Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Category: Western Sahara
Morocco: “Let Democracy Reign” in Western Sahara
November 10th, 2010 by Anna
At Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel, Carne Ross
of the diplomatic advisory group Independent Diplomat criticizes
a recent article that calls for autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. He describes “the devastating violence unleashed by Moroccan authorities against the indigenous Saharawi people of Western Sahara in recent days,” including against Sahrawi protesters earlier this week. He argues that “the autonomy proposal is completely at odds with the peace agreement” signed in 1991, and charges that Morocco has undermined progress on the deal, including by challenging the voter registration process. He calls on human rights organizations and foreign governments to condemn the violence and affirms the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. Ross proposes: “let democracy reign. Give the people a vote. Let them decide between Morocco and independence.”
Morocco: Confrontation in Laayoune
November 8th, 2010 by Jason
The BBC reports that three people have been killed in a confrontation between Moroccan security forces and Saharawi protesters in the capital of Western Sahara, Laayoune. The security forces reportedly entered the camp, named Gadaym Izik and housing 12,000 protesters, early in the morning “using helicopters and water cannon to force people to leave.” The violence comes as talks between the Moroccan government and the Polisario movement, which seeks the full independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, are scheduled to begin at the United Nations in New York City. The Polisario’s representative at the talks, Ahmed Boujari
called the forced removal of the protesters “‘a deliberate act to wreck the talks.’”
Freedom House: 5 GMENA Countries Among “Least Free” in the World
July 7th, 2010 by Jennifer
In a piece
in Foreign Policy, Freedom House highlights the twenty nations it has identified as the “least free” in its 2010 Freedom in the World report. Six nations and territories in the Greater Middle East and North Africa (GMENA) are featured in the piece: Libya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara.
Freedom House offers harsh criticism of the human rights and democracy records of the regimes in these areas. Regarding Libya, the piece argues that “despite Libya’s new, more positive image, gross abuse of human rights endures. Organizing or joining anything akin to a political party is punishable with long prison terms and even death.” The piece criticizes President Omar Hassan al-Bashir
of Sudan, pointing to the fact that al-Bashir rules as a military dictator, is accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, and oversaw “highly flawed” elections earlier this year. While giving a nod to some steps at reform recently taken by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah
, it points out that critics view these measures as aimed at consolidating Abdullah’s power, and calls Saudi Arabia “an authoritarian monarchy in which all political power is held by the royal family.”
Regarding Syria, the piece observes that President Bashar al-Assad’s “early presidency saw a brief political opening that was quickly replaced by a return to repression. Freedoms of expression, association, and assembly are now tightly restricted.” It emphasizes the high numbers of political prisoners held by the Syrian regime, specifically pointing out the cases of prominent activists Ali al-Abdallah
, Muhannad al-Hassani
, and Haitham al-Maleh
, whose sentencing was recently condemned by the U.S. government. Finally, the article designates the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara– the site of a long-running territorial dispute between Algeria and Morocco -as one of the least free areas in the world, commenting that local “Sahrawi activists, human rights defenders, and others continue to face harassment and arbitrary detention and torture. Moroccan authorities regularly use force when quelling demonstrations in Sahrawi villages.”
UN Renews Peacekeeping Mission in Western Sahara
May 6th, 2010 by Josh
After a rather heated UN Security Council debate, a majority of the 15-member council voted to extend the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for one year under the terms of the UN-brokered 1991 ceasefire agreement between Morocco and the Western Saharan-based Polisario Front independence movement. However, the resolution did not include provisions to monitor human rights — sought by some on the council — prompting a Polisario spokesman to condemn the action as grossly inadequate and a “scandal for the credibility of the United Nations and the Security Council.” In the context of ongoing negotiations over the occupied territory, Moroccan Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi praised the UN for producing a resolution that is consistent with Morocco’s approach and affirms the vision of graduated autonomy, not full independence. Prior to MINURSO’s extension, human rights advocates had implored UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to push for the establishment of a “UN mechanism that would monitor and report on human rights.” Polisario did the same during a meeting with top UN officials last month, after which Ban expressed his desire to find a solution “that provides for the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.”
