Dichiarazione di Putin sugli attacchi statunitensi, francesi e inglesi

Il Ministero della Difesa russo trovava i partecipanti al video del presunto attacco chimico a Duma e ne raccoglieva la testimonianza, dichiarava Igor Konachenkov, portavoce del Ministero della Difesa russo, secondo cui vi sono due medici che lavorano nell’ospedale locale, nel pronto soccorso. Igor Konashenkov inoltre riferiva che il video del presunto attacco chimico a Duma fu girato in un ospedale locale. Secondo il portavoce del Ministero della Difesa russo, le “vittime” del presunto attacco a Duma non avevano tracce di sostanze chimiche tossiche ed dissero come fu girato il video. “Siamo riusciti a trovare i partecipanti alle riprese di tale video e ad interrogarli. Oggi vi presentiamo l’intervista a costoro. La gente di Duma ha raccontato in dettaglio come si svolse la messinscena e in quali episodi prese parte“. Halil Ajij, studente che lavora nell’ospedale centrale di Duma, ha detto che quando un edificio fu bombardato l’8 aprile e un incendio vi scoppiò, andò al pronto soccorso. Fu allora che un uomo che non conosceva si presentò e disse che era un “attacco con sostanze tossiche”: “Avevamo paura, i parenti dei feriti cominciarono a versarsi acqua l’uno sull’altro. Chi non aveva formazione medica iniziò a spruzzare nella bocca dei bambini le cure per l’asma. Non abbiamo visto pazienti con sintomi da intossicazione chimica“. “Fummo filmati e c’era un uomo che era venuto urlando che si trattava di un attacco chimico. Costui, estraneo, disse che la gente era vittima di armi chimiche. La gente spaventata iniziò a versarsi acqua l’una sull’altra, ad inalare“, aveva detto un altro partecipante alla messinscena.
Negli ultimi giorni, la situazione in Siria diveniva seriamente tesa. I Paesi occidentali sostengono che un attacco chimico è avvenuto il 7 aprile a Duma, vicino la capitale siriana. La Russia smentiva le notizie su una bomba al cloro presumibilmente sganciata dalle forze governative siriane. I militari russi definivano false le foto di vittime del presunto attacco chimico a Duma pubblicate dai “White Helmets” sui social network. Mosca ritiene che lo scopo di tale disinformazione fosse proteggere i terroristi e giustificare qualsiasi azione esterna. Damasco definiva le accuse all’Esercito arabo siriano non convincenti. La Siria ripetutamente sottolineava che il proprio arsenale chimico fu rimosso nel 2014 dall’Organizzazione per la proibizione delle armi chimiche (OPCW).Traduzione di Alessandro Lattanzio

thanks to: Aurora

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Siria, e se Trump colpisce un deposito di armi chimiche che succede?

Le armi chimiche sono armi di distruzione di massa. Se un solo deposito chimico fosse colpito l’effetto sarebbe devastante. Dato che ciò non sembra essere avvenuto questa notte, è lecito pensare che gli obiettivi colpiti siano solo ad uso di propaganda.

E’ molto chiaro che questo attacco sia illegittimo. E’ infatti un atto compiuto in violazione dell’articolo 2 della Carta dell’ONU che recita: “I Membri devono astenersi nelle loro relazioni internazionali dalla minaccia o dall’uso della forza, sia contro l’integrità territoriale o l’indipendenza politica di qualsiasi Stato, sia in qualunque altra maniera incompatibile con i fini delle Nazioni Unite”.

Ma si potrebbe pensare che il fine giusto può giustificare mezzi illegali.

Vediamo allora qual è lo scopo dichiarato dell’attacco: eliminare le armi chimiche. Ma se davvero vi fossero depositi di armi chimiche nascoste dal governo siriano (infatti l’arsenale di Assad è stato già eliminato ufficialmente da un precedente accordo internazionale) cosa accadrebbe? Si sprigionerebbe una enorme nube chimica letale che causerebbe migliaia di morti, per lo più civili.

Se Usa, GB e Francia fossero sicure della localizzazione di queste armi avrebbero già chiesto ispezioni e fornito prove.

Quanto all’effettivo uso di armi chimiche è interessante leggere quanto scritto su un sito specializzato, Analisi Difesa, da Gianandrea Gaiani: “Notizie e immagini di attacchi chimici vengono subito diffuse dalle tv arabe appartenenti alle monarchie del Golfo, cioè agli sponsor dei ribelli, per poi rimbalzare quasi sempre in modo acritico in Occidente. Basti pensare che in sette anni di guerra la fonte da cui tutti i media occidentali attingono è quell’Osservatorio siriano per i diritti umani che ha sede a Londra, vanta una vasta rete di contatti in tutto il paese di cui nessuno ha mai verificato l’attendibilità, è schierato con i ribelli cosiddetti “moderati” ed è sospettato di godere del supporto dei servizi segreti anglo-americani”.

Ma scendiamo nell’aspetto militare: la armi chimiche non vengono usate in un conflitto per uccidere qualche decina di persone. Per fare una strage di cento persone basta un bombardamento spietato con aerei, e Assad li ha e ha anche l’appoggio di quelli russi. Per cui è assolutamente idiota usare armi chimiche che invece sono usate per produrre effetti devastanti su decine di migliaia di persone (e infatti sono classeificate fra le “armi di distruzione di massa”).

Questo fatto lo ha sottolineato Gaiani su Analisi Difesa con chiarezza:

“Il presidente siriano è certo uomo senza scrupoli ma non ha alcun interesse a usare armi chimiche che sono, giova ricordarlo, armi di distruzione di massa idonee a eliminare migliaia di persone in pochi minuti non a ucciderne qualche decina: per stragi così “limitate” bastano proiettili d’artiglieria e bombe d’aereo convenzionali”.

Gaiani (che non è un pacifista ma un esperto di cose militari) suggerisce prudenza nell’avvalorare tesi prove di sufficienti prove o basate sul sospetto: “La cautela – scrive infatti – dovrebbe quindi essere d’obbligo, specie dopo la figuraccia rimediata dal ministro degli Esteri britannico Boris Johnson che sulla responsabilità russa nel “caso Skripal” è stato smentito dal direttore dei laboratori militari di Sua Maestà”.

Ma in questo momento la ricerca della verità non interessa. Interessa lanciare una prova di forza militare. Chi si vuole arruolare in questa manovra lo faccia, ben sapendo però che se un solo deposito chimico fosse colpito l’effetto sarebbe devastante. Dato che ciò non sembra essere avvenuto questa notte, è lecito pensare che gli obiettivi colpiti siano solo ad uso di propaganda.

14 aprile 2018 – Alessandro Marescotti

thanks to: Peacelink

Raid illegale contro la Siria, l’ora più buia per l’Occidente

Raid illegale contro la Siria, l’ora più buia per l'Occidente

L’ORA PIU’ BUIA (h. 03.00). “Allora capo, facciamo che prendiamo tre palazzine vuote di periferia e ci picchiamo sopra un centinaio di missili che fanno BUM! BUM! BUM! dicendo che sono centri di ricerca su i gas venefici. Facciamo tipo alle 3 ora locale così è buio, la gente sta a casa e non corriamo rischi, i fotografi immortalano le scie dei missili perché una immagine vale più di mille parole. Lei va in televisione e fa il pezzo da padre severo ma giusto, io chiamo russi ed iraniani e gli do le coordinate dei lanci pregandoli di star calmi che se manteniamo tutti le palle ferme, nessuno si fa male e ne usciamo tutti alla grande, ok?”

Così, alla fine deve esser andata e meno male. Avrebbero potuto farlo già due giorni dopo il presunto attacco quando è arrivata la Cook ed avrebbero dimostrato la stessa cosa ed in più anche di esser svegli e sempre sul pezzo. Lo hanno invece fatto quando la faccenda s’era intricata assai e si rischiava di non saper più come uscirne senza perdere la faccia. Vedremo nei prossimi giorni ma l’impressione, anche leggendo i pezzi dei giornali mattutini, è che qualcuno voleva il colpo grosso, qualcuno voleva trascinare gli USA al first strike per iniziare una escalation da manovrare in un senso ben più ampio, rischioso e drammatico. Invece del first strike hanno avuto l’one shot, Armageddon è rinviato, anche questa volta la terza guerra mondiale non è iniziata, delusione.

Delusione dei commentatori e pioggia di penne occidentaliste avvelenate su Trump, pallone gonfiato da sgonfiare con pennini appuntiti che fa quello che non dovrebbe e non fa mai quello che dovrebbe. Immagino le telefonate tra Netanyahu, May, Macron e gli amici americani che vedevano sgonfiarsi il trappolone messo in scena, anche stavolta è andata male.

L’impressione è che, per l’ennesima volta, noi si sia sopravvalutata l’intelligenza e la sofisticatezza delle élite occidentaliste.

