Monday, June 30, 2008

Sahara Conflict goes stateside

By landing in my lap! Publisher Stacey International was nice enough to send me a review copy of the pro-autonomy book Saharan Conflict by Abdelhamid El Ouali. Last week Nick Brooks went to the book's launch party and got his own free copy, so he's got my back on this one.

I'll get to it and review it as soon as I finish my current Western Sahara reading assignment. While Saharan Conflict's website says it's 3200 pages, it isn't really, so the review will come relatively soon.

Until then, my assessment of the first two pages is that it's prone to the jargon of a lot of international relations books, which bodes ill for my IR theory allergy but might please other readers.

Anyone else with Western Sahara promo schwag, you know my email.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Have Sahrawis started naming streets after activists?

While researching the earlier post about torturer Ichi Aboulhassan, I noticed something strange: a couple sites, when describing where one of Ichi's assaults occurred, referred to streets named after Sahrawi activists.

For example, this page mentions "Ali Salem Tamek Place" as well as Daddach Street. One called a street Sidi Mohammed Daddach street, but I can't find it now.

It's puzzling because I doubt Morocco would be eager to name streets after dissidents. This might be an error translating text that's meant to mean they were visiting a person's home, but if not it's interesting.

Ichi Aboulhasssan out of Western Sahara: no country for this old man

The cheese stands alone

Ichi Aboulhassan, one of Morocco's chief torturers, has been moved out of Western Sahara. The information comes from a Western Saharan human rights activist. This transfer is great news for Sahrawis but bad news for the Moroccan people. Before I tell you why, here are some of Ichi's greatest hits (literally):
  • Commanding the Urban Security Group (GUS), a leading instrument in the occupation
  • Dragging Aminatou Haidar from her emergency room bed
  • Torturing Sahrawi political prisoners in September 2005
  • Leading a GUS force that threw Sahrawi Sidi Mohammed Ould Taleb from the roof of a building.
Aboulhassan has been transferred to Bensliman, near Casablanca. It's good that such a vicious man can no longer reach the Sahrawis. Still, his material gains he earned with his Western Saharan brutality--he came poor and left wealthy, his new post is closer to power--means torture in Morocco, as in my own country, has become a lucrative career path.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Nick Brooks emerges from the belly of the autonomy beast

Nick Brooks, Western Sahara's archaeologist about town, went to the launch and book signing of Sahara Conflict, a pro-autonomy book. He ran into the civil kind of occupation proponent, which is nicer to talk with but less fun to see lie their teeth:
However, he then went on to say (I’m paraphrasing, but this is a pretty faithful rendition) “You’re talking about the ‘Liberated Territories’ - this is a myth. Polisario has never liberated any of this land. It is a buffer zone set up by Morocco.” Needless to say I pointed out to him that I run a research project in these very territories, and work with the Polisario in this context. Having travelled extensively in the Polisario-controlled areas (Lajuad, Mijek, Tifariti, Zug, you name it), I’m fully aware that the “buffer zone” is a face-saving Moroccan flim-flam, a story concocted to conceal the reality that Western Sahara is in fact already partitioned between the two warring parties.
The author gave Nick a copy of the book, so we can all look forward to a review (my attempt ata review copy has been ignored). Nick also found out that the Moroccan embassy is familiar with his blog--good deal! Why can't those embassy personnel be bothered to comment on blogs in response?

That was fast: Polisario talking war again

Couldn't even wait a week, could they? SADR Prime Minister Abdelkader Taleb Omar rumbled ominously about an "explosion" in Moroccan-Sahrawi relations yesterday, 6 days after SADR President Abdelaziz said war is not an option.

Ordinarily such contradictory statements coming so soon from the heads of the same government would suggest a power struggle, but Abdelaziz appoints the prime minister. Oh, well.

$520,154: how much the Moroccan-Center for Policy costs in a year

Or: make Robert Holley pay for dinner. Continuing yesterday's lobbyist disclosure fun, check out the Moroccan-American Center for Policy's disclosure statement (PDF). Written way back in 2004, it includes some interesting documents setting out the MACP's goals, though no mention of Western Sahara.

