See also:
» 21.10.2010 - "Mass exodus" from Western Sahara cities
» 14.04.2010 - Sahrawis fed up with UN chief
» 03.02.2010 - New talks on Western Sahara in US
» 17.11.2009 - Unblock foreign visits to Sahrawi activists, HRW
» 29.10.2009 - Abdelaziz calls on UN to protect Sahrawi
» 09.10.2009 - New report documents abuse of Sahrawi refugees' rights in Algeria camps
» 08.09.2009 - UN refugee chief begins visit to Western Sahara camps
» 13.08.2009 - Fresh promise for Western Sahara talks

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Western Sahara
Society | Human rights

20,000 Western Sahara protesters "starving"

The Gdeim Izik protest camp outside El Aaiun is the largest, with over 10,000 campers

© UPES/afrol News
afrol News, 29 October
- The 20,000 Sahrawis leaving Western Sahara cities in protest of Morocco's occupation are on "maximum alert" after a Moroccan siege denies them water and food. Protesters warn of "concentration camps".

By now, some 20,000 Sahrawi protesters have gathered in provisional camps outside the cities of El Aaiun, Smara, Dakhla and Bujador, according to reports sent to afrol News from coordinators inside the camps. The massive protest action started in a smaller scale almost three weeks ago.

But as the protest grows more massive, Moroccan security forces get tougher. Protesters now report of a "Moroccan siege" of the camps, with massive build-ups of armed troops, police and vehicles encircling all the camps, halting all movement in and out of them.

The situation for the 20,000 Sahrawis is becoming critical. The Moroccan blockade of the four camps is preventing food, drinks and medicine from reaching those inside.

"Since early afternoon on Thursday, we don't have any water at all. Despite any possible measures to keep up hygienic standards and avoid disease outbreaks, the wall mounted by the Moroccans even prevents us from burning wastes outside the camp," a protester in the camp outside El Aaiun told afrol News.

Another protester added that isolation was now total for those concentrated in the protest camps, so that these camps now could "be labelled concentration camps where the population is starved to death."

The siege has already produced deaths and injured, according to Sahrawi sources. Earlier this week, a 14-year-old-boy, Elgarhi Nayem, was killed and several people were injured as they tried to leave the camp fifteen kilometres outside El Aaiun, the capital of the occupied territory. Elgarhi allegedly was gunned down by Moroccan soldiers.

Protesters today report that Elgarhi meanwhile has been buried by Moroccan authorities on a secret

14-year-old Nayem Elgarhi was shot trying to leave the Sahrawi protest camp outside El Aaiun

© SPS/afrol News
place "without the consent and participation of his family." Three of the wounded meanwhile were taken to Rabat "for interrogation." Inside the camp, the Sahrawis have run up black flags to mourn "their first martyr."

In addition to establishing a total siege of the four established camps, Moroccan security forces also do their best to prevent the establishment of new protest camps. On Monday, Sahrawis in the southern Moroccan town of Guelmim tried to leave the town to establish a protest camp, but were "violently stopped by the Moroccan Gendarmerie, "using sticks and batons."

The harsh Moroccan reaction to the Sahrawi protests has triggered international protests. Amnesty International on Wednesday urged Moroccan authorities "to immediately investigate" the killing of Elgarhi and insisted that "no excessive force should be used to disperse protestors."

Mohammed Abdelaziz, the exiled President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, said the Moroccan army "has created daily psychological pressure on the Sahrawi and caused a state of fear and panic amongst the women and children." He urged the Moroccans to lift the blockade immediately.

Meanwhile, Moroccan authorities say they are trying to find a negotiated solution to end the protests in Western Sahara. Communication Minister Khalid Naciri commented the fact that so many of the citizens of El Aaiun were protesting in itself was proof of "the climate of democracy and freedom of expression" experienced in Morocco.

Moroccan Interior Minister Taieb Charkaokui yesterday was sent to El Aaiun to seek an end to the Sahrawi protest action. Minister Charkaokui has yet to meet with the protesters.

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