lost recently a number of diplomatic battles in terms of W Sahara conflict and the UN officials especially the former general secretary Kofi Anan mentioned in an unprecedented way the extent of the involvement of Algeria not only in the conflict but also in the decision making on behalf of polisario .

  33. nickbrooks says:


    Thanks for yet another fine example of Moroccan propaganda masquerading as an article by an independent foreign observer. All the usual tells are there indicating a Moroccan origin – the good but not quite native English, the use of the phrase “so-called” before “Polisario”, the long list of assertions with no supporting citations, the content that reflects precisely the Moroccan position, and so on. If Terry Batcher is indeed an independent analyst (and not, as I am pretty certain, one of your alter egos), where is he based? Is he attached to an institution (e.g. university, policy think-tank)? Why have we never heard him commenting on the Western Sahara before? Why has he been so sloppy as to fail to include citations and back up his assertions with examples, links to source materials and other supporting evidence? Good try, but I don’t think you’re fooling anyone by writing your usual and sticking a dodgy pseudonym on it.





  35. nickbrooks says:

    TG – thanks, this is great. I might publish some or all of it as a main post to illustrate the thinking (if I can dignify the comment with this term) of the pro-Rabat camp. The personal abuse and usual allegations of being a paid Algerian agent are useful indications of paranoia and/or the belief that mud-slinging is a legitimate tool of persuasion. You know, you could at least fabricate some evidence of my being paid by the Algerians – simple assertions are just lazy.

    I’ll try and take a look at the other post written under your “Terry Batcher” pseudonym, but I’m a bit pressed for time, and it’s very long. Also anything without proper references is pretty worthless. If I do have time to devote to the blog I have to say it will probably be to contribute with a post of my own rather than to engage with your tedious historical revisionism.

    Please don’t leave the blog – we’ll miss you!

    Big hugs and kisses! xx

  36. Dear Nick,

    Always on the road as I can see. I missed you. Your intelligent pro-polisarian comments are missing on your blog. What are you doing actually? Are you in your research area? Did you get the expected volunteers? Please do send us your memorable posts on the Western Sahara region and your ‘scientific’ work politically correct.

    Happy new year wherever you are

  37. nickbrooks says:

    Dear Ahmed Salem

    So you and Taoufiq Gazoulit are both back from holiday at the same time I see. You forget that I don’t spend my entire life working on Western Sahara (either doing research or blogging about the politics), and that I have other research interests and responsibilities, including earning a living. Unfortunately I can’t depend on either the Algerians or the Polisario for my livelihood, contrary to popular belief, or should I say slander, from you and your chums. You might have seen that I’ve been posting about climate change lately (well, the latest argument manufactured by people who want us to believe it’s not happening). I’ve been accused by people who don’t accept the scientific view of climate change as of being part of a plot to establish a world government. So paranoia and slander are not restricted to the Western Sahara conflict. I wonder if there are any more “sinister conspiracies” I can involve myself in?

    But don’t worry, I’ll be posting on Western Sahara in the near future, and am looking for volunteers for next autumn. And yes, I found enough volunteers (just) to run a successful field season in the Northern Sector of the Free Zone. We enjoyed visiting and working in Tifariti, Mheres, Wadi Weyn Tergit, Wadi Lawaj, and several other places.

    I don’t understand your last sentence, but if you want to look at the results of the scientific work you can find them on the Project website (it takes time to get reports written and put on the web, but bear with me on the 2009 season). You can also check the December issue of Antiquity journal. As you know, this blog focuses on the politics rather than the science, as it is good to keep science as science and politics as politics. Like all other human beings, scientists can have political views, although they should be careful to avoid using the one to distort the other. While there are interesting things going on at the interface between cultural heritage and politics, our results on prehistoric occupation and environmental change have nothing to say about the current conflict.

    I’m thinking of doing a post on the mysterious Terry Batcher. Do you know him? Any biographical information would be most helpful, as I’ve been unable to find any.

    Warmest regards for the new year – I hope you are well and spending your time constructively.

  38. If anyone can read Spanish, the weblink herunder provides you with a very interesting photograpfy and article. By the moment, it was the last street demonstration in Madrid (Spain) thanking Aminatou HAIDAR and celebrating her comeback to EL AAIUN (Western Sahara) after a 32 days hunger streik in Lanzarote claiming for JUSTICE.

    We will continue helping the legitimate cause of the Sahrawi cause. We shall over come (Pete Segers, Joan Baez… and so many others).

  39. khadija says:

    the ws issue does not seem to find a way out , i wonder which party to held responsible for such failure

  40. Nick Brooks says:

    I see this message from “Khadija” is from the address Terry, are you cross-dressing now? I suppose even fictional characters and gestalt entities are entitled to their foibles 😉

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