Friday, June 29, 2007

Did Ban Ki-Moon say SADR should accept autonomy?

That's the question a lot of people are asking after this article from EUX.tv, "the Europe channel." Read some quotes from the article and you should be able to understand why it's so worrisome.
Morocco and the Polisario Front, both of which claim Western Sahara, should settle their dispute by accepting autonomy of the territory that was once a Spanish colony, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday...
He also urged the Polisario to accept autonomy and drop the call for independence for the territory.

"If the negotiations are to lead to a positive outcome, both parties must recognize that the question of sovereignty is, and always has been, the main stumbling block in this dispute, and it is in this highly sensitive area that a solution will need to be found," he said in a report to the council.
Western Sahara Info wasn't pleased, and deservedly so. I have to wonder, though--did this actually happen? The article said Ki-Moon's opinion was presented in a report to the Security Council Thursday. But if that's true, why aren't MAP, MarocPost, and Morocco Board running it? In fact, it's not mentioned on any website besides EUX.

If Ban Ki-Moon has changed the secretary general's traditionally supportive position, it'll be a serious setback but not a fatal one. SADR will be able to find new allies, and news from the territory suggests the people are still with it. Fortunately, the lack of attention this story is getting suggests it won't come to that.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hassan II: not really embarassed about being a bad guy

When I was reading Western Sahara Online for this post, I noticed this quote from the man most responsible for the current occupation and human rights abuses in Western Sahara, King Hassan II:
"I have always said that, in this country, the rights of man stopped at the question of the Sahara. Anyone who said that the Sahara was not Moroccan could not benefit from the rights of man."
He really didn't make any bones up for the torture, huh? Anyway, I thought maybe this was a bad translation or some Sahrawi propaganda, but it's also quoted here, in the book Morocco Since 1830: A History.

Is it any wonder a man who thought there was nothing shameful in that statement produced a son who solves his problems like this?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Western Sahara Online redesigns, looks good doing it

The eternally slick pro-SADR iteration of Western Sahara Online (perhaps best known for beating its evil twin brother in the Western Sahara Smackdown) has gotten even better with an attractive redesign.

WSO has always looked professional compared to most of the Sahrawi web, but the new redesign makes its resources easier to access. Check it out: there's a list of headlines in the center, with a top stories slideshow on the left and a collection of articles on the negotiations on the right.

You'll also notice a slick blogroll for Western Sahara blogs. I'm claiming credit for this because I sent an email to Khatry, WSO's webmaster, pointing out that he hadn't linked to One Hump.

I'm glad to see Western Sahara Online is back in fighting form. Next up for a redesign: ARSO. That layout might've been cool when ARSO launched in the ARPANET days, but it's time that they sex up the cause with some interminable Flash intros.

All this talk of websites makes me wish SADR had a better web presence. The Union of Sahrawi Writers and Journalists is a step in the right direction, but SADR has a long way to go before finding out about Western Sahara is easy for the average person.

As for the less reputable Western Sahara Online? It's limping along, thanks for asking. It would probably feel better if it could figure out how to get higher up on Google searches for Western Sahara than the fifth page, though.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Prince Moulay Rachid, are you trying to seduce me?

It's not unheard to crush on King Mohammed VI, with his iron will and good looks. His father was a looker, too, as was his grandfather Mohammed V, seen here at a Dr. Strangelove costume party. But I never thought anyone would fall head over heels in love with Prince Moulay Rachid, Mohammed VI's brother who isn't even first in line for the throne.

However, after discovering King of Hearts I stand corrected. King of Hearts is a blog about the sauciness innate in Morocco's 2nd-in-line prince. The picture at left suggests it's also about the uses and abuses of Photoshop filters.

Yesterday was the good prince's 37th birthday. King of Hearts was all over it, naturally. From the post, I learned that His Royal Highness Prince Moulay enjoys golf and "helping small and mid-sized museums." What a rajul!

Unfortunately, not everyone is content to let the King of Hearts play golf in mid-sized museums. Wayne Madsen, who wrote an article in Counterpunch about James Baker's maybe machinations, says Moulay is big pals with American neo-cons.

King of Hearts is far from the only blog that wants to dip its chips in some guaca-Moulay. Why are people such big fans? I see there's some talk that he'd be a better king than Mohammed--any idea why? Do you think he'd be more likely to do the right thing about Western Sahara?

Moroccan child kept out of U.S. for founding Hamas

Via the Morocco Report comes the story of Ahmedyassine Boujrad, a 3 year-old Moroccan boy who was denied entry to the United States because his name was similar to the name of the guy who founded Hamas, Ahmed Yassin, who is both Palestinian and dead.