Solo pochi giorni fa abbiamo espulso ben 150 diplomatici russi per una ragazza poi dimessa dall’ospedale ed il padre che oggi mangia, legge il giornale e piano piano si sta rimettendo chissà da cosa visto che il presunto gas a cui si è sostenuto fosse stato esposto è incurabile e letale al 100%. Dopo quella bella prova di improvvisazione e cialtroneria, si è ripetuta la scena questa volta muovendo intere flotte, concitati Consigli di Sicurezza, scontri di civiltà, giorni del giudizio e gli Avengers che a proposito escono con il nuovo episodio nelle migliori sale il prossimo 25 Aprile.

L’ora più buia è quindi quella in cui sta sprofondando l’Occidente, una gloriosa civiltà che sembra aver le idee sempre più confuse, che mena fendenti a vuoto, che scambia la realtà per il cinema come neanche l’ultimo dei Veltroni, che combatte coi selfie ed i tweet e non si raccapezza più in un mondo che gli sta inesorabilmente sfuggendo di mano.

Intanto pare che a Parigi sia morto Haftar e Macron che ha due TGV fermi su tre e ha rischiato di diventare un meme eterno della vasta collezione delle figure di m. stile Powell, ora si trova con un problema in più. Anche il neo rieletto al Sisi e lo stesso Putin, perdono il loro campione nel teatro libico e vedremo come si riapriranno i giochi colà.

Il conflitto titanico permanente tra West and the Rest, continua. L’ora più buia è quella che precede il sorgere del sole. Peccato che il sole, notoriamente, sorge ad Oriente e che l’Occidente sia il luogo del tramonto.

di PierLuIgi Fagan

Notizia del:
thanks to:  l’Antidiplomatico

Missili troppo smart

 

L’attacco missilistico di stamattina veniva sventato dalle Difese Aeree siriane. Veniva colpito solo un edificio della Mezzaluna Rossa di Barzah, popoloso quartiere di Damasco. Gli Stati Uniti avevano anche lanciato missili contro uno dei sobborghi più densamente popolati di Damasco, Jaramana.
Oltre 100 missili da crociera a lungo raggio Tomahawk sono stati lanciati contro la Siria, sulle provincie di Damasco, Homs e Dara. Solo 3 missili da crociera superavano le difese aeree siriane, 1 cadeva presso Damasco colpendo un ex-deposito abbandonato da oltre 5 anni. Ad Homs, il terzo missile veniva bloccato dai sistemi di guerra elettronica, cadendo a 10 km dall’obiettivo.
Inoltre, 2 droni da ricognizione venivano distrutti mentre tentavano di entrare nello spazio aereo siriano e valutare i danni dell’attacco missilistico di Stati Uniti, Francia e Regno Unito.
L’attacco è avvenuto in tre ondate: la terza ondata, di 13 missili su Dara da più direzioni, veniva sventata con la distruzione di tutti i missili. Lo stesso era accaduto con la prima ondata dell’attacco, completamente sventata, non un singolo missile aveva raggiunto l’obiettivo. 2 o 3 missili della seconda ondata avevano raggiunto gli obiettivi.La Russia ha schierato in Siria una rete di difesa aerea a protezione della base aerea di Humaymin e della base navale di Tartus:
– 3 batterie di S-400 Triumf, che sigillando lo spazio aereo che copre la regione nord-occidentale della Siria, tra Lataqia, Tartus, Hama e Aleppo. Ogni batteria dispone di radar multifunzione di puntamento 92N6E e di radar di scoperta a lungo raggio 91N6E. Il sistema S-400 impiega 4 tipi di missili: 48N6 dalla gittata di 250km; 40N6 dalla gittata di 400km; 9M96E2 dalla gittata di 120km; 9M96E dalla gittata di 40km. L’S-400 quindi può intercettare aerei da combattimento, aerei da ricognizione a lungo raggio, droni, missili da crociera e missili balistici di teatro.
– 1 batteria di S-300V, sistemi di difesa aerea a medio raggio Buk-M1/2 e almeno 3 sistemi di difesa aerea a corto raggio Pantsir-S1/2 proteggono la base navale di Tartus, che ospita non solo le unità russe, ma il grosso della Marina Militare siriana (2 corvette e almeno 6 pattugliatori lanciamissili). La batteria di S-300V4 dispone di un radar di scoperta 9S15, un radar di primo allarme 9S19 e un radar d’inseguimento 9S32M ed impiega missili 9M83 e 9M82 capaci d’intercettare velivoli, missili da crociera e missili balistici di teatro.
La rete di difesa aerea russa è integrata col sistema di guerra elettronica mobile 1LR257 Krasukha-4, presente nella base aerea di Humaymim, capace di annullare radar terrestri, aerei-radar (AWACS), sistemi di navigazione satellitari ed anche satelliti in orbita bassa.
In Siria è stata schierata una batteria di missili anti-superficie mobili K-300P Bastion-P, dotata di missili da crociera supersonici Jakhont, con gittata di almeno 600 km, e probabilmente dei missili balistici tattici 9K720 Iskander-M.
La componente aerea russa dispiegata in Siria comprende 8 bombardieri di prima linea Su-24M, 12 caccia multiruolo Su-30SM, 7 aerei d’attacco Su-25SM, 4 bombardieri Su-34, 6 caccia multiruolo Su-35S, 1 aereo da guerra elettronica Il-20M, 1 velivolo da pattugliamento marittimo Il-38M e 2 aerei-radar A-50U.
La componente tattica terrestre russa dispone anche di 6000 elementi tra fanteria motorizzata e gruppi per operazioni speciali.
La difesa aerea siriana dispone di una rete di difesa aerea composta da almeno 15 radar di sorveglianza, tra cui forse un radar di primo allarme iraniano che sorveglia le operazioni aeree israeliane sullo spazio aereo libanese ed israeliano, e che copre la regione sud-occidentale della Siria, da Damasco ai confini con Libano e Palestina. La rete della difesa aerea siriana impiega 8 batterie di missili antiaerei S-200 a lungo raggio; 60 batterie di missili antiaerei S-75 ed S-125 a medio raggio; 16 batterie del sistema missilistico mobile 2K12 Kub a medio raggio; 28 sistemi missilistici a medio raggio 9K317E Buk-M1/2E; 14 batterie del sistema missilistico mobile a corto raggio 9K33 Osa, 40 sistemi di difesa aerea mobile a corto raggio Pantsir-S1; 40 sistemi di difesa aerea di punto Igla-S Strelets, 20 sistemi missilistici di difesa di punto 9K31 Strela-1 e 30 sistemi missilistici di difesa di punto 9K35 Strela-10.

Alessandro Lattanzio, 14/04/2018

thanks to: Aurora

Cosa collega l’olio di palma agli aerei da combattimento

Il divieto di olio di palma nel biocarburante rischia di essere sospeso nonostante la decisione del Parlamento Europeo. Gli interessi economici non devono avere priorità su ambiente e diritti umani!

Lo scorso 17 gennaio 2018 il Parlamento Europeo ha votato con larga maggioranza per un temporaneo abbandono da parte dell’Europa dell’uso di olio di palma come biocarburante. Ciò nonostante il divieto rischia di non essere mai applicato a causa di diffusi interessi economici che potrebbero avere la meglio sulla tutela dei diritti umani e dell’ambiente. I governi di Francia e Gran Bretagna hanno criticato il divieto in vista di possibili esportazioni militari in Malesia e anche in Germania potrebbero presto arrivare critiche al divieto a causa della candidatura di Siemens per l’aggiudicazione della costruzione di una superstrada in Malesia.

La decisione del Parlamento Europeo aveva provocato le proteste della Malesia e dell’Indonesia, i due maggiori esportatori di olio di palma. La Malesia ha accusato l’Europa di discriminazione minacciando il boicottaggio dei prodotti europei. Entro la fine del 2018 il Parlamento Europeo, la Commissione Europea e il Consiglio Europeo intendono concordare una comune politica dell’Unione Europea sulla questione dell’olio di palma.

Lo scorso 29 gennaio durante una visita in Malesia la Ministra della difesa francese Florence Parly ha però annunciato che il suo paese voterà contro il temporaneo divieto deciso dal Parlamento Europeo sostenendo l’importanza dei questa materia prima per l’economia malese. Il vero motivo per la posizione francese sembra però essere il tentativo della Francia di vendere al paese asiatico 18 aerei da combattimento Rafale di produzione francese. L’affare è minacciato dallo sforzo del governo britannico di vendere a sua volta i propri aerei da caccia Typhoon al paese asiatico. Il ministri della difesa britannico Gavin Williamson sostiene che il mancato affare del valore di 5,6 miliardi di Euro minaccerebbe 20.000 posti di lavoro nel settore dell’industria bellica. Per contro, il ministro dell’ambiente britannico Michael Gove si è espresso a favore del divieto.

Gli ostacoli alla messa in atto del divieto temporaneo all’uso di olio di palma nel biocarburante sembrano crescere in seguito alla candidatura della tedesca Siemens che insieme alla sua consociata malese George Kent mira a ottenere l’incarico della costruzione della superstrada tra Kuala Lumpur e Singapore. L’Europa evidentemente è facilmente ricattabile e molto lontana dal riuscire a decidere una comune politica estera e dell’ambiente. A sopportarne le conseguenze sono in primo luogo le popolazioni indigene le cui terre con le loro foreste vengono progressivamente e irrimediabilmente distrutte per creare piantagioni di palma da olio. Le conseguenze della distruzione ambientale a lungo andare ricadono invece sull’intera umanità.

