Monday, July 28, 2008

Wahda camps closed--Moroccan government's first smart move in a long time

At times it seems like the Moroccan occupation is deliberately trying to screw up. Rather than win Sahrawi hearts and minds, it wounds their hearts and acts like they don't have minds. So when they actually do something right, it's surprising. When it actually helps Sahrawis, it's even better.

The dismantling of the Wahda camps is exactly that. The camps were constructed after the 1991 Settlement Plan was signed. They were built to house Moroccans from the south of Morocco who were forced into Western Sahara to vote (unfairly) in the referendum. Many of the people shipped in were ethnic Sahrawis.

Conditions in the camps were so bad that Alle at Western Sahara Info calls the camps another Tindouf. The poor conditions seem to have radicalized the imported population--Sahrawi activist Ali Salem Tamek was one of the Sahrawis brought in 1991(not actually true), and Wahda Sahrawis participated in the 2005 Intifada. Morocco's decision to stop this politicizing was wise, but I don't think they'll be able to win back their former pet Sahrawis any time soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Update on Dakhla fishermen attack

Cahiers du Sahara has more (translation) on Tuesday's attack on Sahrawi fishermen. 42 people were injured, shops were burned, and one person is still missing.

Things were a lot better when Morocco tried to rule a country through internet antics, rather than random violence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I. William Zartman likes his presidents white, old

Morocco's hatchet man in academia, I. William Zartman, has the same tastes in politicians as some of Morocco's other favorite US citizens.

Like Moroccan-American Center for Policy employee Paul Jordan, Zartman likes Republicans, and puts money on it. He and his wife each gave the maximum limit of $2,300 to Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign, and more recently they have John McCain $650 and $550, respectively.

Between this and Robert Holley's donations to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama is clearly the choice of Western Sahara supporters.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bleeding Dakhla: Moroccan settlers attack Sahrawis, injure 60

Whenever someone tells you unrest is Western Sahara is just about economic concerns, call him a liar. In Western Sahara (like everywhere else), the economic is political and the political is ethnic. It's all a Gordian knot that will only be cut with a referendum, but until then, Sahrawis are going to get the crap kicked out of them (from translated version):
Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of Moroccans, mostly engaged in fishing, attacked in the town of Itereft, 100 kilometers from the city of Dajla, Western Sahara, fishermen and fish traders established Saharans in the area, causing dozens of injuries.

So far it is 57 wounded, five of them extremely serious, and two of those still missing are unaware of the whereabouts, said the chairman of the Committee Against Torture Dajla, El Mami Amar Salem, the Communication Service Saharawi in the Canary Islands (SCSC), through a note sent to afrol News.
The Moroccans, "thousands", according to witnesses, attacked the fishermen and traders Saharans with sticks, knives, diesel and even several axes, burning at least seven vehicle.
Emphasis mine. The article says the attack was meant to dislodge Sahrawis from Dakhla's fishery industry, and speculates that the two missing Sahrawis might have been thrown into the ocean.

This is the kind of outrageous stuff that people like Edward Gabriel and Robert Holley perpetuate from their comfy DC offices, and it's what people like me allow by sitting in identical offices and not doing nearly enough.

The worst thing is that these weren't even all activist Sahrawis--some of them were just trying to make a living, and now they have axe wounds. Occupation advocates will tell you that an independent Sahrawi state couldn't govern itself, that it would descend into lawlessness. They don't realize that this is lawlessness.

Via Sahara Libre and a fast commenter

Pentagon approves Moroccan arms deal

In the latest act of the United States's hit play, We Don't Support Territorial Aggression (Wink Wink)™, the U.S. military has approved the sale of missiles, bombs, and F-16 planes to Morocco. Congress has 30 days to block the sales, but I don't expect anything. It's unfortunate to see US weapons going to perpetuate the occupation of Western Sahara and militarize the Maghreb.

This isn't as upsetting as other weapons deals to Morocco, like Spain's sale of Humvee-like vehicles. Those can be easily used against Sahrawi dissidents, while Morocco's government will have to get a lot crazier to start using bombs and planes against them.

