Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Polisario Confidential takes me prime time

Polisario Confidential, the anti-Western Sahara blog run by a Moroccan spy agency, is finally paying me back for all the love I've shown them. They used the above picture in a post (translated) about SADR president Mohammed Abdelaziz meeting image consultants in New York City.

You might think the charmer on the right is some big New York mover-shaker, but it's actually me. They used a picture from when I met Abdelaziz last year, and Alle caught them. One imagines Polisario Confidential's thought process went like this:
Q:Where can we find a picture of Abdelaziz with a white guy?
A: One Hump or Two!
The whole thing's a treat, and I have to thank Polisario Confidential for brightening my day.

I wasn't in New York City for that picture, but I will be there next week for the United Nations IV Committee. If you're going to be around Tuesday or Wednesday, send me an email and we'll hang out.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Let's do some links

The agents in Operation: Back to Blogging have been neutralized this week by their rivals in Operation: Girlfriend Visit, but we should have another team in the field Monday. Until then, some links to things that could've been posts:
  • Malawi drops recognition of SADR. They said they're doing it to encourage a UN-backed negotiated solution, but their way of supporting negotiations (undermining one of the parties) is unorthodox.
  • Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attacked some Mauritanian soldiers, and killed or captured them. Nick Brooks ruminates.
  • 21 year-old Sahrawi political prisoner Bachir Khadda was released this week after serving his ten month sentence. Congratulations to Mr. Khadda and his family.
Here's hoping more prisoners will be coming out soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Aminatou Haidar wins RFK Memorial Human Rights Award

All right! 21 years after Moroccan police arrested her for a pro-referendum demonstration, Aminatou Haidar is winning the RFK Memorial Human Rights Award. There was talk of this Monday, but it's twice as exciting now that it's official. Suzanne Scholte (who knows a little about human rights awards herself) nominated Haidar, and the usual cast of characters, including the irascible Frank Ruddy, helped out with references.

In the press release I linked above, Ted Kennedy congratulates Haidar for winning and for her human rights work. Here's the best part:
“The RFK Human Rights Award not only recognizes a courageous human rights defender but marks the beginning of the RFK Center’s long-term partnership with Ms. Haidar and our commitment to work closely with her to realize the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people,” said Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights.
Getting a first family of American politics behind self-determination? That's a pretty good deal. There's a reception in November, so if I go to that we'll get pictures and, fingers-crossed, video.

I feel like this is a coming-out party for US Western Sahara activists. There've been great scores in the past, but I think this is the biggest thing in the past couple of years. We're here, we want a referendum, get used to it.

Polisario Confidential's top sources: news agencies and hallucinogens

Whatever Morocco is paying the spies who run Polisario Confidential, it's too much. The site's first big scoop was Polisario's hiring of Independent Diplomat, something most people following the Front knew about months before. Polisario Confidential's new big story comes courtesy of unnamed sources, so you know it's heavy stuff: Christopher WS Ross is the new Western Sahara mediator:
According to Polisario-Confidential sources and less than three weeks after the departure of UN secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara, Mr. Peter Van Walsum, it seems that Christopher Ross will be his successor as mediator in the Sahara issue.
Emphasis mine. Polisario Confidential must be sharing sources with Agence France-Presse, but no matter--they know the next president of Afghanistan.
The very skilful ambassador of the United States to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad probable candidate to the presidency… of Afghanistan, has led the negotiations between Morocco and Algeria and tried to identify a new envoy on what the parties could agree on.
Morocco could enjoy these Keystone Cops shenanigans, but there's a boom in underage marriages to avert.

By the way, I was AWOL during Van Walsum's resignation and Ross's appointment, but Alle covered it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Aminatou Haidar wins Robert Kennedy award?

Maybe. UPES is saying (translated) Haidar, the Sahrawi human rights activist, won the RFK Memorial Human Rights Award. I called Saranah Holmes at the RFK Memorial, and she said they can't talk about whether Haidar won until a press release coming later this week.

I expect she did win, though, and UPES is just acting on inside information. If they weren't sure, why would they put Sahrawis and Haidar at risk for embarassment? Haidar would be a great choice, anyway. From the Memorial's description of the award:

The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was established in 1984 by his eldest child, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, to honor courageous and innovative individuals striving for social justice throughout the world. Each year, the Memorial awards an individual whose courageous activism is at the heart of the human rights movement and in the spirit of Robert F. Kennedy’s vision and legacy. The Human Rights Award winners or "Laureates" have made significant contributions to their countries through years of dedicated work....The Memorial offers not only a monetary contribution to their cause, but a partnership, through RFK Center, in the fight against human rights violations.
Emphasis mine. Winning would mean not only better attention for Haidar and Sahrawi human rights, but another third party interested in protecting Haidar from Moroccan attacks.

Via anonymous commenter

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Moroccan police brutalize protester in Sidi Ifni

This guy is getting beaten up for participating in protests last month in Sidi Ifni, Morocco. The protests weren't related to Western Sahara, but the video gives you a sense of the way Moroccan police treat protesters.

Republican party platform praises Morocco

While Republicans in and out of elected office do great work for Western Sahara, there's more evidence that Democratic candidates stand the best chance of helping Western Sahara this year. From the Republican election platform:
The momentum of change in the Middle East has been in the right direction. From Morocco to the Gulf States, the overall trend has been toward cooperation and social and economic development, especially with regard to the rights of women. We acknowledge the substantial assistance the U.S. has received from most governments in the region in the war on terror.
This might be only a rhetorical flourish, but singling out Morocco for its enlightened government (changes Sahrawi beat them to) while it continues to oppress Western Sahara means a tacit endorsement of the occupation. The Democrats are just as bad at ignoring Western Sahara, but at least they aren't giving Morocco pats on the back.

Via Stephen Zunes

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Suzanne Scholte wins prize for Western Saharan activism

Props are in order for Western Sahara activist Suzanne Scholte, who won the Seoul Peace Prize two weeks ago for her work for North Koreans and Sahrawis in the Defense Forum Foundation. Suzanne does great work for Western Sahara, so she more than deserves the $200,000 (!) prize money.

To get a sense of what a big deal this prize is, it's been won in the past by Muhammed Yunus, Kofi Annan, and Vaclav Havel. Nice work, Suzanne.