Recently The View from Fez posted a story about the Guinness World Record sized flag. The flag was huge, weighing in at 20 tonne, and measuring 60,000 square metres. The fact that it was laid out in Dakhla in Morocco's Western Sahara was always going to raise issues with those who dispute Morocco's sovereignty of the territory. In this guest commentary, Ibn Warraq takes a personal look at the situation.
Sometimes being a young "leftie" is perplexing. I am an active environmental campaigner, I support the dream of a free Tibet and deplore abuses of freedom in whatever country they take place. But when it comes to Western Sahara I have to take a step back and ask why all the usually bright and committed comrades on the left are supporting a stance that assists in the use of people as pawns in a political game that has gone on far too long and too tragically. The pawns are the refugees in the camps being held hostage by the Polisario and their Algerian backers. From time to time some intrepid refugees escape and bring us their deeply moving stories of the years of waiting in the camps and the hardship endured by the population detained "by the violent militias" of polisario in the Tindouf camps
This week's demonstration in France
Only this week relatives of those in the camps held a demonstration in France and called for the European MPs to intervene urgently “to put an end to the ordeal sustained by our families held in the Tindouf camps for a quarter of a century.”
The humanitarian conditions of the civilian population in the "Western Sahara" refugee Camps in Tindouf Algeria are so dire, that making an immediate international humanitarian intervention necessary, according to international humanitarian organizations and to Sahrawis who were lucky to escape the Polisario-Algerian run encampments. In 1976 and on behest of the Algerian military, the Polisario separatist movement lured thousands of Sahrawi nomads from their native lands in what was then called Spanish Sahara, Mauritania, Algeria and Mali to Tindouf, a Town in western Algeria, where it continues to confine most of them against their will. - HASSAN MASIKY
The demonstrators also urged European bodies to "make pressure on polisario and its mentor Algeria so that they stop the atrocities perpetrated in the Tindouf camps” as well as to take a “census of the populations subject to the most serious abuses of their basic rights”.
They insisted that the Sahara is a Moroccan territory by virtue of geography, history, culture, religion and the bei’a (allegiance) binding the Sahrawi populations and the Alaouite throne.
Yes, there is a political agenda by both sides. But the time has come for those in the West who uphold human rights and social justice to start thinking clearly about their stance here.
And the flag issue? Oh dear, my friends on the left called it a stunt to raise awareness of Morocco's claims in the region. If my comrades had read the situation better they would have called it a demonstration in support of those held in the camps.
And the world record? Last week the fine folks at Guinness World Records were contacted by campaigners who claimed that by authenticating the record they were "legitimising the unlawful occupation of Western Sahara" and requested that the record be rescinded. Thankfully saner minds came into play and a spokesperson for Guinness responded stating that “our task is to measure, count, monitor all world records. We are not in a position to comment on the political nature of things - we simply document the world around us.”
So while I applaud those who fight for freedom and justice.... sometimes it is best to look through the hype and spin and come to grips with the reality on the ground. Our people are suffering in the camps... lets work together to free them. Inshallah.