Tuesday, September 25, 2007

El Aiaun, I love you but you're bringing me down

ARSO news is back after its noted holiday, and the world is better for it. One of the entries got me thinking:
10.08.07, Testimony of human rights defender, Yahdih Ettarouzi, imprisoned in the Black Prison of El Ayoun for 10 months:
"Black Jail" of El Aaiún/Western Sahara, "A grave for alive people",
There's been some talk lately about calling the Black Jail/Prison "a grave for alive people." I understand the sentiment, but that's crummy phrasing. Couldn't we say "a living tomb" or "a grave for the living"? I think those are catchier.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Building coalitions for Western Sahara

I just finished reading a biography of E.D. Morel, one of my heroes and the best proof I know of that a regular guy with passion can change an oppressive regime in Africa. He almost single-handedly freed the Congo, helped dismantle the Europe's secret diplomatic agreements, and was one of the loudest voices opposing World War I.

The part I found most relevant to Western Sahara was his effective building of coalitions between groups that were all interested in a just solution in the Congo. For example, he combined the efforts of Liverpool merchants, who wanted free trade on the Congo River, with missionary groups who wanted their converts protected.

I thought of a few groups with sometimes disparate aims that already have interests in Western Sahara and could be convinced to work together.
  • The Algerian government
  • Phosphate companies that've been shut out by Morocco
  • Christian groups like Be Their Voice
  • Other national liberation movements, like East Timor's ETAN
  • Human rights groups like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch
  • Left-wing Scandinavian political parties
  • Groups dedicated to the Western Saharan cause like ARSO and AWSA
This list is only a fraction of the possible coalitions that can be built to support a referendum in Western Sahara. What do you think are some others?

UPDATE: As Alle points out, support for Western Sahara doesn't have to be limited to leftist parties in Scandinavia, or anywhere for that matter. Western Sahara's appeal to all political persuasions bodes well for the future.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Claude Moniquet is so touchy

The Western Sahara has been quiet lately, so let's spotlight Claude Moniquet, Morocco's lackey in Europe. In late 2005, Claude, pictured here in happier times, sued Le Journal Hebdomaire for defamation when they said his suspicious report on Western Sahara might have been financed by the Moroccan government.

Don't let Claude's elfin appearance fool you--he is a very serious scholar. How else could he work for the impressively-named European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center? Under the ESISC banner, Claude released a report that tickled the Moroccan government because it backed up everything they'd been saying that no one had believed before. According to Claude, Sahrawi children are sold into Cuban slavery, there was no 2005 intifada, and Che Guevara himself founded Polisario. Best of all, the organization that released it doesn't have Morocco in its name, which is more than the king can say for certain groups.

Sidi Omar did a nice rebuttal of the ESISC's claims, pointing out that Che Guevara would've had difficulty founding Polisario as he died 6 years before. That wasn't enough for the troublemakers at the Moroccan magazine Le Journal Hebdomaire, who wrote a story about Claude's disputed fact-checking. Claude got mad, sued for 3 million dirhams, and won.

It didn't hurt that the magazine was harassed by the Moroccan government, or that journalist rights' associations said the magazine's rights were ignored in the trial. Claude won, and that's good enough for the ESISC.

Props to Western Sahara Endgame for writing something about this incident last year. I'm in ur blog, followin ur linkz.

What do you think? Do you have stories about Claude Moniquet suing you for saying he's bald, or that he's a merry hobbit?

Friday, September 14, 2007

New layout

Hopefully not for long since every other blog on the internet uses it. Now you can read about Khat Achahid without straining your eyes.

Layout tragedy

You might see awful layout if you're using Internet Explorer. Laroussi alerted me to this problem. How does it look to you?

Fix coming sometime soon, when I learn how to use the internet.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What do you think Khat Achahid is up to?

Khat Achahid is the ineffective dissident movement inside Polisario. How ineffective are they? They don't release communiques in English!

Sahara Occidental has their new press release in Arabic, Spanish, and French. What does it say? My rudimentary Spanish makes me think they're giving up fighting with Polisario, but I might be misinterpreting.

If anyone from Khat Achahid is reading this, you should start releasing English communiques too.

UPDATE: Apparently, my Spanish is even less hot than I thought. Khat Achahid is castigating Polisario for even talking to Morocco about autonomy. Alle has a translation and commentary.

