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» 10.03.2011 - Morocco protesters encouraged by King's speech
» 03.03.2011 - Calls for new Morocco protests on Sunday
» 27.02.2011 - Morocco protests halted by police violence
» 27.02.2011 - Investors fear Morocco riots
» 26.02.2011 - Mostly peaceful protests in Morocco today
» 22.02.2011 - New Morocco protests planned
» 21.02.2011 - Morocco does not escape violence
» 20.02.2011 - Large peaceful protests in Morocco

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Morocco | Western Sahara

"Intifada" attempts in Western Sahara, Morocco

Protesters in Assa:
«The Sahara is for the rebels!»

© afrol News
afrol News, 1 October
- A growing number of activists in support of independence for the Sahrawis are creating an "Intifada-like" rebellion in Western Sahara and southern Morocco. Anti-government marches have been staged at three localities. Similar attempts were harshly put down by royal Moroccan troops a decade ago.

The village of Assa is firmly placed within undisputed Moroccan territory, around 120 kilometres north of the border between Morocco and the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara. Still, it has developed into the centre of what Sahrawi activists please to call an Intifada.

Assa is special. Its population is dominated by ethnic Sahrawis, mostly loyal to their brothers' fight for an independent Western Sahara even if they know Assa will not be part of it. The village is also the home of Ali Salem Tamek, the most famous pro-Sahrawi activist in Morocco, who has been in and out of Moroccan prisons and torture chambers.

During the month of September, Assa's inhabitants marked the twelfth anniversary of their village's bloody 1992 rebellion and the fifth anniversary of the larger 1999 "Intifada". On Friday one week ago, thousands of villagers took to the street "holding slogans urging the Moroccan King to pull out of Western Sahara and leave the land to its owners, the Sahrawi people," according to a report sent to afrol News by the organisers.

A peaceful march took the estimated 3000 Sahrawi villagers - according to the organisers - around "the principal streets of the town," going up the main street and ending up at the Moroccan Governor's building. During the march, the protesters were holding slogans saying: "Hey king! Hey Donkey! The Sahara is for the rebels!" and "We asked for freedom - They sent us more police agents."

According to the organisers of the Assa protest march, Moroccan authorities largely left the demonstrators in peace during this year's arrangement. However, they report, Moroccan police and secret service agents "were omnipresent" in Assa during the march, but only using "civil cars and motorcycles" and a "great number of secret agents that were undercover in the crowd."

- It is needless to say that Assa now is under military control, the organisers add. Moroccan army units were reported to be stationed only a few hundred meters outside Assa, are on "extremely high alert." Assa, nevertheless, is at peace.

That was not the case during the September 1992 rebellion, when peaceful marches and sit-ins in form of the Governor's palace were attacked by heavily armed police and army units. Hundreds of protesters were injured and one woman died during the clashes, while thirty were imprisoned. Assa inhabitants have marked the day of the 1992 "Intifada", 24 September, ever since.

But there are also rebellious conditions in the occupied territories. In Western Sahara's capital, El Aaiun, and other Sahrawi towns, locals commemorate the September 1999 rebellion against Morocco. Peaceful demonstrations were thus harshly repressed by the Royal Gendarmerie and police forces. Since 1992, September has been the territory's "Intifada month", and also in 2001, a riot was bloodily repressed in S'mara, the territory's third town.

According to the organisers of the Assa demonstration, there had been a coordination to stage protests also in El Aaiun and S'mara. Sahrawis of these two towns had marked the occasion and new protests could be expected in Western Sahara in the near future.

The Sahrawi "Intifada" is however mostly marked by small and symbolic actions, so far always peaceful. Terrorist methods have never been used. In El Aaiun last week, for example, a Sahrawi civilian pulled down the Moroccan flag in a crowded street and replaced it with the Sahrawi flag. According to reports from El Aaiun, he has already been sentenced to two years of prison for this "terror act".

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