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You are a Saharawi You are nothing

(image) Demonstrations at campus.Every year in the month of May the Saharawi students in Morocco organize demonstrations at campus. Although these demonstrations are peaceful protests against the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara and for international human rights, the Moroccan authorities answer with violent attacks. Before these demonstrations are held many Saharawi students receive threatening phone calls from the police. In May 2008 student demonstrations were only held in Marrakech, and during one of these, in which Moroccan students also joined in, the young Sahrawi student Elwali Elqadmi was pushed off the balcony on the 4th floor by a police officer. He broke his back and is now paralyzed from the neck down. The violent actions towards Saharawi students are not just committed by the police, but also by Moroccan fellow-students who are encouraged to beat and rape both men and women.

The threats and violent actions from the police result in fear amongst the students and a lot of Saharawi students leave campus in fear of being attacked or having their rooms ransacked. Most of the students leaving campus have troubles finding new places to live as house owners are being told Saharawis are not to be trusted.

Exams in June.According to a group of students in Rabat, a similar situation to the one Elwali Elqadmi experienced occurred in 2005 and most Saharawi students ended up with very low grades on their exams as they were afraid of coming to the university. In fear of being arrested, attacked and threatened, many Saharawi students are now afraid to join the peaceful demonstrations as these are held in the end of May, and the exam-period starts in June.

Moroccanization.Since there are no universities in Western Sahara, most young Saharawis move to Morocco when they start studying. The institutions in Western Sahara are controlled by Morocco so what the children learn in school is mostly based on the Moroccan perspective. Many Sahrawi students also claim they are being taught wrong facts and dates in for example history lessons during primary school so when they start studying at universities they have to go through all they know to double-check if what they know is correct. When being showed a Lonely Planet map where Morocco and Western Sahara were divided by a thick line, the students were shocked as this was the first time they had ever seen a map in which Western Sahara was not integrated into the Moroccan map.

When moving to Morocco many students experience harassments both in and outside the classrooms, by students as well as professors. A Saharawi studying Arabic Law confirmed this and added “If they know your political profile, they will discriminate you”. Also outside the university area the Saharawi students have problems expressing their identity. If the students decide to wear their own traditional clothing they are likely to receive random comments like “you are an animal”. Mohammod, a Saharawi student, was beaten and stabbed on the street by civilians while the police was watching. When he turned to them for help, they knew he was Saharawi and told him to go home, refusing to thelp.

The continuous struggle for referendum.Even though the Saharawi’s struggle for self-determination has lasted for nearly 35 years and their peaceful demonstrations has been arranged since 1999, today the referendum is as distant as ever. The question of a new war has been raised, but still the majority of the Saharawis believe that non-violent demonstrations and international pressure is the only way to go in order to reach their goal. By spreading information about Morocco’s occupation and by pressuring the international society, students, academics and activists can help the Saharawis’ peaceful fight to claim their rights; the rights they are entitled to according to international law.

For more information on the Western Sahara issue go to:

www.vest-sahara.no

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