Sunday, May 18, 2008

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

18 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:29 AM

    GET A LIFE SAHARA IS MOROCCAN !

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  2. joe burg4:57 AM

    Violence against foreigners in South Africa
    Published: Saturday 17 May 2008 15:00 UTC
    Last updated: Saturday 17 May 2008 15:00 UTC
    In the slums of Johannesburg, South Africans have once again attacked foreign residents. This time the violence broke out in the township of Tembisa. Police report one man shot dead and two people seriously injured.

    Immigrants from other African countries have fled to a local police station after beatings and lootings. The police have sent reinforcements in an attempt to stem the violence. The situation in the township Diepsloot has been described as "very tense and out of control".

    The violence against foreigners broke out a week ago. At least five people have been killed and dozens have been injured; several women have also been raped. The South Africans accuse the immigrants of crime and say they are taking jobs from South Africans.

    That's the kind of people who support rasd

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  3. Laroussi5:18 AM

    "That's the kind of people who support rasd"

    Dear Joe Burg, what on earth has events in other countries to do with the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people?

    If the US bombs and kills civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, does that make Moroccan claims weaker?

    This is only guilt by association and very poor way of argumentation.

    The only lasting solution to this conflict is to hold a referendum where the option of independence is included.

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  4. Anonymous6:06 AM

    What if the sahrawis were saying the truth ? If we assume the opposite, then I would apply the same judgement to sahrawis from the Polisario.

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  5. Laroussi8:41 AM

    "What if the sahrawis were saying the truth ? If we assume the opposite, then I would apply the same judgement to sahrawis from the Polisario."

    There is a minor but important difference: you get some nice quality time in Moroccan jails if you speak in favour of Saharawi self-determination. The oposite does not happen in the camps.

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  6. There is a minor but important difference: you get some nice quality time in Moroccan jails if you speak in favour of Saharawi self-determination. The oposite does not happen in the camps.

    Wouldn't bet money on that one...

    As an answer to Anon#2, yes, one should be skeptical of what pro-Polisario people say as well, especially when they're hauled around the country on sponsored tours. But while Polisario do occasionally organize such roundtrips, normally, in that case, it's individual Western human rights groups that have been responsible for invitations, with or without Polisario participation. And the invitees or interviewees are normally bona fide ex-Amnesty prisoners of conscience and such people (Aminatou Haidar, Muhammad Daddach); that's why they're being invited in the first place.

    Between that and Mr. Holley lining up four regime-sponsored unknowns with a story that includes demonstrably false elements (the Cuba junk), there's simply no comparison. If Morocco could produce even one single person who had a case backed by Amnesty or HRW, that would look a lot better for them. So far, nothing. And that I say as someone qquite unconvinced by Polisario's "Tindouf democracy" blather.

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  7. Laroussi12:13 PM

    "Wouldn't bet money on that one... "

    You are free to think what you like. Personally I do not gamble, but could you mention one single case where someone has been put to jail in the refugee camps for speaking in favour of the Moroccan rule over Western Sahara?

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  8. Alle illustrates an important point here. There's a big difference between Morocco's human rights abuses, which have been extensively documented by disinterested groups, and listening to a couple of possible Sahrawis (Morocco has been accused of using Mauritanians to pose as Sahrawis) paid for by Morocco.

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  9. Personally I do not gamble, but could you mention one single case where someone has been put to jail in the refugee camps for speaking in favour of the Moroccan rule over Western Sahara?

    No, I couldn't, but then I can mention only a few names of people that were jailed in Morocco. Considering that Polisario leaders apparently jailed each other right and left until the early nineties, I would not be surprised if the same thing happened to anyone who -- mid-war -- was suddenly seen to join hands with the enemy. That goes on both sides, that they seem to consider divergent opinions on the fundamentals as subversive activity and treason rather than an expression of a legitimate opinion. Granted, it seems to have been many times worse on the Moroccan side because of the Stalin-style approach to W. Sahara there, and because unlike Polisario, they don't seem to have support of the W. Saharan population at large.

