terça-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2008

Two Saharawi students murdered four injured and three arrested in Agadir

Two Saharawi students were murdered, four injured and three others arrested by the Moroccan authorities after a peaceful sit-in Saharawi students organised at a bus station in the Moroccan city of Agadir, human rights organisations in Western Sahara reported.

The Saharawi young students, Baba Abdelaziz Khaya, (22) and Lheussein Abdsadek Lakteif, (20) were killed by a Moroccan bus that drove right on them and a group of other Saharawi students during the intervention of the Moroccan authorities who violently attacked the demonstrators to break the sit-in.

The Bus, matriculated B-A 6687 drove fast towards the demonstrators to kill the two students, injured three others, namely Abouh Alkharachi who is seriously wounded and is now in coma in a hospital in the city, in addition to Ismaaili Bachri, El Qadi Mbarek and Abdslam Chtouki.

On the other hand, three Saharawi students were arrested during the Moroccan police intervention against the demonstrators. The students are: Breiha El Hadef, El Asla Ahmed Salem and Mustapha Ben Taleb.

The Saharawi students were protesting against the bus company, which did not respect its engagements with them to provide sufficient seats for the students who have to travel to their hometowns for the iid El adha.

This is not the first time that the Moroccan authorities commit murder against Saharawi demonstrators and innocent citizens during their interventions. 7 Saharawis at least were killed before, since 2005.

Three old Saharawis, namely Laamar Sidi Brahim, Taleb Oul Ali Menna and Mohamed Lehsen Sidi Brahim were killed when a Moroccan military truck drove on them in the occupied city of Dakhla.

In 2005 too, the Saharawi young martyrs, Lembarki Hamdi and Likhlifi Abba Cheikh were murdered by Moroccan police, the first killed in October 30 under torture in the middle of the street in the occupied city of El Aaiun, the second killed in December 3 by a Moroccan police agents in the city of Tan Tan.

In 2007, Dada Ali Ould Hamma Ould Nafaa, died in a clinic in Agadir of a cronic decease after he was denied the right to medical care for a long time.

In September 2007 the young Saharawi, Sidha Ould Abdelaziz Ould Lehbib, died in a car that was transporting him to a psychiatric centre in Agadir, because of the "savage torture" the Moroccan authorities inflicted him, it should be recalled.

Portugal is in favour of the Saharawi people’s self-determination

The Secretary General of the Portuguese Communist Party, Jeronimo De Sousa, reaffirmed the support of his party to the Saharawi people’s struggle for self-determination and independence, he declared before the 18th Congress of his organisation held in Lisbon the 29 and 30 November.

Mr. de Sousa, in his report presented to the Congress, hailed the just struggle of the Saharawi people. While the Congress, expressed, in its general political resolution, "its active solidarity with the Saharawi people’s struggle for self-determination and independence".

A Saharawi delegation composed of the member of POLISARIO Front’s National Secretariat, Minister Councillor delegated to Europe, Mohamed Sidati and the POLISARIO Front-s Representative in Portugal, Edda Hmeim, took part to the congress.

The Saharawi officials met with the SG of the party and had many encounters with the representative of the international delegations participating to the congress.

Saharawi Minister of Culture affirms that Morocco "can not absorb the Saharawi culture"

The Saharawi Minister of Culture, Mrs. Khadidja Hamdi, affirmed Sunday that "Morocco can not alienate the Saharawi culture, instead it undeliberately exposed the it."

In a press conference animated at the seat of the Saharawi TV, the Saharawi Minister Mrs. Hamdi underlined that "the Moroccan regime failed to alienate the identity and Saharawi heritage".

"We believe in culture as a way that can lead to the liberation and we are attached to the ties between the generations", she said, stressing that "we work for a consensus in favour of culture of liberation and human emancipation."
The Saharawi minister recalled the Moroccan "hysteria" that took the Moroccan regime, and which was embodied by the organisation of many festivals in the occupied territories. She estimated that the regime of occupation "will bitterly harvest in the near future the result of what it is trying to impose the occupied territories."

Talking about the 16th Festival of Culture of Culture and Popular Arts, which will take place in the wilaya of Aousserd from the 4th to the 6th December 2008, under the theme "Culture serving the Liberation and Development", the Saharawi Minister indicated that this event is "a real opportunity for the youth who will be able to have an idea on the Saharawis before occupation."

The Saharawi official indicated that 2.630 Saharawi participants will be animating and acting in the cultural activities that will be organised in more than 110 traditional tents, built specially for the festival to present the deferent aspects of the life of the Saharawi people in the past.

Another 1250 Saharawis will be participating to folkloric parades representing the Saharawi rituals, customs and social events. There will also be representative of the Saharawi government and institutions in addition to more than 200 foreign researcher, artists, writers from many countries, and hundreds foreign visitors coming from Spain.

