A physical manifestation of Moroccan propaganda

November 20, 2012

This via the Moroccan Propaganda Watch page on Facebook:

A two-hour event will be held at the European Parliament in solidarity with the Sahrawi Moroccan children detained in the Polisario camps in Tindouf.

On the occasion of the World Day of the Child on 21.11.2012 , the International Movement for Completion of Territorial Integrity of Morocco , in collaboration with the European Coordination for autonomy in the Sahara Morocco and L’union associations of Alsace and Lorraine, have called for a demonstration at Place de l’Europe, Strasbourg at the headquarters of the European Parliament from 15h to 17h, in solidarity with the operation ‘White Dove’ in favor of Sahrawi children and their families and parents, held on Algerian soil to denounce crimes and violations of human rights committed by the Polisario with Algerian support, against Saharawi children.

This is a pretty shameless hijacking of a day intended to address the plight of children for the promotion of an aggressive imperialist agenda, and the normalisation of an illegal military occupation.

Morocco is now manifesting its propaganda on Western Sahara through ‘popular’ demonstrations arranged by Moroccan state/monarchy front groups, in the heart of Europe. Morocco has long fabricated claims about the evil Pollisario holding people captive in camps in Algeria.

In reality, these camps house indigenous Sahrawi, and their descendants, who have been expelled from their homeland as a result of Morocco’s invasion and occupation of Western Sahara. Many of these people move in and out of the camps, Algeria and other countries, and to the parts of Western Sahara that the Polisario government controls (hence the “Movement for the Completion of Territorial Integrity” – code for completion of the occupation and annexation of Western Sahara). Human Rights Watch has verified the claims of those of us that have spent time in the camps, that Moroccan claims of slavery and widespread other human rights abuses are unfounded. Morocco wants us to see the Polisario, which is the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people (recognised as such by the UN and Morocco in peace negotiations, and as the rightful government of Western Sahara by the African Union and dozens of nations across the world) as a big bad bogeyman. Morocco can’t win the argument about its “rights” to Western Sahara any other way than to make stuff up and turn the issue into a beauty contest between “good” Morocco and the “bad” Polisario. This is pretty sickening coming from the aggressor in this conflict, but then aggressors always want to cast themselves as the victims.

This nonsense about “Moroccan Sahrawi” suggests that Morocco wants these people “back” in a greater Morocco forged through the invasion and occupation of Western Sahara (and it doesn’t stop if you look at Moroccan maps, or look at discussions about territories over which Morocco claims “historical rights”). In reality Morocco does not want up to 200,000 independence-minded Sahrawi entering territory that it illegally occupies, and that the Sahrawi see as their homeland. In any case, Morocco habitually claims that there are far fewer people in the camps than there actually are, so what about those whose existence it does not recognise? It has also claimed that the people in the camps are not Sahrawi, but are migrants from the Sahel. As usual, it can’t get its made-up stories straight.

The Palace, the King, the Moroccan government, and all Moroccans, should be deeply ashamed of this cynical exploitation of a genuine humanitarian cause. Isn’t it about time the Arab spring got going in earnest in Morocco?


Human Rights Watch reports on Western Sahara violence

November 28, 2010

On 26 November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a detailed report of the violence following the dismantling of the Gdeim Izik camp by Moroccan security forces, near El Aaiun. The report was limited in its scope to the events that followed the closure of the camp, rather than the events that led to this point, or any wider contextual issues. HRW conducted interviews in Western Sahara from 12-16 November, having gained access to the territory after initially being refused access (twice). It appears that the Moroccan authorities were trying to calm things down during this period, for example by offering compensation to people whose houses were looted and/or damaged by Moroccan settlers in collusion with security forces. However, the report details a litany of abuse, and there is still little in the way of news coming from El Aaiun. The HRW report provides the most detailed and comprehensive account of the violence that followed the dismantling of the camp that is currently available (and credible).

In other developments, the European Parliament issued a pretty strong response to the situation, in the form of a resolution and associated press release, expressing its “greatest concern about the significant deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara”. The Parliament  ” ‘strongly condemns’ the violent events of 8 November, when a still unknown number of people were killed during a raid by Moroccan security forces aimed at dismantling the protest camp of Gdaim Izik, in the outskirts of Laâyoune.”

Significantly, MEPs noted that while “the Moroccan parliament has set up a committee of enquiry, MEPs believe that the United Nations is the most appropriate body to launch an international and independent investigation on the events, deaths and disappearances.” So the EU is pushing for a UN investigation where the UN Security Council refused to do so.

The European Parliament also stated that it “deplores the attacks on press freedom, which have affected many European journalists, and calls on Morocco to allow free access and free movement in the Western Sahara for the press, independent observers and humanitarian organisations.”

Quite strong stuff for the EU, and it also raises questions about the future of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, which is mentioned explicitly in the text of the resoution (see also WSRW here).

Gdaim Izik

November 9, 2010

There’s been a fair bit of coverage of the Burmese elections in the UK media over the past few days, including the displacement of some 20,000 people as a result of election-related violence. However, there’s been barely a whisper about a comparable eruption of violence much closer to home, on Europe’s doorstep.