It also has a 3 year budget projection of the MACP's expenses from 2004-2006 (page 22). Total expenses are expected to come to $228,345, $491,756, and $520,154, respectively. A lot of that money goes to pay the salary of executive director Robert Holley, who was supposed to be paid $200,000 in 2006 (not counting food and travel).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Edward Gabriel's married to the Game, and he loves his wifey

Turns out Moroccan lobbyist and former ambassador Edward Gabriel is married to another lobbyist with just as little concern for human welfare: Kathleen "Buffy" Linehan, a lobbyist for tobacco company Phillip Morris:
In 1992, as head of Philip Morris’s lobbying group, she was deposed in a lawsuit against B.J. Reynolds Tobacco (KUEPER v. R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO CO). Sourcewatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, comments about her deposition: “…Linehan indicated that she was involved in lobbying against the banning of smoking on commercial aircraft, and that she does not consider the health consequences of the product she is lobbying (cigarettes).” And at another deposition in 1995, Sourcewatch adds that “Linehan stated that she did not believe that cigarette smoking is addictive."
It's sweet when two people with so much in common can find each other. For bonus Ed Gabriel fun, check out the foreign lobbyist registration form (PDF) his company, the Gabriel Company LLC, filed to work for Morocco. The surprise is that Gabriel doesn't get paid:
Registrant will provide advice on an informal unpaid basis to Morocco. Registrant will be reimbursed by foreign principal for out-of-pocket expenses.
Huh. Maybe he's doing his high school service project.

George W. Bush likes autonomy--so what?

So a lot of Moroccans (including commenters) are happy that President Bush sent Mohammed VI a letter saying he's pretty fond of autonomy. I don't want to rain on Morocco's parade, but the letter is irrelevant. Here's why:
  • The letter isn't a reversal of US policy. If the leader of a major Polisario backer like South Africa had sent the king a letter supporting autonomy I could understand the excitement, but the US is already a big fan of autonomy. This just makes it official that the big guy likes it.
  • Bush is leaving office in January, has to work with a hostile Congress until then, and is the most disliked president in US history. If anything, Morocco should want Bush to oppose autonomy.
  • White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, the woman who announced the letter, doesn't know about the Cuban missile crisis.
If that's what Morocco counts as a victory for its occupation, they can have it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moroccan secret service agents run Polisario Confidential, comment on blogs

So says this article by brave Moroccan paper Le Journal Hebdomaire (their site is down, so I published the article and an auto-translation in the blog archives). The article, "Cyberwar against Polisario," is a great read for anyone interested in Moroccan lobbying efforts. It cover pro-Sahrawi work both online ("une armada de bloggers") and offline. Suzanne Scholte of the Defense Forum Foundation is mentioned, as is SADR ambassador Mouloud Said setting up a headquarters in the US Congress's cafeteria.

The real meat, though, comes with the previously-suspected but never certified involvement of Moroccan spies in the creation of pro-occupation internet propaganda, especially at Polisario Confidential. Not only was the Moroccan spy agency DST involved in Polisario Confidential, they did a terrible job running it. Highlights about spy involvement on Western Saharan websites:
  • Polisario Confidential and its sister sites are run by "a specialized service of the DST created for that purpose in Rabat."
  • The sites' Google Ads are paid for by the Moroccan government, but the author's article thinks buying ads was a bad idea because it suggests a moneyed backer.
  • Polisario Confidential and Co. sites include links to sites mainly read by the espionage community, making clear the webmasters' affiliations.
  • A DST agent took a picture of a DST office for a site post about Manhasset.
  • "Forums" where Moroccan "patriots" argue with Sahrawi activists "turn to ridicule". I'm not sure if that means they're ridiculed or they fail to make real points and just ridicule others, and it's not clear if forums include blog comments, but that's definitely what's been going on at this blog.
If this is the quality of the people running Morocco's intelligence services, Moroccans should be very afraid.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Two exceptions to the "Polisario is awful at lobbying" rule

Blogs may have been too hard on Polisario's lack of lobbying/public relations prowess. While it's an especially big problem in light of Morocco's comparative strength in that area, both Malainin Lakhal and Kamal Fadel, SADR's ambassador to Australia and New Zealand, are holding it down in that part of the world.

Lakhal was recently the subject of an Australian television report on Western Sahara, while Fadel produces opinion pieces for Australian media at a consistent rate and is also the frequent focus of interviews. With the help of activists and media prowess, they're making sure Western Sahara gets in front of people in New Zealand and Australia.

I'd like if some more of that action happened over in the US, but the next time you get down about a Moroccan press release circulating as gospel in newspapers that should know better, remember that things are going better down under.

