Thursday, May 29, 2008

All the waiters at your grand (internet) cafe

Hey, pals! Western Sahara news got so hot while I was on vacation and looking for a job (I was inspired by Real-Sahara-Watch's comment "get a job lol"). If you've been lax and haven't been following the other blogs and websites, make sure to check out Sahara-Watch and Western Sahara Info on Peter Van Walsum. Peter Van Walsum now seems not like a bad guy so much as one who got fed up with the UN and the whole Western Sahara dispute.

Post coming up about the outrageous repression of both Sahrawi and Moroccan students in Marrakesh. As a teaser, here's a recent comment by a Sahrawi who gets harassed in internet cafes by Moroccan police for reading...blogs like this one! I arbitrarily paragraphed it to improve readability.
I knew many youth here even if it is hard for them to navigate because of the moroccan repression on the internet coffees and on the movement of the human rights and selfdetermination defenders but people here are striving and in their own means they invent new methods for dealing with the situation that they live in.

For me i was arrested several times with some camarades in the internet coffee because of our (illegal deeds) as they told us,we were treated savagely and brutally we were detained for 3 days in 2006 and for 1 day the second time and for hours some times we were beated and insulted.

the police is everywhere even at the internet coffee.so you could imagine how is it hard to navigate or to open pro-independance websites you have always to be careful.one day the moroccan police stopped the whole people at the cyber and take the cyber manager and his computers and closing the cyber and so on and so forth..........
Awesome to have readers like you, DevoteeofWS. I'm grateful for how hard you and Sahrawis like you work to get information out to the rest of the world.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Morocco planning to invade liberated zones?


That's what a Spanish website is saying:
According to press reports in Spain, the government and army of Morocco are making preparations for a military attack on the territories controlled by Western Sahara's Polisario Front since a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991. The alleged "preparations" are to be a reaction to the increased civilian activities by Polisario in its "liberated territories".

The Spanish electronic daily 'El Imparcial' reports that Moroccan King Mohamed VI and his army are supervising several military preparations that probably aim to enable the Moroccan Army to conquer the Sahrawi liberated territories.
Apparently, Morocco's mad that Polisario likes to use the liberated territories for things like Polisario parties. The report also says intelligence agencies have picked up the movements, and Morocco plans to build a new berm along the Mauritanian-Algerian border if it wins. All of this might just be speculation, but I hope it doesn't happen.

But then, that's me. Do you think a Moroccan attack on the liberated territory would be good or bad for the Western Saharan independence movement?

Photo from Flickr user Saharauiak used under a Creative Commons license

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happy 35th Birthday, Polisario


Polisario soldiers marshal near Tifariti another time


It was yesterday! As you'd expect, there was a big Tifariti party. Less fun than past Polisario anniversaries, perhaps, given recent Polisario bad news, but they're hanging in.

Update: The BBC has some great pictures. Via Justin Knapp, naturally.

Picture from Flickr user Saharauiak used under a Creative Commons license

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Leave old Sahrawis alone!

Geez, late middle-aged Sahrawis can't catch a break from Morocco. First it was the guy in the wheelchair, now two brothers and their sister, all in their 50's and 60's, were interrogated for six hours by Moroccan security forces for visiting Mauritania and meeting with other Sahrawis there. Not the best way to run an occupation.

Taking our lumps and hitting back


It's been a crappy week for Western Sahara supporters in the United States. A Moroccan-American Center for Policy tour of Sahrawi refugees from Tindouf (who may or may not be telling the truth) managed to dominate the internet, even getting an article in the Associated Press (and so in several other major American media outlets).

Several emails I got from a Western Sahara supporter with the stories expressed the way I think a lot of us are feeling--first amused by MACP and Robert Holley's machinations, then outraged that the story was getting more play, then resigned as the AP story was circulated.

The story of Sahrawi refugees abused in Tindouf is frustrating for several reasons. Human rights abuses have happened in Tindouf before--from the Moroccan POWs to the suppression of domestic Abdelaziz opponents--so it wouldn't be that wild of a thing. Tindouf's distance from DC and other American media centers and a language barrier make checking the MACP's unappetizing. The MACP's meetings were closed to the public, so opposing ideas were excluded. The end result is a battered image for Polisario and the entire Western Saharan independence movement.

What now? Alle wants to know why Algeria isn't throwing any hydrocarbon money at Western Saharan lobbying efforts. That's a damn good question. If Algeria would put its back into and Polisario would make itself more public relations friendly (cough Baba Sayed cough), great strides could be made in a short period of time. Instead, Morocco's the one putting time into lobbying and public relations--the MACP office isn't on DC's famed K Street, but it's close.

Even now, though, those of us unaffiliated with Polisario and without much money can help. I know some Sahrawis read my blog, and I hope they'll be inspired by the past week's disaster to tell their stories more often to American media sources. Speaking as a journalist, I assure you most writers are always hard-up for stories. If I got pitched a story as compelling as Western Sahara, I'd be grateful.

