Press Release 3 Dec 2010 ‘Sun, sea, sand and torture’

Press Release: 3rd December, 2010 – IMMEDIATE
“Sun, sea, sand and torture”
Western Sahara activists launch ‘Don’t Go To Morocco’ campaign

Following the Moroccan government’s announcement this week that it plans to double its tourism in the next 10 years activists today launched a new campaign aimed at highlighting human rights abuses in occupied Western Sahara and asking tourists to boycott holidaying in Morocco. The new action – Don’t Go Morocco – was launched in London today

 by the Western Sahara Campaign and the Free Western Sahara Network at a meeting in Piccadilly. Campaigners then spent the afternoon outside Morocco’s main tourism office in Regents’ Street handing out leaflets detailing the discrimination, abuse and violence suffered by the native Saharawi population under Morocco’s 35 year unlawful occupation of their country.

On Tuesday Moroccan tourism minister Yassir Znagui unveiled a tourism development plan which would see the expansion of tourism over the next decade in eight regions including Western Sahara. Morocco annexed Western Sahara after Spain pulled out of its former colony in 1976, and despite international condemnation and numerous United Nations resolutions requiring a referendum on self-determination the referendum has to be held. 

Cities on Western Sahara’s Atlantic coastline such as Dakhla will be developed into thriving tourist destinations. This announcement comes just weeks after violent clashes in Western Sahara which resulted in several deaths, over one hundred injuries and many arrests. A report from Human Rights Watch last Friday found that Saharawi detainees had been beaten and abused. The violence in El Ayoun has been condemned by the United Nations Security Council and last week the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for an independent UN investigation into the violence. This call has so far been rejected by Rabat.

Natalie Sharples of the Western Sahara Campaign said today:

“Western Sahara is a beautiful place but whilst the brutal occupation continues we do not feel it is an appropriate tourist destination. The Saharawi people face daily discrimination with those daring to challenge the occupation facing detention, abuse and torture. Western Sahara is a forgotten conflict and the Don’t Go To Morocco campaign is intended to make holiday-makers aware of the situation there and to take it into consideration when booking their holidays. During the apartheid days people chose not to holiday in South Africa for political reasons. If holiday-makers knew about the situation in Western Sahara we are confident that many would chose to holiday elsewhere. Afterall, ‘sun, sea, sand and torture’ is not what people want when they go on holiday.”

Cathy Jamieson, MP for Kilmarnock & Loudoun said today:

“Raising awareness of what has been happening over the years of Moroccan occupation is vital, particularly in light of recent events. Every effort must be made to get a fair and just solution for the Saharawi people and hopefully this campaign will show the real strength of feeling.”
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