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.

22 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Dear Will,

    You state that it is an abomination that a country is buying anti-riot equipment. Your judgment is misguided. What country in the world does not make use of these equipments?? Right, the ones that do not care about their citizens and are happy using just about anything to control riots when they break out from time to time. (See anti-globalization riots). If a country is not prepared to control rioters peacefully, their police forcs make mistake and unecessarily hurt and at times kill rioters.

    That Morocco is purchasing these equipments should signal to you that Morocco wants to contain the riots without hurting the rioters. WE should applaud this, especially that we have criticized Morocco when some policemen have used excessive force.

    Cheers,
    T--

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  2. Better riot shields and batons than helmets, it's true. But Morocco's actions against demonstrators (like the one I linked to at the end of the post) suggest Morocco isn't overly concerned about Sahrawi well-being.

    Besides that, I think it's gauche of Spain to be Morocco's dealer, considering their history in the country.

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  3. Anonymous11:51 AM

    Will,

    It is more than what you say. It is not so much about baton are better than helmets, it is again Morocco's willingness to change and learn from its mistakes. So for you to say that Morocco is not overly concerned about Sahraoui wellbeing is rather demogogic and does not take reality into account. The reality that Morocco is dealing with the excesses of the policemen, by providing with better tools to control all riots in Morocco.

    Riots could happen at any part of the country, soccer hoolganism is an example. And Spain is selling to Morocco, at the best price, a product that will improve Moroccan police performance in controling riots all over the kingdom. There is nothing gauche about that.

    Best,

    T--

    That Morocco is buying these equipments from Spain is not a sin, regardless of what is the history between the two countries.

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  4. Exactly. From what I hear, the Moroccan police in Western Sahara cares so much about Sahrawi well-being they're even considering a switch to a new type of gasoline, the smoke of which doesn't discolour clothing when used to burn Sahrawi kids alive. They're among some of the most service- and quality-minded torturers in North Africa.

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  5. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Alle,

    The pictures you link to say absolutely nothing about Morocco and about what happened to this kid. They are indeed terrible to see, but showing this pictures to make an argument is nothing but intellectual pornography. It is corrupt and disingenuous.

    The burns are terrible, but they could have happened in a thousand different ways. Pictures without the facts say nothing about what happened to this kid.

    I urge you to be honest with yourself and with the people you address.

    Regards,

    T--

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  6. T,

    Yes, they *could* have happened several ways, but they only actually happened one way. What if the caption is correct?

    -JAK

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  7. Yes, the unexplainable physical molestation of Sahrawis is one of the most puzzling phenomena of present-day Maghrebi affairs.

    Credible Moroccan observers have so far been unable to determine the causes of the severe bruises, wounds, cigarette burns, whip scars and broken bones that seem to plague Sahrawis in Moroccan jails. However, some investigations point to it being a possible local variant of paranormal stigmata.

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  8. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Jak,

    Until you have proof that the Moroccan security forces purposefully "burnt this kid alive" you may not make such a claim.

    Alle,

    The report you link to is from 2003, rather dated. Abuses from those days happened because of the initial Moroccan (and international) reaction to 9/11 and the May 16th attacks in Casablanca. The Moroccan police did overeact initially, but four years later, they are no longer using these methods, and are continuously improving their record.

    Best,
    T--

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  9. If Morocco really was cracking down on Sahrawis because of 9/11 as you say, they're worse off than I thought. The day that Moroccan security forces start believing their foreign ministry's propaganda about Sahara terrorism is a bad day for both countries involved.

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  10. T,

    I didn't make any claim; I asked you a question, which you ignored.

    As an aside, I tend to trust the testimony of victims.

    -JAK

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  11. Anonymous4:56 PM

    Will,

    You seem to have misunderstood what I said. I merely was referring to the report that Alle was linking to. The report is from 2003, and condemns some practices of Moroccan services, specifically against members of Islamist organizations. These practices were the initial overreaction of Morocco to the real threat that terrorist pose to innocent lives, both in Morocco and elsewhere.