West Papua: Western Sahara in the Pacific

Justin Anthony Knapp comments here prolifically, in addition to frequently sending me great articles about Western Sahara. I asked Justin to write about another colonial issue close to his heart--West Papua.

An intractable dispute between a marginalized colonial possession and a regional power with an ideological agenda. A referendum that promises to be neither to be free or fair. United Nations intervention that only helps the aggressor. Political prisoners held in secret prisons for indefinite sentences. A Western world that has ignored the conflict or given low-level assistance to the aggressor. If this all sounds old hat to you, you may be familiar with West Papua.

Situated on the western half of the island of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea is the other half), West Papua has been in a struggle for self-determination even longer than the Sahrawis have. Under colonialism, Papua was divided between British, Dutch, and German spheres of influence, but like Spanish Sahara, the process of colonization was altogether light and did not destroy the indigenous culture – to this day, over 900 languages are spoken on the island.

As World War II ended, it became evident that Britain's empire could not hold and the Dutch were not interested in maintaining a presence half-way across the globe. The eastern half of the island achieved independence in phases from Australia and the United Kingdom through 1975. The western half of the island, however, was targeted by the nascent Republic of Indonesia, who threatened the Dutch with military action if Papua was not ceded to them.

In 1959, the Netherlands allowed for the first instruments of self-rule on the island: local elections and the creation of national symbols such as a flag. Indonesia, watching its chance for a new possession slip away, invaded in 1962.

By the end of that year, the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority became the first UN agency to administer a territory and was tasked with organizing a referendum to gauge the will of the Papuans. Unable and unwilling to force out the invading Indonesians, the "referendum" devolved into a tribal council of slightly more than 1,000 tribal elders who voted unanimously for integration with Indonesia.

An indigenous movement – the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement or OPM) waged an armed struggle against the Indonesian power, but disarmed in 2006. As a product of the democratization of Indonesia and the disastrous razing of Timor-Leste, Papua was granted autonomy in 2000.

OPM sympathizers claim that this autonomy really a sham (sound familiar?) and rather than self-rule, Indonesia is pursuing a policy of genocide through cultural destruction, religious suppression, and actual mass killings. A high-profile case in 2005-2006 of 43 Papuan refugees fleeing to Australia briefly brought the case national attention there and there are several Australians sympathetic to the OPM cause.

To learn more about the conflict in West Papua:

  • See Peter D. King's West Papua and Indonesia Since Suharto: Independence, Autonomy or Chaos?. This 2004 book is the only mass-market English book available on the conflict. King, an Australian, has been studying Papua for over a quarter century.

  • TAPOL's web page. "Tapol" is a Bahasa Indonesian word for "political prisoner;" the group focuses on human rights issues throughout Indonesia, with a special focus on Aceh, Papua, and Timor.

  • Few Papuan news sites are maintained, and Koteka is the best of them(the name comes from the penis-gourd worn in traditional Papuan garb.)
Anyone who can appreciate the plight of the Sahrawis can understand the anti-colonial struggle in West Papua as well. Papua Merdeka!

Flickr photo from user naturemandala used under a Creative Commons license

Monday, July 21, 2008

Should he stay or should he go?

King Mohammed VI is said to be mulling an abdication. This rumor is in response to his reluctance to leave Europe and actually govern his country. Both of those links come from the same Spanish reporter, Pedro Canales, so they shouldn't be trusted entirely, but it's interesting to ponder consider whether Mohammed VI's abdication would be good or bad for Western Sahara.

The king would probably be replaced by Moulay Rachid, his brother who is said to be wavering on supporting the king. Rachid would hold the country in regency until the king's son came of age. What are Moulay's opinions about Western Sahara?

I'm not sure if an abdication would improve Western Sahara's chances for self-determination. Mohammed VI has treated Sahrawis nearly as brutally as his father did, but the power vacuum resulting from his abdication might encourage nervous army officers and politicians to react harshly to perceived Sahrawi threats.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Polisario Confidential: last year's scoops, today!

Polisario Confidential must really be run by Morocco's best spies, because they've found out something that only someone with top-secret Google Alert technology could know--Polisario has hired Independent Diplomat to help their public relations! Read on only if you can stand some muck on your shoes, because Polisario Confidential is raking it all over the internet:
It is via Sidi Omar, the representative of the Front in England and Ireland that the contact with this lobbying group was made for, according to the contract terms which offers counseling and support to the Front to enhance its international diplomacy, such as helping draft letters to the Security Council.

