- The many prisoners taken by Moroccan security forces during the ongoing uprising in occupied Western Sahara are on an "unlimited hunger strike" protesting their arrest and torture. Several prominent Sahrawi human rights activists are reported to observe a critical health situation.
The latest reports smuggled out from the infamous Black Prison in El Aaiun and other Moroccan detention centres speak of the "deteriorating health condition" of the striking Sahrawi dissidents. The political prisoners have refused to eat for one month and several are now too weak to speak.
Ali Salem Tamek, one of the most prominent human rights activist demanding independence for Western Sahara, is among the prisoners taken by Moroccan troops. Mr Tamek has earlier been arrested several times and managed to force his release through hunger strikes. The activist, who was arrested on the airport when arriving from medical treatment in Europe, is generally in poor health due to earlier torture and activism.
Now, Mr Tamek is held in the Ait Melloul prison, in Morocco proper, and is among the organisers of the great hunger strike protesting the detention of peaceful Sahrawi activists. According to information smuggled out of the prison, Mr Tamek last week collapsed in his cell due to "lack of oxygen". The activist refused the services of the prison medical, fearing Moroccan authorities may plan to drug him.
The list of Sahrawi political prisoners falling seriously ill while in Moroccan detention is getting larger from day to day. At the Black Jail in El Aaiun, the occupied capital of Western Sahara, prisoners have been shuttled back and forth to a nearby hospital, being offered treatment against blood vomiting, heart attacks and failing circulation.
According to reports from Sahrawi activists, the prisoners have been put under great pressure by Moroccan authorities to end their hunger strikes. Medical staff at the Belmehdi hospital in El Aaiun had ordered prisoners to receive injections or to stop the hunger strike "that serves the separatists' objectives." Some had been given injections while unconscious. However, all prisoners had so far rejected to break the hunger strike and have been returned to their cells, the same sources say.
The political prisoners main demand is the release of all those arrested in connection with the uprising all over occupied Western Sahara since May this year. The prisoners also demand respect for human rights in the occupied territory - the same demand that was made by the first protesters in the streets of El Aaiun in May. Within weeks, the protests developed into a popular "Intifada" all over the territory.
Despite the heavy handed actions against the protesters - including beating of demonstrators and heavy torture of those arrested - the protests continue in Western Sahara. People defy the large presence of police, gendarme and other armed Moroccan units and keep taking to the streets.
Only on Monday, a peaceful crowd gathered in El Aaiun to demonstrate for "the immediate release of all Sahrawi political prisoners, the raise of the military and media siege imposed on the Western Sahara and the Sahrawis‚ right to self-determination and independence," according to a report from a local source. As usual, the demonstrators were met with violence from urban police and were chased away.
The extensive protests and systematic violations of human rights in occupied Western Sahara have been met with little international attention. However, Amnesty International has launched several protest campaigns asking Moroccan authorities to release political prisoners and assure the Sahrawi's right to organise peaceful protests.
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