Since October 7, various cities in Morocco have witnessed mass vigils and marches condemning the Israeli occupation’s aggression against Gaza. The demonstrators have expressed their strong condemnation of the barbarism of the occupation and the targeting of civilians in Gaza with the support of the United States and Western countries. Protesters are also demanding an end to Morocco’s normalization agreement with Israel and the closure of Israel’s liaison office in Rabat. The actions come in response to calls launched by the Moroccan Front to Support Palestine and Against Normalization and the National Action Group for Palestine.
On December 22, 2020, Israel and Morocco officially normalized relations after former President Donald Trump’s administration declared occupied Western Sahara as Moroccan. In the years following, Israeli companies have boosted their business involvement in Western Sahara, suggesting the pair’s cooperation is fueling each other’s land theft. In 1975, Morocco annexed part of Western Sahara – a region indigenous to the Sahrawi people – and its entirety in 1979. Few have accepted these actions: today, 82 countries recognize Western Sahara’s independence, while only the United States recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over the land.
On Sunday, February 19, security personnel repressed a sit-in organized by progressive forces and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement’s national campaign in Morocco’s capital city of Rabat. The protest was called against French multinational retail corporation Carrefour and its complicity in Israel’s settler-colonial apartheid regime. Protestors gathered outside a Carrefour building in Rabat, waiving the Palestinian flag and raising slogans of solidarity. However, they were soon violently shoved back by uniformed guards and a non-uniformed man carrying a walkie talkie.
Morocco, Western Sahara - Moroccan forces illegally occupying the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) have come under repeated bombardment by the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). Moroccan forces currently occupy over 80% of SADR, also known as Western Sahara, which remains classified by the UN as among the last countries still awaiting decolonization. On Friday, December 30, according to a statement by the Ministry of Defense of SADR, the SPLA “targeted the trenches of the occupation soldiers in several areas of the Mahbas sector.” The SPLA bombarded the positions of occupation forces in this region, in the northwest of occupied territory, for the third consecutive day on Friday. Attacks were also reported on December 28 and 29, inflicting “heavy losses in lives and equipment along the wall of humiliation and shame.”
Two years ago, Morocco and Israel signed the US-brokered “Joint Declaration”, thus officially recognizing Israel and instating diplomatic ties. Though other Arab countries had already done the same, the Moroccan official recognition of Apartheid Israel was particularly devastating for Palestinians. Years ago, a close Moroccan friend told me that the ‘first time’ he was arrested was during a solidarity protest for Palestine in Rabat which took place many years ago. The reference to the ‘first time’ indicated that he was arrested again, though mostly for other political activities, suggesting that Palestine, in many ways, has become a local struggle for many Moroccans.
Thousands of people gathered at the Bab Al-Ahad Square in Moroccan capital Rabat on Sunday, December 4, as part of a national march against “high prices, political repression, and social oppression.” The action was organized by the Moroccan Social Front (FSM), a coalition of left-wing political parties and trade unions, with support from leading human rights groups as well as various political, civil society, and sectoral organizations and unions. “We came to protest a government that embodies the marriage between money and power and supports monopoly capitalism,” declared Younes Ferachine, a coordinator at FSM. As the march proceeded through the capital, protestors chanted,“The people want lower prices… The people want to eliminate despotism and corruption.”
The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA) released its first annual report on July 28 titled, “Continuous war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Moroccan occupation against Saharawi civilians. What future for the decolonization process in Western Sahara?” According to Mahjoub Maliha, head of CODESA’s external relations, the report reflects “the gravity and scale of the violations committed by the Moroccan occupation forces against Saharawi civilians.” It records human rights violations and war crimes committed in the occupied Western Sahara in the period between September 2020 and December 2021. Morocco claimed sovereignty over Western Sahara after Spain withdrew its colonial control from the territory in 1975.