The classic formula “refunding of expenses” was put in the contract in order to hide the actual “Independent Diplomat Inc” fees.

In fact and as revealed on several occasions by “”, the Polisario Front regularly uses lobbying companies which would be, according to experts in international relations, paid for by Algeria.
Shocking! There's more:
UN-managed talks between the Polisario Front, the government-in-exile of the Saharawis, and Morocco began in the summer of 2007. Independent Diplomat is advising the Polisario on its objective of securing self-determination for the Saharawi people – in the face of strong international backing for Morocco on the Western Sahara for unrelated geo-political reasons.
Wait, I mixed that up. That last quote is actually from Independent Diplomat's website, only two clicks away from the company's homepage. Huh.

Moroccan blogs fume about Western Sahara Global Voices spot

While many people are happy that blog mavens Global Voices started covering Western Sahara, some in Morocco aren't. A blog about Moroccan blogs grumbles (translation from a pal):
The event went unnoticed in the Moroccan blogosphere but as of July

Global Voices is an international site visited by tens of thousands of Internet users each day and covers countries and their blogospheres around the world, and offers translations of blog content.

After three articles devoted to this "new country," the bloggers of the Polisario separatists have welcomed with grand fanfare the consideration of "their country" as an independent entitty within Harvard's site
I'm the listed "bloggers of the Polisario separatists"! Cool. Anyway, this site and any other Moroccans who take issue should realize that Global Voices bases what countries they cover on a list that they don't control.

Now seems like a good to point Renata Avila's post about Sahrawi poetry.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Morocco's Olympic chances

I'm obviously no fan of Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara, but I like Morocco the country--everyone I know who's been there has liked it, and the Moroccan government is nice enough to let my friend study there this semester, despite his affiliation with separatists like me. That's why I hope Morocco and whatever Sahrawis are on its team win as many medals as they want at next month's Olympics.

View from Fez took in Morocco's chances, and pointed out that Morocco has won medals in the past in boxing and track. The taekwondo team is apparently good, too, so I predict a sweep.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Should SADR focus more on Latin America?

thinks so., the co-founder of the Western Sahara Association in California, says in an email he's been circulating that Polisario's past diplomacy has failed and now requires a turn to Latin America:
The ASDR has to focus its attention towards the Latin American realm. Having seen that the Organization of the African Unity is unable to provide both in the United Nations and in its own summits a common voice towards the Saharawi conflict, the only Arab country Spanish speaking has to swing its strategy towards its west. Ahmed Bukhari the Polisario delegate in the United Nations already stated in the Mexican upper congressional house, the Parliament, that from now on the ASDR will try hardly to gather all Latin American countries into the Saharawi cause and certainly it seems to be one of the few open doors for rekindling the hopes of the 200.000 saharawi refugees awaiting good news in westernmost Algeria.
Western Sahara's linguistic link to Spanish-seeking countries in the Americas isn't something that's often discussed, besides the Cuba thing. I'm glad bringing it up.

Still, I wonder how much more Latin America can do for Polisario. Several Latin American countries have extended recognition, and Abdelaziz visited Ecuador. What else remains for them to do?

No Latin American countries are permanent Security Council members, and none of them are aiding the Moroccan occupation. If there's a war they could funnel SADR some weapons and funds, but Algeria can already do that. I think SADR would be better off spending its money on better lobbying efforts in Morocco's allies, France and the United States.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Another attack on Mohammed Daddach

Two days ago, Moroccan police again assaulted Sahrawi human rights activist Mohammed Daddach. They beat him up just for trying to go to a trial of other Sahrawi political prisoners. I'm amazed that Daddach keeps can stand up to all this abuse (he's not a young man) and keep his commitment to Sahrawi self-determination.

