‘The oppression is brutal and continuous: Moroccan police breaks up protest ahead of Security Council’s annual discussions and forthcoming resolution on Western Sahara Conflict.
Confrontation highlights what is likely a systematic suppression of Saharawi voices in the occupied territory of Western Sahara n breach of the international law amidst hope that the UN will fulfill its obligations over the promises and commitments made to the Saharawis twenty six years ago: human rights violations, natural resources plundering and the deprivation of the right of self-determination remain still a facade of day-dreaming for the forgotten people of Western Sahara.
Mohamed Samid Ould Brahim, Saturday, April 15th, 2017
El-Aaiun, Weestern Sahara: In the city of El-Aaiun, the capital of Western Sahara, the protesters, from the Saharawi pro-self determination and independence to other mass popular groups, were who ended up fallen victims due to the Moroccan police brutality and violent intervention to silence their voices and to break up their will to protest for their rights. These peaceful Saharawi protesters al went to the street not fearing what was going to happen at the hands of the Moroccan riot police and the other. It all ended in a blood bath where Mostly women fell victims of police brutality and violence, as they were easy target for the police agents.
Moroccan police forcibly broke up a pro-self determination demonstration, which also called for the liberation of all Saharawi political prisoners. This resulted in the beating of several dozen activists on Saturday, late in the afternoon at 5.00 pm. Ironically, Minurso ( Mission International for the Organization of the Referendum) members were patrolling the city without raising a finger. Oddly enough, rumor has it that there was an American diplomatic delegation today in town conducting a visit to check on things. The demonstration is not a passing visitor, but rather a permanent event that takes place despite the police siege and the embargo imposed on any Saharawi activity advocating independence and the respect of all rights for Saharawis.
The protesters, from different Saharawi groups representing all Saharawis living under occupation, rushed out to the streets shouting pro-self determination slogans and demanding the release of all Saharawi political prisoners. Some of them chanted slogans denouncing the plundering of the Saharawi natural resources. They all cling on to peaceful demonstrations as a means and a tool to raise awareness about the Saharawis plight and their endless quest to bring justice to the people of Western Sahara. Saharawis, from all walks of life and from both genders, replied to the call launched by the Saharawi NGO´s to protest in the streets of El-Aaiun today in solidarity with the Saharawis political prisoners rotten in the prisons of Morocco.
“My wife was badly hit and severely beaten up by the Moroccan police. They used severe violence against all demonstrators. The police were very violent,”, Saleh Zaygham , a former victim of forced disappearance and the Husband of a leading resistance figure MbarkaAlina Baali, told our eyewitness. “It’s the same every week. The oppression is very high.”
Earlier in the day, her colleagues, who helped organize the campaign, predicted what was to come as they addressed observers before the protest.
“I have been arrested, imprisoned, beaten up and hit more than 50 times in the past years, since 1975,” Ahmed Salem Fahim ( Elbruto) said. “The police have broken my body but could not break my will ¨, ¨There are many of the secret police and plain clothes policemen surrounding us all the times. But we want to send a clear message to the Moroccan regime and to the whole world. We need to show the reality we are living in.”
The protesters carried banners, proclaiming: “Free all Saharawi political prisoners! No to violations of human rights!” Others chanted, “Morocco out!, we Down to Occupation: a Free Western Sahara without Morocco!.”
“I’ve been brutalized and beaten countless times,” said Bamba Lafqir, an activist who showed up during all peaceful demonstrations despite his old age and always comforted demonstrators, who would protest peacefully along Smara Avenue each week in protest at the lack of freedom of expression, self-determination, lack of opportunities, and the plundering of the resources among other rights guaranteed by international charts and conventions. “I have no hope at all of progress as a result of the annual Security Council’s meetings and resolutions on Western Sahara. Security Council members do not know what it is like to live in an occupied country.”
The local authorities and the police tend to accuse these protestors of being liars, mercenaries and ingrates who failed to recognize the benefits of Moroccan society, including free education and healthcare among other privileges they claim are bestowed on the Saharawis. The tensions escalated up until the arrests of some Saharawi minors and activists. Saharawi media groups are not exempt. No one is spared the bad fate if caught by the feverish enraged police seeking to disperse the Saharawi resilient crowds. Many cameras were confiscated from regular citizens who stood by to document the event using their own cell phone camera. A young Saharawi media activist named Bousoula was caught filming. After the beating he endured, his camera was confiscated from him. He would never dream of holding it again.
The confrontation highlights what is a regular labeling of the ongoing Moroccan dealing with the pro self-determination Saharawis in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara- Morocco relations: 42 years of a timeline of a history of occupation, war, peace, negotiations and attempts of assimilation:
The conflict in Western Sahara was born in 1975 when Spain withdrew from this vast region inhabited by less than one million inhabitants. The former colonial power intended to cede land to Morocco and Mauritania, without taking into account the desire for independence of the Saharawi people. The Polisario Front (abbreviated Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro), who had already fought against the Spaniards, turned against Morocco and Mauritania. Mauritania signed a ceasefire in 1979, but Morocco and the Polisario continued to fight until 1991. On that date, another ceasefire was signed, reinforced by a “sand wall” Of more than 2,700 kilometers built by the Moroccan army, which still separates the positions held by Morocco (80% of Western Sahara) positions of the Polisario.
In 1991, following the ceasefire, the UN launched its Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara, or Minurso. As the name suggests, the mission was supposed to allow the rapid organization of a referendum in Western Sahara, while ensuring peace between the Front and Morocco. By the UN’s own admission, this goal was a complete failure. Negotiations between Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and SADR have barely evolved since 1991.
Christopher Ross resignation as a the UN special envoy was confirmed by the UN Secretariat in the latest draft report that the new UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres presented to the Security Council early this week. The emissary in charge of resolving the conflict in Western Sahara apparently delivered his resignation last January .It underlines the failure of the UN to move the lines in this dispute that has lasted for more than 40 years.
All Saharawi and international observers believe in one possibility: only a fair impartial and transparent referendum would allow Saharawi voters to set the political direction for their country, when Morocco has said it plans to offer no more than autonomy for the Saharawi who have been long starving to embrace freedom and independence.
“There is the possibility of some action this April, but we must understand that Morocco has strong allies, namely France , and will try to crash the Saharawis living under occupation if that would make it prolong the occupation years ahead to remain in power and keep its privileges,” said field activist and campaigner Abdelkrim Mberkat, whose monthly stipend was cut off recently due to his activism and advocacy.
“The UN should sanction Morocco so that Saharawi people can decide their future,” he said. “I hope the United Sates of America will support the Saharawi people and not just watch them peril with the blessing of France. As Saharwis, We believe we are fighting France and not just Morocco and his gulf allies.” He explains further:“We Saharwis know what to do but we can’t do it alone because the Moroccan government has resources and weapons, and they are willing to use them – as we saw with the hiring of many lobbyists and the use of propaganda,” Saharawi activist Lahcen Dalil said. “We need the support of the international community.”
Numerous reports of human rights violations in Western Sahara seems to be the main label in all international neutral reporting on the situation of the human rights in Western Sahara. The UN committee against torture condemned Morocco last December for the numerous violations of the Convention against Torture concerning Naama Asfari, one of the 21 Sahrawi militants detained since 2010. Their appeal proceedings, which must resume The 8th of May will once again throw a crude light on the Moroccan practices in this vast territory as all prepare for the last phase of the trial of the Gdeim Izik groups of Saharawi political prisoners held captive since the brutal bloody dismantling of the protest camp: Gdeim Izik on November 2010 in the outskirts of El-Aaiun city.
Long-time Saharawi campaigner and activist from Dakhla city Mohamed El-Baikam said: ¨the international community should stress political freedom and insist that the government of Morocco respect the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights and honor the agreements it signed with the Polisario in 1991 under the auspices of the United Nations,” he said. “How can there be a proper referendum without freedom of expression, without access to a free expression and a free press and assembly? They will never allow us to go public and debate the issues.” He then added: ¨Our hearts bleeds when we see how much harm they inflict on us, on our defenseless people, and it aches me when i see how plunder takes place, especial when it comes to the fisheries and the phosphate among other plundered resources.¨
Last summer, the Moroccan army was deployed to the Guergarat zone , a presumably buffer zone, to build a paved road – across its fortified sand wall that marks the border of the territory under its control – to facilitate traffic to sub-Saharan Africa, Causing new tensions with the front polisario.Morocco was clearly violating the 1991 ceasefire violation since at the time there was no road at that location. Morocco had also deployed patrols and set up a base in the area. Polisario brought its troops and established a base there, and even started cheking the traffic there. The Moroccans were forced to retreat back few weeks ago especially after the UN expressed its concern and demanded both parties to ease the tension. The young Saharawi media activist Maiam Zafri, a member of AMRPENWS ( Assocation for the Monitoring of the Resources and for the Protection of the Environment) , said:¨Morocco has been breaching every single UN and Security resolution without being punished. We are all appalled! Saharawis have the feeling that we are becoming a toy in the hand of the Powerful countries who use us for their own interests and according to their whims¨, she then added: ¨Enough is Enough!¨
Indeed, enough is enough, and it is time the whole world realized that patience is at its limits for the Saharawis who endured a lot for over four decades. It is time we listened to the voice of the Saharawis on both sides of the sand wall and appreciated their sacrifice and their resilience waiting for the international community to enable them enjoy the benefit of the right of self-determination.
It seems to be an endless quest for the Saharawis , and even though the Moroccan regime is making life unbearable for Saharawis, but their will remain solid and UNBREAKABLE!