POMED Notes: “Promoting Security through Diplomacy and Development: The Fiscal Year 2011 International Affairs”
February 26th, 2010 by Josh
In a hearing on the administration’s recently released budget request, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs invited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to give testimony on particular budgetary items relating to U.S. diplomatic and development efforts abroad. Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) opened the hearing with an affirmation of the value of investing in international diplomacy; not only to promote American values, but also as a method of prevention in order to mitigate the forces that cause international instability. Berman pledged to work with his colleagues to maintain or even increase the overall level of funding – approximately 1 percent of the entire Fiscal Year 2011 federal budget request – but ranking Republican committee member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) disagreed, using the poor economic environment as the basis to call for “selective freezes.” In particular, she questioned the wisdom of unconditionally funding the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), both of which she accuses of stealing hundreds of millions in foreign aid.
for POMED’s notes in PDF, or continue reading below.
Posted in Afghanistan, Congressional Hearing Notes (House), Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Hamas, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Multilateralism, Palestine, Protests, Sudan, Syria, US foreign policy, Western Sahara, Yemen, sanctions | 1 Comment »
North Africa: Human Rights Abuses
December 23rd, 2009 by Jason
Human Rights Watch blasts the recent convictions
of Tunisian journalists Taofik Ben Brik
and Zouhair Makhlouf
after unfair trials. Middle East director of HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson,
laments that since his sham electoral victory, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali
has been “on a vengeful campaign to punish the few journalists and human rights activists who dared to question his record.”
Meanwhile, Middle East Online
observes that the hunger strike by Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar
has raised awareness of human rights abuses
Morocco: Haidar Returns Home
December 18th, 2009 by Jason
Middle East Online reports
that Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar has returned home after starting a hunger strike over a month ago. Police stated Haidar fulfilled entry requirements by signing a form that she was “arriving in Morocco.” In response to the news, Secretary Clinton
said she was “pleased” to hear about Haidar’s return.
Morocco: Sahara Activist Saga Continues
December 15th, 2009 by Zack
Amnesty International has called for Morocco
to allow Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar
, who is currently on a hunger strike after being denied access to her homeland, be allowed to return to the Sahara. In a petition to Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas El Fassi, Amnesty called on the “authorities in Morocco to allow her immediate and unconditional return to Laayoune and give her back her passport” and unblock her bank account.
While Haider is possibly hours from death
, The Guardian
reports that Morocco has taken a firm line on the matter, with the foreign minister, Taieb Fassi-Fihri, insisting that Haidar had “disowned her identity and her nationality” and “must accept, on her own, the legal and moral consequences which result from this behaviour”. In addition, Middle East Online writes that Morocco has charged Haider with being part of a “systematic, methodical plot devised by Algeria.”
Report: Human Rights on the Decline Part II
December 12th, 2009 by Jason
As we reported earlier
, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) has released a comprehensive and thorough report, called “Bastion of Impunity, Mirage of Reform,” on the state of human rights throughout the Arab world. The full report in Arabic spans 254 pages and chronicles in detail the backsliding on human rights in the region while also identifying a few points of optimism. In addition to the full report, CIHRS has released a translation of the report’s introduction written by their general director, Bahey eldin Hassan
, as well as a 21-page summary of the report in English.
According to Hassan’s introduction, while there have been important strides to “ease repressive measures” in the Middle East under the Forum of the Future regional initiative, in no country were there “real constitutional, legislative, or institutional gains that could upset the balance of power between authoritarian regimes and the forces of reform.” Hassan blames this failure on the narrow focus on electoral reform at the expense of human rights, the contradictory actions of the G-8 countries, attempts by the Arab League to co-opt reform with their own homegrown initiatives, and the European and American fear of Islamist electoral victories. Finally, Hassan contends “the last spark in the initiatives was quashed once and for all with the arrival of a new US administration” apparently unwilling to support democracy rhetorically.
