Friday, December 28, 2007

Together Foundation gets a forum

I like to keep up with the Together Foundation, to make sure they're not cooking up any more questionable slavery accusations. That's why it was exciting to discover the Together Foundation now has a forum!

There's only one board so far, Western Sahara, moderated by GT (no doubt Russian import export and Together Foundation member Gregory Temkin). It doesn't work right now, but check out the URL on the Western Sahara forum:


Old habits etc.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

MINURSO allegedly defacing Western Saharan archaelogical sites

Between not organizing a referendum and not monitoring Moroccan human rights abuses, personnel in the United Nation's Western Sahara contingent MINURSO have to find something to keep them occupied. According to Nick Brooks, that means defacing valuable archaelogical sites in Western Sahara.

Brooks, a climate change researcher and the director of the Western Sahara Project, was visiting archaeological sites in the liberated portion of Western Sahara when he saw graffiti MINURSO personnel spraypainted over cave drawings. The cave drawings are faint, so I used my Perez Hilton MS Paint skills and circled one in red below. Brooks has contacted MINURSO, UNESCO, and the UN Misconduct office, so this is a story to follow.
I take a more positive view of MINURSO than a lot of people I've talked to, but that can probably be blamed on international politics fan boyishness. This vandalism and the recent Polisario Congress makes me wonder if MINURSO is helping or hurting the independence movement. MINURSO isn't restraining or even reporting on Moroccan human rights abuses, and I think its presence only prolongs the stalemate. On the other hand, it organizes visits for families divided by the war.

For more pictures of graffiti on archaelogical sites, visit the Flickr album.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Polisario Kongress Kraziness

It's Polisario Congress time again, and that means another anointing of President Mohammed Abdelaziz. Maybe next Congress there'll be some competition, but until then, let's get our degrees in the Sahrawi version of Kremlinology (Tifaritology?).

The Polisario National Secretariat opened the Congress with a report on the condition of Western Sahara. Judging from the picture, Abdelaziz himself delivered this enormous speech to a captive audience. The perks of being a 30-year president.

Anyway, the big man did give a shout-out to those of us who weren't born in Western Sahara but started working on it as fast as we could:
On such a great occasion, we would like to express our most sincere thanks and profound gratitude to all our friends and allies around the world including governments, political parties, civil society organizations and members of the international network of solidarity in Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia and the United States for their standing by the just casue of our people in the most difficult of times, and for their attachment to their noble positions.

Bomb attacks in Algeria

Bombings killed 67 people in Algiers Tuesday, including 11 United Nations Development Program employees. As you might expect, I'm sad for the people killed and hope Algeria gets the people responsible.

If something this senseless can still teach a lesson for Western Sahara, it's that turning to attacks on civilians will only injure the cause of Sahrawi independence. There's been the usual rumblings lately from Polisario that it is considering a return to war, and that's their right (even though I think it will be ineffective at best).

But whoever wins the Congress this week (I hear it's a real horse race) and the Sahrawis under the occupation should eschew attacks on civilians. I don't know what the people who made the bombs in Algiers want, but I know they killed innocent people and that makes me predisposed against them. The same thing will happen to the Sahrawi agenda if a bomb goes off in El Aiaun.

Via Western Sahara Info

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Malainin Lakhal on Sahrawi journalism and resistance, being tough as nails

Malainin Lakhal gave a talk about Western Sahara and his work as a human rights activist in July to an Australian media group, and it's been republished by the Rhodes Journalism Review. Lakhal's the head of the Union of Sahrawi Journalists and Writers (UPES).

My favorite part was finding out more about Lakhal's escape from Western Sahara. It was already known that he crossed the Berm to escape Moroccan authorities, but this is the first time I find out he went to Nouadhibou (my new favorite Mauritanian town, more on that later) to meet up with SADR.

Lakhal was fleeing Morocco's violent treatment of youth activists. He says in 1987, Morocco deported 10,000 Sahrawis from Western Sahara and made them work in Moroccan cities. I probably read that in Endgame in Western Sahara, but it's hit me in the article how insane and brutal that was of Morocco.

At the end of the article, there's a section called "Human rights activist or journalist?" Unfortunately, Lakhal sorta dodges the issue about whether he is really a journalist or an activist who writes a lot. It's something a ton of people involved in the scene need to deal with-- Lakhal, Toby "Turtle" Shelley, and myself, to start with. But then, all the conventions of journalism are getting reimagined whatever we do about Western Sahara, so I'm not too concerned.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Western Sahara Visa Card--Don't Leave Home Without It

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la Caixa, a Spanish bank, has released a SADR-themed credit card. I guess Western Sahara is so popular in Spain it's considered a good business move to associate yourself with it. la Caixa does a lot of charity work, according to Wikipedia, which makes me wonder if a certain amount of money on the card goes to Sahrawi groups.

It hit me on the head lately that the Western Sahara scene in Spain is huge, but I wasn't in contact with any Spaniards. That's been solved, thanks to the indispensable people at ARSO. With luck, soon I'll be telling you about their exploits and their tapas recipes.

Via the Norwegian Support Commitee

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Children of the Clouds released on Youtube

Filmmaker Carlos Gonzalez has put a new version of his Western Sahara documentary, Children of the Clouds, on Youtube. Gonzalez snuck into Western Sahara and got dynamite images of abuse until Morocco kicked him out and accused him of being a spy. If Morocco's so afraid of this guy that they had to accuse him of being a Venezuelan spy, you know he's good.

When I mentioned Children last time I reserved judgment on its veracity since only one guy was interviewed, but now it's stuffed with interviews with activists (a feast of Amidanes!), demonstration footage, and bruises from Moroccan torture. Here's Part 1. Part 2's here.

  • One student says Moroccan secret agents infiltrate schools, even using teenagers to spy. It's a Moroccan 21 Jump Street!
  • Brahim Numria says the reason Morocco is so brutal to teenagers and even young children is that it doesn't want them to "grow in the struggle" like Palestinians. That sort of makes sense, but surely Morocco knows beating people up for what they believe doesn't dissuade them from believing it.
  • I'm fond of Brahim Amidane, possibly a cousin of the other Amidanes. He and his friends shout "No alternative but self-determination" at Moroccan cops. I wish I had known that much international law when I was his age.
We should all be glad that Carlos decided to release this on the internet. I've been dabbling in Swaziland activism lately, and we're having a difficult time getting a new movie, Without the King, about repression in Swaziland. It hasn't been released yet, but it's ready to go. The filmmaker's being a jerk about it and wouldn't even send a copy for a film festival. All the more bully for Carlos!