Happy Zemla Intifada and Brahim Sabbar freedom day (belated)

38 years and 6 days ago, Sahrawis in the Zemla neighborhood of El Aiaun read a petition calling for an end to the Spanish occupation. Spanish police swooped in to arrest the Sahrawi leaders, the Sahrawis resisted, and eleven Sahrawis were killed.

In happier news, Brahim Sabbar got out of jail Tuesday! Sabbar's house has been monitored since his release, and visitors (including Mohammed Daddach) have been harassed and even assaulted by Moroccan police.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Moroccan American Center for Policy gives a new reason to vote for Obama

Looks like the Moroccan American Center for Policy is for anyone but Obama. Executive Director (and Tindouf Challenge winner) Robert Holley donated $1,000 to Hillary Clinton's campaign, and MACP employee Paul Jordan kicked the maximum amount of $2,300 to John McCain. This makes me feel better about Obama because the MACP has a history of backing losers--Holley gave money to Wesley Clark's failed 2004 primary campaign, and they support an endless occupation of Western Sahara.

Did I ever tell you about the insane picture Holley has behind his desk? I hope not, because I really want to make a Paint drawing explaining it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Abdelaziz says war won't work in Western Sahara

Darn right. He said it in an interview with bold Moroccan magazines Nichane and Tel Quel:
"The Polisario is convinced that there can be no military solution to this conflict," head of the group Mohamed Abdelaziz said in an interview published by the weekly publications Nichane and Tel Quel.

"A conflict of this kind, that has lasted for so many years, can only be resolved around the negotiating table," said Abdelaziz, adding that the Polisario had never said it wanted to solve the problem militarily.
Hopefully this will put a rest to threats of war coming from Polisario and blog commenters. What do you think about the possibilities of Polisario ending the ceasefire, and what effect would that have on Western Sahara? I feel like the international community would get mad at Algeria for letting the war erupt again.

On a related note, I was so excited to see in a Google search that Mohammed Abdelaziz has a blog, but I guess that's a different Mohammed Abdelaziz.

Beast with two Pushbacks

There's a new widget on the right-hand sidebar showing stories from Pushback, a new blog written by liberal college students. I doubt any of the stories will be Western Sahara-related, but there's a method to my widget madness: I'm trying to target Western Sahara to Pushback's valuable audience (American, politically-active, tech-savvy young people) and maybe trick them into helping out.

Also, shame on Saddam Hussein for stealing this blog's title gimmick.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Moroccan court stops publication of Ould Rachid testimony

A Moroccan court has ordered Al-Jarida Al-Oula to stop publishing testimonies from a Moroccan human rights panel, including the testimony from CORCAS chief Khalihenna Ould Rachid that Morocco committed war crimes in Western Sahara. Al-Jarida's owner Ali Anouzla isn't happy:

"The verdict shows that press freedom has moved backwards," he told AFP.

"It is in flagrant contradiction with the spirit of the IER [human rights panel] because it takes away the possibility for citizens to be informed about the leaden years, while the IER wanted precisely the opposite to enable the page to be turned."

Meanwhile, the head of the Consulative Council on Human Rights, which wanted publication to stop, was pleased with the verdict. He said the publications would leave the testimonies for examination by historians, not journalists hustling for scoops. If you forgot your government-stooge to English translator at home, he means that he wants to hide the testimony until everyone accused in it is dead.

I hope Al-Jarida Al-Oula, if it decides the risk of continuing to publish the testimony isn't worth it, is able to give or sell the documents to a foreign paper (I think Spain would be best). That's not an ideal solution, though, because it makes the information more difficult for Moroccans to reach.

The Councill's censorious action seem like a continuation of the schizophrenia in a lot of Moroccan human rights work--the Council's recommendations on the Years of Lead (ending torture, for example) make it sound like it's made up of reasonable people, but their reaction to the publication of Ould Rachid's testimony suggests it's willing to trash Sahrawis to achieve their own goals.

It reminds me of the commission set up to examine human rights after the Years of Lead that was only too eager to disavow Sahrawi concerns and abandon its Sahara Section. I understand the motivation in both cases--specifically, being able to turn to more conservative Moroccans and say, "Sure, we're liberal on these issues, but at least we're not troublemaking Sahrawis"--but that kind of attitude needs to be ditched if human rights are to be respected in either country.