Sorgente: Cosa collega l’olio di palma agli aerei da combattimento – Pressenza

France behind Ghouta toxic attack: Syria

Syria says that French intelligence agencies orchestrated the deadly chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta to divert UN weapons inspectors from another incident carried out by militants in Aleppo.

On August 21, 2013, hundreds of people were killed in a Sarin gas attack in Ghouta, a massacre that UN inspectors call “the most significant confirmed use of chemical weapons against civilians since Saddam Hussein used them” in Halabja in 1988.

Syrian opposition groups and their western allies claim the nerve gas attacks were launched by the Syrian government. Damascus rejects the allegation, saying the attack was carried out by militants operating inside the country to draw in foreign intervention. Subsequent investigations by the UN and Russia backed Syria’s assertions.

During a Monday UN Security Council meeting over the Syrian conflict, Damascus’s envoy to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari said, “The use of chemical weapons in the Damascus area was meant to prevent Dr. Åke Sellström [the head of the weapons inspectors] from going to Aleppo because [France] knew who had used chemical weapons in Aleppo.” 

A Syrian couple mourning in front of bodies wrapped in shrouds ahead of funerals following a toxic gas attack in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21, 2013 (AFP)

“They wanted to prevent Dr. Sellström from reaching Aleppo by any means and therefore they used chemical weapons in Damascus with the involvement of French intelligence,” he added.

French representative to the council, François Delattre, said that allegations were “absurd.”

A file photo of UN inspectors collecting samples during their investigations at Zamalka, east of Damascus.

Damascus surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons to the joint mission led by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons following the attack outside the Syrian capital two years ago.

Sorgente: PressTV-France behind Ghouta toxic attack: Syria

Natural resources and intifada: oil, phosphates and resistance to colonialism in Western Sahara

On 28 October 2013, US company Kosmos, Scottish Cairn Energy and the

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in the Journal of North African Studies on 22 April 2016, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13629387.2016.1174586

Moroccan Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) announced their joint plans to drill for oil in ‘one of the last undrilled petroleum systems along the Atlantic Margin’  (Maxted 2013 ). Simon Thomson, CEO of Cairn Energy commented that his company’s share in the farm-in Agreement would build on its existing ‘strategic presence’  in ‘Morocco’  (Thomson 2013). His key mistake was that the block to be explored –  Cap Boujdour Offshore –  is not in Morocco at all, but off the shores of Western Sahara, the last colony in Africa.

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Rich in resources and small in population, Western Sahara, victim since 1975 of a brutal and illegal Moroccan occupation, has a history shaped to a large extent by its immense resources. Indeed, natural resources have always been at the centre of the Western Sahara conflict, and were a key demand of the anti-Spanish protestors in the early 1970s. Spain exploited Western Sahara’s rich phosphate reserves and Morocco continues to profit from the country’s natural wealth. The latter is illegal since Morocco is not recognised internationally as holding sovereignty over Western Sahara, and indeed an occupying power cannot legally exploit the natural resources of the occupied country without the consent of the indigenous people of that country. I argue in this paper that it is only recently that sovereignty over these resources has started to become a prominent demand of the Saharawi activists resisting the Moroccan occupation. As I chart below, the Occupied Territories have a long history of mostly non-violent resistance, but the focus of the latter was, since the Moroccan invasion, traditionally on human rights and independence. What, then, has prompted the recent turn towards natural resources in the demands of the protestors and what are the wider implications of this turn?

This article relies on 20 individual (recorded) interviews, several personal conversations and communications and two discussion groups (one with seven participants in Agadir on 22 April 2014, the other with six in Marrakesh on 23 April 2014) with Saharawis conducted in occupied El Aaiún, Western Sahara, in August 2014, Rabat, Marrakesh and Agadir, Morocco, in April to May 2014, Zaragoza, Spain, in November 2014, and the Saharawi refugee camps/state-in-exile in December 2015, as well as one telephone interview with a Solidarity Activist (a founding member and ex-Chair of the Europe-based solidarity group Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW)) and observation of a four-hour workshop on natural resources for 22 Saharawi activists led by the Saharawi group Saharawi Campaign against the Plunder (SCAP), in Boujdour camp, Algeria, December 2015. Since June 2015 I have been Chair of WSRW and have volunteered with the organisation since 2009. Thus, the article also draws, to some extent, on my personal experiences.

Interviewees were selected for the most part for their roles leading campaigns against natural resource exploitation. However, the discussion groups in Moroccan cities were with nationalist activists that did not necessarily have links to natural resource campaigns. Similarly, five interviews (with Nguia Haouasi, Soukaina Yaya, Hassana Aalia, Fatan Abaali and Hayat Rguibi) and one personal conversation (with Ali Salem Tamek) were conducted in order to gain the views and experiences of activists working within the wider Saharawi resistance in the Occupied Territories but not necessarily with a primary focus on resources, and one, with the Deputy Representative of the Saharawi state-in-exile to the UK, to ascertain the official perspective of the POLISARIO. The study forms part of a wider Ph.D. project on gender and resistance in Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea funded by the University of Leeds.

In the first section of the article, I chart the emergence of the Saharawi pro-independence movements in the face of Spanish colonial rule and how the issue of natural resources exploitation was framed within the nationalist struggle. Following this, I look briefly at the Saharawi non-violent resistance movement in the occupied part of Western Sahara post the Moroccan colonisation, and why its demands went ‘underground’  at first, then re-emerged to focus on human rights, socio-economic grievances and independence. Thirdly, I focus on the Gdeim Izik protest, when natural resource-related demands came explicitly back on the scene. I then explore in more depth why natural resource exploitation has only resurfaced as a demand amongst civilian activists in recent years, before finally analysing the implications of this turn.

The Spanish colonial period and the discovery of petroleum deposits

Today Western Sahara’s natural wealth is under Moroccan control, with King Mohammed VI and members of the makhzan (Morocco’s pro-monarchy elite class and state apparatus), in many cases, profiting personally from its extraction. Nevertheless, its economic exploitation can be traced back to Spanish colonial times. The colonisation of Western Sahara was carried out by a few Spanish imperialists and merchants, followed by a handful of small companies and indeed, at first, the Spanish colonial project was an exclusively commercial one (Munene 2008, 91). The objective was to create a series of small, fortified settlements along the Sahara’s coast. The first was built in what was to be the colonial capital, Villa Cisneros, modern-day Dakhla, in 1884–1885 (San Martín 2010, 26), and later buildings were erected in Tarfaya and Lagwirah in 1916 and 1920, respectively (Zunes and Mundy 2010, 100). The Spanish could benefit from Western Sahara’s rich fisheries and trade with Saharawi tribes and others travelling along the traditional caravan route from Senegal.1

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Stamp from 1924

Private geological expeditions concluded in 1947 followed by government-commissioned surveys conducted between 1952 and 1962 found petroleum deposits in several locations both on land and offshore. However, due to low prices, low quality and lack of infrastructure, no companies invested (San Martín 2010, 51). The discovery of the largest phosphate reserves on earth (integral to producing agricultural fertilisers) was seen to be far more potentially lucrative and thus the colonial project expanded inland. Spain’s state mining company EMINSA (later FOSBUCRAA) built the Fos Bucraa mine in 1968, including a 60-mile-long conveyor belt (the longest of its kind in the world) to transport the riches to the Atlantic ocean for export. Forty-six years on, Morocco makes use of this mine to dominate the global phosphate market with an 85% share. In 2014 alone, Fos Bucraa yielded an estimated 2.1 million tonnes of phosphate with an estimated value of $230 million per annum (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2015).

Although by the 1960s, the UN was pressuring Spain to decolonise,2  the expansion of the colonial project brought more and more Spanish settlers to Western Sahara, which was by then recognised as a Spanish province. Much of the Saharawi population became sedentary. Many men worked at the phosphate mine and men and women in the fisheries industry, providing a cheap labour force for resource exploitation, and others had jobs with the colonial administration. However, this is not to say that the population was not segregated. Indeed it was, and, unsurprisingly, the wealth of the territory was unequally divided in favour of the Spanish. This dissatisfaction, combined with the collapse of traditional forms of social organisation based on kinship, allowed the emergence a new sense of collective identity. As a 1973 Spanish population survey found, the Saharawis no longer identified themselves along tribal lines. Instead, they joked that all Saharawis belonged to the low-caste Znaga  (tributary) tribe and paid tribute to the Spanish (San Martín 2010, 55).

