Saturday, September 30, 2006

US Senators and Representatives sign letter in support of the Western Sahara

Last month Aminatou Haidar and her entourage did a Hill blitz for the Western Sahara. It culminated in this letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, signed by several senators and representatives. Here's the honor roll. Send an email their way if any of these fine people represent you in Congress, or even if they don't. I emailed Patrick Leahy and Sheila Jackson Lee.

-Senator James Inhofe R-OK (who is originally interested in the issue because one of his constituents hassled him about it for a while. He also thinks English should be the national language and brags that no one in his family is gay, but strange bedfellows and all that)

-Senator Patrick Leahy D-VT

-Senator Jim DeMint R-SC

-Senator Russ Feingold D-WI (this is awesome, and totally makes up for him never responding to emails I've sent him about the Western Sahara)

-Representative Chris Smith R-NJ

-Representative Ed Royce R-CA

-Representative Joseph Pitts R-PA (he operates this Western Sahara website)

-Representative Barbara Lee D-CA

-Representative Zach Wamp R-TN

-Representative Diane Watson D-CA

-Representative John Boozman R-AK

-Representative Julia Carson D-IN

-Representative Betty McCollum Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (awesome!)-MN

-Representative Robin Hayes R-NC

-Representative Bennie Thompson D-MS

-Representative Sheila Jackson Lee D-TX (from Houston, even!)

These people know what's up about the Western Sahara.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Petition against arbitrary arrests of Saharawi activists

In May of last year some non-violent protests for independence were organized in Western Sahara. The Moroccans reacted harshly, and began a new campaign of repression and intimidation. They've arrested many activists, including two who are currently on a hunger strike.

The nice folks at ASVDH, which I'm told translates roughly to the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State, have a petition against this recent assault on human rights. Go ahead and sign it. You'll feel a little better about yourself, and you'll have thumbed your nose at the occupation.

Friday, September 22, 2006

"If you're a Man who loves Moroccan Women, then you simply MUST..."

Thanks, Google ads! If someone buys this, we can overcome the self-defeating behaviors that turn off Moroccan women instantly. Fortunately, from my free trial I've learned the five "very common tell-tale signs that tell you" if Morocco is interested in you.

1. You have phosphates.
2. You might have oil offshore.
3. Its army is unruly and needs to be kept away from her capital.
4. It has just come out of a disastrous Sand War and needs to inspire patriotism.
5. It's best friends with the United States and France.

All that, gratis.

Update: fair enough point on a commenter's part. No need to be snitty to Moroccan women, who I'm sure are a nice bunch. So instead I'm snitty to the Moroccan government.

The Western Sahara: at least not as hopeless as Tibet

After spending any sort of time looking at Western Sahara websites, or hanging out with Western Sahara activists, you get kind of down on the cause. So few people in the United States know about the Moroccan occupation, and its proponents draw their resources from an entire national treasury.

But at least things in the Western Sahara aren't as hopeless as they are in Tibet. Students for a Free Tibet met last night, and I was struck by how unlikely it is that China will ever back off.
If the United States pressured Morocco enough, they would probably leave Western Sahara, but no one's messing with an ascendant China.

So take heart that your cause of choice has a better chance of succeeding than Free Tibet. Things can change rapidly, though, and I wish Tibet and its yaks the best.

This post was a downer, so a more upbeat one will come later today.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Divestment from Western Sahara

I'm involved in Georgetown's chapter of STAND, a student organization that's trying to end the genocide in Darfur. The obvious question is why Western Sahara is all but unknown in the United States while Darfur and other atrocities like the Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army attract hundreds of students and journalists to their causes? I think it's because Darfur and the LRA are immediate humanitarian crises, while the Western Sahara is a slow-moving tragedy, with no mounted janjaweed or kidnapped children.

But that's not today's post. Today's post is about divestment. In STAND, I'm in the divestment campaign, which is trying to get the District of Columbia government and DC universities to sell their stocks in companies that support the Sudanese government. It's the antithesis of sexy, but I think it's one of the most effective techniques for pressuring Sudan.