    I don't think that Morocco has ever linked Polisario to terrorism, though it is not a secret that terrorist groups, especially the Algerian GSPC (now AQIM) take refuge in the Sahara both on the Moroccan and Algeria side. This is a fact on which there is a unanimous agreement among the countries of the region as well as the international community

    Jak,

    Again, the kid could have been hurt in many ways. I do not know. But Alle made the outrageous claim that it is in the habit of the Moroccan security forces to "burn kids alive!!"

    To answer your question, if the caption were correct, then Morocco should investigate the cicumstances under which this happened and punish those responsible. This kid or an organization representing him should get in touch with the Moroccan human rights organization and petition them to pursue the matter with the Moroccan authorities.

    Best,

    T--

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  12. T,

    The problem with your plan of action is that you are essentially asking the oppressed to ask the oppressor to investigate his oppression. The Moroccan state has shown a clear and consistent corruption directed against Sahrawis, so why would they suddenly investigate abuse with any sincerity?

    -JAK

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  13. Laroussi6:26 AM

    Dear T: The young man in the photo that Alle posted was burned by Moroccan police in El Ayoune last summer, when interrogated. A complaint was filed against the police, but no investigation has been carried out.

    Complaints about other abuses and torture of Moroccan security forces have been filed on numerous occasions, but no investigations have been carried out.

    Who is to investigate the crimes? The same police who committed them. Hence, people do not tend to be too willing to file complaints, but do so anyhow with help from Saharawi human rights activists in the occupied territories.

    You can read more about the ongoing repression at the site of the Saharawi hr-organisation ASVDH and in the report of the OHCHR Mission to Western Sahara and the Refugee Camps in Tindouf, 15/23 May and 19 June 2006. You find the report at ARSO.org, and there is a direct link to the report in English here.

    Read especially paragraph 16, about the use of excessive force, and paragraph 15 about investigations on alleged torture or ill-treatment. Hundreds of complaints about such incidents have been reported to the Moroccan authorities. Investigations have only been started in three cases, the same authorities states.

    Nothing has changed to the better since the visit of the OHCHR mission.

    On the contrary: abuse, torture and ill-treatment of Saharawis have increased the last months. One Saharawi student was even so badly beaten by Moroccan police last month that she lost her eye.

    And this was in Morocco. Not in the occupied territories.

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  14. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Dear Jak and Laroussi,

    Police abuses everywhere are wrong. And I think we should all mount a campaign to stop them, not as separatists or otherwise, but as human beings.

    I do notice that Morocco has taken concrete steps to stop torture by beginning to install cameras in interrogation rooms.

    There are still abuses of power, by police who are not well trained to deal with rioters, and these things must be dealt with, and I know that the Moroccan government is doing what it can.

    They are not doing enough we should all argue, but it does not mean there is state policy to conduct torture.

    T--

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  15. T,

    Police abuses are, by definition, wrong, but that still doesn't really address the problem that I raised: you want Sahrawis to work within a system that is racist against them. And that can never actually work to their favor. Needless to say, the separatists line is propaganda; they aren't separatists, because they aren't a part of Morocco. They are not looking to separate from anything any more than Palestinians are "Israeli separatists."

    I don't know why you assume that these police are "not well trained to deal with rioters." What makes you think that? Maybe they were trained in how to beat rioters. Again, the burden of proof and presumption of guilt are on the state; I see no reason to assume good faith on cops that beat women and children.

    If the Moroccan government was doing what it could, it would end the occupation tomorrow, dig up its land mines, and release their political prisoners.

    -JAK

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  16. Anonymous11:11 PM

    1- the problem that I raised: you want Sahrawis to work within a system that is racist against them. And that can never actually work to their favor.

    --> The use of word "racist" distorts reality beyond recognition. This is a territorial dispute not some superiority complex that the Moroccans have against our brothers and sisters who come from different cultural background. Morocco is after all a big tapestry of cultures, languages, religious traditions, and races.

    2- I don't know why you assume that these police are "not well trained to deal with rioters." What makes you think that? Maybe they were trained in how to beat rioters.

    --> What makes me think that is that I know they are not. Morocco has issued specific directives against beating protesters and against torture and went so far as to disband and an entire police force (GUS) because of cases of abuse. Morocco is also placing cameras in rooms of interrogation to ensure no abuse takes place. Morocco is not a rich country so it takes time to buy new equipment and train people in methods that are markedly different that those they learned 20 years ago.