What good taste in interviewees!

The young Sahrawi women at Zeina have run a lot of "gets" lately--they interviewed Malainin Lakhal earlier, and they just had Kamel Fadel write a piece for them. Now that they've interviewed me, I'm joining their trophy case as well.

I think it's a fun read, but then, I would. More fun is the picture at left, which I suggested should accompany the interview. Suggestion denied!

The picture means I need to write more to keep the layout sane, so I'll take this time to again wish my decidedly Muslim audience a happy Ramadan. I've never fasted myself, but I have been to iftar dinners and they're delicious.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Morocco Board's picture galleries are like Flickr for people who hate referenda

We already knew that the people behind Morocco Board, the Moroccan-American community website, love blogs. But did you know that they also love digital photography?

The one at left was taken at the Congressional hearing on Western Sahara. Check out Toby Shelley doing his best Chris Hitchens impressions while SADR ambassador to the UN Mouloud Said and US-Western Sahara Foundation director Suzanne Scholte wave to Morocco Board's photographer. For some reason, the gallery calls it "Western" Sahara, even though I think everyone agrees it's the western side of the Sahara. Ambassador Said comes off looking amazingly shifty: check out this picture of him with a manila envelope.

Khalihenna ould Rachid explaining autonomy pictures are less fun. The reception afterwards, though, looks like it got pretty wild. Check out Kelly doing the robot and so deep in his cups, he can't keep his head up. A protest held at the Algerian embassy to free the Moroccan POWs isn't as amusing, since they should've been freed, but check out the dude with the violin: he brings it everywhere.

For me, these pictures demonstrate what I'm missing for not writing about how much I love autonomy, as if to make me think "If only I had switched when Ambassador Mekouar gave me the chance!" I'm pretty happy rolling with Sahrawis, though.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stephen Zunes talks about Iran and Palestine

There's nothing but love for Western Sahara scholar Stephen Zunes here, and I even enjoy the interviews with him that don't mention Western Sahara. If you're like me in that respect, check out the the first part of the Heathlander's three part interview with Zunes. He talks about Iran (spoiler warning: he doesn't want to bomb it).

I haven't realized before how cool it is an intellectual on the level of Stephen Zunes is interested in the Western Sahara. Maybe it's only because I read most things that have his name on it, but he seems like a widely-respected guy outside of the Western Sahara too. Now if only he would respond to my e-mails...

Hat tip to Justin Knapp at the Nerd Report.

Edward Gabriel's name--ruined!

The first Google result for "Edward Gabriel Morocco" is this post. Maybe this will convince Ed Gabriel to favor me with a comment like he did Chasli.

Anna Theofilopoulou and I. William Zartman to settle their disagreements the only way they know how

Western Sahara fan Anna Theofilopoulou and I. William Zartman (the "I" is short for "I think a referendum is 'extreme') will square off Thursday the 20th in Washington at a United States Institute of Peace panel entitled "Western Sahara: Renewed Hope to End the Stalemate?".

I'd wager that the renewed hope they're referring to isn't the rising support for SADR abroad and increased activism inside the occupation. Why are American progressives so enamored with autonomy?

I'll be there anyway, because Anna Theofilopoulou wrote a killer piece about Western Sahara and I can't resist complimentary water bottles. Are you in?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Children of the Clouds has video of Moroccan occupation

ASVDH linked to this fantastic short documentary, Children of the Clouds. Watch it here. The filmmaker, Carlos Gonzalez, was able to get rare footage of a Sahrawi demonstration being suppressed by police. It's only ten minutes--check it out.

To encourage you, here are some of Children's highlights:
  • Gonzalez wrapping his face in a turban so Moroccans won't notice him
  • Footage of police blocking off a demonstration and dragging protesters away
  • A chase with the Moroccan police after being spotted
  • Two Sahrawi women, one of whose son has just been beaten in the demonstration, demanding independence
  • A lengthy interview with human rights activist Hamad Ahmad, who I haven't heard of. Anyone know about him?
The documentary doesn't have all of its footage, perhaps because Gonzalez was eventually expelled from Western Sahara and accused of being a Venezuelan spy. Interviewing more Sahrawis would've made the documentary more credible, but it's a fascinating look into life under Moroccan occupation.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Meanwhile, at the Moroccan-American Center for Policy

