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Thursday, 15 December 2011

The other occupation

Interesting to see ( that the European Parliament has voted not to extend a fishing deal with Morocco because, say MEPs, "the deal was illegal as it did not benefit the people living in the disputed Western Sahara, off which most of the fishing took place".

According to the BBC: "Morocco annexed Western Sahara in 1976 but its claims of sovereignty have not been internationally recognised. The separatist Polisario movement fought a guerrilla war against Moroccan troops until 1991 and still seeks to be recognised as an independent state."

Sounds familiar? And yet how often do we hear news of this territorial dispute (, or condemnation of Morocco for this occupation? Why is the plight of Saharawis any less significant than the plight of Palestinians? And yet while the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (or "the Middle East", as some people call it, when the Middle East is not a conflict, it's a region populated by hundreds of millions of people, of whom the Israelis and Palestinians are but a fraction) is discussed endlessly, I rarely hear anything about Western Sahara.

This habit of focusing on the few headline conflicts that we all know about, while ignoring all the others, is dangerous. It is dangerous because it means that wounds fester untended in large parts of the world, only for the conflicts concerned to suddenly explode as if from nowhere. It is dangerous because people who deserve our attention are being ignored. And it is dangerous because it means that we have only a self-reinforcingly partial world-view, as those conflicts that catch our eye remain the ones to which we constantly return in search of news, while other conflicts (in which equal or greater numbers of people are being killed) barely get reported. See also:,8599,2102098,00.html?xid=gonewsedit


  1. Many thanks for this article. Let's make 2012 the year for the implimentation of self-determination in Western Sahara and make an end to the plague of occupation in the African continent. Best Regards

  2. Sandblast is a london-based charity seeking to raise awareness of the overlooked conflict in Western Sahara and empower the indigenous Saharawi voices through the arts. We truly welcome your article, which recognizes the dire lack of attention being paid to the situation in Western Sahara and to the ongoing human rights violations which are being perpetuated with impunity by the Moroccan regime against the indigenous Saharawis, right on Europe's doorstep. We would be extremely pleased if you could support our efforts to help us make more of an impact in addressing the Saharawi plight.