    Anyway, this is precisely why a referendum should be held, far outside of the control of agents of either side; and why MINURSO human rights observers should be stationed in both territories. And again, it is telling -- about proportions and the general outlines of the conflict -- that Morocco is resisting both those measures, while Polisario welcomes them.

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  10. Laroussi5:39 AM

    "it is telling -- about proportions and the general outlines of the conflict -- that Morocco is resisting both those measures, while Polisario welcomes them."

    Exactly my point.

    Polisario may not be the perfect organisation (but then again, which one is?) but have little to hide when it comes to the human rights situation in the refugee camps today.

    The situation by the end of the 1980's was harsher, but in any case nothing close to what occurred and still occurs in the occupied territories.

    If you want a list of people who have been jailed by the Moroccans you need only to visit the site of ASVDH.

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  11. Anonymous7:46 AM

    According to a reliable source, a discreet meeting between Mohammed Sidati, Polisario Front representative in Europe and a representative of the DRS (Algerian secret service), took place last week. In the agenda: organizing the comeback of Mohammed Sidati, who will take part in the next direct talks with Morocco.
    Sidati was isolated and confined to “representative” with the European media. However, ambition continues to devour this old revolutionist who would be the perfect successor of Mohammed Abdelaziz, who is getting more and more unpopular despite his re-election in December 2007.
    Indeed, two movements are opposed now within the Front: the “realistic” ones who are convinced that Morocco will never give more than autonomy status. And in this case, it will be necessary to negotiate with the Kingdom to secure a maximum of “concessions”, and on the other hand, those who estimate that the Front must continue to assert independence with the risk to never get it.

    Will there be a secret “deal” which will add new development to the Sahara conflict?

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  12. mr laroussi,
    what Mr joe pointed out is an info as many othere's infos, simplly this one is truth, not like the big polisario lie, thanks gos its a free media, if it was your blog you delte comments like this one straight lol, it show much democracy you lean from algerians,you are talking just bombs and lood,(typical terrorist mentality) algerai are agaiste morocco because we have jew roots, you can hate us, but one thing, morocoo will never ever let algeria or others working for algeria(polisario) take the moroccan desert, morocco fight agaist terror, you and algerians you train the terrorist to send in iraq, to blow themselves. so stop you old fashined slogans

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  13. mr will, as you know you will lessing to fabolouse stories from algerians, theres no internt in the camps, so there are just algerians,whriting in here. as i said how many stories you heard about jails in morocco,and so, but go to morocco,visit and go to algeria(and try to visit) it worst of china 20years ago, you have a civilian policeman fallowing you,not for you security as they says, is to know what you doing, it's forbidden to aproch the camps, lol, please be reasonable, all we have the gris matter in our cranes, just use it to find out the real liers, here, always i say experience and talk after.

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  14. suddenly, i'm no longer missing el tiburon.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anonymous10:49 PM

    real-sahara-watch wrote "visit and go to algeria(and try to visit) it worst of china 20years ago," - I've been to Algeria five times in the last six years. Most recently at the end of 2007. Based on my experiences I would say that RSW is wrong in his assumptions.

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  16. Alle, I miss El Tiburon every day. I can't believe you would treat him so cheaply.

    Yeah, last Anonymous, I think RSW is wrong. But he's quite the character, no?

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  17. so poor discution, some people hide thier names and replay to thier own, comments!
    old fashined, you most know that the sahara is moroccan, and algeria, is preparing her army to face morocco, because they know that they lost this invented prolongation of he cold war, algerian knows that the time is running, and once morocco will close this issue, the will turn agaist algeria to recover thier missed territory.
    why algeria is buying more than 10 billion euro aepon from russia?
    you have a brain you know why, the minuscle terror groups in algeria, works in commandos, you can figth an ennemy like this with heavy weapon,i'am telling you i think that usa will free the algerian people as they freed iraq, lol
    now the iol is mor than 133$

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  18. i visited algeria last year, and this guy have all interest to defend his country, try to visit algeria with a good video camera, and try to go east! you will be surprised, worst if you want to go south.insurgent in the east Kabylian, and toureg in the south, what country is this?
    more important the actual gouvernment took over the power by force. so you can't expect pink buterflies comming from them

    ReplyDelete