Protesting UN inaction to violence in the Occupied Territories at MINURSO HQs, Tifariti, October 25, 2010 (photo: Kirby Gookin)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Noam Chomsky: "The current wave of protests [in North Africa] actually began last November in Western Sahara..."

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s hard to believe that they're not aware of it. I mean, you can read it in the newspapers. There have been demonstrations and protests going on for years. A big protest in 2005, you know, they keep being repressed, then there are more. In fact, the current wave of protests actually began last November in Western Sahara, which is under Moroccan rule after a brutal invasion and occupation. The Moroccan forces came in, carried out - destroyed tent cities, a lot of killed and wounded and so on. And then it spread. You have to be pretty - all the -

AMY GOODMAN: Western Sahara is hardly known about, the rebellion there and the occupation there.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s hardly known about, but that's - I mean, it’s a major atrocity. It's kind of like East Timor - in fact, pretty much the same, even the same time. But it's blowing up. And also, they must read the studies of Arab public opinion. I mean, you can't imagine an intelligence service that doesn't read the regular studies by Western polling agencies of Arab public opinion. And if you look at them, you can see why democracy is such a frightening concept. The latest major study last August released by the Brookings Institute, so not very obscure, showed that almost nobody in the Arab world regards Iran as a threat - 10 percent. What they regard as a threat is the United States and Israel, like 80 and 90 per cent. In fact, a majority even favor Iran having nuclear weapons, to balance US-Israeli power, which is the real threat in the Arab world. You take a look at when they list people who are respected, Erdogan in Turkey is way up on top. Obama isn't even listed. You know, you get down to Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, no Obama. Now, these are the opinions of people in the Arab world. What you said about the bureaucrats and the aides is absolutely correct. I mean, after all, there have been 60 years in which explicit policy, you know, in writing, has been - internal records - has been to disregard the Arab population, as long as they can be kept under control.

JUAN GONZALEZ: So, is, perhaps, the reticence of the administration in the case of Egypt, let's say, or right now in Bahrain, more geared to the fact that they know that public opinion and they understand that real democracy in the region would mean another Latin America, another region totally out of US ability to dominate?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I don't talk to anybody in Washington, so I can only guess, but it is simply inconceivable that at least the intelligence services don't go as far as reading polls that I can read.

Click here for full interview : "The Genie is Out of the Bottle."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brief History of Conflict

      Western Sahara, formerly the Spanish Sahara, is Africa’s last colony.  Rejecting the UN’s resolution to decolonize and the International Court of Justice’s call for a referendum on self-determination for the indigenous Sahrawi people, Spain instead granted sovereignty over the territory to Morocco and Mauritania (since retreated).  For more than 35 years, the Sahrawi people led by the POLISARIO Front (recognized by the UN as their legitimate representative) have been fighting for independence and the right to determine their own future.   
     Today more than 150,000 Sahrawis are exiled in refugee camps in Algeria, and one hundred thousand more suffer oppression and human rights abuses under Moroccan occupation inside their homeland. 

Links to History of Conflict:

Western Sahara Resource Watch 
Stephen Zunes' Western Sahara Blog (recent events and historical background)
"Western Sahara and the Self-Determination Debate," (Samuel J. Spector Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2009). An analysis of the legal complexities involving self-determination.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Where is Western Sahara?

click images to enlarge

General Statistics: Demographics, Natural Resources, Economy, etc.

New Internationalist Magazine: Special Issue on WS (December 1997)

Oil (
Phosphates (
    and Fred Pearce: Phosphate: A Critical Resource
Fisheries: (
Fisheries: (FishElswhere)
Agriculture (

Further Reading (
Mulay Hafid- Smara-Blog (scroll to bottom half)
         (has numerous links to governmental & commercial interests involving oil & gas licensing, etc.)
PHOSPHOROUS: "The Gravest Natural Resource Shortage You’ve Never Heard Of.”  
The United Nations Population Fund announced that the world’s population hit 7 billion people on October 31, 2011.   Predictions for future growth are anticipated to hit 8 billion by 2025 and 16 billion by 2100.  Environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert responded to this declaration by assessing “the world’s ability to provide for all these additional people.”  Her conclusion is that success will rely on efficiencies in agriculture.  However, these efficiencies are threatened by increased shortages in such “essential commodities” as oil, water, arable land and phosphorous:
“Part of what made the first green revolution possible was a sharp increase in the use of phosphorous-rich fertilizers.  Thanks to this increased use, experts say, reserves of phosphorous are now being exhausted. Foreign Policy has called this ‘the gravest natural resource shortage you’ve never heard of.’ ” ["Billions and Billions," New Yorker, October 24, 2011, p 22]. 

