Universitas [Student newspaper of the University of Oslo] 30 May 2007. By Marit Sunnanå Aalrust Translated by Jana Kristensen
- I can’t think of a situation that has received as much support among Norwegian organisations as this one, says Ronny Hansen, President of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
Last Wednesday, 45 Norwegian organisations, including all the political youth parties and student organisations, as well as the Student Parliament in Oslo, signed an appeal to the Moroccan government to protest against the harassment and arrests of Sahrawi students. This is taking place after a month of attacks against Sahrawi student demonstrators at the universities in Morocco and parts of Western Sahara by Moroccan police and armed mobs.
Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco in 1975, when Spain withdrew from the country. The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution that calls on Morocco and Western Sahara to initiate peace talks. These are scheduled to begin in June, and Hansen believes that the police’ behaviour towards the students can be viewed as a tactic to stop the peace talks.
Hansen also believes that the reason why the Norwegian politicians take such a firm stand against this is that the situation is very black and white.
- It is very easy to take a stand on this. On the one hand there is an oppressed part, and on the other an occupying power not supported by international law. In Norway, we have a tradition of supporting small nations and forgotten causes, he adds.
John Peder Egenæs, general secretary of Amnesty International Norway, agrees that the situation in Western Sahara is serious, but maintains that there are many other issues that deserve the same amount of attention.
- The issue that receives the most support isn’t necessarily the most important one, he claims.
Ronny Hansen says that the response to the appeal has been very good.
- The oppressed students feel hope knowing that people think about them and care about their situation. At the same time the appeal sends a warning to the oppressors.
Jens Maseng, President of the National Union of Students in Norway, feels that Norwegian students have a duty to support the Sahrawi students’ fight for freedom of speech and basic democratic rights.
Universitas did not succeed in contacting the Moroccan Embassy for comments yesterday afternoon.
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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