    3- If the Moroccan government was doing what it could, it would end the occupation tomorrow, dig up its land mines, and release their political prisoners.

    --> When the United States leaves Puerto Rico, Russia leaves Chechnya, Indonesia leaves Aceh, France leaves Corsica, Spain leaves Catalonia, China leaves Tibet, UK leaves Scotland... you get the point, Morocco will leave the Sahara.

    You lose me the moment you link police abuses to Morocco simply leaving the Sahara. It takes the focus away from a very important topic, which all of us, Moroccan or not, need to tackle for the benefit of all its victims.

    Cheers,

    T--

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  17. T,

    Clearly, the Moroccan state is racist against Sahrawis - the colonization of the Sahara is predicated on nationalism and xenophobia. To claim that they are "brothers and sisters" when they define themselves as non-Moroccan (with good reason) is a pedantically racist attitude.

    "Morocco has issued specific directives against beating protesters." And the People's Republic of China has elections. I still don't see why you have trust in the Kingdom of Morocco precisely when they are as corrupt as you point out. Furthermore, why *wouldn't* you trust the testimony of some burned Sahrawi youth? Morocco is not rich, but the King is, and he could spread it around a little bit by not wasting hundreds of millions of dollars occupying the Sahara. That having been said, you don't need money than to know better than to beat up non-violent protesters, just some humanity.

    So this is a justifiable pretext for continued occupation? (Note that only one of the examples you gave is an occupation.)

    I was confused by that last paragraph: what is the very important topic you have in mind?

    -JAK

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  18. Anonymous12:56 PM

    1- Clearly, the Moroccan state is racist against Sahrawis - the colonization of the Sahara is predicated on nationalism and xenophobia. To claim that they are "brothers and sisters" when they define themselves as non-Moroccan (with good reason) is a pedantically racist attitude.

    --> You are using an odd criteria to define racism. By calling people brothers and sisters, even if some of them do not have to agree to be part of Morocco, they are still our brethren. Maybe you see racism through American eyes where people of different cultures and color were systematically seen and treated as different and inferior. That is not the case in Morocco, we have many races and many cultures and we look at each other as nothing less than brothers and sisters. The division tactic was tried by the French authorities to separate Arab and Berber and didn't work.

    2- "Morocco has issued specific directives against beating protesters." And the People's Republic of China has elections. I still don't see why you have trust in the Kingdom of Morocco precisely when they are as corrupt as you point out. Furthermore, why *wouldn't* you trust the testimony of some burned Sahrawi youth? Morocco is not rich, but the King is, and he could spread it around a little bit by not wasting hundreds of millions of dollars occupying the Sahara. That having been said, you don't need money than to know better than to beat up non-violent protesters, just some humanity.

    --> If we were to replace the word "Morocco" with either the words "United States" or "Italy" or any "other country", that statement that Morocco is doing its best to stem abuses by the police will still be true, but . The United States beat and imprisoned protesters in Seattle, and Italy seriously injured and even killed a protester in Geneo during the last few anti-WTO meeting. It has nothing to do with humanity, when you are given a baton and asked to control thousands of people hurling rocks and molotov cocktail at you, you need to be well-trained and need to have the right equipment. Otherwise, the slightly-educated policeman violated some rules.

    3- So this is a justifiable pretext for continued occupation? (Note that only one of the examples you gave is an occupation.)


    --> th examples I listed are historical realities that rational people must deal with. In fact there are less grounds for claims by those countries to those territories than there are between Morocco and the Sahara. The people of Puerto Rico for example speak Spanish as their first language and do not have the right to vote in national elections, were drafted to fight in times of war, and yet they are part of the United States, their land being used mainly for the purpose of a military base.

    5- I was confused by that last paragraph: what is the very important topic you have in mind?

    --> The very important topic is police abuse of power. As a Moroccan, it is very important for me to pressure the government to continue to improve its human rights record.

    Best,
    T--

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  19. T,

    1.) Racism is any attitude of superiority of one race or the inferiority of another. If Sahrawis define themselves as a separate people and Moroccans say that they aren't, they are defining for the Sahrawis what they are. The assumption that you have the right to tell them who they are is pedantically racist. And to pretend like there is not and has not been anti-Semitism in Morocco is pretty ridiculous.

