Friday, December 29, 2006

Newspapers ignore the Western Sahara, will regret it when Sahrawis corner ink market

I wasn't in Houston for 48 hours before I read about two opportunities, through newspapers, to increase awareness about the Western Sahara.

The Fog City Journal, an online newspaper based in San Francisco, ran two pieces about a festival held in Tan-Tan, in the south of Morocco. The event, cancelled from 1979 to 2003 due to events in the nearby Western Sahara, was reopening as a showcase for Moroccan culture and business opportunities. The Moroccan government flew a Fog City journalist, a California state representative, and some other notables there. The result was shameless boosterism that would make a chamber of commerce blush.

The Fog City Journal ran an article and an open letter to King Mohammed VI about the festival. The article completely ignores the Western Sahara and Sahrawis, many of whom live in Tan-Tan. The article dismisses the Polisario's struggle as "political unrest in the region."

Doubtless to the surprise of Sahrawis, Berbers, native Moroccan dissidents, and Amnesty International, State Representative Fiona Ma and Fog City's Luke Thomas write, "The Kingdom of Morocco has rightfully earned international respect for its advancement in human rights and democracy while preserving the delicate balance of Morocco's rich cultural heritage."

The rest of the article is exhortations of the "Experience Morocco" sort. The pictures are pretty sweet, though.

I sent an email to the Journal's editor, explaining what I felt was missing from the article. He was nice enough to publish it. I couldn't figure out how to permalink it, so just CTRL-F Morocco.

Was this a case of Western Sahara monomania? I don't think so. It'd be a tactical and intellectual error to bring up the Western Sahara whenever someone writes or talks about Morocco, but the festival was taking place close to the Western Sahara where, nearby, Sahrawis were arrested in peaceful protests.

The other newspaper news is that my own Houston Chronicle ran an article about potential reparations for Franco's Spanish victims. I wrote a letter asking that we not forget some of Franco's last victims, the Sahrawi people. Unfortunately, it didn't run.

Because it's important that we increase awareness about the Western Sahara, if you read or watch something even tangentially related to the Western Sahara, you should write in.


  1. Anonymous12:45 PM

    Hi Will

    Nice to hear from you again

    Tan-Tan City is populated by Saharawis . what they called festival for Moroccan culture and business is just the old Saharawis tribes heritage / culture /( staled by officials from K. of Morocco)
    They showed it in their TV and in pro-moroccan Laayoune TV (Laayoune is unofficial capital of WS ) as Moroccan but it is not. And Moroccans themselves know that well.

    What the newspapers wrote I think is due to strong Moroccan lobby in US ( not only)…as Moroccan newspapers said they paid a lot of money to have lobbyists there specially on WS issue…
    As Mr James Baker III said to saharawis that WS is not Kuwait …saharwis also are so easy and gentle people and this was their problem during the hot and clod war of King Hassan II of Morocco. He used their “nativity” sorry their generosity

    In earlier 80s The Polisario controlled about 90 % of WS but the King H. II used tricks like referendum to win time and build the defense berms…

    I am sure that due to good people like you things will change. People in nature are “good” and are looking for truth

    Concerning Franco victims. My close Family members were one of them in during a saharwis peaceful demonstrations in Laayoune June 1970 ( are badly injured and witnesses still alive… ). Western Sahara was under Spanish colony. The Spanish gov. till now ignoring these people.

    But the Situation of Saharwis now in occupied WS are even worse than in past Spanish colony period.

    Regards to all

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