Tuesday, October 31, 2006

MINURSO extended for six more months

Anticlimax at the UN today. The UN Security Council has extended MINURSO's mandate for another six months, which is all right, even if it doesn't bring the conflict anywhere close to resolution. At least they reaffirmed their support for "the self-determination of the people of the Western Sahara."

There is another, more disappointing part of today's UNSC discussion. 14 of the council's members wanted to express concern about Moroccan human rights abuses in Western Sahara, but France blocked it. Once again France demonstrates its willingness to protect the Moroccan government from the international criticism it richly deserves.

Wolves in Mahmood's Den

Mahmood's Den is a Bahraini blog at the forefront of the Middle Eastern democracy movement. It's run by the eloquent, intelligent, and jolly Mahmood, whose interests include railing against high internet rates, exposing government corruption, and taking pictures of flowers.

But not all is well in Bahrain. Recently, the Bahraini government blocked Bahrainis from accessing the Den, as well as several other websites. Mahmood is crafty enough to mirror his site here, and could probably keep finding new mirrors until the Bahraini government changed.

Recently, Arab government haven't just tried to reduce hits on critical blogs. Last May, Alaa Abd El-Fatah, an Egyptian who co-writes dissident blog Manalaa was arrested in a non-violent demonstration. After 45 days in prison he was released, but his plight illustrates that the Bahraini government might go beyond 403 errors to silence Mahmood.

Show the Bahraini government you know that they're trying to curb democratic discussion in their country and sign this pro-Mahmood petition. For extra points, call the Bahraini embassy and complain to the ambassador. I did today and learned that embassy staff are experts at ignoring complaints. You might have better luck than I did: 202-342-1111.

This might seem only tangentially related to the Western Sahara, but I think it can set a precedent in Arab regimes for stopping electronic censorship. The Moroccan government blocks several pro-independence website, most notably my favorite (and I hope yours too), arso.org. Each instance of solidarity with other internet activists in the Middle East and North Africa makes it more difficult for tyrants to keep their citizens uninformed.

Monday, October 30, 2006

MINURSO update

A tipster who may wish to remain anonymous hooked me up with this article, about MINURSO. Tomorrow the United Nations is considering whether or not to renew MINURSO's charter.

It seems like MINURSO might not get renewed. What would that mean? In the article, Western Sahar's ambassador in the United States, Mouloud Said, offers one prediction about what will happen when no one stands between the Polisario and Morocco.

"Polisario's Washington representative, Mouloud Said, says Polisario might be tempted to resume fighting to force the hand of Moroccan King Mohammed VI. After "six or seven months of war, he'll be more realistic," he said in an interview. "And I think that's what he needs.""

I'm not sure if MINURSO should be renewed or not. If a more empowered mission replaces it and finally enforced the 1991 referendum agreement, the Western Sahara will be better politically and might finally be independent. But if nothing replaces MINURSO, I think that represents a further degradation in the international community's commitment to the Sahrawis. In Morocco, they'd paint it as proof that the UN accepted Morocco's occupation.

Most of this blog has been a rehash of the past 30 years. It's exciting to finally be able to report new developments in the Western Sahara. I'll be checking ARSO, but if you know the UN's decision, comment.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Moroccan Embassy Post-Mortem

Every year, Georgetown students go trick-or-treating on Embassy Row. Some of the embassies participate and hand out candy, while others are flustered when you ask and hand out ubiquitous red mints.

I had a soft protest planned for the Moroccan Embassy. A commenter named Justin, as well as Saharanlistan helped me prepare what I was going to say. Originally I was going for "I refuse your blood candies, free the Western Sahara," which sounds intense and would surprise whoever was handing out Tootsie Rolls, but Saharanlistan convinced me to say in Arabic "I don't want your sweets, I want a free Western Sahara," which is better parallelism anyway.

When we got our maps of the embassies, I noticed the first problem: Morocco wasn't participating! But I had worked hard to learn this Arabic, and Morocco was close by, so I was undeterred.

Around 5, after we had shaken down the other embassies (congratulations to the Mexican Embassy for having the best presentation and candy), I went off alone to Morocco. I rang the doorbell and several people came out.

Woman: Hello!
Me: Trick-or-treat
Woman: Oh my! Go look inside, see if we have anything. We're all going home.

The thing is they were all terribly nice, which isn't news to me, as I've always recognized that the Moroccan people are nice, besides being complicit in the occupation. But it's unnerving. I would have preferred a grouchy man in a fez. Anyway, another embassy worker stepped out and waited for me to do something. I just said "Free the Western Sahara!" and walked away.