Now, Hassan warns that the minor gains made over the past five years are under a “counterattack by Arab governments. Among other examples of backtracking, the Arab league disabled the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which only had 10 of 22 signatory countries to begin with. As with the CIHRS report last year, Hassan concludes that “lack of political will on the part of most regimes in the Arab region was the key to understanding and explaining chronic human rights problems in the region.”
Posted in Algeria, Arab League, Bahrain, Democracy Promotion, Diplomacy, EU, Egypt, Elections, Foreign Aid, Freedom, Gulf, Hamas, Hezbollah, Human Rights, Iraq, Islam and Democracy, Islamist movements, Israel, Jordan, Journalism, Judiciary, Kurds, Lebanon, Legislation, Military, Morocco, Multilateralism, Muslim Brotherhood, NGOs, Palestine, Political Islam, Political Parties, Protests, Public Opinion, Publications, Reform, Saudi Arabia, Sectarianism, Syria, Tunisia, US foreign policy, United Nations, Western Sahara, Women, Yemen | 1 Comment »
Morocco: Hunger Strike Goes On
December 8th, 2009 by Zack
reports that Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar
has once again been refused
entry into Morocco from Spain as her hunger strike to protest her treatment enters its fourth week. At a time of increasing Spanish and Moroccan tensions, Middle East Online reports Haidar was not allowed to fly to her home town in Laayoune in Western Sahara from Lanzarote in Spain’s Canary Islands because she refused to identify herself as Moroccan on her documentation, even though she had an exit permit from Spain. To bring attention to her plight, Haidar began a hunger strike, which has caught the attention of several Spanish celebrities. According to Euronews, Morocco considers Haidar a blackmailer who, as a member of the Western Saharan Polisario Front, is using this opportunity to push a political agenda.
Morocco Threatens Independence Seekers
November 9th, 2009 by Zack
The Daily Star
reports that Moroccan King Muhammad VI
has called for action against traitors who threatened the country’s “territorial integrity,” a direct warning to Western Sahara independence campaigners. Morocco is currently offering the territory limited autonomy, but the Algerian backed Polisarios are holding out for a referendum offering independence. In a speech on Friday the king asked, “would any democratic country accept the use of democracy and human rights as a pretext … for a gang of outlaws to plot, in intelligence with its enemies, against its unity and higher interests?”
Western Sahara Talks Stalled
October 29th, 2009 by Jason
Western Sahara’s independence movement threatens to pull out of talks with Morocco unless seven detained activists are released from jail. At a press conference, a spokesman for the the Polisario Front stated, “the detention of the seven Sahrawi activists and human rights abuses in the occupied Sahrawi territories are a threat to peace and to the negotiations with Morocco.” The seven activists were arrested after disembarking from a plane in Casablanca on October 8th.
Prize for Western Sahara Activist
October 23rd, 2009 by Jason
, an advocate for peaceful resistance in the Western Sahara, won an international peace award from the Train Foundation on Wednesday. Morocco annexed the Western Sahara in 1975, leading to a bloody guerilla war that lasted for over 15 years. According to the Train Foundation, “Haidar is a courageous campaigner for self-determination of Western Sahara from its occupation by Morocco.” Rabat has offered autonomy to the region, but regards its ultimate sovereignty as a red line.
Worst of the Worst
March 11th, 2009 by Cecile
Freedom House has just released its Worst of the Worst
report, a survey of the most repressive societies as outlined in the Freedom in the World 2009
report. Of the 17 countries and 4 territories profiled in Worst of the Worst
, 4 reside in the Middle East; they include Libya, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Western Sahara in Morocco.
Western Sahara Negotiations
July 13th, 2007 by Audrey
The Daily Star
reports on the continued push for Western Sahara independence, quoting fears that the territory’s autonomy will be sacrificed for a broader Maghreb unity and stability.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization