Non-violent protests by young Saharawis in Smara
PUSL.- On 18 September, two young Sahrawi with higher degree, Said Abba Sheikh and Mohammed Ahmed Taleb Ahmad entered the area of MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) where they intended to deliver a letter addressed to António Guterres, UN Secretary-General , having previously sent a copy by e-mail.
In statements to PUSL Said Abba Sheikh reported what happened.
Since the beginning of 2018 a group of young Saharawi graduates from Smara have been carrying out various protest actions demanding their economic rights.
“The reality that we live in Smara is not what is advertised by the Moroccan occupation government, which says that it is all wonderful. We live in an occupied territory and as Sahrawi we do not have access to employment , so we decided to start a series of protests ”
One of the actions was a “sit in” in front of a building of the Smara Town hall for 38 days demanding their economic and social rights.
With receiving an answer, five of the young men, Said Abba, went on hunger strike for five days in front of another building of the Moroccan Government. After the five days they received promises of job offers, but they were never fulfilled what resulted in another sit in protest this time during 10 days in front of the Government headquarters.
There followed other protests all nonviolent but without any result.
“This was when we decided to break the silence imposed on us internationally and try to hand the letter to the UN Secretary-General to MINURSO in Smara, in the letter we denounce our situation, we just want the truth to be known.”
The youths started the journey to the MINURSO area at two-thirty in the morning, knowing the risk they were facing, as Morocco surrounds MINURSO’s headquarters in the occupied territories, even within the area already considered to be the Mission’s area of competence.
When they were close, they waited until dawn so they would not be accused of being robbers, they managed to pass several Moroccan checkpoints, the first one at 5:30 am, undetected, they also passed four walls of sand and a barbed wire barrier reaching the last control at 7:45
They showed posters with their demands, and 12 Moroccan soldiers with machine guns shouted threats at the same moment three MINURSO cars went through them and they saw what was happening without stopping.
The Moroccan soldiers sounded an alarm and more soldiers arrived with guns and batons who took their cell phones, backpacks and the letter to the General Secretary, and took the two young men in a vehicle of the Moroccan army transporting them to their building near the headquarters of MINURSO.
In the barracks they were questioned for more than 4 hours and then they were taken in a car from the Gendarmarie Royal to the Gendarmarie building.
The interrogation continued there, but this time carried out by agents of Moroccan intelligence who threatened and insulted them all the time.
Finally they were released at the end of the afternoon due to the protest of the relatives in front of the building.
So far they have not received a reply to the letter sent to António Guterres.