In protest of the ongoing exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources, and their dire socio-economic situation, hundreds of Saharawi in the occupied territories have left their homes in the cities to live in tents in the desert.
Since 4 days, over 1.000 Saharawi in the occupied territories of Western Sahara have left their homes in El Aaiún, Boujdour and Smara, to go and live in tents in the zone of Lemseyed (in Gdeim Izik). They say they’re doing this as a peaceful protest against the Moroccan occupation of their homeland and the ongoing exploitation of the territory's’s natural resources.
Sources say that about 1.100 individuals are now living in approximately 150 tents. Other sources cite up to 400 tents. As a sign of support, the former phosphate workers, who lost their jobs in Fos Bou Craa when Morocco took over the company, have visited the camps.
This exodus has already elicited a response from the Moroccan authorities. Since 12 October, 15 armed trucks and 35 vehicles of the auxiliary forces have been sent in. Additionally, 2 army-helicopters take turns in surveillancing the protest-camps. See footage from the Moroccan police surrounding the camps here.
The Saharawi people in the occupied territories of Western Sahara have become a marginalised minority in their own country: they are outnumbered by Moroccan settlers who are provided jobs through the exploitation of Western Sahara’s abundant natural resources. Meanwhile the Saharawi see their most basic human rights continuously violated by the Moroccan occupying regime, in a climate of impunity.
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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Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
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