Moroccan POWs, an issue or a part of Saharawi's sufferings towards freedom!

 Malainin Mohamed Lakhal *

It is true that the detention of Moroccan POWs has been too long, and it is also true that they live very hard conditions of life in the refugee's Camps, the same conditions that Saharawi refugees are living during more than 27 years though pushed unwillingly to forced exile. But to say that Moroccan POWs were the victims of such atrocities as mentioned by "France Libertes' report is the real atrocity.

I may believe that the French Foundation has published the report out of its "known- concern about human rights around the world", I may believe that the French Foundation has never been partial in its previous efforts to render public the human sufferings here and there, but I am obliged to wonder about its last report, why now? Why so hastily? Why accuse and judge before giving a chance to the accused to defend himself or having obvious proofs?

I have to inform you that I underwent, myself, more than three detention experiences in occupied territories of Western Sahara and lived the famous experiences of torture and inhuman treatments, experienced tens of arbitrary arrestations, tens of periodical interrogatories, deprived of the right to travel, to have the right to defend myself, not because I was a "soldier" caught in battles, nor was it because I committed crimes or violence, but because I peacefully demonstrated my rejection of Moroccan military colonisation of my country. For this, I would never accept any kind of human rights abuse from anyone, especially from my own people who suffered and are still suffering abuses of their most basic rights in occupied territories as colonised, and in refugees' camps as victims to forced exile and misery, and who should make them be the first to defend human rights, even if the victim, here, is a soldier who was caught while killing Saharawi kids, women and old people.

I joined the refugees camps in August 2000, after a hard journey in the desert running from the Moroccan Authorities' attempts to arrest me again after my participation in the famous 1999 demonstrations (Intifadha of El Aiun), risking the threat of been blown by Moroccan Mines Fields, or the risk of dying of thirst or fatigue in the middle of the summer (August-2000).

When I first met with a Moroccan prisoner months after I reached the camps, I could not believe he was a prisoner, because he was working in the same institution I was working in (a school), and he was like any one of us, we (I became a teacher and worked for a year there before working as a journalist, my current occupation) had never treated him different, he eats with us, drinks tea with us in free time, and has the opportunity of making money better than us because "exactly- everybody sympathise with him because of his state as a prisoner.

Of course, nothing can substitute freedom, but at least, Moroccan prisoners are acknowledged by Polisario as POWs, and Polisario did invite International NGOs to visit them and does inform the world about their situation, and this happened since 20 years ago. What did the International community did then, who was to provide the poor men with their basic needs. It is the same Saharawi People who shared their food with them.

Moreover, the report said that Saharawis use the Moroccan POWs in works, well this is true. Saharawis did let the prisoners work, giving them opportunities to make money, they build houses for the refugees and the latter do pay them, they live in places which are sometimes better equipped than Saharawis tents, and any journalist can check this, they have Televisions, satellites, refrigerators, they have the money with which they can buy their own food, and are permitted to buy whatever they want to, and any journalist any NGO can visit them to check these claims, nobody would ever forbid him or them from that (that is exactly what was done with the French Foundation), is these inhuman? Would it have been better to keep them inside cells, and forbid them from working and enjoying a kind of freedom. at least they can walk under the sun out of any jail or guards. And I consider this a great think because I was never given such opportunities in Moroccan prisons, and other Saharawis spent more than 15 years buried alive in underground cells or in closed places eyefolded and handcuffed.

Now in the other side, let me wonder, have you ever heard about the fate of Saharawi POWs and political detainees and disappeared? Where are they, can anybody inform their families, please? Are they dead or alive? Has any NGO exercised pressures on Morocco to reveal the truth about them? Are they visited by any International Instance? What about the Saharawis who are not soldiers, nor have they committed violence and are judged and imprisoned in Occupied regions every day now in these years of "peace" and under the wittnessing eyes of MINURSO?

The legitimate question thus, is are we considered as human as the Moroccans seems to be, because from what we hear now, it seems that the whole problem in the region is about Moroccan POWs, is this relevant, coherent, human?

