Tuesday, January 30, 2007

HAMSA Civil Rights contest supports civil rights in Middle East-North Africa

The Hands Across the Middle East Support Alliance, an organization that supports civil rights reformers and moderates in the Middle East-North Africa region, is holding its second annual student essay contest. Anyone under 25 in the Middle East (I'm assuming the Maghreb licit, too) or America can enter.

A winner from each region will receive $2,000, which is almost the cost of a round-trip ticket from Washington to Rabat. The rub is, the deadline's January 31st.

It's a noble idea, and hopefully just one sign that the HAMSA network is growing stronger. I submitted an essay last year and joined their email list. I'll also be submitting one this year. Join me. Winning would just be financially beneficial, it would bring the Western Sahara more attention that it gets.

Whether or not you submit, you should join the email list. It only comes out occasionally, and always includes links and information about activist meetings or civil rights violations in the Middle East. For example, HAMSA was a big supporter of Bahraini blogger Mahmood during his banning fiasco. Speaking of Mahmood, he's a judge in the essay contest.

Western Sahara fish oil finds its way to Norway

I'll hand it to those Norwegians--they know their Western Sahara. The latest Norway-Morocco fight is about Omega 3 fish oil, which is illegally finding its way from plundered Sahrawi fisheries to health-conscious Norwegians. Plus, it's written by classy guy Erik Hagen.

The article further underlines the region's potential wealth. If Morocco would invest some of the money it gets from the region in infrastructure, it wouldn't be able to make a case against Western Sahara's economic viability.

Busy week, but I'll give you a hint: there's some Jacob Mundy. Until then, why not check out People-Mover, the blog for Houston and the people who love it? It's written by Alex, who got a shout-out before on One Hump but squandered it.

As long as I have a big picture of Omega 3 fish oil to reach to the end of, I'm also writing for Vox Populi, the blog end of the newspaper I write here at Georgetown. This post was dynamite.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sahrawis hassled at World Social Forum

So much for Sahrawis taking a much-needed vacation in the Kenyan sun. According to a letter signed by several Sahrawi organizations, a workshop at the World Social Forum about the Western Sahara was disrupted by Moroccan demonstrators.

The letter says, "a group of Moroccans violated the Saharawi workshop, provoking a fight with the moderator, Mr. Fernando Peraita, Member of the Task Force and hindering his attempts to bring order back". Unable to continue their workshop, the Sahrawis requested the Forum's organizers send an official representative to discourage further Moroccan disruption.

As with all things, it's important to be careful about disinformation from either side, including your own. Still, I think the Sahrawis are telling the truth. Several organizations signed the letter, and ARSO linked to it. Moreover, I've heard of other Western Sahara meetings that have been threatened by Moroccan agitators.

The Moroccans at the World Social Forum had a right to say how they felt about the Western Sahara even if the similar rights of Sahrawis are denied inside the territory. Neither side, though, should be allowed to use violence or disruptive activities to silence its opposition.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Western Sahara on the agenda at World Social Forum

The World Social Forum is meeting in Nairobi, Kenya this week, and Western Saharan decolonization is part of the Forum's focus on Africa.

The World Social Forum is held every year to present an alternative view of the world from that presented concurrently in Davos, Switzerland, by the World Economic Forum. Besides having an important function in world politics and economics, the World Social Forum sounds like a ridiculous good time because every group except multinational corporations and the World Bank sends a delegation. In a blog post on the Forum that I can't find anymore, a guy wrote about hanging out with people from all over the world, including Sahrawis who said he could drop by "their occupied territory" anytime.

There's a nice article on the World Social Forum and the Western Sahara on Indybay, written by T. Rose (of Western Sahara listserv fame).

I took the World Social Forum's Wikipedia article's first picture, one that has nothing to do with the Western Sahara. But who can resist Noam Chomsky, the man who wrote an excellent book and proceeded to write it over and over again? I've only found passing references to the Western Sahara in his writing, which is a shame because it's becoming more and more apparently a case of Western interference.

Western Sahara's blowing up in France

You may have noticed I made an addition to the blog over the weekend. On the right sidebar there's now a map of where people are reading One Hump from. I'm not usually one for blog counters, but I thought this was cool enough to be worth messing up my template HTML.

I mention it because the map's turned up a hit from Morocco. Hurray. And shout-out to the reader in the UAE, my 2nd favorite Arab country.

A more Western Sahara-centric post later in the day. In the meantime, check out this article about Sahrawi agricultural innovations in Tindouf.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Joha al-Marrakechi loose in Tindouf

According to the teaching assistant in my Arabic class, there's a character in Arab folklore named Joha who tricks everybody. He's like the Middle East and North Africa's Brer Rabbit, or better, its Asterix.

In one story, Joha tricks his neighbor into giving him a big pot. He borrows the guy's pot, and when he gives it back there's a little pot inside it. When his neighbor asks what the deal is, Joha says the pot gave birth. Later, he borrows the big pot again but doesn't give it back. His neighbor asks where the pot is, and Joha says, "Your pot died in childbirth."