Meanwhile, revolutionary fervour was spreading throughout the African continent, and Western Sahara would not escape the trend. Mohammed Bassiri, a Saharawi intellectual and moderate nationalist well versed in pan-Arabism and the socialist, anti-colonial currents flowing through Africa at that time, fostered the spreading of such political discourses amongst the Saharawi population. As the sense of a collective Saharawi identity and Bassiri’s brand of nationalism diffused throughout Western Sahara, the origins of a pro-independence movement were sown. Nevertheless, following a 5000-strong Saharawi protest at Zemla Square, El Aaiún, 17 June 1970, several movement leaders were imprisoned or shot, and Bassiri was disappeared. This violent repression of a peaceful movement pushed the Saharawi nationalists towards armed struggle. Regarding these events, the Spanish leaders of Franco’s Women’s Section in the Sahara were told by Saharawi women, ‘[t]he historic moment was 17 June 1970. We can’t trust you anymore …’  (Mateo 1974, 8). Shortly after the massacre and inspired by Zemla and Bassiri’s group Harakat Tahrir, a group of young Saharawi university students who had been studying in Morocco formed the Frente Por la Liberación de Saguia el Hamra y Río de Oro  (POLISARIO), led by the charismatic El Wali Mustafa Said (commonly known as ‘El Wali’).

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Thus, the armed struggle began. At first, El Wali and his comrades travelled under cover around the territory to recruit supporters whilst activists such as Fatima Ghalia Leili began to train women in direct action methods (Interview with Soukaina Yaya, Activist born in the Spanish period, El Aaiún, 22 August 2014). POLISARIO and its women’s wing the National Union of Saharawi Women (UNMS) carried on the ideological work that Bassiri had begun. POLISARIO nationalist ideology drew on revolutionary, socialist discourses that emphasised the centrality of the role of the popular masses for revolutionary change and the principle that collective interests should always precede those of the individual. POLISARIO envisaged an egalitarian, communal society, in which slavery was abolished and the emancipation of women was an aim (Allan 2010, 190). Saharawi nationalist discourses launched a reading of the social that, following what Laclau and Mouffe have named ‘logic of equivalence’, attempted to divide the field of discursivity into two opposing ideological blocks able to deny each other while ‘decontesting’  and making equivalent a whole series of more particular discourses, conflicts and grievances (1987). The discrimination against Saharawi employees in the Fosbucraa mine, the lack of access to educational and job opportunities for Saharawi women, the barriers to political participation for the younger generations of Saharawis, the racial discrimination suffered by black slaves and harratin  (former slaves) were all made equivalent and acquired their meaning as different expressions of a single oppression: that of the colonialist foe – first Spain then Morocco and Mauritania later (Allan 2010, 190).

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Sahrawi fighter, by Christine Spengler, 1976

Under Spain, freedom from the colonial foe was expressed through POLISARIO discourse as independence for the Saharawi people and sovereignty over their natural resources. Spanish archives from the period indicate how, by 1974, such discourses were becoming hegemonic amongst the Saharawi population. A Spanish report on Saharawi women’ s political views, for example, found that women were almost without exception pro-independence and pro-self-determination, opposed to integration with any other country and supportive of the POLISARIO. Saharawi women were conscious of being ‘rich people but the Spanish [were] taking what was theirs’  (Mateo 1974 , 20) and the phrase ‘we are rich and we have phosphates’  (Mateo 1974, 3) was reportedly ‘repeatedly’  heard by the Spanish researchers. Two events help to further illustrate how sovereignty over natural resources was welded, in the emerging nationalist discourses, with the dream of independence.

In October 1974, a 15-year-old Saharawi schoolgirl gathered together all her female classmates to plan a break-time protest against the Spanish presence in the territory. The girls complained that the Spanish had done nothing in the territory apart from ‘discovering phosphates’  and ‘ taking them away’ (Mateo 1974 , 9). On the 19th night of the same month, POLISARIO guerrillas sabotaged two stations of the Fosbucraa conveyor belt, costing Spain ‘very serious’  economic losses (Mateo 1974). Through the nationalist ideologies they sowed and made hegemonic, the POLISARIO made the natural wealth of the Western Sahara a key demand for Saharawi resistance against the Spanish. We shall see later how this demand was to resurface amongst civilian-led non-violent resistance during the Moroccan occupation.

Towards the end of 1974, under increasing pressure from the UN externally and from the Saharawi movement internally, Spain announced its decision to hold a self-determination referendum for the Saharawi people and conducted a census for that purpose. Nevertheless, Morocco and Mauritania had other ideas, claiming Western Sahara as their own. The two countries took their claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1975 with the support of all Arab states, requesting an Advisory Opinion that would help consolidate their planned takeover legally. However, the ICJ did not issue the opinion that Morocco hoped for. Historical evidence did not ‘establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco and the Mauritanian entity’  but did show that, in pre-colonial times, the Moroccan Sultan had no control over Western Sahara and nor did the sultanate claim that the territory was under its control (International Court of Justice 1975 ). Thus, the ICJ urged the application of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) for ‘the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territory’  (International Court of Justice 1975).

The day after the ICJ ruling King Hassan II announced on Moroccan television that the Court had ruled in his favour and that he would therefore lead a ‘peaceful’  Green March of over 300,000 Moroccan civilians into Western Sahara. Spain, unwilling to face an unpopular and expensive war with Morocco and Mauritania, and cowed by pressure from the US, conceded through a tripartite agreement signed on 14 November 1975 to divide Western Sahara between its two African neighbours. In exchange for selling out its colony, Spain would have the right to a 35% share of any future mineral exploitation as well as certain rights over fisheries (Zunes and Mundy 2010 , Chapter 1).

In November 1975, 350,000 Moroccan civilians marched on foot towards the cities of Western Sahara. Meanwhile, the Moroccan army entered with tanks and aeroplanes. They bombed groups of fleeing Saharawis (roughly half the population remained in the region of Western Sahara that was to become occupied) with napalm and white phosphorus (San Martín 2010 , 2). These civilians were heading on foot to Algeria, which had offered asylum in its Hamada: the driest and most inhospitable part of its desert, where the Saharawi refugees remain to this day. It was here that the POLISARIO set up its state-in-exile, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) originally proclaimed in Bir Lehlou, in the liberated part of Western Sahara, on 27 February 1976.

The Mauritanian forces were little match for the guerrilla tactics of the POLISARIO.

Mauritania retreated in 1979, signing a peace deal with the Saharawis, by which time Morocco had been all but entirely driven out of the territory (Mauritania has since recognised the SADR). However, unfortunately for the POLISARIO, over the next decade the tide was turned by Morocco’ s long term allies Saudi Arabia, France and the US, who offered financial and military backing and sponsorship for the world’ s largest active military wall (Zunes and Mundy 2010 , Chapter 1). Approximately 2700 km in length, the ‘ Wall of Shame’, as it is known by Saharawis, splits the POLISARIO-controlled and Moroccan-occupied territories into two and is heavily fortified by minefields (San Martín and Allan 2007 ). This put Morocco in a strong position for negotiating once the UN moved back on the scene in an attempt to establish a ceasefire in 1991. The latter was predicated on the promise of a self-determination referendum for the Saharawis. Yet the vote has been repeatedly blocked by Morocco, leaving the UN-sponsored solution to the conflict in a quagmire. The POLISARIO, left without a realistic military option in the face of Moroccan military superiority and its powerful western allies (this, nevertheless, has not prevented growing calls for a return to war), has since continued on the seemingly stagnant political path. Meanwhile, in the Occupied Territories, a non-violent movement of Saharawi civilians has emerged, whose resistance will be the focus of the next section of this article.

Non-violent resistance in occupied Western Sahara: human rights, socio-economic grievances and independence

During the early 1980s, acts of resistance were largely clandestine. The open calls for independence and sovereignty over natural resources that overwhelmed the Spanish during their last 18 months in the territory were simply not thinkable amidst the terror of the Moroccan occupation. Nevertheless, what James C. Scott might call a ‘ hidden transcript’, conspicuous acts of defiance against the occupation played out behind closed doors, thrived. POLISARIO radio announcements were listened to beneath blankets to muffle the sound (Interview with Sultana Khaya, Activist and President of the Saharawi League for Natural Resources and Human Rights (Saharawi League) 26 November 2014), pro-POLISARIO leaflets were distributed in secret and wanted activists were hidden in safe houses. The most daring Saharawis organised what they called ‘operations’, which involved writing Saharawi slogans and painting the SADR flag on the walls of Moroccan administrative buildings and swapping Moroccan flags for SADR ones (personal communications with ex-disappeared Malainin Lakhal, October 2013).

