EU supporting military occupation

For thirty eight years the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco has been largely ignored by the rest of the world. The reasons for this aren't profound. It's sparsely populated, difficult to get to, and not particularly strategically important. It is also one of the greatest moral failures in the international community's modern history.

In 1975, in violation of a World Court judgement, Morocco invaded the former Spanish colony and effectively annexed it. The people who lived in the territory, the Sahrawi, fled in their thousands as their villages were burned and livestock slaughtered.

Tens of thousands were driven into refugee camps across the border with Algeria where they remain to this day, surviving as best they can on pitiful levels of humanitarian aid. Those who stayed in their homes face severe repression in a police state which maintains an armed force over 100,000 strong for a population of just 500,000.

The story of Western Sahara is one riddled with injustice and cruelty, but its latest chapter is particularly shameful. On Tuesday, International Human Rights Day, the European Parliament voted to approve an agreement that not only provides moral cover for the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, it provides material support for it.

The EU agreement grants access to Moroccan waters for European fishing companies, the majority of them Spanish, in return for payments of around $55m. It also provides access, in direct contravention of a UN legal counsel statement from 2002, to Western Sahara's waters.

The Sahrawi have not been consulted about this and do not consent to it. Both representatives in the refugee camps and activists in the occupied territory have publicly denounced the EU agreement, which they claim is an attack on their right to self-determination, and acts to support the occupation.

It isn't possible to counter this argument, because it happens to be correct, so Morocco has resorted instead to more force. In Western Sahara's capital Laayoune, protests against the agreement — again, held on International Human Rights Day — were met with a brutal police and army response which has been caught on video.

This is typical. Any Sahrawi who dare to speak out at all in the territory, let alone about lucrative international contracts, are subjected to a vicious campaign of repression by Moroccan security forces.

When I was last in the occupied territory (undercover, as access is very restricted) a young woman, no older then 30, showed me a set of prosthetic teeth she now wears as a result of what happened  on last year's International Human Rights Day. Her name was Salimah, and she says she had been beaten so badly by Moroccan security forces that all six of her lower front teeth were smashed in.

It was in Western Sahara in October 2010 that the Arab Spring revolts began, and where they were most effectively crushed by state power. European leaders have repeatedly claimed to support  democratic Arab Spring movements and the spirit of freedom and justice they were built on. Should the EU proceed in supporting the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara in this manner, it will be difficult to conclude that European rhetoric about democracy, freedom, and human rights amounts to anything other than neat hypocrisy.

The Independent


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Reader Comments

Mr Stevenson has been travelling freely all over Morocco and enjoying the hospitality and the safety provided by the Moroccan state. I would like to see him try and do the same in any other country in the region( Algeria, Mauritania, Tindouf camps). No, hes not dum, he knows he would be shackled and held hostage until ransom is paid. Welcome to Morocco Sir, here are some facts.
-There was never a nation in the Sahara until created by colonialists and paternalistic minds like the author.
- 95% of the population is perfectly happy, enjoying Moroccan prosperity, education and peace.
- The most you could come up with was somebody that was mistreated in the hand of the police, how many can claim the same in any major western city any given time?
- Morocco has invested billions developing the south. Would you rather have a duplication of Somalia on the Atlantic?
- You either bleeding heart in search for a cause, then you have the Royingas dying by the 1000s in Burma or the Chechens suppressed by Russia. I suspect youre being wined and dined by the Algerian Consulate, they pay for your trips and "contribute" to your cause and standard of living.

thank you tom you are one of the free voices in this world, M6 the thief of marocco is colonising both western sahara also the freedom and the humanity of moroccos people

Its not Morocco which has to kidnap children and send them to indoctrination camps in Cuba and occupied Tindouf. Fear God you separatist terrorist.

Morocco occupying its own land?
Please write something useful, original and informative.

How much Algerian petrodollars did you receive to write this scandalous article Tom?

The Sahara is Moroccan and it will never be Western!