During the activities that formed part of the Preparatory Meeting for the next WSF, held in Monastir, Tunisia, Moroccan activists were forced to confront the voices of the Saharawis, who call for independence.
Translated by Fernanda Favaro
Beguia Mohamed Bachir, Nayat Hamudi Ali, Mariam Salma Said are women from Western Sahara who attended the various meetings held in Monastir, Tunisia, 12-17 July, in preparation for the next World Social Forum, an event scheduled for 23- 28 March, 2013, in that country.
Their presence and how they were received in some of the meetings, with clear discomfort of the Moroccan women present, indicate that the conflict between their peoples, due to the control over part of the Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco, will be one of the sensitive issues that the North African civil society will face in this event.
On the first day of meetings, during a meeting of Maghreb women and Mashreq international feminist movements to organize a common agenda, the speech of one Saharawi was interrupted by a Moroccan feminist leader. According to her, who spoke exalted, the reports and complaints coming from Sahara against the Moroccan government did not contribute to the journey together toward the Forum, interfering in these women’s struggle for their rights.
It lead other activists present to position themselves firmly, ensuring the Sahara inhabitants’ testimonies, which were not light. One of the activists reported the number of incidents of torture and humiliation to which women prisoners are subjected by the Moroccan police, because of their activism for the independence of Sahara. She also mentioned the forced nudity in front of the children, leaving marks and traumas that were not erased after the release.
This attempt to inhibit the speeches of the Saharawi representatives reminds the moments of confrontation between the two delegations, occurred in the 2011 edition of the WSF, held in Dakar, Senegal, when Moroccan groups against the Sahara independence disrupted activities as a tactic to prevent that the speeches could continue.
The 2011 episodes echoed in Dakar at the WSF International Council meeting, which at that time stood for the Saharawi right to speak freely, and that, once more, in Monastir, had to make room - in its 2012 plenary session - for the outburst and support for the suppressed women.
With the support of Morocco, who hosted the first International Council meeting in North Africa in May 2009, members of its social movements are engaged since then in building the Maghreb Mashreq Social Forum. They seek peaceful solutions to regional conflicts, but face difficulties to manage the coexistence of activists with frontal opposing positions or even to deal with taboo subjects for the Moroccan civil society, such as the monarchy and control of the Sahara, including wall and ostensive patrolling.
The Polisario Front, organization that fights for the independence of Morocco since the end of the Spanish colonization (1975), seeks to increase international pressure - including Brazil - to force Morocco to fulfill the peace plan agreed with the UN in 1991and to end the occupation, moving towards this through a referendum to let the people decide whether to continue or not subjugated by Morocco.
In 2011, Maghreb Mashreq WSF participants promoted in Lyon, France, a meeting involving the various parties involved or interested in solving the conflicts, and released a paper outlining some shared commitments due to find solutions.
For the Sahara activists, however, what is at stake is their people´s self-determination and the WSF is considered as an area which should give visibility to this fight, with no discrimination.
Damian is member of Abong - Brazilian Association of NGOs in the WSF International Council. Rita is editor of Ciranda and also a member of the IC.