James C. Scott’ s argues that public, declared resistance (petitions, strikes, demonstrations and so on) are mainly the preserve of western liberal democracies, whilst communities that are unable to publically protest safely use what Scott calls infrapolitics (hidden transcripts, everyday acts of resistance and dissident subcultures, as was the case of the Saharawis in the early1980s) (1990). Declared and open rebellion will only break out amongst such an oppressed community, argues Scott, when ‘the pressure [of indignation] rises or when there are weaknesses in the “retaining wall”  holding it back’ (1990, 197). Yet this explanation does not fully account for the case of Western Sahara. In 1987, when Moroccan repression was at its height and  disappearances of Saharawis were menacingly common, Saharawi activists organised a major human rights protest in El Aaiún, when the UN was visiting to begin preparing the referendum on the fate of territory. Such declared resistance despite the inevitable violent repression that protesters must have expected to face illustrates that the strategic need to perform resistance to an external audience (and thereby further disseminate a counter-hegemonic discourse that challenged Moroccan hegemony) is also important in explaining why resistance becomes open and public. Whilst, between the Moroccan invasion and 1987, Saharawi civilians in the Occupied Territories relied on the covert, hidden resistance tactics that Scott would call the weapons of the weak, the UN visit presented a political opportunity that activists tried to capitalise on, launching, for the first time under Moroccan colonisation, an open and mass protest.

Dozens of organisers and participants in this 1987 protest were forcibly disappeared, including Aminatou Haidar, one of the unofficial leaders of the resistance, who was imprisoned and tortured for four years. She and 299 other formerly disappeared Saharawis, including whole families in a few cases –  some of whom were detained post the 1987 protest and others during the 1970s and earlier in the 80s, but all of whom had been kept incommunicado and without trial –  were released in 1991 coinciding with the ceasefire (US Department of State 2003). The release of these political prisoners helped to inspire greater resistance amongst a younger generation of Saharawis (Barca and Zunes 2009, 159). The new presence of the UN in the territory also gave many activists renewed confidence to ‘go public’  in their acts of resistance, since they felt they now had international eyes on them, in itself a form of protection (personal communication with Malainin Lakhal, 13 May 2014).

Saharawi activists have since been proved wrong. MINURSO, the UN mission to the territory is highly unusual in that it is a peacekeeping mission with no mandate to monitor human rights. Every April, the UN Security Council votes on the inclusion of human rights monitoring in the MINURSO’ s mandate, and every year France, Morocco’s most loyal ally, uses the threat of veto to block this. As such, even when Saharawis are publically beaten in the square in front of the UN building (which, incidentally sports a Moroccan but not a Saharawi flag outside), UN staff look the other way. Some Saharawi protestors even report attempting to seek refuge in the UN building only to be handed over to Moroccan police by MINURSO staff (conversations with political activist Hamza Lakhal, El Aaiún, August 2014).

The intifadas of the early 1990s (much smaller in terms of participation and shorter in time than the better researched and documented intifadas of 1999 and 2005 but known as intifadas by Saharawis nonetheless), such as the Intifada of Three Cities in Smara, Assa and El Aaiún in 1991, called for freedom for political prisons, protested against the holding of Moroccan elections in  Western Sahara and even demanded independence.3  Especially for this latter demand, the uprisings were harshly oppressed, resulting in several forced disappearances and decades-long prison sentences for participants. For this reason, when the 1999 intifada burst onto thescene inspired by the releaseof several Saharawi political prisoners viewed as heroes and the perceived political opportunities following the death of Hassan II (Shelley 2004, 115), demands were to focus on human, students’  and workers’  rights, leaving the more dangerous demand of independence for the later 2005 intifada (M. Lakhal, pers. comm., 13 May 2014) The latter saw explicitly nationalist protests across Western Sahara and the Saharawi-dominated areas of southern Morocco, and incorporated all sectors of the population, from school children to old women and men (Stephan and Mundy 2006).

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A dark cloud over the Saharawi struggle: commercial quantities of oil?

As illustrated throughout this article, Western Sahara’s natural resources have been exploited by its colonisers since the end of the nineteenth century. The expense of maintaining its occupation of Western Sahara has been made worthwhile by Morocco’s ability to sell the fish, agricultural produce, phosphates, salt, sand, wind and solar energy of its colony. For example, all offshore fishing is by Moroccan-owned trawlers, and of the traditional inshore fishing, very few licenses are granted to Saharawis (All-Party Parliamentary Group onWestern Sahara 2014). In Dakhla, where fishing is the major industry, only 5% of workers are Saharawi. The phosphate industry currently employs around 3000 workers, amongst which only 21% are Saharawi (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara 2014). The latter tend to be employed in the lowest paid jobs such as cleaning (Personal interview with Sidi Breika, POLISARIO Deputy Representative to the UK, London, 31 March 2014) and indeed fewer than 4% of technicians are Saharawi. All tomato farms are owned by the Moroccan Royal Family, powerful Moroccan conglomerates or by French multinational firms. None are owned by Saharawis, or indeed by small-scale Moroccan settlers (All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara 2014). Looking East, the 165,000 Saharawi refugees living on humanitarian aid in the camps in Algeria receive no compensation from the exploitation of their natural resources (UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) 2015).

The potential exploitation of the petroleum deposits first discovered by the Spanish in the 1940s and 1950s is now looming over the desert territory. It is the economic profit on Morocco’s part that darkens the horizon for Saharawi aspirations of independence. The beginning of oil exploration contracts could be about to dramatically swell that profit. Morocco’s illegal oil and gas programmes currently consist of six blocks in the waters of Western Sahara, each issued to companies by ONHYM (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2013, 4). Two British companies, Teredo Oil Limited and Cairn Energy, hold shares in the Boujdour Offshore Shallow Block and the Cap Boujdour Offshore Block, respectively (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2013 , 4), whilst Irish/British San Leon began drilling onshore, near El Aaiún city, in March 2015. Cairn Energy, with its partner Kosmos, moved their rig to begin drilling the one billion barrel potential Gargaa Prospect in their block in December 2014. Nevertheless, the signing of the oil and gas agreements coincides with a new phase in Saharawi resistance. The demand that was so prominent under the Spanish, sovereignty over natural resources, is emerging once again, as is discussed in the next section.

The Gdeim Izik Intifada: ‘The Saharawi people suffer whilst its wealth is looted’4

The Gdeim Izik protest of 2010 has been described by Noam Chomsky as the beginning of the Arab Spring. ‘[T]he greatest demonstration carried out by Saharawis’  (Breika, pers. int., 31 March 2014) saw 15,000– 20,000 create a tent city in the desert of the outskirts of El Aaiún. As Wilson highlights (2013 , 91), if we take as a guide the latest available UN estimates for the total Saharawi adult population in the Occupied Territories in 2000, which was 41,150, the huge scale of the protest in proportional terms is better appreciated (although the UN figure is a conservative estimate). Also as Wilson points out, the Gdeim Izik protest took place in the temporal, geographical and conceptual margins of the Arab Spring (2013, 82). Its highly organised nature (the camp acted as a fully functioning society, complete with regular rubbish collections, medical surgeries, committees for negotiation with the Moroccan authorities and the distribution of food, water and other essentials) illustrates that the Saharawis are ‘able to survive and organise themselves without any need for the Moroccan colonial administration’ (Lakhal 2014, pers. comm.) As Mundy argues, its desert camp format was also meant to show solidarity with the Saharawi refugees of Algeria (2011).

Says one of the administrators of the camp, ‘the main objective was, amongst other things, to stop the massive exploitation of Western Sahara’s resources’  (Activist interviewed in Sahara Thawra 2012 ). Hassana Aalia, who has been sentenced, in absentia, to life imprisonment for allegedly organizing the camp,5  sees natural resource exploitation as a principal reason for the emergence of the latter: ‘the multinationals and the European Union are still robbing our natural resources, whilst the Saharawi population is poorer and poorer, and suffering increasing unemployment’  (Personal interview with Aalia, Zaragoza, 26 November 2014). Aalia’s colleague Nguia Elhaouasi, currently serving a suspended sentence for her alleged role in the camp, agrees:

The Gdeim Izik camp came about following so much pressure against the Saharawi population. We have no right to work. There are many graduates, some even have a doctorate, but none of them can get a job. And we don’t benefit from our natural resources: the fisheries, the phosphates…So under so much pressure, and without a right to our resources, the camp exploded. (Personal interview with Nguia Elhaouasi, Zaragoza, 26 November 2014)

Indeed, common slogans chanted at the encampment included, as quoted above, ‘the Saharawi people suffer whilst its wealth is looted’ , and ‘our resources, we don’t see them, they don’t see us’  (Breika, pers. int., 31 March 2014). Said another activist who lived at the camp, ‘Gdeim Izik was concerned with social and political issues, and the natural resources of the Sahara, because Saharawi people are not for profit’  (Personal interview with Fatan Abaali, Agadir, 22 April 2014).6  Indeed, when Saharawis comment on the activities of oil companies and others in their territory, they most often link their complaints to the socio-economic situation of their people. Explains one activist, we focus on natural resources more than anything because there are a lot of jobless Saharawis. They see their fish, their sand, going to other countries and they get nothing from it. Their territory is not poor. It is rich. But Saharawis cannot even afford a few coins for coffee or cigarettes. (Personal interview with Ahmed Baba, Rabat, 28 April 2014)

When they heard, on 8 November 2010, that Moroccan security forces had surrounded Gdeim Izik and were proceeding to raze it to the ground, Saharawi activists in El Aaiún set fire to the premises of the Moroccan Ministry of Mines and Energy, which houses ONHYM (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2013, 9). Subsequently, and to this day, Saharawi activists living across occupied Western Sahara, and Saharawi students living in Morocco proper, organise regular demonstrations against the oil companies that have signed agreements with OHNYM.

