In the morning of Monday 24 April, dozens of unemployed Saharawis left behind their hometown of El Aaiun in order to pitch their tents in the desert area surrounding the city.
The protesters say that the lack of attention of the Moroccan government for their legitimate demands - the right to work and dignity, in particular - forces them to set up “a second Gdeim Izik”. The unemployed Saharawis view their plight as all the more tragic in view of Western Sahara's abundant natural resources over which the Saharawis have no say nor do they share in the profits Morocco reals in from exploiting them.
In the autumn of 2010, thousands of Saharawis participated in the so-called Gdeim Izik camp in a desert area near El Aaiun. They stayed at the Gdeim Izik site in tents for weeks on end to denounce the Saharawi people's social and economic exclusion in their own occupied country. On 8 November 2010, the Moroccan military stormed and demolished the camp. Hundreds of Saharawis were arrested in the immediate aftermath, and while most were released over time, a group of 25 men – some of them known advocates of human rights and independence – were ultimately brought before a military tribunal, which in February 2013 condemned them to severe sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment. After international condemnation of the trial, which demonstrated little respect for minimum standards pertaining to a fair trial, the Moroccan courts announced a re-trial in a civilian court. That is scheduled to take place 8 May. Read more about Gdeim Izik here.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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