Obviously a lot of reformers like Ali Lmrabet are honest about Western Sahara. There just aren't enough of them.

Via Laroussi

El Aiaun, stop looking so cool

It's distracting.

Flickr photo from user Sand Run used under a Creative Commons license

Flashback: Moroccan police beating Sahrawi students last year

Looks like Moroccan police always get hot-headed around this time of year. Last month's attack on Sahrawi students wasn't a unique event, as this Associated Press story that ran in the International Herald Tribune last year shows:
Students pointed to red stains on the pavement that they said were blood from three injured students. They said police arrested 10 students, bundling them into vans while still wrapped in blankets. Police took money and mobile phones from students, Slimane added.

Police then blockaded an avenue running in front of the housing complex. In mid-morning, around 60 riot police wielding truncheons charged some 50 Saharawi students who had remained at the scene. The students retaliated by throwing stones before scattering as police chased them through university grounds.
Emphasis mine. That attack went down at Mohammed V University in Rabat instead of Marrakesh University, the lessons are the same: Morocco is doing a terrible job convincing young Sahrawis they can live peacefully in Morocco.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CORCAS chief Khalihenna Ould Rachid accuses Moroccans of war crimes

Once the head of Spanish-backed party PUNS, Khalihenna "Kelly" Ould Rachid is now the head of Mohammed VI's CORCAS. Basically, his career hasn't changed much in 33 years--lying for one colonial power isn't that different from lying for another. In 2005, however, he did something new: speaking truth to power.

According to documents published by Moroccan newspaper Al-Jarida Al-Oula this month, Ould Rachid told a Moroccan human rights commission that Moroccan officials committed war crimes against Sahrawis. Rachid said some high-ranking Moroccans abused prisoners of war and had civilian Sahrawis thrown out of helicopters or buried alive.

The testimony was supposed to be kept private, but Al-Jarida Al-Oula was able to obtain the trascript anyway. Despite pressure to cease publication, they say they'll continue printing more of Ould Rachid's testimony. I'm looking forward to more, especially since this could impact Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon's investigation in Moroccan war crimes in the invasion and occupation of Western Sahara.

I'm sure Kelly's bosses aren't happy with him right now.

New book promotes Moroccan autonomy plan

Nick Brooks, last known for exposing MINURSO graffiti, writes about Saharan Conflict, a soon-to-be-published pro-autonomy book by Moroccan professor Abdelhamid El Ouali:
From the publisher’s description, it seems pretty clear that this book represents an attempt to give Rabat’s “autonomy plan” some academic legitimacy and produce a “respectable” work to which policy makers can refer when making the case for supporting Morocco’s consolidation, and possible extension, of is occupation of Western Sahara. As such it appears to be part of Morocco’s increasingly sophisticated and well-resourced propaganda and PR campaign (more on this in future posts). One purpose of the book is, no doubt, to give the appearance that “objective” academic analysis favours Morocco’s position.
More as this develops. I've requested a review copy from the publisher, so hopefully soon all will be revealed about

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Damn, Burundi know how to treat the girls (and SADR)

"We recognize SADR again? AWESOME."

Burundi's has diplomatic relations with SADR again. Burundi originally recognized SADR soon after in 1976, the same year the state was founded, but froze recognition in 2006. It just couldn't resist SADR's advances, though, so on Monday Burundi's foreign minister gave a SADR diplomat a note reestablishing relations. Rumor has it that she also sang "I'm Getting Back to Getting Back Into You" by the Silver Jews:
Baby won't you take this magnet
Maybe put my picture back on the fridge
I must've been crazy to let you get away like you did
Nice of Burundi to unfreeze relations, but boy is that a messed-up country. Rwanda gets more press for Hutu-Tutsi trouble, but Burundi has more than its fair share. I bring it up because I was reading in Dangerous Places, my go-to for travel porn, about all Burundi's roving bands of murderers.

Flickr photo from user enricod used under a Creative Commons license

Monday, June 16, 2008

Yours, Landmine, and Ours: Polisario destroys another stockpile

Land mines, along with cluster bombs and poisoned gas, are some of the most noxious weapons. That's why Polisario deserves to be commended for destroying 2,000 mines in its stockpile last month.