Doonesbury had a series of strips last month exploring the perils and pleasures of doing PR for dictators. The first one's here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Malainin Lakhal, badass

The young women at Zeina have a great interview with Malainin Lakhal, the secretary-general of Union of Sahrawi Journalists and Writers. Malainin has effectively presented the Sahrawi case to the world, especially in Australia and New Zealand (this picture comes from AWSA--thanks, my little kookaburras), and this work is well-known. What you might not known is that Malainin is also tough who chose a dangerous flight into exile over submission to Morocco:
"I am initially an activist, a poet and a “trouble-maker” to use the words of the Moroccan authorities when I was living in the occupied zone of Western Sahara. I was born and I lived in the occupied city of El Aaiun until 2000, when I was forced to flee the territory, crossing the Moroccan military berm in a three days and three nights dangerous journey through the desert and landmines."
Malainin also tries to persuade angry young Sahrawis to choose non-violence. Blogs, not bombs:

"Many voices within the Saharawi youth start to call for war and resuming war and this is a pity, because to me we had never stopped fighting. We have always been in war against the Moroccan colonialism, the only difference is that we are now using new weapons, the demonstration, the sit-in, the word, Saharawi political prisoners and activists in the occupied zones are giving their blood and bodies as weapons and sacrifice for the sake of freedom."

They should have an interview with me up soon. Mine may or may not include escapes over minefields.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Edward Gabriel: still shilling for Morocco

Because Frederick Vreeland's never enough, Morocco bought another former US ambassador, Edward Gabriel. They've gotten their dirham's worth and more: Ed escorted the Fog City Journal to Western Sahara at Mohammed VI's request, and he asked loaded questions at a Center for American Progress Western Sahara event (check out the first picture at the Fog City link to see Ed looking corpse-like). Now, he's written an article for the National Interest Online about how awesome autonomy is.

The article's the usual pablum Morocco's hatchet men spoon out. As Chasli at Western Sahara Endgame points out, it's disingenuous for the National Interest to say Edward Gabriel is just a former ambassador to Morocco. He rolls, paid, with Robert Holley and the Moroccan-American Center for Policy, as well as the National Clergy Council.

All this makes me wonder why I'm even going to college. Judging from Fred and Ed, and to a lesser extent Robert Holley, a healthy living can be made by being an unremarkable ambassador, then selling your services back to your old negotiating partners.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Monday Fun and Shames: Black Prison edition

Tarruzi Yehdih, a former Sahrawi political prisoner and member of CODESA, recently got out of the Black Jail of El Aauin. His description of jail life is horrifying, and a must-read for people interested in human rights in Western Sahara.

For today, though, I'll focus on a list of names Yehdih provides. He says these men abuse Sahrawis inside the prison. I have no corroboration that these men are torturers or otherwise violate human rights, but I hope the dissemination of this list will expose those who are.

List of the torturers and the main outstanding “lords” of the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún:

1- Abd-Lilah Az-zunfri: Director of the jail.
2- Mohamed Al-mansuri: President of the detention centre.
3- Mohamed Al-buhzizi: Vice-president of the detention centre.
4- Abd Al-ali Al-buhnani: Vice-president of the detention centre.
5- Abdelkader Ait Sus: Responsible for general works.
6- Abderrahim Al-harruchi: Responsible for construction and general work in the jail.
7- Abderrazag Mugtasam: Responsible for the visits and the searching of possessions.
8- Jamal Beiruk: President of the Section or the centre.
9-Abdelhag Wahbi: Searching.
10- Ahmed Alharrag: President of the judiciary office of the jail(director of the third level).
11- Yusef Al-manur: President of the judiciary office(director of the third level).
12- Ismail Bachari: President of a sector.
13- Idris Butib: Nurse.
14- Mustafa Al-azizi: Nurse.
15- Yusef Butiglidin: Nurse.
16- Abdelhag Fartamis: He was transferred to “Ramani Jail”.
17- Abdelhakim: He was transferred to the central prison of Al-kinetra.

I'm not sure what he means by "lords," or whether the last two who are listed as transferred are guards or prisoners. It'd also be interesting to know how many are Moroccans and how many are Sahrawis.