Friday, November 6, is a special day for Moroccans. Daily newspapers across the country are unanimous in stressing the renewed mobilisation of the king and people to not only defend but also continue the development of the Moroccan Sahara
The Green March was a popular march of enormous proportions. On November 6, 1975, approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into the region of Sakiya Lhmra. They brandished Moroccan flags and Qur'an; banners calling for the return of the Moroccan Sahara, photographs of the King and the Qur'an; the colour green for the march's name was intended as a symbol of Islam. As the marchers reached the border, the Spanish Armed Forces backed down and Spanish troops also cleared some previously mined zones.
Today Morocco's newspapers point out that the visit of King Mohammed VI to the Sahara marks the beginning of a new march for the development of the Saharan provinces. Al Alam, an Arabic-language paper, says ,"The country's advanced regionalisation is a democratic response from Morocco to the desperate attempts of those who want to challenge its historical and legitimate right to its southern provinces,"
Another of the Arabic language papers, Al Ittihad Al Ichtiraki, gave coverage of the Green March in 1975, which mobilised 350,000 Moroccans to march to recover the Saharan provinces armed only the "weapon" of the Holy Qur'an and olive branches. The paper went on to say that the new challenge is to establish and restore democracy and development for the benefit of the entire population of the Moroccan Sahara.
The same tone is voiced in the columns of Al Massae which devoted four pages under the headline "The Sahara issue ..." They also examined the visit of King Mohammed VI this Friday, to Laayoune and then to several other southern provinces.
A visit that, according to Al Massae, will increase the administrative regionalisation of the Sahara before the implementation of the autonomy plan for the population which will grant broad powers for Saharan self-management within the framework of Moroccan sovereignty.
The North Africa Post (on line) says: "There are very few events in the history of a country that transcend time and generations to remain vivid in the memory of all, old and young, there are few events that bear a historical grandeur and a sense of destiny and belonging. Morocco has such an event. That was the Green March, the unprecedented march, both symbolic and popular, of 350,000 Moroccans who walked hundreds of kilometres to peacefully recover a part of their country, the Western Sahara, which was under Spanish dominion."
No shots were fired, not a single drop of blood was shed and Morocco retrieved its Sahara. That was in 1975.The North Africa Post concludes, "The centuries-old historical, geographical, and ethnical ties that existed between the Sahara and Northern Morocco that were broken by colonialism for decades were stitched again thanks to the genius idea of the late king Hassan II, the architect of the epic, who thought out and planned every detail of the March".
As the country celebrates, Mohammed VI has pardoned hundreds of Moroccans from the Sahara and forty Salafists.
The total number pardoned is 4215 people who were serving sentences in different prisons of the kingdom.
According to a Ministry of Justice and Freedoms press release, 3539 prisoners have had the remainder of their sentences cut and been released. Among the pardoned prisoners are 69 people released on humanitarian grounds and 561 others who have gained a degree or further education.
A further 639 detainees have benefited from remission including 218 from the Moroccan Sahara and 421 detainees who graduated or who are studying or training.
The Department of Justice says that 37 Salafist prisoners held on terrorism charges but who have shown their willingness to reintegrate into society and to renounce violence, have been released.