Morocco Occupies the Western Sahara

Noam Chomsky has opined before that the Arab Spring began in October 2010 with the protests in a town called Gdeim Izik in the Western Sahara’s occupied territories. Not in 2011 in Tunisia. The territories have been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. I learned about this in my first international law class with Abdullahi al-Naim. From what I recall, we had to read and analyze the 1975 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. It wasn’t easy. It was the first time I really understood that the United Nations gave out legal advice that bound no one to anything. The decision came down to Morocco and Spain fighting over some territory in the Western Sahara which Morocco believed was theirs. While the Moroccans read the document as they wanted to, the Algerians and the Polisario also read the document in a way that fit their preconceptions. The territory, now, is split in half by a 1,677 mile long sand wall which is surrounded by 7 million land mines. Morocco basically stopped the decolonization process of the native Sahrawis from Spain in 1975 when 300,000 of them settled onto the land. This forced 100,000 Sahrawis across the border in Algeria. Sahrawis are either in refugee camps and thus dependent on aid, or they still live under Moroccan rule. One thing is for sure, while they are fighting for their independence, the region is becoming more volatile. The video clip attached is from VICE News and it is about how the Polisario (the Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement working to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara) wards off threats of terrorism and drug smuggling in the Sahara. VICE also looks at how the Polisario has improved security to avoid kidnappings like the kidnapping that occurred in 2011 of three foreign aid workers. Watch the clip and read more from VICE News about the Polisario anti-terrorism unit and what night patrolling in the Sahara along smuggling routes in the desert can be like.

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