    2.) This is just a bait-and-switch tactic. Morocco didn't occupy the Sahara *because* of anything the U.S. did, so it's irrelevant. You didn't actually address the issue at hand, and I personally have no interest in defending America, Italy, or any other country, so this line of argumentation falls on deaf ears. Again, I still don't see why you assume that Morocco is doing its best; clearly, it's not.

    3.) "The examples I listed are historical realities that rational people must deal with..." Okay, so Morocco has occupied the Sahara for thirty years, they might as well just be allowed to annex it, right? Well, Israel has occupied Palestine for 40 years - it's a historical reality that the Palestinians have been under Israeli rule and they clearly aren't able to govern themselves (e.g. the present civil war in Gaza.) Do you see how morally bankrupt that argument is? I'd be really interested in hearing what justification you have for Morocco claiming the Sahara, especially since there is none (cf. ICJ Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara, 1975.)

    5.) Yes, abuse of power is a very serious issue; you should rebel against the continued existence of the monarchy and the occupation of the Sahara.

    -JAK

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  20. Anonymous3:48 PM

    Jak, please see below:

    1.) Racism is any attitude of superiority of one race or the inferiority of another. If Sahrawis define themselves as a separate people and Moroccans say that they aren't, they are defining for the Sahrawis what they are. The assumption that you have the right to tell them who they are is pedantically racist. And to pretend like there is not and has not been anti-Semitism in Morocco is pretty ridiculous.



    --> There is no racism here because we have all agreed that Morocco is made up of different people inhabiting the same land and coexisting rather harmoniously. Only some Saharaouis want to be separate, and to give in to the Polisario is to allow the the tyranny of the loudest and of those with the most support from other states. I agree that cultural and economic livelihood of the sahraoui people should be guaranteed, and that exactly what Morocco is offering with autonomy. As for your anti-semitism charge. I am sure there are many Moroccans who are antisemetic, and many others who are racist, but the number of these people must be multiplied by the thousands to account of the anti-semite or racists in the West. Even more, anti-semitism was never institutionalized in Morocco, not what can be said of many countries in the West. When the French decreed that Moroccan Jews begin wering stars of David, the Moroccan monarch order fifty stars for himself and his family members and said we have no Jews or Muslims here, only Moroccans.

    2.) This is just a bait-and-switch tactic. Morocco didn't occupy the Sahara *because* of anything the U.S. did, so it's irrelevant. You didn't actually address the issue at hand, and I personally have no interest in defending America, Italy, or any other country, so this line of argumentation falls on deaf ears. Again, I still don't see why you assume that Morocco is doing its best; clearly, it's not.



    --> My answer was not a tactic for anything. It was simply a comparison to other countries that are considered democracies to show that even these countries make mistakes and hopefully correct them. I don't know why you expect the Moroccan police not to make any mistakes or commit any abuses. Of course, the fact that they happened in other places does not excuse them, but it shows that you cannot put Morocco in a category by itself, or question the very regime in Morocco just because bad things happen under this regime. The moment you do that you take the focus away from the abuses to threaten the stability of the country, which does not serve the interest of the people you say you care about. Again, the comparison cases are extremely important, and though you say you do not defend America or Italy, what you are doing to Morocco would similar to you saying that just because there is police abuse in Seattle or in Geneo, it means there needs to be a revolution and change in the nature of the state. If you are willing to make this argument, I will still not agree with you, but at least respect your consistency.

    3.) "The examples I listed are historical realities that rational people must deal with..." Okay, so Morocco has occupied the Sahara for thirty years, they might as well just be allowed to annex it, right? Well, Israel has occupied Palestine for 40 years - it's a historical reality that the Palestinians have been under Israeli rule and they clearly aren't able to govern themselves (e.g. the present civil war in Gaza.) Do you see how morally bankrupt that argument is? I'd be really interested in hearing what justification you have for Morocco claiming the Sahara, especially since there is none (cf. ICJ Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara, 1975.)