It is worth pointing out that much of these protests are dominated by women. Practising politics, in the wide sense of the word, is constructed as a feminine as much as a masculine role in Saharawi culture, whilst Saharawi women’s constructed role as mothers and homemakers allows them some flexibility with regard to the time and space to take part in demonstrations. On the other hand, men, due to their constructed masculine role as breadwinners, sometimes opt to avoid public forms of protest for fear of losing their jobs.

Returning to forms of protest against natural resource exploitation, hunger strikes against the oil industry have also been reported (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2013, 9), and YouTube video testimonies in which Saharawi women and men denounce individual oil companies in Arabic, English and Spanish are common.7

Saharawi activists have, in recent years, begun to set up organisations focused primarily on fighting the exploitation of natural resources such as oil by foreign players. The first of these was the Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources in Western Sahara (CSPRON) founded in 2006 in El Aaiún (Personal Communication with Lahcen Dalil, Vice President of CSPRON, 18 December 2014), followed by the Saharawi League for Human Rights and Natural Resources (Saharawi League) in 2011, Boujdour (S. Khaya, pers. int., 26 November 2014) and the Association for the Monitoring of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Western Sahara, El Aaiún, 2015 (personal communication with the founders, 25 April 2015). Other Saharawi organisations such as the Saharawi Centre for Media and Communications, the Collective of Saharawi Defenders of Human Rights (CODESA) and Equipe Media that have, in the past, had a wider and more general focus have recently begun to attune their attention on natural resources as the exploitation of the same heightens (Personal interview with Mohammed Brahim (pseudonym), El Aaiún, August 25, 2014; Personal interview with Mohammed Mayara, El Aaiún, August 27, 2014; Personal conversation with Ali Salem Tamek, Auserd camp, December 12, 2015). Significantly, the leaders of both CSPRON and Saharawi League have suffered serious harassment from the Moroccan authorities. Sidahmed Lemjayed, President of CSPRON, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the Gdeim Izik camp in a Moroccan show trial in 2013 (Human Rights Watch 2013 ). Sultana Khaya, Founder and President of Saharawi League, is, at the time of writing, visiting a specialist hospital in Spain following serious stomach injuries sustained during torture. She has previously lost an eye during police torture (S. Khaya, pers. int., 26 November 2014). Other members of Saharawi League were injured by police in March 2014 during their peaceful protest against the Kosmos-Cairn oil exploration partnership (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2014).

Outside of the Occupied Territories, Saharawi Natural Resource Watch (OSRN), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) set up in the state-in-exile in April 2013, and another NGO known as SCAP also initiated in the camps in March 2015, are able to work without the barrier of police repression. Since OSRN and SCAP have begun operating, there has been a large increase in protests, in the camps, against specific multinationals and governments involved in natural resource exploitation. Most notable was the October 2015 protest against British/Irish energy company San Leon in Auserd camp, attended by some 8000 Saharawis.8  Similarly, the POLISARIO has launched a diplomatic war against would-be oil exploiters. As well as speaking out in the media against the activities and engaging both the companies themselves and the UN Security Council (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2013 , 9), the government of the Saharawi state-in-exile has begun its own programme of issuing Assurance Agreements for oil companies to explore offshore blocks, which can be  taken up when POLISARIO gains access to the territories currently occupied by Morocco9  as well as onshore blocks in the liberated territories of Western Sahara, already controlled by POLISARIO.10  Indeed, POLISARIO is well aware that oil revenue could be an important source of income for a future Saharawi state and has, in May 2014, adopted a Mining Code. Furthermore, as Stephan and Mundy (2006, 31) have pointed out, by offering the same blocks that Morocco has promised to other companies, the POLISARIO hopes to encourage an international legal battle.

Current agreements between oil multinationals and the Moroccan state-owned oil company the National Office for Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) stand to offer minimum economic benefits for Saharawis. Rather, energy companies risk adding political legitimacy and significant funding to Morocco’s occupation whilst simultaneously creating further barriers to the UN’s peace process, showing complicity in the human rights abuses against the Saharawi people and, should oil be found, depleting the natural resources of the Saharawis, meaning that the latter would not benefit upon achieving independence. The Saharawis are increasingly aware of these implications. Social movement scholars argue that the political power of resistance movements is related to the latter’s ability to take advantage of political opportunities and respond to political threats (Tilly and Tarrow 2007). Saharawis have identified the growing exploitation of natural resources as a political (and ever growing) threat to their struggle for independence, and, thus, sovereignty over natural resources has become a strategic target of their resistance. Through their protesting and campaigning, Saharawis have illustrated that any oil exploration and extraction activities will be undertaken without their consent, against their express wishes. Again, in the Occupied Territories, where, as we have seen, activists are serving life sentences and have faced torture for their open resistance to resource exploitation, Saharawis nevertheless bear the risks of declared, public resistance, since they are aware of the need for their resistance to be observed by foreign companies.

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Why are natural resources coming to the fore only now?

As I have illustrated above, natural resources have been at the heart of Western Sahara’ s sufferings under both Spanish and Moroccan colonialism. Nevertheless, it is only relatively recently that natural resources have started to re-surface and once again feature as a key demand in the protests of Saharawi activists as they had in the Spanish period. As we have seen, the Saharawi resistance movement in the Moroccan-occupied Territories has evolved over time, focusing first on human rights and socio-economic complaints (although the nationalist question was always raised in clandestine actions) and, as fear eroded in the second intifada, latterly on independence. Now, the demands of activists are widening even further, and natural resources are coming to the fore. In the words of Malainin Lakhal,

The peaceful resistance has always progressed little by little in accordance with the possibilities offered, and with careful progress building on the past experience. Before, it was very dangerous to show one’s political views, so the activists used social, economic and cultural claims to create an atmosphere of resistance in the society. Now, I think that we are in a phase in which the struggle is on at all levels, and intentionally (M. Lakhal, pers. comm., 13 May 2014).

It has been argued by social movement scholars that international actors can serve as useful allies for resistance activists (McAdam 1998, 257; Ghalea 2013, 259). In the Saharawi case, a greater interest amongst international solidarity groups in natural resources has also sparked parallel raised awareness amongst Saharawi activists (M.Mayara, pers. int., 27 August 2014). As one Saharawi woman explained, ‘we just didn’t know about the plunder until very recently, so we have only just started to focus on it’  (Zahra Taleb (pseudonym), personal conversations, Boujdour camp, 9 December 2015).

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When it comes to investigating the natural resource exploitation activities of foreign companies, activists based in the global North are often in a privileged position vis-à-vis Saharawis living in the Occupied Territories for several reasons. First, when companies and foreign governments publish information about their planned activities in Western Sahara they tend to do so in English, a language spoken by few Saharawi residents of the Occupied Territories. Second, reliable access to the internet is also enjoyed by Northern solidarity groups to a much greater extent than for the Saharawis. Third, lobbying against a national company or government is facilitated if one is a resident and/or citizen of the nation in question: the company and its shareholders can be visited, and one’s representative in parliament can be harnessed. Finally, international groups do not face the violent repression of the Moroccan authorities, and are more likely to have the material resources necessary for lobbying. For all these reasons, the international solidarity movement was able to play a key role in the first fight against oil company activity in Western Sahara.

In 2003, the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara launched a campaign against the involvement of Norwegian company TGS-Topec in conducting seismic surveys in the Occupied Territories. Simultaneously, a solidarity organisation in Holland began to pressure Dutch Fugro Group to halt its own surveying activities in the region. Thanks to the campaign, TGS-Topec suffered massive divestment and deserted its activities in Western Sahara. Threatened with the same, Fugro too pulled out. The Dutch and Norwegian groups then joined forces with Saharawi solidarity groups in 12 other countries, which together launched a fight against American Kerr-McGee. The US company pulled out of Western Sahara, but not before responsible investors (including the world’ s largest public investment fund the Norwegian  Petroleum fund) divested some $80 million over the affair (Western Sahara Resource Watch 2013, 3).

As well as lobbying against companies and governments involved in the plunder of Western Sahara, international solidarity groups such as WSRW have held workshops with Saharawi activists from the Occupied Territories and camps focusing on advocacy and campaigning. It is also significant that Saharawis and international groups such as WSRW enjoy a symbiotic relationship. WSRW, whose International Coordinator is based in Belgium, supported by volunteer coordinators and members across Europe but also in the Americas, Australasia and Africa, can keep Saharawis in the Occupied Territories and camps up-to-date about the activities of companies and governments of the home countries of its members whilst WSRW needs the Saharawis’ videos, information and photographs, and the latter’ s expertise in non-violent direct action, to support its lobbying. Indeed, international activists are often monitored, detained and expelled when they attempt to visit the Occupied Territories, heightening the extent to which they rely on partnerships with local Saharawi civil society groups and activists.