If it's so good, what is being done about Western Saharan divestment? Not much, from what I can read. Limited divestment campaigns seem to have been successful, as with TGS-Nopec or Kerr-McGee. There hasn't, however, been a wide move to divest from all companies dealing in the Western Sahara, probably because it's difficult to separate non-resource activities in Western Sahara with deals in Morocco (the American Free Trade Agreement that specifically does not include the Western Sahara notwithstanding).

I'm not sure if a divestment campaign would be a good idea, or even what if it should just apply to Western Sahara or all Morocco. For now, I think limited divestment aimed at the phosphate and oil companies that seek to steal Saharawi resources is the best tactic.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sublime Frequencies: Radio Algeria

Still having camera issues, so the Haidar reception post isn't going to be up today. Instead, today's Western Sahara topic is Radio Algeria, a CD that rocks.

From what I heard at the reception, going to the Western Sahara really means going to the refugee camps in the west of Algeria (travelling through Morocco is problematic). More than that, though, Algeria has been intimately linked with the Western Sahara struggle since before decolonization. This makes Algerian culture relevant to independence. Plus, I needed music to listen to while I study Arabic.

Radio Algeria was made by Sublime Frequencies, a group that makes collage remixes of foreign radio stations. I enjoyed their remix of North Korean pop and martial music, Radio Pyongyang. I think Radio Algeria is even better, though.

While Radio Algeria has no song about the Western Sahara, it does feature a song called "Saharan Mosaic." It's different from the rest of the CD, which is mostly a melange of European and Arabic pop. "Saharan Mosaic" is a return to Algeria, and the regions, desert origins.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Morocco wasn't always so insistent about Greater Morocco

It's weird after reading mainly pro-Saharawi works to be confronted by the fact that a lot of ordinary Moroccans people want Western Sahara to stay with Morocco. The most obvious example of this that I can remember was reading a comment on Western Sahara Endgame by a pro-occupation writer. It was vitriolic and the commenter's anger was palpable. He was insistent that Western Sahara, as a part of Greater Morocco, wouldn't be compromised.

The Greater Morocco idea has surfaced earlier, in the Green March. Besides higher wages, Moroccans were also induced to cross over into Western Sahara by the idea of achieving Greater Morocco, which they believe to be Morocco in its pre-colonial size.

But Western Sahara's not the only part of Greater Morocco that wouldn't go along with the nationalists in Rabat. From 1960 to 1969, Morocco claimed a portion of its sometimes-ally Mauritania for their own Manifest Destiny. That Morocco dropped its claim on Mauritania and ended up working with them to divide Saharawi land demonstrates Greater Morocco's flimsy real-world grounding.

That info came from Tony Hodges's Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War, which I'm reading.

As for things that don't have anything to do with Mauritania: if you're reading this because you got one of my homemade business cards at the reception, awesome! Lest people think I'm too much of a bigshot now to give shout-outs to my new friends, I'm going to prove them wrong. Hey, Terry T. Campo, energy lawyer. I also respect the Western Sahara love shown by Mikael Simble and Lindsey M. Plumley.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Aminatou Haidar reception

Today's going to be a hot day in my relationship with the Western Sahara. The US-Western Sahara Foundation is holding a reception for Aminatou Haidar, a Saharawi activist and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, and I'm going.

You may remember that I previously discounted the Foundation because I thought they were defunct. Fortunately, they don't hold grudges about that sort of thing. I'll have a breakdown and pictures up soon, even though bloggers taking pictures with their subjects is so Perez Hilton.

Update: the reception rocked (how could it not?).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thanks for the help 200 years ago, Morocco.

I feel lately that I've been picking on Morocco. Sure, their government's oppressing the Saharawis, but I'd be sad if someone was nasty to Americans because of our government's policies. Just to show that I think the Moroccan people themselves are pleasant and probably, deep down, want a free Western Sahara, here's a fun fact about Morocco: it was the first country to recognize the United States.