Over the past month or so, many thousands of Sahrawi, protesting against the ongoing Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, set up a camp – Gdaim Izik – outside Western Sahara’s principal city, El Aaiun (Laayoune). Over the past week reports from Western Sahara indicated that Moroccan forces were gathering to “disperse” the camp. Reports of clashes were filtering out of the region as early as 24 October, and on 25 October EL Pais reported the death of a 14 year old boy at the hands of Moroccan security forces. Yesterday (8 November) reports were coming thick and fast from activists, Sahrawi support groups  and some international media indicating that such a dispersal was underway (check the ever-informative Sahara Occidental website for links to daily news reports on Western Sahara in several languages).

Morocco appears to have implemented a media blackout – a representative of a major foreign media organisation told me that they hadn’t been able to contact anyone in Western Sahara, or their staff reporter in Rabat, by phone. Nonetheless, plenty of reports have been getting out, including a number in the form of short videos of the confrontation between Sahrawi protestors and Moroccan security forces in the camp and in El Aaiun itself, posted on YouTube. Today the BBC posted an article on its website in which it reported that the setting up of the camp “was the biggest protest against Moroccan rule in 35 years” (mainstream coverage is there, but you have to look for it – most people haven’t heard anything about what’s going on in Western Sahara, and remain unaware of the territory’s existence). Unusually for a mainstream media organisation, the BBC included in its article a map showing the partition of Western Sahara. Usually Western Sahara is reported simply as having been “annexed” by Morocco, when in reality a sizable portion of this disputed, non-self governing territory is actually controlled by the Polisario independence movement (the BBC repeated this cut and paste simplification in the main text of the article). This “Free Zone” is separated from the occupied areas by the “Berm”, a “wall” or series of defensive earthworks build by Morocco.

In a communication issued today, the Polisario claimed that 11 Sahrawi had been killed and 723 injured in clashes with Moroccan security forces, and that 159 people were missing. The Polisario also suggested that the timing of the raid on the camp was chosen to coincide with, and to sabotage, UN sponsored talks between Morocco and the Polisario. After arranging a ceasefire between the two parties in 1991, the UN promised a referendum on self determination for Western Sahara. The referendum has never happened. While the Polisario has softened their line on the conditions of such a referendum, indicating that the vote could include the options of independence, limited autonomy within Morocco, or full integration within Morocco, Morocco has refused to countenance any vote that offers independence. Instead it is offering limited autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty, a solution its apologists have referred to as an “advanced form of autonomy”, apparently without irony.

While the mainstream domestic media in the UK is keeping silent on the clashes at Gdaim Izik, there is more coverage in ex-colonial power Spain. El Pais today warned that Rabat was risking “civil war” in Western Sahara. Web news services are also carrying stories about the clashes.

How all this will play in the rest of the EU (if at all) remains to be seen. Unfortunately, and based on recent performance, the EU is likely to ignore the violence, or at best make some limp statement of general concern, as it continues to collaborate with the new colonial power, Morocco, in the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s resources, principally fisheries, which its granting of Advanced Status to Morocco was meant to lubricate.

EU fighting al-Qa’eda through…fishing?

November 25, 2008

Recently I wrote to a number of MEPs about the European Union’s plans to grant “advanced status” to Morocco, making it a sort of associate member of the EU. This agreement includes Western Sahara as if it were a part of Morocco, presumably opening the way for the EU to steal natural resources from the Sahrawi people.

I have received two replies so far. One from UKIP, a fringe isolationist party that seeks more “independence” for the UK (from Europe), which simply directed me elsewhere. The other was from Andrew Duff, a Liberal Democrat, who has been to Morocco to discuss the process of bringing Morocco closer to Europe. I’ve pasted his response below.

Mr Duff mumbles about human rights but completely sidesteps the issue of the Western Sahara conflict, except to say, intriguingly, that the “Western Sahara Problem” is important for Morocco’s security. The poor chap appears to have swallowed all the “War on Terror” crap that Morocco is pushing to justify its occupation. Not sure what he means when he says that we “would be wise to recognise the growing presence of al-Qa’eda there [what, in Western Sahara?] and across the Maghreb.” I’m guessing he means that, in order to fight al-Qa’eda, the EU needs to be allowed to do lots of fishing in occupied Western Saharan waters (fishing, along with phosphates and oil, is a particularly contentious issue). Yes, I’m sure that will really put the frighteners on those barbarous beardies.

Of course I’ve replied. You can write to him too – I’ve included his details as contained in his reply. Or you can find him on the web (so I don’t think I’m guilty of giving out sensitive contact information).


Dear Mr Brooks,

Thank you very much for your letter of 22 October about the situation in the Western Sahara.

I have recently been to Morocco to speak to the government and human rights organisations about developments. In some ways I am much encouraged by the gradual democratisation process in Morocco, and by the political will to back structural reforms.

The Western Sahara problem poses a real security threat to Morocco, not least because of the growing presence of Al’Qaida there and across the Maghreb, and we would be wise to recognise this. By the way, I did not find anyone unwilling to discuss the problem.

But your general point about the need for respect for human rights is well made. The EU’s decision to give ‘advanced status’ to Morocco is taken in part to add to our leverage on Rabat with respect to human rights. I hope that in due time it will be possible for the EU to help the region resolve its longstanding conflicts. Certainly the situation in the Western Sahara is well-known and often rehearsed here in the Council, Commission and Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Duff

Andrew Duff MEP

Leader, UK Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party

Spokesman on Constitutional Affairs for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)

European Parliament
10 G 346
60, Rue Wiertz
B-1047 Brussels

Tel  + 32 (0) 2284 7998
Fax + 32 (0) 2284 9998