According to the Polisario spokesman in that press release, Morocco has been less enthusiastic about destroying their own mines. I think Morocco has more of a use for land mines than Polisario, primarily because in the last war Morocco played a more defensive role. All the pragmatic excuses on either side, though, won't be enough the next time a civilian steps on one of the mines. Morocco and Polisario need to continue demining with MINURSO's help.

SADR oil deal boosts company's stock

Investors can make or lose fortunes on the results of one stock bet, and in at least one case they're betting on Western Sahara. Tower Resources, a British oil exploration company, experienced a bump in its stock price after announcing it had acquired a license to explore for oil off Western Sahara's coast. Unlike other companies, though, Tower's deal is different: its deal is with SADR, so it can only explore once Western Sahara is independent.

Tower obtained the license by buying Comet, which previously held the license. I would've thought the SADR license wouldn't have had a great effect on Tower's stock, given the seemingly-remote chances for Western Saharan independence any time soon. Apparently stock buyers feel more optimistic. It's heartening to see people who are probably more interested in profits than self-determination placing money on independence.

What happened to Western Sahara Online

The passing of Western Sahara Online into the lapsed domain ether is a great loss for Western Sahara on the internet. It offered the best English-language introduction to the conflict available on the internet (ARSO is more of a fantastic tip sheet for the already converted), and the cartoons were cool too. It also handily beat its Moroccan doppelganger. So what happened?

Webmaster Khatry Beirouk was just too busy. He said he had some other reasons, but that seems to be at the core of it. Khatry has saved the website's information and may someday relaunch WSO. Until then, though, there is a great opportunity for a new, well-designed site to introduce people to Western Sahara.

While I'm sad to see the site go on hiatus, the work Khatry did through it was invaluable. I know at least one person who linked to the site in their email signature, and I put the URL on flyers distributed on cars around the Moroccan embassy (including Ambassador Aziz Mekouar's). It'll be hard to imitate WSO's success, but I hope someone will try.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Claude Moniquet Story Corner

Time to check in again with Claude Moniquet. Nothing hinders his rise as a premier quote-generator, not even publishing the worst Western Sahara report of its generation. He appeared in a late May article in the New York Times about terrorist women on the internet, freaking out about Muslims as usual:
“Women are coming of age in jihad and are entering a world once reserved for men,” said Claude Moniquet, president of the Brussels-based European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. “Malika is a role model, an icon who is bold enough to identify herself. She plays a very important strategic role as a source of inspiration. She’s very clever — and extremely dangerous.
I bet Claude's heard that Che Guevara's sleeping on her couch. Anyway, this is just a roundabout way of telling you about the most exciting moment in my Western Sahara time, and how it became my most disappointing.

Like a lot of other hipsters, I went to the UN's IV Committee on Decolonization. When I went with Chasli to get our gallery badges, I only saw one name I recognized on the visitor's passes: Claude Moniquet! The idea of being in a confined space with Morocco's Own Hobbit got me hot and bothered. My anticipation turned to despair, however, as the Committee closed with no sign of Claude.

Do you have a Claude Moniquet story, preferably one where he jilted you? Share it in the comments.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Algeria and Portugal work together for Sahrawi self-determination

Or so says Portugal News Online. Unlike its neighbor that's actually responsible for a lot of Western Sahara, Portugal chose self-determination over imposed autonomy.

Sahrawi human rights worker released for no given reason

Asfari being led away by police

Ennaâma Asfari, founder of the Sahrawi human rights organization CORELSO and until recently a political prisoner, was released from jail this morning only three days before his trial. There's no official reason for his release, but attention from Amnesty didn't hurt. I did a bad job covering Asfari's case, but ASVDH has a lot of information about it.

Asfari's far from done with the Moroccan "justice" system, of course--rare is the politically active Sahrawi who can stay away from it for long. He might have to go back to jail anyway to get his belongings, which weren't returned to him when he was released. Getting out of jail and not getting mugged by police? These Sahrawis keep getting more demanding.

Flickr photo from Saharauiak used under a Creative Commons license

Thursday, June 12, 2008

If you were occupying Western Sahara, how would you win Sahrawi hearts?

These guys don't know what to do.

The Moroccan administrators of Western Sahara and the Sahrawis who work with them aren't exactly experts at winning Sahrawi hearts and minds. The frustrating status quo continues in Western Sahara, but authorities seem more interested in antagonizing Sahrawis over stupid things than in convincing them Moroccan rule is a pretty good second choice to independence.