So it wasn't much. I'm sure I'll have juicier Moroccan embassy stories to tell later, but to tide you over until then, here's a picture of my Halloween outfit. This should give you an idea of how baffled the Moroccans were.

I'm Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist extraordinaire, and Erica is a Thai person. Topical!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Western Saharan Flag

Here's the Sahrawi flag. Except for the moon and star, it's like the Palestinian flag, which expresses nice solidarity with a fellow oppressed people.

This is basic Western Sahara stuff, but I'm posting about it because I read on a website that when the Western Sahara is free, the green and black bars will be reversed. That doesn't sound true, but if it is, that'd be fantastic. Confirm/deny?

I went to Safeway today and got some markers, which will be explained later. It'll be a delightful surprise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Moroccan Embassy: few treats, dirty tricks

Every Halloween Georgetown students go trick-or-treating at Washington's embassies. Disappointingly, the diplomats hand out Tootsie Rolls, instead of going for traditional diplomatic gifts like graft or Mercedes. But whatever the Moroccans are giving out, I'm refusing it. That's where you come in.

I need to learn the Arabic equivalent or rough facsimile of "I refuse your candy. Free the Western Sahara." If you know Arabic, send it to me, either by posting a phonetic transliteration on my comments, sending me a drawing in MS Paint, or even making an Artpad with the Arabic. You'll get props, Morocco will look silly and stop giving out Smarties altogether, and we'll score one for a referendum.

Happy United Nations Day

It's already over, but I'd feel remiss if I didn't celebrate United Nations Day. Anyone who hasn't already become fluent in Esperanto can see that the United Nations is a flawed institution, but that doesn't keep it from doing good work.

It's one of the most reliable sources of information about the world, and the fact that the United Nations considers Western Sahara the last remaining colony is the coup de grace at the end of my one-minute Western Sahara explanation. But what's up with MINURSO?

MINURSO is an acronym in French that means United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. It was organized in 1991, the same year as the Polisario-Morocco cease fire. It's been renewed every time its charter has come up since then. Since the referendum was originally scheduled for 1992, there've been a lot of problems.

Since there's no referendum in the foreseeable future, MINURSO forces like to monitor the cease fire, try and repatriate Sahrawis, and make sure Morocco's not up to any mischief. Many UN countries are represented in MINURSO, but mainly as military observers. MINURSO only provides 28 soldiers and 6 police, and twenty of those soldiers will leave when South Korea completes its withdrawal from MINURSO.

MINURSO right now is an unnecessary organization that was created to organize an election that, for a variety of reasons, still hasn't happened 14 years later. Some Western Saharan commentators, especially Sahara-Watch, hope MINURSO won't be renewed by the United Nations and will be replaced by an organization with more teeth. While I agree that MINURSO should have more powers, especially in curbing Moroccan abuses, I think it should remain in the territory as a visible symbol of the world's commitment to a free referendum.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Finally, Haidar reception pictures...tomorrow

I've figured out how to connect my camera to my computer (it was slightly more complicated than just plugging in the USB cable, but not by much). Anyway, I don't have any homework tonight or classes today, so I'll put together the post.

While you're waiting, why not join the Western Sahara campaign group on Facebook? My high school pal/current University of North Carolina russophile Kevin Miller was nice enough to make the group, and I've been playing with it for the past few days. So join, and tell everyone why you think the Western Sahara is Africa's last remaining colony.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Google Earth makes me sad

I mentioned before that Google Earth is nice enough to mark Western Sahara's border separate from Morocco's. Unfortunately, because it's so unbeguilingly truthful, Google Earth can't help but also break my heart.

There are a lot of good things to be said for the refugee camps in Tindouf. They're models of refugee camp organization, especially when compared to other African camps, like those in the African Great Lakes region. Except for when the Polisario obfuscates the exact number of people in the camps, UNHCR has few complaints.

But Tindouf, at least from the satellite pictures on Google Earth, looks awful. It's a blasted no man's land. Only the roads, the city, and the camps make Tindouf distinguishable from the Moon.

Carne Ross said it poignantly in an article on Slate I mentioned earlier: "Morocco is with us, so the Sahrawis can go to hell. And, frankly, hell is a pretty accurate description of those refugee camps in the Sahara."

While France and the United States continue to ignore Morocco's occupation, the Sahrawis, who almost everyone outside Morcco acknowledges are in the right, have to eke out an existence in Tindouf.