Those of us who aren't Sahrawis can keep spreading the gospel through media. One Scandinavian is trying to place an article attacking one of Morocco's favorite congressional reps, Lincoln Diaz-Balart in one of the Miami papers that cover him. I've been planning to write an article about Western Sahara for Dissident Voices, an open leftist site. Add pitching guest blog posts to other bloggers, and we can sway public opinion and google results.

Like the recent "realism" from the UN, the MACP's current popularity is depressing. But look: Western Sahara is helped by Sahrawis, Algerians, Moroccans, Mauritanians, South Africans, Americans, Brits, Australians, French, Scandinavians, Spaniards, and at least one man from Japan. Shoot, democratic dissidents in Swaziland work on precious internet connections to help Western Sahara. Reading that list of nationalities, I find it hard to believe a cut-rate PR firm and their unwitting media accomplices can deny the Sahrawis their right to self-determination.

Picture from Flickr user Saharauiak used under a Creative Commons license

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Awful Human Events article on Western Sahara

Looks like the Moroccan-American Center for Policy got another one. In a piece that quotes Robert Holley as an impartial Western Sahara expert, Human Events's Ericka Andersen swallows whole the latest touring MACP show.

I've contacted her in hopes of persuading her that she's been fed a pack of lies, but until then, the piece could do with some pro-self-determination comments.

Update: If you comment (and I hope you do), keep the audience in mind. Human Events readers are mostly conservative, and mostly American. To that end, speak well of the United States and point out conservatives like John Bolton, James Inhofe, and Sam Brownback who support Western Sahara.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How to reach tourists going to Morocco?


I've long thought Georgetown's weak spot lies in the groups of prospective students that tour campus several times a day. Anyone wanting anything from the administration could scare off these high school students with their complaints and horror stories until the administration relented.

I think we can apply the same logic to Morocco (it's worked in the past, with campaigns against apartheid South Africa). Tourism brings Morocco a lot of money each year, and anything that threatened its tourism revenues would merit the government's attention.

I can't think of any tactics now that could use tourism's importance to Morocco as leverage for Western Sahara, but they'd be immensely powerful. Let's talk it out. An obvious problem I see is that tourists to Morocco are harder to reach than, say, prospective Georgetown students.

Photo from Flickr user *hoodrat*

Do I speak double Dutch to a real double Dutch Western Sahara blog?

Valued One Hump commenter Van Kaas has a blog of his own about Western Sahara, alternately named Van Kaas or الجبن. His blog's in Dutch, but that doesn't mean he's a bad guy. In fact, he has a couple of posts about Peter van Walsum.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Official Western Sahara friend Robert Malley under fire

Robert Malley, the director of the International Crisis Group, gave what I thought was a reasoned critique of the Moroccan autonomy plan at a Center for American Progress event last May. It was also decidedly pro-Sahrawi.

Apparently, he gave Barack Obama foreign policy advice. He won't in the future, though, because he's resigned from the campaign for meeting with Hamas in his capacity as an International Crisis Group analyst.
Rob Malley, a Middle East policy adviser to likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, resigned after news surfaced that he had been meeting with Hamas -- something Obama pledged he himself would never do.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Saturday Malley called the Obama campaign on Friday to sever ties with the candidate after learning the Times of London was publishing a story about his contacts with the terrorist group.
I just can't get over how wacky it is that people are freaking out that an analyst at the ICG met with terrorists. It's his job!

Anyway, there is a bright side to this story. I assume Barack Obama and Malley know one another, and if Obama wins Malley stands to get a diplomatic appointment. Even if he's too tainted by this Hamas foolishness, he'll exercise some behind-the-scenes influence. Rob Malley's involvement with a major presidential candidate could herald a more logical US policy towards Western Sahara.

Tip from Sahara-Watch and, alas, Michelle Malkin

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Morocco legalizes morning-after pill

Good on them. The decision was made by the Minister of Health, Yasmina Baddou, who looks like a pretty cool lady. I'm glad Moroccans are at least making strides in women's rights, if not Sahrawi rights.

You know who's probably pretty pleased about that? Alex at Broken Rubbers, the source for birth control news.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Sahara-Watch and Western Sahara Info: the game always pulls them back

A Moroccan tank after Sahara-Watch and Alle got through with it

The "realistic" MINURSO renewal has brought some old hands back to blogging: Sahara-Watch and Alle at Western Sahara Info. Here's what they've been up to:
Glad to have those blogangsters back. Sahara-Watch is responsible for me entering the game, as he was the first person I contacted about Western Sahara. Gave me my first hit for free.

Photo by
Nick Brooks used under Creative Commons license

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Zunes, Holley, Roussellier--all in the same PDF!