International institutions have failed the Sahrawi people. Over 100 resolutions adopted by the United Nations have recognized the Sahrawi peoples’ right to self-determination, to no effect. The International Court of Justice condemned Mauritania and Morocco’s claims to Western Saharan land as far back as 1975, but Morocco continues to occupy the land illegally. In 1991, the United Nations promised to hold a referendum on Western Saharan statehood, but that referendum has not yet come to pass. Today, some 200,000 Sahrawis live in conditions of violent occupation in Western Sahara. Another 200,000 live in refugee camps in Algeria near the Western Saharan border and in parts of Western Sahara under the control of the Polisario Front. A 2,700km wall with an estimated seven million landmines separates the two territories.
On June 24th, approximately 2000 African migrants made a desperate attempt at a mass border crossing, climbing the iron fence separating Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla. Footage of African bodies piled up at the foot of the fence, many lifeless, while others were being savagely beaten by Moroccan Security Forces, went viral. To date, the number of African migrants who lost their lives has climbed to 37. We join with those all over the world, to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this horrific attack by Moroccan security forces.
Algeria announced suspension of its two decade-old-treaty of friendship with Spain on Wednesday, June 8. It also announced the suspension of all imports from the European country over its decision to support Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara. The Algerian President’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that it is suspending the long-term treaty with Spain, called the “treaty of friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation,” signed in 2002. A statement issued by the Algerian Banking Association later declared that the government had also decided to suspend imports of all goods and services from Spain. According to the Algerian government, the decision to suspend political, economic, financial, educational and defense ties with Spain was taken after it supported the Moroccan position on occupied Western Sahara earlier this year in March.
Three US women heading to visit their friends in Boujdour, Western Sahara, were forcibly turned back on May 23rd, when they landed at Laayoune Airport. Twelve men and six women Moroccan agents physically overpowered them and placed them against their will on a plane back to Casablanca. During the scuffle, one of the women’s shirt and bra were pulled up to expose her breasts. In the cultural context of the passengers on the plane, this was a serious form of harassment and violence against women. Wynd Kaufmyn said of her treatment by the Moroccan forces, “We refused to cooperate with their illegal actions. I repeatedly shouted out on the departing airplane that I wanted to go to Boujdour to visit Sultana Khaya, who has endured torture and rape at the hands of Moroccan agents.
Spain has announced that it has endorsed a proposal by the Kingdom of Morocco to designate the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as an “autonomous” region within the North African state. Former United States President Donald Trump in 2020, recognized Moroccan control over the Western Sahara in an attempt to strengthen relations between the Kingdom and the State of Israel. Formerly known as the “Spanish Sahara”, the people of the territory have been demanding national independence for decades. All of the former colonies of Europe within the African continent have sought independence from the former imperialist masters. Although there are 55 African countries which are members of the African Union (AU) and the United Nations, the phenomenon of neo-colonialism has hampered genuine liberation and continental unification.
The collective of the Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA) has called for global support to save the lives of Sahrawis as occupying Morocco resumed its oppression in the region fighting for self-determination. Last week, CODESA appealed to international organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross for solidarity and action in “saving lives and humanity in Western Sahara.” CODESA appealed to the Red Cross to immediately establish a permanent mission for humanitarian operations in Western Sahara. It also asked other international organizations and individuals to sign a petition to that effect. The campaign to collect signatures had started on January 20 and ended on February 15.
The Trump administration’s announcement on December 10th 2020 that the USA recognised Moroccan sovereignty over the territory of Western Sahara disregards international law by endorsing colonialism and occupation. It also threatens prospects of future peace in northwest Africa. The decision reflects the priorities of Trump’s administration, but it is not new that global leaders disregard international law and prospects for peace in Western Sahara, nor that they tolerate and support colonialism and occupation there. Rather, the Trump administration’s decision has given these realities new public visibility. Ongoing efforts to support Sahrawis’ right to self-determination must go beyond pushing for a reversal of US recognition, and advocate for genuine conditions for decolonization.
There is a new U.S. war in Western Sahara, being waged by Morocco with the support of the U.S. military. The U.S. military, unbeknownst to most people in the United States — it’s perfectly knowable but few give a damn — arms and trains and funds the militaries of the world, including almost all of the most brutal governments of the world. I can’t compare this with the outrage in the U.S. media over the U.S. government feeding a few hungry people in the United States, because there isn’t any outrage over it at all.