When I heard about this my reflex was that the Moroccan government bungled somewhere, but it's apparently US Citizenship and Immigration Service's fault. Because of the mix-up, the kid didn't see his parents for two years.

It's not clear why it took them so long to realize the toddler wasn't going to call for Israel's destruction. Perhaps USCIS didn't realize the free trade agreement extends to babies and excludes Western Sahara, not the other way around.

Every so often I like to remind myself and my readers that Morocco is generally a nice country. Of course, it'd be an even one without the occupation. Check out Morocco's report cool pictures of Casablanca.

As for that other notable Arab denied entry to the US for no reason? He's not so lucky.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Next round of Polisario - Morocco negotiations scheduled for August

It looks like Sahrawi and Moroccan diplomats will be able to see the musicals they missed this week after all. The next batch of negotiations over Western Sahara's fate have been scheduled for the second week of August.

According to the article and a speech from the head of the Polisario delegation, not much happened. As always, at least they're talking, but when tens of thousands of Sahrawis are baking in Tindouf and hundreds more are get whaled on by Moroccan security forces, it's cold comfort.

I was particularly intrigued by the "secluded private estate in Manhasset" talk in the Reuters article. Just what is this private estate, and were its owners tired of tea ceremonies by Tuesday afternoon?

Judging from the Secretary General's personal envoy's communique, the negotiations were held at Greentree, home of 1920's rich man Payne Whitney. Whitney was a member of Skull and Bones and married to the daughter of a former Secretary of State, so the Illuminati have their gold-stained fingerprints all over these negotiations.

Wikipedia says Greentree is home to a tennis court where people can play "real tennis," which is like tennis with pantaloons. Unfortunately, the court is defunct. Was Khalihenna ould Rachid mad about not being able to play real tennis? I think so, because he seems to have forgotten about a certain International Court of Justice ruling:
"Morocco has given up total integration (of Sahara) and we expect the other party to give up full independence," another official, Khalihenna Ould Errachid, head of Morocco's Royal Consultative Council for Saharan Affairs, told reporters.
It's hard for Polisario to give up independence when it has no reason to, Kelly.

Via Sahara-Views, who's glad that we're not back to livefire exercises.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

U.S. citizens don't need visas to visit Morocco or the "southern provinces"

At least, that's the case if this website agrees with the Moroccan government. Nice deal for sightseeing in Fez or Dakhla.

For ha-has, I've been looking up flights to El Aiaun and travelogues about Western Sahara. Check out this article about visiting Western Sahara, which has great pictures of the El Aiaun square but is regrettably politically inactive.

From what I've read about those Dakar Rally ruffians, Western Sahara has a lot of police checkpoints, but otherwise there should be no problem getting in. Has anyone been? Let's share our tips on avoiding landmines.

I've also read a lot on Reporters Without Borders about journalists, mainly Scandinavians, getting booted out of Western Sahara. It seems like the worst you get if you cross Morocco is a stern talk with the police and a bus ride to Tan-Tan. Is that the worst that can happen, or am I missing a case where someone was thrown into the Black Prison?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Western Sahara bickering used to be so innocent

These are heady times for Western Sahara fans. Alle from Western Sahara Info writes astutely about the occupation, Toby Shelley kicks ass and chews bubblegum, Robert Holley comments on blogs, and I stumble through comments of my own. But did you know that the same thing was going down last August?

I've had the good fortune to come across this post on North Africa Journal, a blog about the Maghreb. The post itself is a rumination on the United States's relation to the Moroccan occupation, but the real juice is in the comments. Alle, Toby Shelley, Robert Holley, Mohamed Brahim of Western Sahara Echo, and I all commented. It's like Battle of the Western Sahara Stars, the post game!

It goes down like you might expect. Alle brings facts and points, he gets into a talk with a nice Moroccan, and Brahim pops in at one point. Toby Shelley has a juicy cameo, featuring the line " As to autonomy, it is unthinkable that the Makhzen could offer anything more than the power to empty municipal trash cans."

My own comment makes it obvious that I only learned about Western Sahara a week or two before. The real juice comes, though, when a Moroccan calls out Robert Holley, the Moroccan-American Center for Policy's executive director and King Mohammed VI's paid pal.

Holley does a little introduction and complains about Polisario corruption, linking to a shifty organization beloved by Tommy Thompson and George "Horse's head in your mailbox" Allen.