Play Devil's Advocate (or Stephen Levitt) and think about what you would do if you were trying to keep Western Sahara quiet.

The first thing I would do is crack down on the harassment and assault of Sahrawis, especially students, by Moroccans. All it does is convince Sahrawis they can't live freely with Moroccans and force them to rely on one another, creating the kind of tight-knit ethnic groups Moroccan authorities should avoid.

What would you do to keep Sahrawis under occupation happy, or at least not unhappy enough to demonstrate?

Flickr photo from user Saharauiak used under a Creative Commons license

If you can make it in Agadir, you can make it anywhere

Sup Agadir? According to my analytics, readers in that town in southern Morocco (i.e. not Western Sahara) spend an average of almost 10 minutes on One Hump per visit, which is longer than any other Moroccan city. To celebrate, some facts about Agadir:
  • It's the world's largest tuna port.
  • In 1960, 15,000 people were killed there by an earthquake. Hassan II's pop was kind enough to undertake a massive rebuilding effort.
  • The picture of its beach on Wikipedia seems to feature a dead cow. Can't someone please take another picture of Agadir's beach?
Have any readers been to Agadir? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stopping the occupation on the high seas

A Jinhui shipping vessel

Looks like asking nicely does work sometimes, as long as they're a little shaming mixed in. Through a campaign that, at its heart, just told shipping companies what they were doing was wrong, Western Sahara Resource Watch convinced three shipping companies to stop carrying plundered Western Saharan phosphates. The three companies--Hong Kong's Jinhui, and Norway's Arnesen and R-Bulk--agreed to stop taking contracts for Western Sahara's phosphates, though Jinhui insists it was just carrying out an old contract made by a boat's previous owner.

Along with getting France and the United States to stop supporting Morocco and convincing ordinary Moroccans of the referendum's righteousness, the other part of ending the occupation is making repressing Western Sahara more expensive to Morocco. Making it more difficult for Morocco to hock plundered phosphate on the global market is a necessary part of that campaign, and becomes even more important as the price of phosphates rises.

There's even more good news to come: Afrol News predicts more shipping companies will soon stop working with Western Sahara's phosphate extracters.

Photo from Western Sahara Resource Watch

King Mohammed VI stars in a music video

Update: I took down the link to the video because I realized I was doing exactly what I always say is a bad idea: needlessly antagonizing ordinary Moroccans. It's a learning opportunity.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chinese journalist signs on for risky mission in Western Sahara

The South China Morning Post has a great article about Western Sahara that interviews people on both sides of the Berm, including the vice-president of ASVDH, the current commander of MINURSO, and a Sahrawi whose grandson was killed by a cluster bomb. The writer also talks to two Sahrawi women who make an unusual request:
Muda and her friends, all grandmothers, are keen to show they are still engaged in the struggle. Gathering swathes of red, green, black and white cloth, they stitch together a Polisario flag on their Chinese sewing machine. 'Take this with you when you go to the occupied territory and bury it in the sand of our birthplace,' they request. 'And when you are safely away from the Moroccan oppressors, the east wind will blow away the sand and our flag will be free.'
Surprisingly, the writer agrees and takes the flag with him after talking to another elderly Sahrawi:
Shaking hands with the nearly blind septuagenarian, I take my leave from his tent and begin my journey back to the occupied territory. There I will fulfil my promise to the Sahrawi grandmothers and plant their flag in the Western Sahara sands. Who knows where the east wind will take it when freed.
That takes guts. Any Moroccan guard who searches the writer's baggage isn't going to be too pleased to find a Polisario flag. It's a good piece and meatier than what usually passes for media coverage of Western Sahara. There's also an unusually good explanation of the beginnings of the Western Sahara conflict.

Flickr photo from user Saharauiak used under a Creative Commons license

Hey, ustaata, leave those kids alone!

Students in Morocco took their college entrance exams for last week. Good on you, Moroccan and Sahrawi students. I hope everyone gets into the school of their choice.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Great Australian video about plundered Western Saharan phosphates

The 7.30 Report on Australia's ABC network produced an excellent piece on Australia's addiction to Western Saharan phosphates. The video focuses on Malainin Lakhal's efforts to raise awareness of Western Sahara's exploitation in Australia and convince Australian fertilizer companies to stop using phosphates from Western Sahara.

