Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It was two weeks ago on Tuesday that the Frente Polisario press agency, SPS, alerted the world to what was taking place at the Gdeim Izizk protest camp close to the Western Saharan capital of El Aauín. We are not sure precisely what happened, how many were killed, injured or disappeared because it would be wrong to merely rely on the word of the SPS and Morocco has banned all Spanish journalists, politicians, Euro MPs and international observers from going to see.

This Tuesday in the early hours of the morning I received a message Guillermo O William. He said that as he wrote four Policía Nacional vans had arrived at the PSOE office in Valencia at 24.10. They had sealed the windows and cries could be heard from the 16 protestors inside. He added the police wanted to silence the activists who had been holding a peaceful sit-in protest in the PSPV office (PSPV is PSOE in Valencia).

Moving in at the dead of night is a usual Policía Nacional tactic. Many years ago I saw squads of baton waving officers clearing hundreds of Moroccan cars blocking the road to Algeciras port. The cars packed with families of Moroccans travelling home for the summer holidays from their jobs in Northern Europe had been kept out in the boiling sun all day as they waited for a ferry home. Many had collapsed in the heat, some died, so they protested by blocking the road. After the events of that year a new system of moving the million of Moroccans through was introduced that treats them in a civilized manner.

Since the current crisis erupted in the Western Sahara refugees from the region have been holding a series of weekly protests outside the Moroccan Consulate in Valencia. The Tuesday demo was the fifth and then the protestors marched to the PSPV-PSOE office to team up with the Western Saharans who had previously occupied the building and were not encamped outside.

The PSOE office protest was against the “silence” of the socialist government in Madrid both over what was happening in the Western Sahara and Morocco’s embargo on media, political and observer visits. The spokesperson for the activists, Nadira Mohamed, said there were now 150 protesting at the doors to the socialist’s office with a heavy police presence.

Mohamed explained the weekly protest at the consulate has the objective of “denouncing the constant violation of the human rights that Morocco is carrying out in the Western Sahara.” Now to this has been added anger at the “passivity” of the Spanish Government before the “violence” of the Moroccan army on the Saharan people that came to a head “with the assault on the Gdeim Izizk camp on November 8.”

Whilst the SPS has warned of civil war in the Western Sahara it is PSOE in Spain which is being torn apart over the issue. Activists are at angry odds with their government. There is widespread dissatisfaction with Madrid’s response to the dismantling of the ‘Campamento Dignidad’. Whilst many party members are openly challenging José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his new foreign minister, Trinidad Jímenez, the party baron’s are also unhappy but have confined their anger to mumbling under their breath.

More open with its protests is Izquierda Socilista that is demanding the government responds with “determined action” making a “firm and explicit condemnation” of the actions of Morocco since 1975 when the dying Franco regime withdrew hastily from its former colony. Zapatero has tried to defend the actions of his government but the ante is being upped by the centre-right Partido Popular.

The PP is no friend of Morocco and has stated that should it come to government in 2012 it will deal with its neighbour across the Strait of Gibraltar in a firm manner. This would include agriculture and fishing policy but especially in its defence of the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla – which Morocco views as occupied territories.

The Western Sahara and support for the Frente Polisario has been a touch stone for socialists and those on the far left in Spain and wider Europe. Hence it is ironic that the PP is now able to use this issue to drive another nail in to PSOE’s electoral coffin and at the same time to put pressure on Morocco’s monarch and government.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Free Sahara!!