Week of violence and repression in Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara

AWSA summarises a week of violence and repression in Dakhla on the southern coast of occupied Western Sahara.

Disturbing news is coming out of Dakhla, the southern city in occupied Western Sahara. It appears that violence erupted on Sunday 25 September as people were leaving a football match between the local Saharawi team and a Moroccan team from Casablanca. The police and security forces stepped back to allow Moroccan settlers to attack Saharawis, it was reported, see : http://www.spsrasd.info/en (in English)

Many were injured, several seriously and one death is confirmed. The first was that of Maichan Mohamed-Lamin Lahbib, born in 1982. Details of injuries : <http://poemariosaharalibre.blogspot.com/2011/09/un-joven-saharaui-asesinado-en-dajla.html> (in Spanish).

Cars and shops of Saharawis were set alight and houses ransacked. The city is in a state of siege, patrolled by the army, the police having withdrawn. Extra troops arrived on Monday with 150 vehicles to blockade the town, local activists report. Videos on the French blog: http://apsophotos.blogspot.com/

A Moroccan source, Demain online comments that since Gdeim Izik, any peaceful coexistence between Saharawis and Moroccans has been blown to bits. It also comments that the news blackout in the region means that we must wait some days for stories to be confirmed. <http://www.demainonline.com/2011/09/26/sahara-affrontements-a-dakhla/sahara/> (in French)
Another Moroccan source, http://solidmar.blogspot.com/ reports that Maichan Mohamed-Lamin Lahbib was beaten to death. Reports from local human rights organisations say that the police did nothing to assist Saharawis. They add that the authorities were visibly behind the attack and that no enquiry has been opened, despite appeals from the dead man’s family: http://solidmar.blogspot.com/

Moroccan settlers attacked Saharawi houses, destroying all their possessions. They also burnt a private school belonging to a Saharawi. Meanwhile dozens of young people have been arrested – over 45 according to : http://poemariosaharalibre.blogspot.com/  giving names of 16 known to the Dakhla Committee against Torture to be in detention.

On Wednesday 28 September, the Moroccan Press Agency, MAP issued a report claiming seven lives lost including two policemen. It said the Minister of the Interior Taieb Cherkaoui flew to Dakhla on Monday night and had called for a judicial inquiry.

Saharawi sources claim that a curfew was imposed on Saharawis, while Moroccan settlers were given freedom to move about the town at night.

Action taken
The president of the Saharawi Republic wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene and protect Saharawis under fire in Dakhla.  Police have been using live ammunition to disperse crowds, according to local sources. President Abdelaziz also wrote to the president of the African Union, Jean Ping, asking him to ensure the UN assumes its responsibilities towards the last colony in Africa.http://www.spsrasd.info/en

Lyn Allison, president of the Australia Western Sahara Association sent the letter below to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Navi Pillay on 30 September.

Action needed by UN to protect Saharawi citizens
This statement is issued by the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA), an an association committed to raising awareness of the plight of the Saharawi and their right to a referendum for self-determination as Africa’s last colony.
AWSA calls for urgent action by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene and protect Saharawis who are under violent attack by Moroccan settlers in the city of  Dakhla in occupied Western Sahara. It is understood that the Moroccan security forces and police have not acted to protect the lives and property of the indigenous Saharawi. The city is under a virtual military siege, numerous young people have been arrested and detained, and at least one Saharawi has been killed with numbers of others seriously injured.
These violations of human rights and violent discrimination against Saharawis will continue until the United Nations mission in Western Sahara is given the responsibility for monitoring human rights in the territory, and conducting the referendum for self-determination becomes a more urgent priority for the UN.
In the meantime AWSA urges the UN Commissioner for Human Rights to inquire into the circumstances of this latest violence in Western Sahara and the responsibility of the Moroccan authorities for the continuing oppression and abuse of human rights.
ASWA also expresses solidarity with the people of Western Sahara, and with their right to protest discrimination and oppression and to be able to exercise a choice about the future of their country.