What happens in Sahara, stays in Sahara
by Marius Gorochovskis
This expression can be applied to what is happening in Western Sahara at the moment. This poor African region which got its independence from Spain in 1976 has actually never been independent due to pretensions of Morocco (it claims the region always being its old and lost territory). And suddenly, when there‘s only a month left until the discussions about the region in the United Nations, Morocco started a hit against the camp of Saharawi (people of Western Sahara), who are complaining about the economic conditions in the country.
While Spanish media is crammed of the news from the region, international media is only announcing main facts (CNN, BBC News) or hardly telling anything at all (Lithuanian press). On one hand it is understandable – Morocco doesn’t provide almost any information about what’s happening in its controlled territory neither allows foreign journalists to enter the country. It is very common tactics, especially if the state needs to hide such facts as having killed almost 20 people (Saharawi journalists report 19 deaths), more than 700 wounded and 150 missing. The death toll can be much higher since the bodies are buried in mass graves and the families of the victims being threatened to leave the house or to tell about what’s happening. But in the age of social media it is almost impossible to hide yourself from the publicity and everything the state does finally reaches the daylight.
There are only a quarter million of people living in the country which has a pretty big territory and is rich in phosphates and fishing coasts. Polisario movement has been fighting for independence for decades but the government of Morocco is always postponing it or raising conditions which are obviously unsatisfactory for the Saharawi people (e.g., letting to vote everyone who has been living in the country for one year in the referendum for independence/integration to Morocco so the latter one would be accepted). There are many people living in refugee camps in Algeria and Mauritania which also have border lines with the country and supports its sovereignty. But all is left for the negotiation between the UN, Morocco and Western Sahara later this year and early 2011.
Actions of Rabat have already been named as a crime against the humanity. Water, live armor, fire and other ammunition has been used against the people of El Aaiún, the capital of Western Sahara. On the other hand, there’s always another side of the story. Saharawi are not very pacifistic and do not avoid using guns themselves. The only report Moroccan government published was stating that the riot started when the national police came to the camp to disperse the campers using just water and then angry Polisario members stabbed a policeman and a fireman. In total, it is said, 8 officers have been killed in a few days of encounter. Obviously, the numbers are not adequate and especially since everything took part just before the major event which will regard the region’s matters.
Spanish regions are voting in favor to giving an official note to Morocco but it seems to be the only action of international society. Watching the world supporting its actions, the officials of the aggressor country can only keep on executing this holocaust.
Marius Gorochovskis is a 4th of Communication sciences studying at Universidad Europea de Madrid and experiencing life in the capital of Spain. This time he was our guest to share his ideas about the things happening in Morocco.