One Moroccan, however, is having none of it. His/her comments, in full:
Mr Holley,

You say:

“We are supported by the Moroccan government to undertake academic work and educate individuals on Morocco.”

As a Moroccan taxpayer, I am compelled to ask, what has your organization achieved, concretely?

If we were - and this is the most useless and abused statement ever - the United States’ oldest ally/friend…What has your center added to this friendship ?

Even the website for the “Moroccan American Center for Policy” is bland and redundant. All it contains is the contact information of two people, and recent news.

I’m not accusing you in anyway. Just tell us, if it is our taxes that pay for your center, what have you achieved, results wise, for Moroccan-American relations?

Don’t get me wrong, we’re very happy that someone of your experience is championing our interests. Just understand our thirst for transparency - American style.

Surprise us,
Whoever.
Zing. I haven't seen that much burning since the 1976 invasion.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Western Sahara negotiations on June 18, 19 in New York

Morocco and Polisario, along with Algeria and Mauritania, will be meeting in or close to New York on June 18th to discuss a settlement, according to Ban Ki-Moon's spokesperson.

I'm impressed the UN was able to get the sides together so fast, especially since autonomy isn't the only thing they'll be discussing, much to Morocco's disappointment.

Still, I don't think anyone is expecting a settlement to come out of this. Morocco's invested too much time and money into autonomy to give it up for a referendum, and it hasn't taken any hits to its prestige that would force compromise. The continued repression in Western Sahara is getting noticed, but it's nothing that would make Ban Ki-Moon twist Morocco's arm.

The more interesting thing is how the Mauritanian delegation is going to keep itself busy in New York. Do they treat these negotiations like a free vacation? I suppose Mauritania would have something to say if Western Sahara was going to be independent, but that's not going to come out of these discussions. If the Mauritanians get bored, might I recommend Ray's Pizza?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sahrawi Union of Writers and Journalists launches English website

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has long failed to take advantage of the internet's potential for putting pressure on Morocco and gaining international allies. Its long-awaited website didn't even have an English side, and went down soon after it was launched. Sahrawis might have finally come around, though, with their change of heart represented in the launch of the English-language version of the Union of Sahrawi Journalists and Reporters (UPES).

The UPES is a pro-SADR group of writers covering the conflict and Sahrawi life. The website isn't finished yet (there's no poetry or studies), but that doesn't mean there isn't good content. Rapscallion-about-the-Maghreb Jacob Mundy has an article up displaying his usual erudition about the conflict, as well as a snazzy Sahrawi chic picture. SADR's ambassador to the UK, Sidi Omar, also has an article.

The UPES has been around for some time, but I'm only fluent in American and that's limited my ability to cover it. One man who is a fiend at languages is UPES's Secretary General Malainin Lakhal, the mastermind behind both UPES and the Sahara Press Service, SADR's house organ. Lakhal's dedication to his people is commendable. Most recently, it's led him to tour Australia to raise support for Western Sahara and enjoy the hospitality of the good people at the Australian Western Sahara Association.

I'm excited about the UPES's potential to expand online discourse about Western Sahara. I'm not sure about this, but I think the UPES accepts submissions. In that case, there will be a contest soon to help fill out the site.

One man who doesn't need to win any contests because he's already cool in my book is commenter extraordinaire Desertman, who gave me the idea for this post.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Spain sells 600,000 Euros worth of anti-riot equipment to Morocco

Spain, which lately hasn't been feeling too guilty about the Madrid Accords, is one step closer to taking the "neo" out of "neocolonialism." According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais (via ARSO), the Spanish government is selling 600,000 Euros worth of riot control equipment to Morocco. It's no secret where the Moroccan plans to use the purchase.

They'll put their new weapons to good use in Western Sahara, where the intifada is flaring up again, and Morocco is starting to feel the heat. I suppose they figured the usual repression isn't working, and they call in the last colonial occupier for help.

Morocco's gleeful assault on Sahrawi demonstrators has long since ceased to shock or even surprise. What is disgusting, though, is Spain's about-face regarding Western Sahara. Under President Jose Zapatero, Spain has sold Morocco army vehicles and supported its autonomy proposal. I might've expected this from Jose Maria Aznar, but Zapatero's supposed to be a socialist. Socialism's reputation for peace hasn't been this injured in western Europe since Georges Clemenceau.

Someday, Spain will reconsider its policy towards the Moroccan occupation and realize that no amount of time in Ceuta and Melilla is worth being complicit in Sahrawi deaths. Until then, Moroccan oppression will continue to be hecho en Espana.