Educational (in)opportunity is another important factor in explaining why natural resources have become foregrounded in the demands of Saharawi activists relatively recently. Saharawi students lament the lack of opportunity to study English (a language, as mentioned, important for following the activities of foreign companies via the internet) since the Moroccan education system focuses on French. Discrimination against Saharawi students is common, and, since there are no universities in Western Sahara, access to higher education is not open to the less well off. Nevertheless, those Saharawis that do manage to club together the funds to travel and live in Morocco proper often do so with the national struggle in mind. Cheikh Khaya, Activist with Saharawi League, states, ‘ I chose Law and English in order to help my people. Most students study law because it will help the cause’  (Khaya cited in Allan 2015 ). Similarly, Ahmed Baba, a Ph.D. student in International Law at the University of Marrakesh, explains,

The majority of Saharawi higher education students choose to focus on law. But there is no background of scholarship in international law amongst our people. We are the first generation to do this. The previous generations were too busy defending their land. The generation of the seventies and eighties was either involved in the war or exiled to the camps. The nineties, after the war stopped, was a time of assassinations and arrests, especially of those studying. That’s why we have a gap in the education of those in the Occupied Territories. (Baba cited in Allan 2015)

When activists such as Khaya and Baba return home, the university students engage with their compatriots, showing how key parts of international law could be used to support the arguments made in lobbying and advocacy work. Students that have studied foreign languages help activists to create banners and slogans against foreign corporations in the latter’s own tongue (Discussion groups… 2014).

The issue of hope is one more reason Saharawi activists have turned their attention back to natural resources in recent years. At the time of writing, it has been 24 years since the ceasefire. UN-brokered talks between POLISARIO and Morocco have offered no fruit. One Saharawi woman’s reason for attending a workshop focused on the natural resources dimension of the Western Sahara conflict in the refugee camps is illuminating in this regard: ‘I can see that the diplomatic path is going nowhere, and so some young people want to go back to war. I don’t want war, and I see natural resources as another possible path towards our independence’  (Taleb (pseud.), pers. conv., 2 December 2015). A development in the diplomatic route, recent at the time of writing, arguably underlines the logic and urgency of this woman’ s simultaneous rejection of war and exasperation at the UN process. In March 2016, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visited the Saharawi camps, and in a press conference there described the Moroccan presence in Western Sahara as an ‘occupation’. This outraged Morocco, which, in protest, ordered the expulsion of 84 MINURSO civilian staff members and the closure of a military liaison office. The UN complied, raising questions as to whether or not MINURSO is now logistically capable of organising a referendum and resulting in new threats by the POLISARIO of a return to war. After all, it only agreed to the 1991 ceasefire due to the UN-promised referendum on self-determination with the option of independence.

Finally, the role of the internet is also an important one to raise when discussing the recent re-emergence of natural resources amongst Saharawi civilian non-violent activists. It was only in 2001 and 2002 that Saharawis began to have access to mobile phones and the internet in the Occupied Territories (Breika, pers. int., 31 March 2014), access in the camps is intermittent, and activists still face issues such as surveillance, blocking and hacking by Moroccan authorities (Brahim (pseud.), pers. int., August 25, 2014; Discussion groups… 2014). On the other hand, despite these barriers, from the time of Gdeim Izik onwards the sharing of information regarding natural resource exploitation by Saharawis via social media has become far more visible (Telephone interview with Erik Hagen, former Chair and founding member of WSRW, 28 February 2014). Mohammed Saleh, one of the founders of SCAP, based in the Saharawi state-in-exile, puts it well when he refers to how social media can help Saharawis overcome the Moroccan-imposed media blockade (foreign journalists have a hard time entering occupied Western Sahara): ‘Social media is an open space. Its success as a strategy depends on the Saharawis themselves. You can no longer say that we don’t have media coverage’  (pers. conv. with Mohammed Saleh, 9 December 2015).

On the one hand, social media facilitates awareness-raising amongst Saharawis themselves regarding which companies are exploiting Western Sahara’s resources and the implications of this exploitation. On the other hand, it is also a platform, as Saleh indicates, for sharing Saharawis’  indignation at the exploitation internationally. Films and photographs of Saharawis demonstrating against resource exploitation are shared publicly with the concerned companies on Twitter and open letters penned in English by Saharawis to said companies are shared on blogs and webpages. Most recently, Saharawi Activist Senia Bachir Abderahman has highlighted the issue of natural resource exploitation in a Western Sahara edition of Al Jazeera’ s social media-focused programme The Stream.11

What are the implications of the resource-turn in Saharawi resistance?

In the light of French oil giant Total’s plans to begin searching for oil off Western Sahara’ s coast in 2001, the UN issued a legal opinion on the matter. Hans Corell, who was then the UN’ s Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, concluded that

if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories (Corell 2002). The international law principles to which he refers include Article 73 of the United Nations Charter and several General Assembly resolutions relating to the questions of the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (Corell 2010, 276– 277). These resolutions are designed ‘to protect the “inalienable rights”  of the peoples of [non-self-governing] territories to their natural resources, and to establish and maintain control over the future development of those resources’  and recognise ‘the need to protect the peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories from exploitation and plundering by foreign economic interests’ (Corell 2010 , 277).

In early 2015, Corell declared that Kosmos’  activities were in no way in line with his legal opinion (Corell 2015 ). Later that year, in October 2015, the African Union (AU) published its own legal opinion, stating in no uncertain terms that any company, state or group of states exploring or exploiting natural resources do so in violation of international law, and calling for an Africa-wide boycott of such companies, states and groups of states (The Office of the Legal Counsel and Directorate for Legal Affairs of the African Union Commission 2015).

At the time of writing, none of the energy companies that have made agreements with ONHYM to access the six blocks offshore Western Sahara have published any evidence of how they have obtained the consent of the Saharawi people to carry out exploration activities. Yet Saharawis continue to take to the streets to passionately protest against such activities. In other  words, since oil companies have decided not to consult them,12  Saharawis have taken the initiative and illustrated, in no uncertain terms, that foreign corporations purchasing licenses for oil exploration from the Moroccan government do so against their wishes.

Saharawis are also combining their demonstrations and lobbying with legal action. POLISARIO won a case against the European Union (EU) in December 2015 in which the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) annulled an EU-Morocco Trade Agreement insofar as it applies to the territory of Western Sahara (the EU has appealed). A week later, oil company Total gave up its block in Western Sahara. The case is a pioneering legal success for the wider Saharawi struggle, and established that the POLISARIO has legal standing in the CJEU (the EU attempted to argue that it should not). The case will be followed by two further cases in the same court, one involving POLISARIO against the EU regarding a fisheries agreement that allows European vessels to fish in Western Sahara’s waters) (Allan 2013, Sahara Press Service 2014), and another from Western Sahara Campaign (WSC), a group of British solidarity activists, against the British government regarding the misleading labelling of products from Western Sahara as Moroccan. It would be unsurprising if members of the oil industry are targeted next. Until now, foreign companies and the likes of the EU have managed to side-step international law on exploiting the resources of an occupied country. The recent Court decision, should the appeal fail, implies this could be about to change.

The second implication of the pending oil exploration activities is potentially more deadly. At the start of a documentary on Gdeim Izik by the Spanish solidarity group Sahara Thawra, a Saharawi activist can be seen spraying graffiti ‘the loss of all hope will make us free’  on to a wall (Sahara Thawra 2012). Almost 40 years after the Moroccan invasion, Saharawis have long lost hope in Spain, in the UN and in the global powers, and gradually their hope in international civil society and international law is fading too. For some, war is the only option for freedom now that the hope of all other avenues has faded. A return to armed war is gaining popularity amongst the youth of the refugee camps. ‘The pressure to return to war is becoming almost unbearable’  said Mohammed Abdelaziz, President of the SADR, in an interview (McTighe 2013).