The saddest part for me were the Australian farmers who seemed like nice people but were unable to find alternatives to fertilizers containing plundered phosphate. The happiest part was the surprise appearance by Stephen Zunes.

Overall, excellent effort by both ABC's journalists, Malainin, Zunes, and the Australian activists who doubtless worked behind the scenes to make this report happen.

Beat government censorship and access Wordpress blogs

Lorelle on Wordpress has ways to access blocked Wordpress blogs that I want to pass along. I don't know of any Western Sahara blogs that are on Wordpress, but given the Moroccan government's penchant for banning everything good on the internet, from Youtube to ARSO, it can't be long before one's created then blocked.

Besides, the tips in the post on accessing blocked blogs (proxies, mainly) work for other sites too.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pro-Sahrawi singer Khaled assaulted in Morocco

Who could hate that face?

In 2003, American country listeners boycotted the Dixie Chicks for opposing the invasion of Iraq. The boycott was unnecessary and, as it turns out, on the wrong side of history. The reaction to the Dixie Chicks, though, looks downright reasonable compared to Moroccan attack Algerian rai singer Khaled just for waving a SADR flag in Spain.
Spectators had thrown items at the singer while on stage and a glass bottle reportedly hit his leg. Khaled thus interrupted his performance but later got back on stage. The act was understood as "a reprisal against the singer who waved the flag of the Western Sahara - occupied by Morocco - in one of his concerts in Spain."
Obviously, assaulting a rai singer puts the Moroccan culprits in great company. I would understand their anger a little more if Khaled was waving a SADR flag at the Moroccan concert (even though that kind of full-frontal honesty is exactly what's needed), but he was in another country when he waved the flag. Also, was anyone actually surprised that an Algerian supports Polisario?

The saddest part is that Khaled seems like such a nice guy. He's apparently all about democracy and feminism, going so far as to sing a song about a woman who refuses a suitor's gifts because what she really wants are equal rights and respect

Thanks to the internet, I'm currently jamming to Khaled's "El Harba". What other rai is worth checking out?

Update: Alle points out that Khaled was scheduled to play this year's Dakhla Festival in occupied Western Sahara, but this article about the festival suggests he cancelled: "Sunday evening, Khaled declared fixed price for health reasons, officially, but the festival ones was convainced that Algeria had made pressure on the icon of the raï."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Hacker hits SADR website

It looks like SADR site RASD-State has been visited by a hacker. Calling him or herself "The X-Hacker," the hacker changed the front page so it delivered an invalid character message. An Arabic message left behind by the hacker translates to "This is hacked by ThE X-HaCkEr
my regards to the dreaded/destructive scorpion", according to commenter Desertman.

As hacking attacks go, it's not that effective. The site's running, the political message (if there was one) is oblique, and pages away past from main page are untouched. Still, it's time for Polisario to round up some script kiddies and get revenge.

Via an astute commenter

Polisario blogging in the icy north

Reindeer, universal health care, lutefisk--Scandinavians get all the best stuff. They also had one more good thing I wasn't aware of: Polisario Sweden, the only Polisario government blog in English and maybe the only one, period.

It's been a while since the last update (almost 8 months), but the first post was in November 2005. Scandinavians sure are crazy about Western Sahara (with admirable results), and I think this blog has something to do with it. Will SADR ambassador to North America Mouloud Said soon be compiling his blogroll and setting up a Photobucket account? I hope so!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Join the Western Sahara Facebook group

You know you want to. With 897 members, we're only 3 away from 900! When last I wrote about Western Sahara Facebook skirmishes, we weren't nearly as big. Check out the benefits to joining:
  • Mobilizing like-minded people for Western Sahara campaigns. I have a broadcast message coming up about a petition that will go out to all 897 members--score!
  • Contacting cool people from all over the world (all right, mainly Scandinavia).
  • A Real-Sahara-Watch-esque troll named Moroccan Saharoui who has added some great pics of Western Sahara's cities
  • Dedicated One Hump readers get a little officer title, as long as I can think of something clever
  • Opportunities to raid pro-occupation Facebook groups.
I'd say the best thing about joining the group (and making an account if you don't have one already), though, is that for every new member Moulay Rachid cries a little more.

