See also:
» 27.02.2011 - New clashes in occupied Western Sahara
» 19.01.2011 - Moroccan report confirms "killing of 352 Saharawis"
» 10.11.2010 - "Massacre" and purges ongoing in Western Sahara
» 29.10.2010 - 20,000 Western Sahara protesters "starving"
» 21.10.2010 - "Mass exodus" from Western Sahara cities
» 02.12.2008 - Agadir student killings trigger protests
» 20.03.2008 - W. Sahara talks continues
» 14.01.2008 - Saharawi talks continue [revised]

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Western Sahara
Human rights | Politics

Sahrawis talk of "new Intifada" in El Aaiun

afrol News, 25 May - Shortly after Sahrawi President Mohamed Abdelaziz threatened to take up arms against the Moroccan occupation again, activists in Western Sahara claim to have restarted a popular "Intifada" against Morocco. More than ten activist in El Aaiun were reportedly wounded and several arrested by Moroccan armed forces.

According to SPS, a news agency controlled by the exiled Sahrawi government, there has been "a huge Intifada in El Aaiun" this week, protesting against Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara and against systematic human rights violations. Hundreds of Sahrawi citizens reportedly had participated in the demonstrations in the capital of Western Sahara.

The protesters in particular had demanded an end to human right violations in the occupied territory and carried banners in favour of the Sahrawi people's right to independence and self-determination. According to SPS, demonstrators had raised Sahrawi national flags, and chanted slogans such as "independence now", "no concessions, freedom or martyr".

Activist reported that they were met with armed units of the Moroccan police, in particular a recently constituted urban security unit (GUS - Groupes de Securites Urbaines). This police unit reportedly has a reputation of intimidating the city's Sahrawi population, causing the marching crowd to intensify its protests.

On Tuesday, the protests had caused clashes between the Sahrawi activists and Moroccan police units, causing several protesters and by-passers to be wounded. The clashes were reported to have lasted for ten hours, before the protesters retreated. Some ten activists allegedly were arrested, some of these were reportedly tortured.

The "Intifada", which started on Monday, is reported to be ongoing. The latest reports from El Aaiun speak of hundreds of protesters clashing with Moroccan police troops, which are using teargas. Roadblocks and burning tyres are dominating the Sahrawi capital, which has been sealed off. Some reports indicate that Moroccan settlers were forming armed militias, fighting Sahrawi activists.

The demonstrations in El Aaiun had been organised in commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the Polisario, the Sahrawi pro-independence movement that forms an exile government in Algerian refugee camps. Polisario leader and Sahrawi President Mohamed Abdelaziz had used the occasion on 20 May to visit an armed unit at Tifariti in the "liberated territories" along Western Sahara's eastern borders.

During his stay in Tifariti, Mr Abdelaziz warned that the 1991 ceasefire between Polisario and Morocco was now in serious danger. The ceasefire was to lead to a UN-monitored referendum over Western Sahara's independence, but no progress has however been made since 1991. Moroccan King Mohammed VI is now rejecting any peace solution that could lead to the territory's independence.

Polisario leader Abdelaziz therefore warned that that Sahrawi people could not "stay inactive eternally." He denounced Morocco's "dangerous position," which was contrasting the 1991 ceasefire agreement. Polisario would fight to defend the Sahrawis' national rights "with all legitimate means, including armed struggle," Mr Abdelaziz said.

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