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?


From the camps

November 17, 2010

The following account from an American living in the Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Agleria, is worth reading. It talks about reports reaching the Tindouf camps from the occupied territories of Western Sahara, where Morocco is busily (and violently) repressing dissenting Sahrawi after the setting up (by Sahrawi) and subsequent dispersal (by Moroccan forces) of the Gdaim Izik camp near the Western Saharan capital of El Aaiun.  Gdaim Izik was set up by Sahrawi protesting against economic and social marginalisation in occupied territories, but it looks as if this socio-economic protest is becoming a nationalist issue as a result of the apparently brutal Moroccan response.

The account also describes how people in the Tindouf camps are reacting to the situation in the occupied territories. For a long time many exiled Sahrawi have thought that the peace process is going nowhere and the only way of confronting the occupation is through renewed military action against Morocco. One Sahrawi told me that “even if we can’t win, it is the only way of bringing any attention to our situation”.

The Polisario leadership has been trying to contain the feelings of those who want to renew the conflict, but it might prove difficult under the current circumstances, with people hearing of family members on the other side of the berm being beaten and killed by Moroccan forces, and pursued and attacked by Moroccan settlers encouraged by the Moroccan authorities. The one thing all parties involved in the conflict seem to agree on is that the continuation of this festering conflict increases the risk of radicalisation of young Sahrawi in the camps (this also applies to those living under occupation no doubt). This also won’t be helped by the current situation.

Read the account from inside the Tindouf camps here. While they may need further confirmation, reports of thousands of people “disappeared”, mass graves, bodies dropped from helicopters into the sea, and the expulsion of journalists should be cause for serious concern and some concerted action on the part of the lethargic international community. I’m hesitant to employ the over-used term “genocide”, but reading about the reports coming in from the occupied territories of Western Sahara, the word is hovering in my consciousness. The account speaks for itself, whatever your views of the religious credentials of the publisher.

More recent (Tuesday 16 November) coverage from the UK Guardian newspaper here.

Human Rights in Western Sahara & the Refugee Camps: Report

December 19, 2008

Human Rights Watch has released a 216 page report on human rights in Western Sahara (focusing on the Moroccan-occupied areas) and in the Polisario-run Sahrawi refugee camps around the Algerian town of Tindouf. You can download it from this page:


Even without having read it, I’m confident it will make more reliable reading than the claims of partisans from either side of the conflict, which can be found on a variety of web-based discussion forums, as some of us know only too well. If I have time to read and digest it I may comment on it, but no promises. And it is probably best to let the report speak for itself, unless there is anything specific in it to take issue with or discuss at greater length.

Sand and dust

October 20, 2008
Dust storm, Sahrawi refugee camps

Dust storm, Sahrawi refugee camps

My friend and colleague Bachir sent me this photo of a dust storm engulfing one of the Sahrawi refugee camps (Auserd, to be precise) located around the Algerian town of Tindouf. The event occurred on 9 October between 17:00 and 19:00, and arrived from the northeast, heading southwest.

The storm was very unusual. Apparently large dust storms have never approached from the north, and this event was very unusual in being restricted to low altitude with a well-defined upper limit.

I’ve seen images and footage of similar-looking storms in the Sahel, associated with the passage of large, organised convective disturbances that generate rainfall during the monsoon season. These events are usually followed by heavy monsoon rains.

The event pictured here was followed (the next day) by heavy rains around sunset, which damaged homes in Smara camp.

It is reported that rains have been significant this year in the northern Algerian Sahara and Western Sahara. I’m told to expect Tifariti (in Western Sahara) to be very green in December, when I’m hoping to visit.

Whether or not we can expect more such events in the future is an open question. It’s generally expected that the Mediterranean areas north of the Sahara will become much drier, while there are a number of indications that the southern Sahara and the Sahel will become wetter (although this is by no means certain). The climate change projections in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report suggest extreme drying of the Maghreb and of the most westerly regions of the Sahara south to about 15 degrees north. But again, these are not exactly bankable predictions, particularly towards the Sahelian zone.

Drier conditions may well mean less vegetation cover and more potential for the mobilisation of sand and dust from bare surfaces. On the other hand wetter conditions are likely to mean more powerful atmospheric disturbances that also mobilise dust. So the link between rainfall and dust is complex. Part of my PhD thesis examined the link between atmospheric disturbances and dust mobilisation in the Sahel. It appeared that increases in dust mobilisation were linked with a greater proportion of weak disturbances that were still strong enough to mobilse dust but not sufficiently vigorous to generate rainfall (not othe usual suspects of overgrazing and “inappropriate land use practices”). Stronger disturbances mobilise plenty of dust but the rainfall they subsequently generate behind the area of dust mobilisation washes it out of the atmosphere. Without the rainfall the dust just hangs around. However, that was in a region well to the south of the area in which the event pictured above occurred. When it comes to predicting the behaviour of dust events, things aren’t simply.

For more pictures of the 9 October event, see this photo set on Flickr. All the photos were taken by amateur photographers in the camps, and forwarded to me by Bachir, so credit where it is due.