For over 30 years, Western Sahara has been in conflict. Ahead of the EU election, Fanny Rosenblad from Green Youth wants Sweden to be the first EU country to recognize Western Sahara as an independent state. In a situation when politics is locked, a massive popular commitment is needed, she says.
What do you know about Western Sahara? Maybe you're thinking of the desert? Nice fishing waters and rich in minerals? Africa's last colony?
Western Sahara is an area in the Sahara Desert south of Morocco in northern Africa. The Western Sahara State (Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic) was proclaimed in 1976 when the last Spanish troops left the area. At the same time as Spain marched out, both Morocco and Mauritania claimed the land. Since then, for over 30 years, Morocco has had forces in the country.
Today, the people of Western Sahara are still waiting for a referendum on independence, which would have taken place in 1992. Since then, Morocco has declared that it refuses to have an alternative to an independent Western Sahara in a vote, they have brought thousands of Moroccan settlers into the area and prevented them referendums that have been attempted to be organized. No country today recognizes Morocco's alleged right to Western Sahara. Both the UN and the International Criminal Court in The Hague condemn the occupation. 84 countries recognize Western Sahara as a separate state. Among those countries, there is no EU country. Sweden will be the first.
At a meeting with representatives of most youth unions, I met Saleh Uesario for the first time. He is a Western Saharan refugee and is involved in a Western Saharan student organization. At the meeting, we discussed how we in the Swedish youth federation could help Saleh and his organization. We kept in touch and much of what he says is difficult to understand that he has had to experience so early in life.
He writes as follows:
"After the Moroccan invasion in 1975, many Western Sahara residents were forced to flee to neighboring Algeria due to bombings, massacres and premeditated killings. These refugees have organized themselves in various camps, where there are their own schools, hospitals, administration and daycare centers. Today, several thousand refugees live in these camps, constantly waiting for a democratic vote. "
The situation in the refugee camps is often critical and Saleh himself testifies to what many international organizations, e.g. Amnesty International, has written about: human rights violations are commonplace. Saleh testifies:
"Since the first invasion, we, the people of Western Sahara, have been exposed to human rights abuses. Naples and phosphorus bombs, massacres have been used and people have been thrown from helicopters. "
Right now, Sweden's attitude is relatively neutral in the conflict. On the government's website, you can read that we follow and support the UN in their attempts to reach a consensus on the issue. That no EU country has yet recognized Western Sahara as an independent state can have many explanations; that it is not possible to determine the electoral roll in the country and that there is no clear government alternative is highlighted, among other things. My friend Saleh writes like this:
"After the ceasefire in 1991, Western Saharans in the occupied territories organized peaceful demonstrations, where they were subjected to violence by the Moroccan police. Western Saharans are forbidden to organize themselves into organizations or political parties, especially if they are for independence. Many organizations still try, but if they are caught, you can be prosecuted in a military court and receive long prison sentences. "
It is therefore not possible to organize oneself effectively in the Western Sahara area. Thanks to this effective policy on the part of Morocco, it is difficult for EU countries to recognize the area as a separate country. More international help is needed to ensure that the existing organizations are strengthened and that political activity is encouraged.
But the explanation for the EU countries wavering in the Western Sahara issue may also be due to the trade contracts they have with Morocco, including fishing. Fishing, which is also harmful to the environment because it is done in large quantities and with the help of deep-sea jets (large, heavy nets that are pulled along the seabed and sacrifice corals, and other deep-sea creatures in search of the fish that are there), the EU a position of dependence on Morocco and prevents the issue of recognition of Western Sahara from being on the agenda.
"The best solution is to get rid of the referendum on our freedom that we have been promised time and time again. We want a fair election so that we Western Saharans can say what we think about our country's democratic future. "
What is needed now, when politics is locked, is a massive popular commitment. Everyone needs to know what is going on in Western Sahara. Why is this conflict not addressed in teaching when one learns about the colonization of Africa? Are you a member of a youth union or other organization? Demand that the issue be addressed, discussed and given the attention it deserves. Use your vote in the EU election wisely, find out which parties have a restrictive fisheries policy on the agenda, because if we break the EU's dependence on Morocco and their fishing waters, we will come to a standstill in the Western Sahara conflict. A very good example is the Green Party's candidate. Isabella Lövin who has actively fought for a more sustainable fisheries policy.
We must not let the question be forgotten, as it sadly is today. We are extremely privileged in Sweden. There is a lot we can do, only this conflict will receive media attention again. Among the most beautiful I heard Saleh say in one of our conversations and that inspired me to write this was
"Please use your freedom to promote ours."
Convening Green International Committee