In another story, Joha 'al-Marrakechi' meets Joha 'al-Baghdadi'. I realized there's another trickster from Marrakech, but instead of his neighbors, he tricks entire nations and the United Nations. It's Mohammed Abdelaziz!

Since this epiphany, I've done a lot of research on Western Sahara Online, MarocPost, and the Moroccan-American Center for Policy. Judging from their information, I've come to the conclusion that Mohammed Abdelaziz doesn't just share a city with Joha--he is Joha. I urge Morocco to attack Tindouf immediately and get their pot back.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

MarocPost proves it's a dorkus-macorcas

A mystery Western Sahara fan likes to send me articles from MarocPost, a Moroccan website that's reasonable as long as it's not covering the Western Sahara. When it is, though, you can bet it's a chopped-up government press release. For example, MarocPost has run articles about Western Sahara's terrorist links, and always calls the occupied territories Southern Morocco.

I read MarocPost all the time, though, because it's hilarious. Whether it's denouncing Sahrawis for making time with communists and Islamic extremists, or calling Polisario President Mohammed Abdelaziz "al-Marrekechi,"MarocPost has more conspiracies than Art Bell.

Anyway, I'm involved in a rumble on MarocPost after reading this article. The article, which claims to be written by a disinterested foreigner named J.H. Benjamin, proposes to examine whether Polisario or CORCAS really represents Sahrawis. J.H. quickly dispenses with Polisario, though, and devotes the rest of the article to CORCAS, noble organization that it is.

First of all, I don't think J.H. is real, or at least foreign. How often do you read essays from native English speakers where every sentence ends with an exclamation mark?

I posted the usual stuff ("Where are the non-Moroccan sources? If Morocco thinks Sahrawis all want integration, why not have a referendum?" &c.) When I do that on View from Fez, usually no one answers. But MarocPost isn't View from Fez, which is too bad, because View From Fez rocks. Check out the comments for the argument. Here are the highlights.
  • They call me Hisham and Hiree. Are those Algerian names?
  • "If you persist it won't be good for you guys."
  • "You know what BODYBOY Sommer, you can run but you can not hide!"

UPDATE: Everybody calm down, the article must be legitimate. Through a highly-placed Moroccan informer, I've obtained a picture of Mr. Benjamin, pictured reading his article here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gerald Ford subverted Sahrawi and Timorese independence

It's kind of old, but the flags are still at half-mast, so here's a good piece Stephen Zunes wrote about Gerald Ford's foreign policy legacy. Between allying with Mobutu in Zaire (who was also pals with Hassan II) and supporting Pinochet in Chile, his administration is partially responsible for global anti-American sentiment.

Besides befriending the worst rogues of his time, Ford supported two of the most egregious violations of international law in this century: the invasions of East Timor and Western Sahara.

In The Trial of Henry Kissinger Christopher Hitchens chronicles how Ford and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, visited Indonesia. Less than 24 hours after they left the country, Indonesia invaded East Timor with weapons manufactured in the United States.

Hitchens doesn't mention the Western Sahara, but Ford and Kissinger certainly did not support Western Saharan independence on the eve of Morocco's invasion; Zunes even alleges Ford encouraged Spain to withdraw its promise of independence to Polisario. Perhaps the only thing Ford did for the Sahrawi people was the invasion of East Timor, providing the Western Sahara with a valuable ally in the struggle for self-determination.

Incidentally, "Death Struggle in the Desert" on the Time cover is about the Iran-Iraq war, not the Western Sahara. That would've been apropos, though.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Nicaragua re-establishes diplomatic relations with the Sahrawi Republic

In great news for the Western Sahara, Nicaragua has re-extended diplomatic recognition to the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Nicaragua originally had relations with SADR in 1979, but withdrew its recognition in 2000. They're back now, though, and the ranks of states supporting the Sahrawi people has swelled.

In the communique the two countries released about the treaty, Nicaragua affirms its dedication to the principle of self-determination.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

If a revolution happens in the desert, blog about it

Writing One Hump has been a great experience for me, and I plan to continue until Mohammed VI buys me off. I haven't just gotten emails from a lot of nice people, met some of you, and been invited to interesting events, but i actually feel like I'm working on something bigger than me. That's why I think you should write a blog about the Western Sahara, too!

It's easy enough to get started. If you're not sure if you want to buy a domain or software, just get a free account on Blogger or a similar website. I haven't had any problems with Blogger, and some of the most prominent blogs use it. If you're in the Western Sahara or Morocco, though, it's probably a good idea to use another website, because there are reports that Morocco's blocked Blogspot domains.

After you've made your account, it's gravy. Make some posts and get in contact with other people on the Western Sahara scene. Send me an email and I'll link to you.