The Festival will also be an opportunity to open the works of the "1st International Seminar of Culture in Western Sahara", which is, according to Mrs. Hamdi a stage of research that will enable artists and foreign researchers to exchange their experiences and to get introduced to the Saharawi culture through the works of workshops on many cultural subjects such as literature, poetry, cinema, theatre, archaeological patrimony and plastic arts."

Western Sahara’s struggle for self-determination

In October, a three-member delegation of Australian unionists visited the Western Saharawi refugee camps in the Hamada desert, South West Algeria. Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

Green Left Weekly’s Margarita Windisch spoke with Sid’Ahmed Tayeb, the minister of public health for the exiled Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, in 27 February refugee camp.

Margarita Windisch: The Saharawi refugee camps have now existed for close to 33 years in extremely inhumane surroundings. What has led to the Saharawis becoming refugees and what are the challenges facing the Saharawi people?

Sid’Ahmed Tayeb: Firstly, I would like to thank you very much for your visit. It shows us that we are not alone. This is important support that international community can give us.

All along, the Saharawi community has been conscious of its historic responsibility and the sacrifice it has made and still has to make in its fight for national sovereignty. Our sacrifices have been necessary to preserve the history of our people and liberate our territories from Moroccan occupation.

Western Sahara was invaded in 1975, by a monarch who needed to stabilise his throne and expand his territory.

Living as refugees is a disgrace and is marked by scarcity in all senses of the word. The biggest impact of displacement is on health.

During the first years after the Moroccan invasion, we not only lost many lives during the resistance war but we also had to come to terms with moving away from our natural habitat. We were overwrought with a lack of perspective on how to survive in this new environment, a very hard geographic space without natural life — no vegetation or animals.

We have had no experience in how to live in such inhumane conditions.

We had many deaths in the camps from 1975 to 1983 that were related to the difficulty of adapting psychologically and physiologically to a radically different and highly stressful terrain. To resolve this critical problem we needed to employ all the material resources available to us.

In the face of massive adversity, the main moral, political and sociological task of Saharawi society was to draw strength from the little available to restructure itself and mature against all odds.

And I can confidently say that we managed this task with excellence.

When we started to organise the Saharawi state in the camps, we were conscious that health is one of the main vulnerabilities. That’s why especially the first years of restructuring in the camps, one fifth of Saharawis were employed in the health field, focusing on prevention.

Health prevention today is still one of our main political tools.

We started with the promotion of health issues in all its aspects initially, because the only thing we had available at that time was human resources.

Our society, which was predominantly Bedouin and nomadic, had to undergo a brutal change once we arrived at the camps. People had to settle and face unhealthy dietary change.

Saharawi diet was based on milk, meat, malt, rice and some wheat breads. In the camps, which concentrated big social groups in restrictive areas, the refugees suddenly had to survive from emergency food aid, which comprised mainly legumes, adding to the already adverse and stressful circumstances

However, due to our strategy of health prevention, we managed to make some important improvements rather quickly.

Humans never know their capabilities until they reach a point where problems have to be confronted; as much on an individual as a societal level. Saharawi Bedouins’ life is very tough, but they still like this kind of life.

A Saharawi is not very interested in comfort, such as sofas or television. These are not big attractions. The Bedouin adores nature and appreciates coexistence with his animals, like the camels.

We are close to our animals, because they are our means of subsistence.

Our society needed a total reorganisation. We had to create administrations in order to manage every district and municipality of the camps according to their specific necessities.

We decided to prioritise schooling and community health clinics over individual family needs. Sometimes we had three to four families share one tent so there was a tent for each school and clinic available.

Margarita Windisch: Saharawis have had to live for over 30 years on emergency food aid. How are you dealing with the consequences?

Sid’Ahmed Tayeb: The characteristic of any refugee camps is health vulnerability, and nutrition is an important part of that.

We have achieved some very good results. In more than 20 years we have had no type of disease epidemic, even though we have had to live in drastic climatic circumstances where we face massive temperature changes from a high of 58°C in summer to -6°C in winter.

On top of this, our diet is hyper glutei — made up of 95% of carbohydrates — because it is the cheapest and easiest accessible form of aid available for the camps. This diet is highly deficient for our immune system.

It also creates a different human organism to normal. Women and men are born into this state of scarcity — which is impacting especially on the mother but also the child.

We not only develop general health programs, but also diagnostic programs that look at the health risks and causes. We create workshops with all the Saharawi health professionals, and our specialist friends and sympathisers, to arrive at a good scientific diagnosis.

At the moment we are working with Norwegian health professionals on a four-day nutrition seminar. We identified this as a priority because in February we did a nutritional study that looked at levels of anaemia and malnutrition, especially in the most vulnerable sectors; women of childbearing age and children under 15.

We found alarmingly high levels of anaemia and malnutrition.

These findings compelled all of us involved in health to get together and develop a realistic diagnosis and find realistic solutions. Our problems will persist as long as we are refugees.