Also in that post, Sahrawi political prisoner Abderrahman Zawani is on a hunger strike. His demands seem pretty reasonable: he wants to receive visits and reading material, be classified as a political prisoner, and be held with the other Sahrawi political prisoners. Still, I doubt the Moroccan authorities will allow that easily.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Winter in Miami for Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) is one of Morocco's favorite congressmen, drawn to the occupation by his hatred for part-time Polisario friend Fidel Castro. He shills all the time for Morocco, including co-authoring a letter supporting autonomy.

His shilling days may soon be over, though. Diaz-Balart is only 4% ahead of his Democratic challenger, Raul Martinez, in his congressional race. If Martinez campaigns hard, Morocco might lose one of its favorite backers. Interestingly, Diaz-Balart's brother Mario is only doing a little better in his congressional race.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Western Sahara earns its own Global Voices spot

Global Voices, a site that plucks interesting stories from blogs across the world, has usually lumped Western Sahara stories in with Moroccan news. That changed that last week as Global Voices launched its first glimpse from the Sahrawi blogosphere, a post from Sahrawi TV station RASD-TV.

I'm a little disappointed that the first blog Global Voices chose to profile was a SADR-government one, ignoring in their inaugural post the rich Sahrawi blogosphere unaffiliated with Moroccan or Sahrawi government.

Still, it's a start, and I'm looking forward to learning more about Western Sahara from Global Voices. The writers will look at Sahrawi blogs in all languages, so those of us who can't read Arabic, French, Spanish, and English will get to look at more.

Global Voices is looking for more Sahrawi blogs (including non-political foreign ones--good luck with that!) to write about. If you have any suggestions, comment on the first article.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

I know there's fish out there: EU fishing in Western Sahara

Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis

In 2006, the European Union made a much-reviled deal with Morocco that allowed EU vessels to fish off Moroccan waters. The agreement didn't ban fishing off of Western Sahara's abundant fishery. It didn't specifically allow it, either, but now it turns out EU vessels went ahead and fished anyway.

It took several questions from EU parliament members to find out, but eventually the EU Commission admitted ships had fished in Western Sahara. At minimum, ships from Spain, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom have fished illegally.

The EU is supposed to be a triumph for international law, but it's a failure here. The countries in it don't recognize Morocco's occupation, so it's worse than a Moroccan fishing in Western Sahara who might believe it belongs to his country. Instead, European countries know it's wrong and are doing it anyway.

Stories like these make me wish Polisario still had access to the Atlantic Ocean. In Western Sahara: Roots of a Desert War, there's a story about Polisario soldiers kidnapping Moroccan fishermen in Western Saharan waters. They spirited them to Algeria and, as a diss to Morocco, handed them over to a Canary Islands delegation instead of to their home country's.

Props to the people at Western Sahara Resource Watch for following this so closely. Flickr photo used under a Creative Commons license

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Moroccan king more interested in Europe than Morocco?

That's what Spain's El Imparcial is saying (translation). According to the paper, Mohammed has been staying in France for more than 30 days, and everyone from Moulay Rachid to Nicholas Sarkozy are begging him to go home.

The article goes on to say that the king's absence has caused a shutdown in the government because he is too busy in France to exercise his absolute authority over the country. He's skipping conferences that he's invited to, like the Tokyo Conference on African Development. Moroccan elites are apparently so afraid that they're sending their families out of the country until things calm down.

If it's true, it's a great opening for Sahrawis, both in Polisario and under occupation.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Polisario joins Socialist International as observer

Good on them. Western Sahara Info has more information, but this'll allow Polisario more contact with some of its biggest European supporters. The Moroccan socialist party voted against Polisario's admission, but they were the only ones.

Of course, it'll also give Lincoln Diaz-Balart and the crew at the National Clergy Council another chance to tie Polisario with Cuba, Che, and evil socialism/communism. I was originally going to say that doesn't matter, but I think there's a slim chance a primary challenger on the right of someone like Senator Jim Inhofe could tell voters he supports socialists and win some votes.

Other thoughts, especially from European readers more familiar with these socialist parties?

A little Western Sahara publicity

From your humble blog servant, through Ezra Klein, to you.

The comments about Palestine versus Western Sahara are unnecessary and unproductive (why not free both?), and I wish he hadn't linked to the mediocre Times article about Western Sahara. Still, Phase I of Operation No Living Thing (Not Aware of Western Sahara) is complete.