- This week, the "Intifada" in Moroccan occupied Western Sahara has intensified. The well organised uprising in the Sahrawi capital of El Aaiun has turned into a more pure pro-independence protest movement, further provoking the Moroccan occupying power. As usual, harsh action was taken against the demonstrators, injuring tens of men and women.
Sources in El Aaiun speak of the most intense week of riots since the "Intifada" started back in May. Well organised protests, starting simultaneously in about 20 townships on Sunday, seem to have taken the Moroccan police, gendarme and army by surprise. Since Sunday, the uprising has continued with daily marches.
The first phase of the "Intifada" only indirectly was against the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Slogans were mainly directed at achieving better human rights conditions in the occupied territories. As protesters were beaten, detained, tortured and some even killed, the slogans demanding human rights seemed even more relevant.
This seemingly new phase of the riot is much more openly nationalistic. Since Sunday, demonstrators have been waving the Sahrawi national flags - banned by the Moroccans - and have raised it from all available heights. Slogans, which were synchronised in the different demonstrations, focused on demands of self-determination and support for the banned Polisario independence movement, which has formed an exile government in Algerian refugee camps.
Also the tone in El Aaiun was notably tougher than at earlier stages of the "Intifada". Several avenues had been blocked by the demonstrators with burning tires and rocks. The activists seemed more willing to use violence than on earlier occasion - probably a result of the fact that the early leaders of the uprising, which were human rights activists, have all been imprisoned.
This week's riots have mainly been confined to El Aaiun, the Sahrawi capital, while earlier protests organised by the occupied territory's human rights network had been nation-wide. This further indicated that the new "Intifada" has a new El Aaiun-based leadership.
According to Sahrawi sources in the city, the Moroccan occupiers had been "confused" by the well organised protests and the "explosive situation". Reactions, they report, thus had been even more violent than normally. The sources speak of beating, kidnapping and torture, backed by anti-riot water-pumping trucks.
During the "violent clashes," many citizens "were seriously injured, others were detained," the Sahrawi source says. Activist had so far counted more than 50 detainees and around 80 injured; all of them named. Further, more than 20 Sahrawi families had seen their houses been broken into by Moroccan troops, their belongings being destroyed.
The activists in particular fear for their detained colleagues as Sahrawi detainees are know to be systematically tortured in Moroccan prisons and police stations. Two activists have already died as a consequence of torture during the "Intifada" since May.
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