The Arab Spring began in the Western Sahara. In late 2010, the indigenous Saharawi population of this territory demonstrated against the occupying Moroccan authorities. Their demonstrations were violently put down. Eleven Saharawis were killed.
But this is one part of the Arab Spring that western governments don’t want to talk about. And their silence, and the UN’s complicity in it, is why that repression continues, and a terrible injustice is perpetuated.
Western Sahara was invaded by Morocco in 1975. Its indigenous population was, in contemporary parlance, ethnically cleansed. Around 150,000 of those driven out remain in isolated refugee camps in the Algerian Sahara: in tents, in the middle of the desert (I have been there; it is grim). The Saharawis, fought back in a guerrilla war that lasted until a ceasefire in 1991. The centerpiece of that ceasefire, repeatedly endorsed by the UN and international community, was that there would be a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to decide the future of the territory, and in particular whether it would be a independent state.
That referendum has never taken place. Western Sahara remains Africa’s last colony. Morocco successfully delayed and manipulated the UN organization of the referendum until it ground to a halt. The UN attempts to get “the parties” to agree on a way forward. There has been no progress: Morocco refuses even to discuss a referendum. For this obstruction, Morocco pays no price whatsoever.
Read this please. I abhor the term “Arab Spring,” but this article needs to be read and shared widely.
The Guardian has been on a roll with coverage on Morocco as of late.
Issandr El Amrani (better known as The Arabist) published a piece entitled “Morocco’s Second Spring,” and Tumblr’s own Torie Rose DeGhett, the force behind the amazing Political Notebook also had a piece out this morning: “El Haqed, Morocco’s hip hop revolutionary.”