In the Occupied Territories too, the pressure is mounting. The violent clashes between Saharawis and Moroccan authorities following the dismantling of Gdeim Izik camp, which resulted in several deaths, are indicative of this change in mentality, especially since the Saharawi resistance movement up to this point had been non-violent. The young, jobless Saharawis, without realistic aspirations and under the weight of constant repression often describe themselves as ‘ buried alive’, or, as Hamza Lakhal tells it, ‘lots of people have big dreams here. But they can’t achieve them because they are Saharawi’  (Personal conversations with Hamza Lakhal, El Aaiún, August 2014). More and more are in favour of war. Says Khawla Khaya, soon to complete her studies in Rabat and with no prospects of a job back home, ‘I’ll be the first in line to sign up to fight’  (Khaya quoted in Allan 2015).

https://i1.wp.com/tlaxcala-int.org/upload/gal_13743.jpg

Conclusions

Under Spanish rule, the emerging discourses of the POLISARIO gave rise to a Saharawi national identity, and within these discourses, natural resources, above all phosphates, become a symbol of colonised nationhood, a claim to be staked by the new and fast-growing Saharawi independence movement. Nevertheless, the Moroccan invasion in 1975 and subsequent repressive occupation of the resource-rich portion of Western Sahara pushed the resistance of the remaining Saharawi civilians underground. The activists relied on what Scott has called ‘ the weapons of the weak’, that is, covert and everyday acts of resistance, for over a decade. It was not until an important external actor, the UN, visited the territory in 1987 that activists took the strategic decision to storm the public stage with an open and mass protest. Although this demonstration was harshly repressed, over the following decades open resistance continued, and with each intifada, new claims were pursued in line with the political opportunities that activists perceived. Thus in 1999, whilst pro-independence slogans were still seen as too risky and were largely tucked away until 2005, human rights and socio-economic demands were raised. By 2010, 35 years after the POLISARIO had first made sovereignty over phosphates a key demand for the pro-independence movement, international allies had begun to work with Saharawis on the issue of natural resource exploitation with some significant successes encouraging the divestment of Big Oil. Natural resources became the key claim of the Gdeim Izik, the largest protest ever seen in Western Sahara. This outright contradicts the empty claims of oil companies that they have sought the consent of the Saharawi population to go ahead with their exploration and exploitation. The ramifications of this are not just legal (international law prohibits the exploitation of the resources of a territory under occupation unless its people consent) but deadly: whilst natural resource exploitation widens and deepens, calls amongst the Saharawi population to return to war grow. If the likes of Cairn, Kosmos and San Leon strike commercial quantities of oil in the coming months, it will have catastrophic consequences for the Saharawi independence activists. Time will tell if this will push the angry youth over the edge.

Notes

1. The first fortified settlement at Villa Cisneros intended to sell clothes, food, arms, mirrors, steel bars, donkeys and horses to the local nomads, whilst buying from them camels, gazelle furs, gold, Arabic gum and ostrich feathers, but trade never took off due to repeated Saharawi raids against the Spanish.

2. The first UN General Assembly Resolution on the matter was number 2229 (XXI) in December 1966, which called for Spain to grant self-determination to the peoples relating to the territories of Sidi Ifni and Spanish Sahara’.

3. For an analysis of the 1992 Intifada of three cities, see Barona Castañeda (2015)

4. Originally quoted as ‘Ahel essahra daau daau welkhaira ¯t illa yenba ¯‘u’ (The

Sahrawi people suffers while its wealth is looted) by Alice Wilson from a video of protests filmed by Sahara Thawra. (Wilson 2013, 88).

5. Saharawis charged with organising the camp argue that the camp arose in a largely organic and non-hierarchical fashion, although youth activists took a leading role in administering all aspects of the camp, and organised committees for this purpose, once it emerged.

6. Ali Salem Tamek, one of the unofficial leaders of the resistance in the Occupied Territories, also asserts that natural resources were at the heart of the Gdeim Izik protests, as did participants of the discussion groups in Agadir (22 April 2014) and Marrakech (23 April 2014). Personal conversation with Ali Salem Tamek, Auserd camp, Algeria, 12 December 2015.

7. See http://www.wsrw.org for a few examples.

8. Footage of the protest can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mChmF9tzHag. Last accessed 4 January 2016.

9. See the SADR’s oil and gas webpage for more information: http://www.sadroilandgas.com.

10. For more on this programme of agreements, see Kamal (2015)

11. Watch the programme here: http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201511250121-0025099. Last accessed 13 January 2015.

12. Kosmos has published a Position Paper in which it claims to have consulted with ‘the people of the territory’ through a Moroccan partner. However, according to all Saharawi grassroots organisations mentioned in this paper, only Moroccan settlers have been consulted despite the Saharawis’ restless if unsuccessful attempts to contact Kosmos and be included in the consultation process. Cairn has made no attempt to consult with Saharawis and has failed to respond to letters and requests for meetings from Saharawi civil society organisations and British Members of Parliament.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Hamza Lakhal, Mohammed Saleh, Jalihenna Mohammed and Limam Mohammed Ali for facilitating much of the fieldwork for this article and to Wilf Wilde for inspiring it. Thanks also to all the Saharawi activists that took part in interviews, and to Wilf, Hamza, Erik Hagen, Manuel Barcía Paz, Richard Cleminson; the journal’s two anonymous peer reviewers; and the attendees of Durham University’s Carbon Democracy and Revolution workshop for their constructive comments on drafts of this article.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

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Courtesy of The Journal of North African Studies Volume 21, Issue 3, 2016
Source: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13629387.2016.1174586.
Publication date of original article: 22/04/2016
URL of this page : http://www.tlaxcala-int.org/article.asp?reference=17945

‘German, French special forces in Syria’

The Syrian government says French and German forces are present in northern Syria, condemning it as an act of “aggression.”

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday French and German forces are deployed to Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani, and Manbij alongside US military personnel.

“Syria … considers it explicit and unjustified aggression towards its sovereignty and independence,” the official SANA news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

Foreign forces are aiding Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) near Manbij and Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, part of the SDF, in Ain al-Arab, characterizing the aid as part of an offensive against Daesh.

The ministry said any side “wishing to fight against terrorists must coordinate its moves with the legitimate Syrian government, whose army and people are fighting terrorism” across the country.

“Such presence under the pretext of fighting terrorism cannot elude any one,” it added.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said French special forces were building a base for themselves near Ain al-Arab.

France’s defense minister said last week that there were also special forces operating in Syria helping the SDF advance towards Manbij.

Berlin, however, was quick to deny the presence of German special forces in Syria.

“There are no German special forces in Syria. The accusation is false,” a spokesman at the Germany’s Defense Ministry said.

The Observatory, however, said German, French and American military advisers, and French and American special forces, were assisting the SDF.

Their presence has raised growing suspicion that the US and Europe are assisting a Kurdish campaign to establish a separate state in Syria.     

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey would not allow cooperation with terrorist organizations in Syria, referring to Kurdish groups which the US supports. 

Ankara and Washington have long been at loggerheads over the role of the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia.

Turkey says the fighters are a terrorist organization affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) but the US sees them as a partner in Syria operations.

In a speech to his ruling AK Party in parliament, Yildirim said Turkey won’t allow formation of new states in Syria.

Syrian men look at damage on June 13, 2016, following airstrikes the previous night on the al-Mashhad in northern Aleppo. © AFP

Syria is currently fighting foreign-backed militants such as Daesh and al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front on several fronts, including in Aleppo which borders Turkey.

On Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fierce battles between government forces and Takfiri terrorists in Aleppo had left 70 fatalities in less than 24 hours.

The monitor said Syrian forces retook the villages of Zaytan and Khalasa to the southwest of the Aleppo city after losing control of them hours earlier.

The area overlooks the government supply road around the south of Aleppo, linking government-held Nayrab airport to the city’s southeast and areas controlled by government forces to its west.

The Syrian daily al-Watan said Russian fighter jets resumed their missions in Aleppo, targeting positions of al-Nusra Front and allied forces on Wednesday.

Moscow launched airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria on September 30 upon a request from the Damascus government.

Sorgente: PressTV-‘German, French special forces in Syria’

Hillary’s Secrets: What Was Hidden in Clinton’s Emails

U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks with the media after sitting down with workers and management of Whitney Brothers children's toy and furniture factory during a round table while campaigning for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination in Keene, New Hampshire April 20, 2015

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner to win the US Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. However, her triumphant march to the White House might be overshadowed by her email scandal.

Here are some controversial facts we’ve learned from emails addressed to and sent by US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

Revelation 1: Google and Al-Jazeera interfered in the Syrian events and collaborated with each other in an attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad.

According to an email from the head of “Google Ideas” Jared Cohen, received by the US State Department in 2012, the company was trying to support insurgents by urging representatives of Syrian power structures to take the side of the opposition.

“Given how hard it is to get information into Syria right now, we are partnering with Al-Jazeera who will take primary ownership over the tool we have built, track the data, verify it, and broadcast it back into Syria,” Cohen wrote in the e-mail.

Revelation 2: Following the 2011 Libyan intervention, France decided to seize the country’s oil industry and “reassert itself as a military power”.

An e-mail on the issue was written by Clinton family friend Sidney Blumenthal. He wrote that France was trying to establish control over Libyan oil immediately after the coup in 2011. Moreover, France was exerting pressure on the new Libyan government and demanding exclusive rights to 35% of the country’s oil industry in exchange for political support.

“In return for this assistance, the DGSE officers indicated that they expected the new government of Libya to favor French firms and national interests, particularly regarding the oil industry in Libya,” the email said.

Revelation 3: The US tried to conceal the fact that it helped Turkey to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

An email addressed to Clinton said that the US government tried to exert pressure on the Washington Post to amend an article on cooperation between American and Turkish intelligence in the fight against Kurdish rebels.

“Despite our efforts, WaPo will proceed with its story on US-Turkey intel cooperation against PKK,” the message said, referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. “They will not make redactions we requested so expect the Wikileaks cables to be published in full.”

Revelation 4: The last revelation is more of a personal nature and concerns Clinton’s poor knowledge of modern technology. Thus, her email correspondence shows that she frequently needed assistance with daily activities such as faxing, charging her iPad or searching for a Wi-Fi network.

thanks to: Sputniknews