For more on the environmental, economic and political role that phosphates and phosphate mining plays internationally and in Western Sahara see Fred Pearce's excellent article: "Phosphate: A Critical Resource Misused and Now Running Low." (  July 7, 2011)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Territories

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights: 

2008 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate:   Aminatou Haidar

Human Rights Abuses Online Tracker:
For an ongoing tracker of human rights abuses in The Occupied Territories of Western Sahara (established in May 2011) see the Human Rights in Western Sahara crowd map tracker here:  or visit them on facebook

Links Addressing Human Rights Violations:

Life in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps, Tindouf, Algeria

Smara, 2010 (Foto: Kirby Gookin)

Four of the five refugee camps are named after cities in the Occupied Territories of WS and the fifth, camp February 27, is named after Sahrawi independence day.  A sixth camp, Rabuni, serves as the administrative center of RASD and entry point for aid and aid workers.
Location of Refugee Camps in Algeria

For a unique assessment of camp life by a delegation of Trade Union representatives from the United Kingdom see the  Report of a Trades Union Congress delegation to the Sahrawi Refugee Camps, May 2006 which evaluates labor, women in work force, education, medicine, the economy, etc.; followed by conclusions and resolutions. [downloadable pdf available at top of link page]        
Refugee Camp "27 Febrero", 2009 (Foto: Robin Kahn)

Photo: Kirby Gookin
Adult English Classroom, 27 Febrero (Foto: Kirby Gookin)

Attendees at Conference on Protecting Sahrawi Patrimony, 27 Febrero 2010 (Foto: Kirby Gookin)
Women waiting for gas distribution, 27 Febrero, 2009 (Foto: Robin Kahn)
Store in Rabuni, 2009 (Foto: Robin Kahn)

 Food Aid, Processed Cheese, Smara (Foto: Kirby Gookin)

International Food Aid, 27 Febrero (Foto: Kirby Gookin)

Radio station, 27 Febrero (Foto: Edi Escobar)
Sandstorm, Smara 2009 (Foto: Federico Guzman)

Clothing store, Smara 2010 (Foto: Kirby Gookin)
Bookstore, Smara (Foto: Kirby Gookin)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Life in the Occupied Territories

Secret police reaching into our car, assaulting Mariah Kennedy-Cuomo, the photographer. Laayoune, Aug. 25, 2012. (from the Huffington Post)
For insights into a recent visit to the Occupied Territories with the RFK Center see Kerry Kennedy article in the Huffington Post (August 27, 2012): "A Brush With Morocco's Secret Police in Laayoune, Moroccan-Occupied Western Sahara"

For videos:


Resistencia Saharaui

Recent Events in The Occupied Territories of Western Sahara

      GDEIM IZIK (October - November 2010):

In October 2010, more than 20,000 Sahrawi citizens living under Moroccan military occupation in Western Sahara set up temporary “Camps of Justice” to peacefully assert their claims for independence and self-determination, and to protest against ongoing human rights abuses.  The Kingdom of Morocco responded by sending security forces to surround the camps in an effort to prohibit the entry of food, water, medicine and independent human rights observers.  Beginning October 24th, they took violent action against the unarmed protesters in an effort to disperse them.  The first casualty was Elgarhi Nayem Foidal, a 14 year old boy.  On November 8th Moroccan forces moved to destroy the camps, brutally beating the protesters and burning down the camp.   (for videos taken at this time see "Resistencia Saharaui" to right). One of the most powerful documentaries Gdeim-Izik: The Sahrawi Resistance Camp (2011) (also by Resistencia Saharaui) can be found here in English, Arabic and Spanish.
Elgarhi Nayem Foidal
State of the camp after the violent eviction realized by Morocco

Past Events + Actions Relating to Western Sahara (90 days and older)

February 3-5, 2012, Sevilla, España.
37th European Coordination Conference of Support to the Sahrawi Saharawi People (EUCOCO)
Visit the Conference’s English Home Page here and the Final Resolutions here.
December 18, 2011 
Day of Action on Behalf of Western Sahara’s Right for Self-Determination: 
Kirby Gookin, Federico Guzman Robin Kahn and Moulud Omar are participating in the IMI's Immigrant Day of Action on December 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm.  Our project is to continue our efforts in creating awareness about the human rights crisis in Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony.  The event is designed to be as effective on December 18th as afterward when someone chooses to visit our IMI web page.  Our project is to organize a simultaneous screening of a video portraying the Sahrawi’s struggle for freedom.  The video will be shown in the refugee camps of Tindouf, in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara, and in Algiers, Sevilla, Dublin, and New York.  By viewing the link available here, it can also be seen anywhere, everywhere, and at anytime.  We ask everyone to watch it with us in spirit, and in solidarity with the Sahrawi People.