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Saharawi Protest Camp Attacked; Several Killed, Hundreds Injured

Saharawi Protest Camp Attacked; Several Killed, Hundreds Injured Free Western Sahara Network

In the early hours of Monday morning the Moroccan security forces razed the Sahararwi protest camp containing 20,000 people to the ground. Several were killed and hundreds injured. Riots are erupting in El Auoun and could spread.

Please distribute this 30 secone 360 degree video of the destroyed camp: http://www.youtube.com/user/SaharaThawra?ref=nf#p/a/u/0/9qOVRDtYMgc

A fortnight ago whilst on a tour of the region ahead of new round of informal talks between the two sides in one of the world's longest running conflicts, UN special envoy for the Western Sahara Christopher Ross stressed that there was a "need to lessen tensions and avoid any incident that could worsen the situation or hamper discussions.” Two short weeks later and Western Sahara is ablaze, both literally and metaphorically. In the early hours of Monday morning Moroccan security forces moved in to remove an estimated 20,000 Saharawi protesters from the makeshift protest camp where they had been living for the past month. The tented city was reportedly razed to the ground amid unconfirmed reports that several people were killed, and scores injured. Violent clashes between Saharawi's and Moroccan forces have been reported across El Aaiun, Western Sahara's capital.

The camp, know as Gdeim Izik, was set up on 9th October and attracted Saharawi protesters from surrounding cities demanding improved housing and employment opportunities. Moroccan forces were quick to surround the camp and over the past month there had been a number of clashes between protesters and the police, the most serious being the killing of a 14 year old boy shot dead by Moroccan forces as he travelling towards the Gdeim Izik in a car.

Journalists were banned from entering the camp and at the weekend three Spanish MPs attempting to visit the camp were refused entry to the country. The Moroccan authorities obtained a court order to remove the camp and at around 6am on Monday morning the army moved in using tear gas, and high pressure hoses to clear the protesters. “Everyone is being attacked, children, women, men, the elderly” the Saharawi human rights organisation, Sahara Thawra, reported on their website on Monday morning. “They are destroying the tents and part of the camp is burning.”

Meanwhile in New York, the UN-brokered 'talks about talks' that were due to take place on Monday and Tuesday were “delayed”. Amid angry recriminations the UN envoy for the Polisario Front described the Moroccan action as "a deliberate act to wreck the talks."

During his tour of the region, his fourth trip to the region since becoming special envoy in January 2009, Christopher Ross had described the current impasse over Western Sahara as "untenable". Last week Martin Nesirky, Ban Ki Moon's spokesperson, said resolving the conflict was a "priority for the United Nations". But if a resolution is to be found this rhetoric must be matched by action. The Moroccan occupation has been allowed to continue in breach of international law and of UN resolutions for over 35 years and the UN's peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara remains the only contemporary peacekeeping mission without a mandate to monitor human rights. Despite many attempts to break the long-running diplomatic stalemate, progress towards a resolution has been tortuously slow with the Polisario Front being unprepared to negotiate away their legitimate right to self-determination, Morocco rejecting any proposal that contains even the possibility of independence, and the Security Council unwilling to enforce its own resolutions to hold a referendum on self-determination. History has shown that a political solution will be the only way forward and the international community will have an important role and responsibility in helping ensuring negotiations take place.

Fifty years ago next month, the United Nations adopted Resolution 1514 which stated that all people have a right to self-determination and that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end. Half-a-century later the Saharawi people are still waiting for Resolution 1514 to be applied in Western Sahara. It has been a long wait but as Martin Luther King said, the arc of history may be long but it always bends inevitably towards justice.

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