Reporters without Borders has a great guide to starting and running your blog that was especially designed for people in repressive countries like Morocco or the occupied territories. I even used it for One Hump, because although no one in the U.S. government is tracing my IP and sending federal agents, it has handy advice about increasing traffic, earning a higher Google ranking, and writing better posts.

Is this just a ploy to increase my Technorati ranking? Partly. I also like reading about the Western Sahara (there isn't nearly enough opinion writing about it, and most of it is in Arabic or French). Additionally, the Western Sahara needs ideological and methodological arguments that we can continue in blogs.

I have a motive larger than the others: blogs make noise. All the hype about citizen journalism aside, a lot of people read blogs, and the more we write about the Western Sahara the more people will consider it. Additionally, it makes the Moroccan government nervous. I've heard that my blog has been emailed between officials in their government. Let's get make them nervous together.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

See the camps and smash the Berm

Australians do good work. They created the Australian Western Sahara Association, and now, they have a well-designed website with video interviews with Sahrawis: The Wall of Shame

The website is made up of videos an Australian crew took while visiting the refugees in Tindouf. Click on "The Children" section. That girl wants to play soccer with her older brother, but he's having none of it.

After you've looked at the website, click "Break through the wall" to send a message to Sahrawis.

They also filmed three Sahrawi women as they try to reunite with their families in the occupied territories. The website isn't clear, but there's a trailer, so I think there will be a full-length documentary coming out soon about the Western Sahara.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

James Baker's theme song

Warren Zevon's ouevre, like Johnny Cash's, was reappraised on his deathbed. In all the discussion of his impending mortality, though, people missed his more upbeat songs. One of them, "The Envoy," is the closest we'll get to a Warren Zevon song about the Western Sahara.

The song is about "trouble in the Middle East." For our purposes, we can assume he meant Middle East-North Africa, but made sacrifices for scansion. The Syria-Lebanon theater is tense, Israel has nuclear weapons, Morocco is presumably run rampant over Western Sahara, and "Baghdad does whatever she please." Into this mess comes the president/Kofi Annan's envoy, James Baker.

I'm hoping James Baker played "The Envoy" on a boombox when he jetted between Tindouf, Algiers, and Rabat. If not, the next envoy to the Maghreb should.

This clip of the song is the best I could find on the internet, but it captures the general coolness of disinterested international mediation nicely.

Warren Zevon-The Envoy

Monday, January 08, 2007

Moroccan government bans laughing, smirking

Moroccan journalists frequently get in trouble, but it's usually for drawing cartoons or suggesting that occupied Western Sahara isn't a paradise under Moroccan rule. The editors of Nichane, a Moroccan magazine, must have been surprised, then, when they were sued by the government for publishing jokes everyone knows.

The Nichane controversy has been going on for about a month, so here's the short version. Tel Quel, a Moroccan magazine that's written in French and has previously gotten in trouble for suggesting that Sahrawis in Tindouf aren't hostages, decided to launch an Arabic magazine so they could communicate with Arabic-speaking Moroccans.

Nichane published an issue about Moroccan jokes. It enraged Moroccan conservatives and Islamists, and not just because the cover is terrifying. For me, the best part of the imbroglio has been the jokes that have come out of it, which are apparently in wide circulation in Morocco. Here are some pick-up lines in Tel Quel. They're charming in a fuzzy translation way.
  • Hey girl, I want to bring your mother on the hajj
  • Girls who wear djellabas look so traditional but are also smart and sexy.
I'm trying the last one out when I get back to school. Anyway, the Moroccan government responded harshly, and now a Nichane journalist and an editor are on trial for attacking Islam with jokes they didn't even make up.

The verdict's due next Monday. I hope you'll sign this petition supporting Nichane and freedom of the press in Morocco. As I see it, signing this position means helping Moroccans like the writers at Tel Quel and Nichane, people who seems devoted to the truth (including the truth about the Western Sahara). Nichane translates to "as it is" in English, and if this is how things are in Morocco, the struggle for Western Saharan independence will be that much harder.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Australian Western Sahara Association is blowing my mind

Australia is famous for convicts, interminable stretches of desert, kangaroos, and holding the Olympics some years back. Soon, though, it'll be primarily famous for the Australian Western Sahara Association, an exciting organization for Sahrawi advocacy.

I was privately lamenting the dearth of solid Western Sahara blogs recently, but before I could make a post about it, I found the AWSA website on ARSO. The design is killer, the posts are informative, and the sidebar on the right makes a lot of information easily available. I liked the big SADR flag at the top so much, I considered becoming a member, but it's probably only available to citizens.

The best part of the website, though, has to be the Sahrawi greeting cards. For only two dollars per card, you can support Sahrawis, spread awareness about the Western Sahara, and show your friends and relatives how worldly you are.

I hope to read more about AWSA. They're the only organization I've seen so far that makes participation easily available to the casually interested, and the whole production is slick.