In 1777, Morocco promised the Sultan's protection for America shipping, marking the first diplomatic recognition of the United States as an independent country.

I first heard this at the National Clergy Council luncheon, but I didn't believe it (apparently, you can't believe everything the NNC tells you). Wikipedia jumped to confirm the NCC's assertion, though.

It was lovely for Morocco to recognize the United States.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Morocco's man in Washington

You've already written your representatives in Congress about the Western Sahara, and you've still got stamps left over. Write to Morocco's ambassador to the United States, Aziz Mekouar.

Besides looking dashing in a fez, Ambassador Mekouar likes to present Morocco's interests, including the continued occupation and economic integration of the Western Sahara, to the United States. Special points if you congratulate him on knowing six languages.

I've sent the Ambassador two letters, one on Thank You stationery left over from graduation. I haven't received any replies. Even if the letters never even get to Mekouar, they make clear to Morocco that Americans know about the Western Sahara, and make its representatives in the United States more cautious when dealing with Congress or the President.

Ambassador Aziz Mekouar
1601 21st Street, NW
Washington DC 20009

Monday, September 11, 2006

John Bolton--one of the Western Sahara's best American allies

Western Sahara Endgame has an interesting, albeit nine months old, post that mentions US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton's role in the Western Sahara. I think it's relevant again, now that his nomination is rumored to be dead.

If the rumors are true, then it's too bad for the Western Sahara. From 1997 to 2000 Bolton worked as James Baker's assistant during Baker's envoy work for the UN. This suggests he cares more than the rest of the Bush administration about the Saharawi plight. If his nomination is rejected by Democrats and moderate Republicans, it will be a disappointment for a possible new path to Saharawi independence through the United States.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Morocco's Lust for Oil

Kerr-McGee fans will recall that Morocco has a passion for oil exploration. Most of the other Arab countries supplement their income with oil or natural gas; why not Morocco? As this article translated by Sahara-Watch from, a Spanish website, points out, Morocco is the only Maghreb country without known oil reserves.

Of course, Morocco occupies another country, too, and isn't opposed to taking its possible oil reserves. The article explains why Morocco wants oil so badly, and hints at the dire future of Sahrawi independence if oil is discovered in Western Sahara.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sahrawi music

Does anyone know of any particularly catchy Sahrawi songs, and if you do, can you send me a copy electronically? Extra cool points given if it's fast and poppy.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

East Timor: the Western Sahara's future?

It's not particularly noteworthy to note the similarities between East Timor and the Western Sahara, but I'll do it anyway. Both were invaded in the mid-70s by stronger neighbors immediately after decolonization, and both suffered a bloody occupation. The biggest difference is that East Timor has been free since 2002.

Since it became self-determining, though, things haven't improved much for East Timor. While Indonesian troops no longer massacre dissidents or exploit the country's resources, since March East Timor has been engulfed in internal strife. Disbanded soldiers rioted through the streets and people were hacked to death. Since the Prime Minister's resignation things have gotten better, but East Timor has been savaged by the crisis.

It's banal to say that self-determination won't solve Western Sahara's problems, but East Timor provides sobering, concrete proof that a post-Morocco Western Sahara could be just another crisis.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tents in Tindouf

I mentioned earlier that I'm reading Michael Palin's Sahara. There's a part where Michael Palin visits the Saharawi refugees in the Tindouf refugee camp in Algeria, and notes that the camp isn't a sea of blue plastic sheeting, unlike the UN-run refugees camps in east Congo or Kosovo.

Rather, most of the Saharawis live in traditional nomadic tents: "They are not only practical but also symbolic, a remind to the Saharawis of their nomadic inheritance, and a reminder too that this cheerless black landscapeis only a temporary resting place on the journey back to their homeland."

I thought that was a beautiful description of a pitiable, unjust situation.

Even the Center for Disease Control knows Western Sahara deserves independence

I received a pamphlet about immunizations from the Center for Disease Control today. It had a map of the world showing where diseases are, and Western Sahara was marked as its own country. Good job, Center for Disease Control.