New York Times covers Western Sahara

Kudos to the New York Times, which published the most balanced take yet on the Moroccan-American Center for Policy's traveling Sahrawi show (otherwise known as Holley Bonus Pay Tour '08). Compared to the other articles that took the MACP's word as gospel, the Times does something interesting--essentially, writing a story about the human rights violations in Tindouf story.
But were the refugees’ depictions of life in the camps overstated, as some human rights workers wonder? And were they brought to the United States to advance a foreign country’s claim on their homeland?
I liked that this article, unless the Associated Press's, used persuasive sources to talk about human rights abuses in Western Sahara. There wasn't nearly as much talk about Moroccan human rights

Two other things about the article annoyed me. First, Robert Holley gets the last word, seemingly reasserting his point of view against the earlier doubts. Why not quote SADR ambassador Mouloud Said in the end, or an unbiased NGO? I know I sound like a talk radio caller railing against the biased liberal media, but there it is.

Second, why does the Times need a Moroccan-sponsored publicity tour to write an article about Western Sahara? It's one of the most oppressed places in the world, but they can't bother to send a reporter. Potential stories abound--union busting at Bou Craa, students being thrown out of windows--but unless the interviewees are only a few blocks from the Times office, no one there thinks about Western Sahara.

A lot better than what's generally been coming out of this lobbying offensive, though. Plus, this is a great time to get a letter in the most respected U.S. newspaper about Western Sahara.

Photo from Flickr user wallyg used under a Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Occupation damaging Western Sahara's environment

Painting by Fadel Jalifa. More like it in the paper!

That's the judgment of a paper about Western Sahara's environment (PDF) under Spanish and Moroccan rule. Written by Axel Goldau (not to be confused with commenter Ax) and translated by Nele Saworski, it faults Spaniards with overhunting Saharan animals and hurting biodiversity.

Morocco gets off no better, from allowing Saudis to hunt gazelles in the territory to producing environmental data that displays an embarrassing lack of knowledge about area wildlife. The only good news in the paper, really, are the great paintings by Fadel Jalifa like the one above.

Great argument against another Polisario-Morocco war

A picture of the decayed body of a Moroccan soldier. It's sobering to think that all the talk about Polisario's ability to threaten war or Morocco's plans to invade the liberated zone comes down to corpses buried in sand.

The accompanying article has a good article about the voyeurism and shame of being a war correspondent.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Moroccan soldiers attack Sahrawi and Moroccan students in Marrakesh

It seems something unites previously-fractious Sahrawi and Moroccan students at Marrakesh University: they're both not jackboot thugs, and they get repressed by the same. On the 17th of May Moroccan police stormed the campus, and while we're just getting the images recently, one thing's clear: it was bad.

Demonstrations started after 19 Moroccans got food poisoning. It seems as though the Sahrawis used student anger to call for self-determination. Police officers uninterested in compromise and negotiation responded, and threw 2 Sahrawis and 1 Moroccan out of windows and shot tear gas at other students (video of the tear gas attack's aftermath).

The Norwegian Support Committee has several other videos shot by Rabab Amidane before, during, and after the assault on campus. I was affected by this one, showing all the university rooms ransacked by Moroccan police. It's sad to see these rooms touched by the hand of a Moroccan elite afraid of its own sons and daughters.

This anti-student bias isn't limited to the police: according one of the videos, some in Marrakesh are refusing to rent to the rebellious students, leaving them to sleep on the streets or in internet cafes.

I recently read Joseph Califano's The Student Revolution, a book about unrest at universities across the world in 1968. One of Califano's themes is that poor university conditions allowed small radical groups of students to win support from the student mainstream for their off-campus politics. Maybe the same thing will happen in Morocco, as Sahrawis are able to mix with politically-active Moroccans on student issues.

Update: the Moroccan student isn't dead, fortunately. I'm sorry for the mistake.

Sahrawi youths carrying SADR ID cards under occupation

According to my source in El Aiaun, some Sahrawi youth are carrying SADR ID cards like the one above as a silent form of protest against the Moroccan occupation. The card Moroccan authorities would rather they carry can be seen here.

They got their cards while living in Tindouf, but eventually returned to Western Sahara after camp life became too hard. My guy in Western Sahara says one person he knows with the card uses it to keep hope for a free Western Sahara, while another plans to use the card to claim SADR citizenship once he reaches Spain.

Obviously, I'm not in Western Sahara to confirm this, but it seems true to me. I worry for the people carrying the cards, though--I don't think Moroccan security forces will be pleased if they find the cards on the youths.