I'm glad the ARSO news round-up caught this: a "Viewpoints" discussion from the Middle East Institute about Western Sahara and autonomy between Jacques Rousellier, Robert Holley, Stephen Zunes, and some guy from al-Akhawayn University in Morocco.

Thoughts after I read it, but I have one problem already: Holley's bio fails to mention that he's a paid lobbyist for the Moroccan government.

Nacho Hernandez's Tindouf photo exhibit in DC Wednesday


Photo by Nacho Hernandez

Photographer Nacho Hernandez visited the Tindouf refugee camps last year, and a week from today he'll show the pictures he took.

The photos will be on display from 11 AM to 8PM in the Rayburn Foyer, in the Rayburn House Office Building. There's a reception by 6 to 8 PM. It's co-hosted by the US-Western Sahara Foundation and Representatives Trent Franks, Tim Ryan, and Zach Wamp (good to see Zach Wamp sticking with Western Sahara). To RSVP email RSVP@venividiphoto.com

The last US-WS Foundation event I went to in Rayburn, the Aminatou Haidar reception, was great. You ought to go, because I'm sure it'll be a blast. Clever idea to put it in Congress where hopefully a few staffers and representatives will stop by and learn more about Western Sahara.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for

That's Frank Ruddy, quoting Clarence Darrow, in Adam Wolfe's blog post about the MINURSO renewal. Wolfe also wrote an article for the World Politics Review about the UN and realism.

I think his blog post is spicier, but then, I would--he gives good shout-outs to people commenting on this blog, the Norwegians, the Australians, and the irrepressible St. Chasli III. I don't think Western Sahara's a lost cause, and since it's not, Wolfe gives a good idea of where to go from here.

Update: Arabic version of Wolfe's post, courtesy of a friendly anonymous commenter.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Listen closely boys and girls, 'cause it's time to change the world

I was thinking yesterday that efforts at ruining the reputations of people who perpetuate bad Western Sahara policies have been misdirected. Sure, it's fine (and fun) to make fun of Robert Holley and Edward Gabriel, but they'll always have access to people who won't think to google their names.

The one we should be targeting are the bureaucrats in France, the U.S., and other countries who often end up making decisions on Western Sahara. Even in the run-up to the Moroccan invasion, it was Henry Kissinger, not Gerald Ford, who read the International Court of Justice ruling. Who are the people in my government who decide forcing autonomy on Sahrawis is a good idea? The trick is finding out, then convince them or their bosses otherwise.

Friday, May 02, 2008

UN's love for realism: the dogs bark, but the caravan continues

Peter van Walsum got what he wanted and the UN's 1 -year renewal of MINURSO insists that the parties be realistic about the prospects for a Sahrawi state. Here's resolution's wording on realism:
2. Endorses the report’s recommendation that realism and a spirit of
compromise by the parties are essential to maintain the momentum of the process of
negotiations;
This saddens me, but not because I think it means the end of Sahrawi nationalist aspirations or even because I think it's that big of a deal (after all, van Walsum's realism just means Morocco won't move unless major powers make it, something that was clear already).

I know that if a majority of Sahrawis want an independent state, it'll happen. The only unknowns are how long until it happens, and how much pain Moroccans, Sahrawis, Algerians, and whoever else gets involved in the conflict will suffer before it happens. I think essentially taking away the diplomatic option from Sahrawis, as more UN policies in this vein will inevitably do, will just increase both the length of time and suffering before a Sahrawi state.

Even if you don't think one word is going to do much about a 32-year conflict, it's hard not to be disgusted how the Western powers (including my own country) can exert so much effort to get one word in the document, but actively block the addition of a human rights component to MINURSO. At least SADR still has some friends on the Security Council like Costa Rica and South Africa. If it could get a few more, the UNSC could stop talking about what's realistic and start talking about what's right.

Photo from Flickr user
Saharauiak

More on the Sahrawi in a wheelchair turned away by Morocco


The indispensable Norwegian Committee for Western Sahara has more information and pictures of the wheelchair-bound Sahrawi visiting his family in the occupied territories who was only allowed to visit them for 4 minutes. According to the Committee, Yarba Mahfud Mohamed's visit was cut short because he refuses to renounce Western Saharan independence:
On arrival in El Aauin, I was stopped because I had not signed a declaration that the Moroccan authorities had given me, and which they said was required to obtain permission to enter the country: “I am a Sahrawi who is returning home in order to beg the king’s forgiveness,” it said. After checking the general situation, with plainclothes policemen, and on the basis of the degrading manner in which they treated me, I understood that I only had one alternative: to return to Spain. The worst part was to see my loved ones there behind a dirty glass wall, without being able to being able to do anything.
He says at one point they took his wheelchair away so he couldn't even move. Mohamed makes exactly the point Morocco is missing--treating Sahrawis like this only gives them more reason to find the status quo untenable.