Of course, I'm just looking at satellite pictures. Maybe Tindouf's grand. Either way, the Algerian government deserves credit for helping with the refugee crisis.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

They also have 30 words for occupation

Not much of a post today on account of my Arabic mid-term tomorrow, but according to my Arabic teacher, Moroccans have something like twenty words for crazy. Seems fair, considering how ra-reeb it is that they're still in Western Sahara.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Western Sahara fan art

A pictorial representation, as made by Kate. She has a sweet heart, and deserves all the accolades in the Maghreb. Lately, she's been fiddling with MS Paint, and what you see here is apex of her talent. If the New York was a kharijite dynasty, and skill in Paint was tantamount to holiness, she would be elected imam for sure. See if you can spot Aminatou Haidar! Incidentally, I can't make the picture much bigger, so the better version's here.

I think it's sweet that she thinks the Western Saharan conflict is fought with swords and 17th century muskets, presumably left over from Spanish raiders based in the Canary Islands.

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's as good as Kerr-McGee divesting from me

Today is a momentous day in One Hump history. My mom (in Washington for Parents' Weekend) pointed out that One Hump is now first in Google searches for one hump or two (without quotes!). Couldn't have done it without all you nice folks, especially the linkers.

Now that I've conquered Google's complex algorithm, Morocco should be cake. How is everyone's activism going?

Morocco can block ARSO, but not the biggest search engine in the world

The Moroccan government doesn't let its citizens access ARSO, the best website out there for Western Sahara information. But that doesn't mean Moroccans aren't interested in their brutalized colony. Courtesy of my newspaper's blog
comes a link to Google Trends, a prototype Google toy where you can see what places look for something the most.

Morocco came up first in Western Sahara searches, followed by long-time SADR ally South Africa and Ireland. This information shows Moroccans are not blind to the Sahrawi plight, and if we could only contact them and get past the language barrier, we could accomplish great things.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hurray for Uruguay and Kenya

In 2005, they became the most recent states to extend diplomatic to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Each country that recognizes SADR brings us closer to a free Western Sahara, so if your country hasn't recognized SADR yet (it probably hasn't, if you don't live in Africa) then petition your representatives to. The State Department hasn't responded to me yet, but they haven't refused recognition, either.

How many nations now recognize SADR? I could probably do a quick Google search, but the figures vary.

Update: ARSO is nice enough to compile those figures here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Western Sahara Day

I decided a few days ago I need to throw a big Western Sahara party, to raise awareness and make people think the Western Sahara is fun (they would come to that conclusion anyway, but this'll speed the process). Plus, I have a sheet of Western Sahara stickers I took from the Haidar reception (sorry for ripping you off, Defense Forum, but Georgetown students are easily swayed by stickers).

Here's the preliminary plan: start taking cookies from the dining hall and keeping them in Tupperware. Then, on the appointed day, go around giving cookies and stickers to people who will listen to my 1 minute Western Sahara story.

The only problem is, there are few happy days in Sahrawi history. If you have any suggestions for a good day to do this (before May, since school lets out then), kick them at me. Any other ideas for fun stuff is welcome, too.

Monday, October 09, 2006

UN report: Morocco out of Western Sahara

I'll be impressed if you read all of this, a transcript of a UN committee meeting about the Western Sahara. The meeting eventually devolves into a undergrad seminar-level discussion of decolonization, but South Africa, the newest nation to recognize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, is nice enough to reaffirm Western Sahara's membership in the African Union.

Also, who is sending me links to Marocpost.net? The site is pro-occupation and claims that the Western Sahara is just a reclaimed part of Morocco, but it's nice to know what tune the devil's playing, so thanks for the links.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

King Hassan II trivia

Which other African dictator did King Hassan II, the Moroccan monarch who invaded Western Sahara, prop up? I'll give you a hint. His name means "the cock who won't leave the hens alone."

It's Mobutu Sese Seko, dictator of Zaire! According to Tony Hodges in Western Sahara: Roots of a Desert War, Hassan repeatedly sent Moroccan troops to fight a Zairean secessionist movement (they had experience with that sort of thing, you'll remember).

Brutal African kleptocrats: they're friends!

Of course you can have more artPad!

Western Sahara's oppressors, in Arabic. If you wait to the end you'll also get a delightful drawing of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic's flag.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Maghreb realpolitik

I found an awfully depressing article on Slate about the political chances for Western Saharan independence. The article confirms what I've thought for a while: there's little argument about the who's right in the Western Sahara debate. It's hard to find anyone whose salary isn't paid by Morocco who will say that, legally or morally, the Western Sahara should be occupied by Morocco.

But righteousness won't make Morocco fulfill its promises to hold fair elections. The article is mainly a bummer because the writer, Carne Ross, doesn't even suggest the Sahrawis will have self-determination any time soon.

Let's prove Slate wrong. I think Western Sahara achieve independence in my lifetime, and every email or letter we send to Congress or Aziz Mekouar makes self-determination more real.