However, the only way to minimise the impact is for us to unite our strengths, make the situation as dignified as possible and apply all our knowledge.

Margarita Windisch: What benefits does the high level of Saharawi control and organisation in the camps bring?

Sid’Ahmed Tayeb: Saharawi people live a precarious existence; we are in a place of being or not being.

We have only got two choices — a sovereign Saharawi state or total dispersion of Saharawis across the world, without a homeland, memories and no responsibility for the future.

We are conscious of this responsibility for our society in its totality; we have to organise ourselves in order to survive. We have to develop the level of organisation in order to meet the challenges coming our way every minute.

We have now lived for quite a few years with neither peace nor war, since the 1991 ceasefire with Morocco. When we were engaged in war, the perspectives were clear, even though we didn’t know how many lives our resistance struggle would cost us.

We were engaged in armed combat in very unequal conditions with a militarily superior Morocco.

It was not only Saharawi society that paid a big price for the caprices of the Moroccan king. Moroccan soldiers were also victims of his Machiavellian mind; they, their families and Moroccan society in fact have paid dearly for the king’s expansionist ambitions.

Margarita Windisch: We noticed an encouraging high participation of women at the recent General Workers’ Union of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Western Saharan trade union organisation) congress, but also more generally women are very visible in public life in the camps.

Sid’Ahmed Tayeb: Our society is a very naturalist society. We share our responsibilities in a collective manner, which includes extended families along ancestral lines. Because of our ways of life, women occupy a critical rank.

In a nomadic society, the woman is everything. The man of the family is itinerate; he is either looking for pastures or is at the markets hundreds of kilometres away and may be absent for weeks.

Once we arrived at our refuge in South West Algeria, women organised the state and constructed the institutions, from the smallest to the biggest. Women have also been combatants during the years of war.

In incredibly harsh conditions, women were both the backbone of the camps and the revolution. In Saharawi society, women are not discriminated against because of their specific physiological make up.

Margarita Windisch: Cuba has educated many Saharawi children. Why is this the case?

Sid’Ahmed Tayeb: Cuba, such a small country with minimal material resources, has extended humanitarian help to many countries. Most importantly, Cubans have helped with education and health.

The Saharawi people are one of those peoples that are eternally grateful to the Cuban people. Only Cuba, on the other side of the word, opened the doors for us and took our kids to educate them into doctors, engineers, lawyers and technicians of all types.

Cuba has also helped with medical support. In 1976, we only had four qualified nurses — a consequence of more than 100 years of Spanish colonial rule. So imagine, in times of war and an extreme refugee situation, we had to make do with only four nurses to try and deal with our health problems!

Now, the leaders, functionaries and youth you see working in the camps are all a result of the support and education provided by Cuba.

Cuba, with the little they have, still shares with others, independently of their obligations in their geographical region, culture, religion or skin colour.

We, Saharawis are conscious that it was Cuba that has helped us to walk on our own two feet since the Moroccan invasion.

Margarita Windisch: Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony and the conflict is still unresolved. How can we best give our solidarity to Saharawi people?

Sid’Ahmed Tayeb: There is only one solution to our existence as refugees: our return to our sovereign homeland. There is no other solution.

I can only mention the need to unite all our societies along the lines of peace and true justice. It is this unity, not aggression that we need so all of us can enjoy happiness instead of destitution and humiliation.

From: International News,
Green Left Weekly issue #777 3 December 2008.

The University of Pretoria hosts a conference on Western Sahara as a case of study on multilateralism and International Law

The Government of South Africa will organise, the 4th and 5th December in the University of Pretoria, a conference on Western Sahara as a case of study on multilateralism and International Law.

The conference will be marked by the participation of jurists, researchers, parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists as well as representatives of the South African civil society and students.

The South African Ministers: Sue Van Der Merwe and Aziz Pahad will give interventions during the conference, and some eminent political personalities from the ANC, the Communist Party, COSATU and the ANC Youth League will also attend the event, it was indicated.

According to the organisers, there will be many speakers on the floor, especially Mr. Hans Corell, ex-under Secretary of the UN for Legal Affairs, Mr. Francisco Bastagli, ex-Special Envoy of the SG to Western Sahara, Mr. Frank Ruddy, ex-under Special Representative and President of the Commission of Identification, Senator Pierre Galand from Belgium, in addition to the President of the Platform of Jurists for Timor Leste, and many eminent jurists from Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Italy, USA, UK, Norway, Japan, Australia and others..

FRom the Saharawi side, the conference will be attended by Mr. Mhamed Khadad, Member of POLISARIO Front’s National Secretariat Coordinator with the MINURSO, and Dr. Sidi Omar.

The conference will also be marked by the presence of the Saharawi human rights activist and Laureate of the Robert Kennedy Award of Human Rights 2008, Ms. Aminatou Haidar.