The Platform of Solidarity with the Sahara and the Delegation of the Polisario Front in Valencia celebrate the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
"On February 18, 20 and 23, 1976, the Moroccan air force bombed the camp of Um Draiga with white phosphorus and napalm, weapons that burn the skin and even dissolve the flesh and bones. The result was between 2,000 and 3,000 deaths. In addition, over 300 people were injured. The Saharawis, who were victims of this brutal attack, were fleeing Moroccan troops towards Algeria, which offered to "take them in", wrote Salem Mohamed on February 20 in the newspaper El Confidenciall Saharaui. On February 27, 1976, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was proclaimed in Bir Lehlu, and is currently recognized by 80 countries. In the commemoration of the 44th anniversary, the State Coordination of Associations in Solidarity with the Sahara (CEAS) recalls the responsibility – still in force - of the Spanish state: after the colonial presence of almost a century, Spain did a "shameful surrender" of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania.
In September 2019, the then acting Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, referred to "the situation in Western Sahara" in his speech to the UN General Assembly; during the speech, however, he did not mention the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued, on 27 November, an alert in which it advised against travelling to the Saharawi refugee camps of Tindouf in Algeria, on the grounds of the risk of a terrorist attack; The Saharawi government and the Polisario Front called the declarations of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, "unfounded" and "regrettable", linking them to the meeting he had that day with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita. The official Sahara Press Service (SPS) agency echoed the response which activists, aid workers and NGOs conveyed to the Spanish government: "I'm going to the Sahara".
Source: El Confidencial Saharaui
The Valencian Platform of Solidarity with the Saharawi People (PVSPS), the Association of Saharawis Zemmur and the Delegation of the Polisario Front in Valencia organised on 26 February, in the Rector Peset College of the University of Valencia, an event to mark the anniversary of the proclamation of SADR. The representative of the Polisario Front to the United Nations and member of the Saharawi National Secretariat, Sidi Mohamed Omar, the doctor in Peace, Conflict and Development Studies at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) of Castelló, Embar Hamoudi Hamdi, and the delegate of the Polisario Front in Valencia, Alali Mohamed Emboiric took part.
One of the issues taken up was the approval in January by Morocco's parliament of two laws which delimit and extend the country's maritime frontier with the Spanish state (the Canary Islands) and annex the waters adjoining Western Sahara.. The legislation establishes the limits of 12 miles of the territorial waters, 200 miles of the so-called Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 350 miles of the continental platform. The Polisario Front denounces this as "another episode of Moroccan expansionism and the violation of international law". According to the Observatory of Human Rights and Business in the Mediterranean (ODHE), "questioning the extension of the Moroccan EEZ to Spanish waters would also imply questioning the legitimacy of Spanish boats to fish in Saharawi waters through the EU-Moroccan fishing agreement".
Sidi Mohamed Omar referred to the fishing agreement between the EU and the Kingdom of Morocco, which came into force in July 2019 - after the previous pact had expired - and which is valid for four years The European Parliament voted in February in favour of the new agreement, which the Polisario's delegate minister for Europe, Mohamed Sidat, described as "banditry operations for the depletion of our natural resources; France and Spain lead the EU's responsibility in this task.” The Minister recalled that over 90% of the catches of European vessels are made in Saharawi waters, and that the EU "disregards the decisions of its own Court of Justice»; for example in February 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the fisheries agreements between the European Community and Morocco do not apply to the waters adjacent to the territory of Western Sahara, since the latter is not part of the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco.
The ODHE and Shock Monitor published, in March 2019, the report The Tentacles of the Occupation: "more than half of the fish caught on the Moroccan coast, including the Mediterranean, is actually fished in Western Sahara", is one of the conclusions. The document points out that boats mainly from Morocco, but also from Europe, Russia and Japan, extract 700,000 tonnes of sardines from Saharawi waters each year. On the other hand, "the catch of octopus off the coast of Morocco and the Sahara is much lower - about 7% of the total catch, but due to its high market value, it has become a precious resource".
The pillage extends to other sectors. Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) reports that in the period 2012-2018 Morocco exported an annual average of 1.8 million tons of phosphate rock from Western Sahara. The WSRW also denounced, in December 2019, that the beach of Mogan (Gran Canaria) was being covered with tons of Saharawi sand and noted the involvement of the multinationals Siemens (Germany) and Enel (Italy) in the construction of wind farms in the occupied territories.
"Is it credible that human rights are defended in Venezuela and not in El Ayoun, the occupied capital of SADR, which is 150 kilometres from the Canary Islands?" asks Alali Mohamed Emboiric. In the 2018 report, the League for the Protection of Saharawi Prisoners in Moroccan Prisons (LPPS) documented 57 political prisoners, abuse and ill-treatment in the prisons, "prisoners in solitary confinement without health conditions for a long time" and 63 hunger strikes to claim rights, such as those of Abdullah El Uali Khfauni, Bachir El Abd Mohtar and Sidi Abdullah Abhah, currently held in the Moroccan prisons of Quneitra and Tiflet 2.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders warned on February 6 that, after three months in prison, the health of Mahfuda Bamba Lefkir was deteriorating due to lack of medical care; the observatory condemned the "arbitrary detention" of the defender, which occurred during the trial of another activist. Another recent example of repression, that of Khatri Faraji Dadda, who has been sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Moroccan court, has been reported by the Equipe Media journalists' collective. The young man was captured on 24 December, and "suffered ill-treatment while in detention before being transferred to the Black Prison in El Ayoun," reports Equipe Media (the Moroccan authorities expelled the lawyer and member of the Aragonese Observatory for Western Sahara, Ana Sebastian, from El Ayoun airport, without her being able to attend - as planned - the trial of the activist)
In addition, in February 2019, the 8th Congress of the National Union of Saharawi Women (UNMS), a mass organisation created in 1974 and linked to the Polisario Front, was held in Auserd (refugee camps in Tindouf). Five hundred delegates representing Saharawi women and 150 international organisations took part in the sessions. "Women occupy 88% of professional and administrative posts in the education sector and 68% in health; they have a strong presence in others such as the administration, police, justice, information and foreign affairs; moreover their participation in the political life of the country is remarkable", emphasised the Secretary General of UNMS, Minetu Larbas Asuedat, at the Summer University of Polisario cadres (Boomerdas, Algeria, 2019).
Embarka Hamoudi Hamdi is the author of research on the participation of Saharawi women in the construction of a Saharawi state in exile (2016). It distinguishes, in the Valencia event, three stages: the years of installation of the Tindouf camps (1976-1979), which were built and managed by women as "living and survival space" (supplying the refugee population, building schools and hospitals); between 1979 and 1990, women's specific demands and their link to the "national" political cause (while "men, due to the warlike demands of the conflict, remained outside the camps"); and the third period, from 1991, when the Polisario Front and Morocco signed the ceasefire and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).