Purpose: On the 22nd of November, the NSU-Ås Student Board is arranging an open meeting with Elkouria Amidane, a student from Western Sahara. Amidane is one of many Sahrawi students fighting the way the Moroccan government is treating the population of Western Sahara. In light of the difficult situation in Western Sahara, we wish to use her visit as an opportunity to give our support to the students in Western Sahara.
The Declaration of Support: The conflict in Western Sahara and the Sahrawi people’s struggle for liberation goes as far back as 1975, when the Spanish colonialists withdrew from the area. In 1976, Morocco occupied Western Sahara thereby violating international law and a number of resolutions made in the UN Security Council. According to the UN, Western Sahara is Africa’s last unresolved colony issue.
After Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, the majority the Sahrawi population was forced to leave the area. They have since been living in refugee camps in Algeria. The conditions here are very difficult and the refugees are completely dependent upon international help, which has seen a dramatic decrease in the past few years.
Even after more than 30 years of occupation, the conflict still remains unresolved, and there is reason to question whether the international community has exerted sufficient pressure on Morocco to free Western Sahara and to put an end to the serious violations of the human rights. The current situation in the occupied Western Sahara is very difficult, and on a daily basis the population is confronted with violations of human rights, with serious breaches of the freedom of speech and the freedom to organise.
Western Sahara is currently divided in two by a 2200 km long wall, raised by the Moroccan army, and the areas to the far east of the country are controlled by the resistance movement Front Polisario (North African liberation movement working to free Western Sahara from Morocco), which used to fight against the Spanish. This wall prevents any contact between the refugee camps and the rest of the population in Western Sahara. Morocco’s claims to the western part of Western Sahara are in conflict with the Sahrawi people’s wish to self-determination, and with the resolutions from the UN Security Council and General Assembly regarding the right of self-determination.
Students, teachers, journalists and politically organised people who address the issue of independence risk imprisonment and/or their right to publish. In addition, human rights activists are imprisoned without fair court cases.
The situation for Sahrawi students today is untenable. Human rights reports and reports from the media confirm that Sahrawi students are systematically harassed and denied their freedom of speech. As a protest against this, students from all over Morocco and Western Sahara have fought against the Moroccan government’s treatment of Western Sahara’s population by protesting peacefully. However, they have been met by large police forces, violence and tear gas. In many cases they are imprisoned and put in over-crowded prisons, without any possibilities of studying or taking their exams. Their right to education is not being respected, and even if some are transferred to prisons in Morocco, where they can study, this is only a reality for few.
The NSU-Ås Student Parliament condemns Morocco’s infringement in the occupied Western Sahara and demands that the human rights are respected. We encourage the Norwegian government to apply pressure on the Moroccan government to free Western Sahara. We also demand that the Moroccan government respect Sahrawi students’ rights to freedom of movement, speech and to organise, and that imprisoned students get the opportunity to study and take their exams. The NSU-Ås Student Parliament also demands that the political prisoners of Western Sahara are immediately released, and that the UN’s resolutions of the Sahrawi right of self-determination are complied with.
The Declaration of support will be sent to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre, and to the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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