This journal follows the weekly news and reporting about non-violent resistance in Moroccan controlled Occupied Western Sahara, the Frente POLISARIO controlled ‘Liberated Territories’ of Western Sahara and Protest in the Sahara refugee camps in Algeria. It is part of an exercise for a Regional Masters Programme in Peace Studies.
The journal follows issues related to peaceful resistance in the media:
- Political Prisoners (Repression: imprisonment, resistance and protest against imprisionment and mistreatment in prison, prisoners strikes)
- Control of environmental Resources (Legal recourses, trade embargoes, appeal to human rights)
- Leadership and organization of the Polisario Front
- Protest (Public Assembly, symbolic public acts, slogans, singing. Repression: direct physical violence, control of information)
- Organizing, defending rights, broad participation, gender
- International protest (Public Assembly, symbolic public acts, slogans.)
Below is a short background
“We call for further effective measures and actions to be taken, in conformity with international law, to remove the obstacles to the full realization of the right of self-determination of peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, which continue to adversely affect their economic and social development as well as their environment.”
UN General Assembly, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, September 2015
The International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975 on Western Sahara stated that “.. the Court has not found legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory.”
More information about the historical conflict time-line can be found is this PDF: Milestones in the Western Sahara Conflict
and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) embassy to the African Union: The Saharawi refugee camps
Western Sahara remains the only African territory on the list of the United Nations Decolonisation Committee.
The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established by Security Council resolution 690 (1991) “in accordance with ‘the settlement proposals’, as accepted on 30 August 1988 by Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro (Frente POLISARIO).” as part of a Security Council approved plan, for a transitional period prior to a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to determine if they would choose independence and integration with Morocco. To date there has been no referendum. Despite calls for MINURSO to have human rights-monitoring included in it’s annually renewed mandate, that has not happened.
40 years since the occupation of much of the territory of Western Sahara by Morocco (1975), Occupied Western Sahara faces increasing threats of natural resource exploitation from fishing in its seas, offshore oil exploration and mining an on land. In the past week (October 2015) floods in the refugee camps near Tindorf [SO] in Algeria have devastated the fragile shelters that are the decades-long temporary homes of the tens of thousands of Saharawi Refugees.
Some more detail about non-violent resistance in Western Sahara can be found in the following articles (titles link to the article & the quotes are excerpts ):
“The authorities continued to restrict rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. They curtailed dissent, prosecuting journalists and imprisoning activists, restricted human rights groups and other associations, and forcibly dispersed peaceful and other protests. Torture and other ill-treatment in detention persisted due to inadequate safeguards and accountability, and courts’ acceptance of torture-tainted confessions”
“The non-violent resistance in occupied Western Sahara has unequivocally become a third component in the ongoing decolonization dispute between the Polisario Front representing the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco. In recent years, the Saharawi non-violent resistance has resurrected this forgotten conflict of decolonization and brought it back to international light. However, this resistance occurs in the absence of a human rights monitoring component under the MINURSO and in the absence of an influential Moroccan civil or political society to impose pressure on the Moroccan state to decolonize Western Sahara.
Considering these absences and Morocco’s politics of oppression and flooding the territory with settlers who currently outnumber the Saharawi population, many questions are yet persistently raised: Will the Saharawi non-violent resistance work in achieving its main objective set to end the Moroccan occupation? Will it continue amid Moroccan Western-backed-politics? And will the Saharawi youth remain patient in the face of brutality perpetrated by Moroccan authorities?”
“In October 2010, groups of Saharawi citizens started pitching their tents in the desert a couple of miles outside of Western Sahara’s capital city El Aaiun, in a place called Gdeim Izik. Choosing to live as exiles in their own occupied homeland, their message was clear: no more. What started with a few tents, quickly turned into a mass protest camp, harbouring thousands of Saharawi coming from all over Western Sahara. This was their cry for help to the world, demanding respect for their most basic human, social and economic rights.”
“Western analysts such as Noam Chomsky have argued that the so-called “Arab Spring” did not ignite in Tunisia as is commonly stated, but rather in Laayoune [Western Sahara] with the month-long protest encampment of Gdeim Izzik, in October 2010. The originally peaceful protest resulted in riots that spread to other cities when the camp in the outskirts of the city was forcefully dismantled on 8 November.”
“The young rebel was sentenced to death in 1980 and he would spend 14 years on Moroccan death row. He remembers every each and single day as triumph: ‘I spent all those years incommunicado in a 2×1.5-metre cell full of cockroaches coming out from the toilet hole. I could only sleep from midday until four in the afternoon because executions were always conducted at night and I was always awake at every noise of the main gate, every single footstep of the guards…’
…Dadach was asked to say a few words to the crowd. He was brief and straight to the point: ‘I just got out of jail but my claim for independence for the Saharawi people remains as fresh as the day I was made prisoner.’
The mass gathering reached its climax with a pro-independence demonstration in the streets of Laayoune immediately afterwards. Dadach proudly claims he has taken part in all those protests held in Laayoune ever since, including that of Gdeim Izzik, the protest camp set up outside Laayoune for almost a month in 2010. Many western analysts argue that the so–called “Arab Spring” started here, rather than in Tunisia.”