    --> The ICJ ruling said there were legal ties between Morocco and the Sahara, and that the people should determine their fate. Agreed. But the ICJ judges were little trained in history, and that is why they were as vague in their ruling as the articles of the league of nation was when setting up self-determination as a basis for national boundaries. Clearly, the ICJ did not see that the Sahara was part of the Moroccan colonial possession of Spain up until phosphates was discovered in the 1950s and Spain switched the status of the territory to a separate province of Spain.



    As we have exchanged in previous posting, I think you cannot make the comparison between Palestine/Israel and Morocco/Sahara. You have to appreciate the vast differences between the ties that bind a Polish Jew and a Palestinian on the one hand and a Moroccan and a Sahraoui on the other.

    5.) Yes, abuse of power is a very serious issue; you should rebel against the continued existence of the monarchy and the occupation of the Sahara.




    --> I have dealt with this rush to rebel that you so exuberantly proselytise and I am glad that you do that from the comfort of your chair (wherever you may be) because you will not bear the brunt of either the consequences of resulting chaos of upending the system or pay its price. it is the people whom you claim to want to defend who will do that. When you overthrow your own system because the military abuses prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, or police abuse poor black main in Los Angeles, then you can ask other people to do the same in their countries.


    Best,
    T--

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  21. Clearly, the ICJ did not see that the Sahara was part of the Moroccan colonial possession of Spain up until phosphates was discovered in the 1950s and Spain switched the status of the territory to a separate province of Spain.

    Western Sahara was never, at any point in history, administered as a part of the Spanish Moroccan colonial provinces ("Spanish Morocco"), which made it different from the adjacent Sahrawi-populated region of Tarfaya (which, accordingly, Polisario/SADR lays no claim to).

    Spanish Sahara was first administered as a colony under various names (Río de Oro/Saguiet el Hamra), then later changed into a Spanish province -- but it was always kept separate from the possessions called Spanish Morocco (Rif, Tarfaya, etc). This was because of the simple reason that unlike those places, the area was not taken from Morocco; Morocco held no sway there at the moment of colonization, even if some sultans had done so in the Middle Ages.

    The same kind of different status was accorded to French Morocco on the one hand, and French Algeria on the other. The latter was colonized many decades earlier, held another administrative status, and was not recognized as a part of the Moroccan kingdom. And so they ended up two different countries, when decolonization happened along colonial borders all over Africa; not one single country, even if both are Arab-Berber, and even if the border was arbitrarily drawn at many places.

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  22. T,

    1.) There is racism implicit in the policy toward taking someone else's land. The only justification for that can be nationalism and irredentism. It is true that some Sahrawis want to be separate, but that "some" is the vast majority. Very few want to integrate. If a majority wanted to integrate, Morocco would not have held up the referendum. Again, your line about anti-Semitism is a bait-and-switch. "Morocco isn't so bad compared to X."

    2.) By definition, you expect someone not to commit abuse. It's a necessary part of his job to not abuse his power, so it is expected. I don't know why you are giving a moral blank check to the Moroccan state. What abuses threaten the stability of the country? Moroccans act like an independent, non-occupied Sahara is somehow a threat to Morocco; how? It was Morocco that invaded the Sahara, not vice-versa. If anything, Morocco would stand to gain from not losing so much money on the occupation and being able to re-join the international community in the AU and AMU. Note also your hypocrisy: you want to compare Morocco to the US or Italy to wash Morocco's hands, but when I bring up Israel and Palestine, you just assert that it's not valid. I've noticed this tactic from Moroccans a lot as well; you just refuse comparisons to I/P out of hand with no rationale, but you're happy to bandy about much less relevant examples (e.g. WTO protesters at Seattle.)

    3.) The ICJ judges were given as much evidence as Morocco could present. Of course, the Sahrawis had very little documentation, especially compared to the Moroccans, and less time to prepare their case. The fact that they won overwhelmingly shows that their case was stronger. To say that these judges were ignorant of the relevant facts for cases in international law is a pretty bold assertion; are you more well-informed to arbitrate on this matter?

    5.) Again, you can make that accusation of me having a position of privilege anytime, and it's not relevant. Regardless of who is saying it, a statement is still true or false if it makes a claim. It's an ad hominem fallacy to say "Well, that's easy to say coming from an American." Maybe it is, maybe not. Either way, what I am saying is either true or untrue. Bear in mind that you also know nothing about my personal political activities.

    -JAK

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