Women Detained, Beaten at Beach Protest for Self-Determination
Sept 19 2016
A peaceful protest led by Sahrawi women on August 21st resulted in arrests, injuries, and a confiscated camera, according to local journalists, video testimony, and other sources.
The demonstration on Foum el-Oued beach, just west of Laayoune, was organized by the Future Forum for Sahrawi Women. A video posted by Equipe Media shows women walking along the beach waving flags of Sahrawi independence and chanting, calling for the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people. One woman can be seen with a camera documenting the protest. At 40 seconds into this video from the Sahrawi Center for Media and Communication, we see a scene of people fleeing and yelling as a military vehicle drives down the street.
Sahrawi journalist Nazha El Khalidi, a member of Equipe Media and RASD-TV, was arrested while covering the demonstration. In a video testimony she posted on Facebook, she says that during her one night in detention, she was beaten “on all parts of my body,” and her camera was confiscated. She also gave testimony to Equipe Media. The organization AdalaUK quotes Khalidi as saying, “It’s obvious that what they hoped to achieve with my detention and their threats and torture was for me to stop filming and writing on the abuses they commit but I am determined that they won’t achieve this.”
In her Facebook testimony, Khalidi says that most of the women who participated in the demonstration were detained. Sukain Jad Ahlu, head of the Future Forum for Sahrawi Women, describes her detention in this video testimony. Ahlu, a former political prisoner, told Al-Monitor, “I was peacefully demonstrating and repeating slogans calling for an independent Western Sahara when the Moroccan gendarme forces intervened against me. They beat me very hard on my back. I was personally targeted and my flag was confiscated.” Salka Suadi, another activist, describes her detention in this video testimony.
Days later, Nahza el Khalidi posted a second video describing her attempt to retrieve her camera from the Moroccan royal gendarme. She says that she was told that she needed to remove from her complaint the phrase “Western Sahara,” and change it to “Moroccan Sahara.” She will not, she says to the camera.
Activist Brahim Saika Dies in Detention & Sahrawis Take to the Streets
Apr 15th 2016
The death of Brahim Saika, a leading activist in the movement for Sahrawi economic rights, has fueled massive protests in Western Sahara and southern Morocco, and renewed attention to the treatment of Sahrawi political prisoners.
Saika died on April 15 at a Moroccan hospital while in detention. According to Adala UK, which spoke with Saika’s sister, the activist had been arrested on April 1 near his home in Guelmim after meeting with union members and unemployed Sahrawis.
“Following his detention, Brahim decided to enter into a hunger strike in protest against his detention and maltreatment. A few days later, on 6 April, his condition had deteriorated significantly so he was tranferred to Gulemin Hospital, and later to Agadir Provincial Hospital. Despite this, it seems that no serious attempts were made to save his life. The hospital authorities are now refusing to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of his death, despite his family’s demands to conduct one.”
Western Sahara Resource Watch also reported on Saika’s death, explaining that, as seen in a photograph of Saika in the hospital, he was handcuffed to the hospital bed while in a coma. Shortly after his detention, AFAPREDESA, a network of relatives of Sahrawi prisoners and disappeared activists, released a statement voicing concern for his health.
Saika had been a leader in the movement for Sahrawi employment, which has organized demonstrations in the occupied territory and in southern Morocco calling for greater educational and professional opportunities for Sahrawi people. He was from Guelmim, a city in southern Morocco with a large Sahrawi population.
Following news of Saika’s death, massive protests broke out in Morocco and the occupied territory, as well as graffiti in remembrance of Saika.
Watching Western Sahara videos with Brahim Saika as Tags
Officers Attack March 19 Protest in Support of Political Prisoners
Mar 19th 2016
On March 19, several demonstrations took place in Laayoune in support of Sahrawi political prisoners and of the right to self-determination. The Sahrawi Center for Media and Communication reported that more than two dozen people were injured.
The protests were organized to support Gdeim Izik prisoners, 13 of whom began a hunger strike on March 1. The 21 prisoners are Sahrawi activists who were given sentences ranging from 20 years to life for their alleged roles in the 2010 Gdeim Izik protest camp. Western Sahara Resource Watch outlined the striking prisoners’ demands. According to RFK Human Rights, the prisoners “have reported being tortured and forced to sign false statements.”
Footage from the day shows dispersed protests and an extremely heavy police presence. According to Freedom House Moroccan law bars people from challenging Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, and calls for self-determination and the waving of the Sahrawi flag--both of which were part of the March 19 protests--often face extraordinary repression by authorities.
The videos listed below show different perspectives of one chaotic scene in which security forces can be seen physically attacking peaceful protesters.
In the video above, taken from afar, you can see that Salha Boutanguiza, an activist in a blue-grey melfa, is mobbed by officers after she waves a small Sahrawi flag (at :23 in the video). At the same time, a man in green and khaki is kicked and hit by a uniformed officer.
Watching Western Sahara datacards with Gdeim Izik as Tags
Activists for Sahrawi Employment Go on Hunger Strike
Jan 22nd 2016
A hunger strike by more than a dozen unemployed activists in early 2016 has given momentum to a social movement in Western Sahara calling for economic rights for Sahrawis.
Chronic unemployment in occupied Western Sahara is one of the biggest challenges facing the Sahrawi community. For several years, groups of unemployed Sahrawi graduates from a range of professional fields have called for greater employment opportunities. This January 6 announcement states that their demands “stem out of the fact that the natural sources of Western Sahara should guarantee all Sahrawis jobs. However, due to the impoverishing and exclusion policy tended by Moroccan state against them, most of Sahrawis do not enjoy the minimum requirements of a descent life.” They say Moroccan settlers are given preference for employment opportunities over Sahrawis.
On January 12, the Field Coordination of Unemployed Saharawi Graduates--a network of masters degree holders and graduates of universities and professional schools--announced that, because their protests were repeatedly and violently repressed and their demands unmet, they would begin a new tactic: a hunger strike.
News of the hunger strike spread through social media to Sahrawi activists in Laayoune and throughout the occupied territory.
Watching Western Sahara videos with Hunger Strike as Tags (Recording Date between Jan 1 2016 and Feb 1 2016)