Are the Moroccan POWs the only human beings who are suffering from detention and from abuses of their rights -if what France Liberties says is true because I need proofs to believe and I do refuse to judge persons out of accusations or doubts- or is there other victims who should be defended as strongly as Moroccan POWs are "and should be" ? What about Saharawi Refugees, it seems that everybody thinks that they enjoy been in Camps, in one of the most atrocieous places in the planet? What about the Saharawi kids who are born with dangerous diseases because they were given life in such a place, while their country is completely open to Moroccan settlers, who become mature before maturity because they live abnormal conditions kids normally can not stand?

What about families whose members are parted against their will, and can not see each other or hug or meet? What about young people who forgot about all their dreams and longings and found themselves pushed to learn how to kill, because they found that their country was colonised, and that their brothers sisters and relatives are threatened by a terrible Moroccan killing machine -Royal Military Forces-? How many talented young man or women was forced to give up his productive talents to learn how to survive?

The problem is bigger, in fact, but there are parties that tend to minimise it to smaller and narrower issues dismantling it to parts. The problem is a problem of a whole nation parted in pieces. It is a problem of a struggle for freedom, for independence, and the question of POWs is certainly an important human rights issue, but it is not the only one, many other human rights are violated in this struggle and it is not Saharawis who are violating them. This is what everyone has got to remember, and every fair person should ask himself, should there be more important human rights issue and less important others, or is it a whole that should be considered as such and for everybody, everywhere, under any condition? This is the question.

The fate of about 800 Moroccan POW (still in the hands of Polisario) is certainly a very delicate issue, and we, Saharawis do wish them freedom, because we do understand too well what do freedom means. Saharawis certainly do treat them as guests, because we do hate prisons and we do understand what does depriving a human been from the right to meet with the sun and the fresh air means, we are lovers of freedom and for this we are still resolute to get our independence or die, if death is the only left option. Besides, lets presume that Polisario did actually violate these POWs rights, but did it not released more than 1300 Moroccan soldier? Has it ever denied their existence as Morocco still do with Saharawi Pows? More than that, it is Morocco who had always refused to aknowledge the existence of his soldiers in the hands of Saharawis. Its own soldiers who risked their lives to defend the Monarchy.

Finally, Saharawi People have proved to be honest warriors, and have always fought Moroccan armies only. We had never hurt Moroccan civils, while Morocco had always done the opposite and still is oppressing our civil brothers in occupied region. Did anybody went there to tell the truth about that? No! Saharawis in occupied region were forced to sacrifice their lives and freedom to make the International Community knows the truth about what is happening there. And nobody could stop Morocco from violating their rights. Even when an International delegation met with them (European parliament AD-Hoc delegation-2002) it was unable to protect them and some of them are now in prisons (Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Noumria...).

This is, in fact, the Saharawi problem with the International community. Everybody is asking us to give more compromises and we always do, while nobody do the same thing with the real abusers of our rights, the party that is violating not only our rights but also defying the international community and UN resolutions!!

Now, I will say that we do wish that our government releases Moroccan POWs not because we do agree with the unfair International pressures and campaign led by France Libertes, but because as individuals we had always asked our officials to do that out of humanitarian motives, and because we do sympathise with these human beings and with their families, though they were caught while executing Moroccan Government's criminal acts against our country and people. But I do reject France Libertes's accusations, because they are not based on evidences, and because they were taken for granted without been studied, proved or questioned, and without been confronted with Saharawi government explanations though the Saharawis did co-operate with the international foundation and had always invited other NGOs to visit the Moroccan POWs willingly and out of humanistic response to their sufferings, thing that Morocco will never do!


Saharawi Journalist (translator in SPS, and journalist in Saharawi Arabic newspaper "Assahra Alhurra"), Born in 1971 in El Aiun, university student for 8 years instead of 4 because of Moroccan authorities interference. Ex-detainees in 1992 for two months, in 1993 for 1 month, many times in 1995 for different periods going from a week to two days, forbidden from the right to leave El Aiun during more than 5 months in 1992 and in 1997 in an attempt from Moroccan authorities to deprive me from the right to take my University exams, a member of many occupied region's cultural associations one of the first activist in Saharawi human rights groups in Occupied regions (El Aiun). Many times interrogated whenever demonstrations are organised in El Aiun or Tan-Tan). Joined the camps in 2000, after two Moroccan attempts to arrest me, accused of been one of the "agitators" of the students and running the risk of being judged and imprisoned for 10 years as some of my patriots during that period.

I live now in the camps and work in Sahara Press Service, and also write articles for Arabic newspapers.

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