Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Not much time today.  Been involved in an argument, to put it nicely, about, you guessed, Israel, Palestine, Gaza.  Won't bore you with that right now.

However, in the midst of the "discussion" I mentioned that I am possibly the only American leftist or otherwise who ever even mentions the Western Sahara.

So, I decided to mention it again today.

I don't have anything organized, but here goes.

First, just for fun.  Everyone remembers the Berlin Wall.  Everyone talks about the wall Israel has built on its "border" with Palestine (as if the one could be separated into two), and everyone hears about the famous DMZ in Korea. 

Few talk of the Berm.

Rather than me write again about it, let me just give you a long description I found today on line at War is Boring.

The farthest-stretching mine belt on Earth isn’t in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the Angolan savannas or the Afghan mountains. It’s in one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara Desert.

The U.N. classifies the Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory,” despite two-thirds of the region being occupied by Morocco.

Located on the west coast of Africa—near the Canary Islands, south of Morocco, west of Algeria and north of Mauritania—Western Sahara was Spanish until 1976, when pressure from pro-independence fighters compelled Spain’s forces to withdraw.

Subsequently Mauritania and Morocco, through hostile takeover, divided the desert territory.
Following the 1975 Moroccan invasion, the Sahrawi indigenous people fled by the thousands across the border into Algeria. And in 1980 Morocco—sensing that the territory was vulnerable—made a push to annex the majority of the ungoverned desert.

Moroccan engineers built the Berm—a 1,500-mile tract of land mines and elevated barricades that cuts through the Western Sahara.

The Berm is one of the most secure defensive barriers ever. It consists of 10-foot-high walls, barbed wire, electric fences and, every seven miles, human sentries. On top of that, the fortification lies amid the world’s longest continuous minefield.

Map of Western Sahara including the Berm. Wikipedia photo

In sections, year by year, Morocco expanded the walls of the Berm until 1987, when it reached the southern tip of the border with Mauritania. Upon completion, the wall encased all the major settlements of the Western Sahara including its largest city El Aaiún, which is under Morocco’s control.

Among locals of the region the Berm is also known as Hassan’s wall—named for King Hassan II, who annexed most of what was then called Spanish Sahara.

Today there are still 120,000 Moroccan troops along the border of the Southern Provinces—the areas Morocco claims. East of the Berm is the free zone, a landlocked swath of desert next to Algeria and Mauritania.

Okay, with that as an introduction, I will give you a short little article with a video you might want to watch.  Then I have to go.

The following is from Vice.

The Sahara's Forgotten War Part 1 AND PART 2

If you ask the linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, the Arab Spring did not begin in Tunisia in 2011, but with the October 2010 protests in the town of Gdeim Izik, in Western Sahara's occupied territories. The former Spanish colony has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. Its territory is divided in two by a 1,677-mile long sand wall and surrounded by some 7 million land mines. 

The native Sahrawis, led by their independence movement the Polisario, are recognized by the International Court of Justice as the rightful owners of the land. However, Morocco hijacked Western Sahara's decolonisation process from Spain in 1975, marching some 300,000 settlers into the territory. This triggered a 16-year war between Morocco and the Polisario, which forced more than 100,000 Sahrawis into exile across the border in Algeria. Technically, Western Sahara is still Spanish and remains Africa's last colony.

Whether adrift in refugee camps and dependent on aid, or languishing under Moroccan rule, the Sahrawis are still fighting for their independence in an increasingly volatile region. Meanwhile, the UN has no mandate to monitor human rights in occupied Western Sahara. VICE News travels to Western Sahara's occupied and liberated territories, as well as the Polisario-run refugee camps in Algeria, to find out more about one of the world's least reported conflicts.

In Part 1, we attend the 38th anniversary celebration of the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The Sahrawis celebrate this anniversary every year despite the facts that Morocco controls a third of their homeland and the parade takes place in Algerian refugee camps run by the Polisario. At the celebration, we meet Sahrawi activist Sidahmed Talmidi, who, in October 2010, helped mobilize the Gdeim Izik protest camp near Laâyoune, the capital of occupied Western Sahara. Chomsky refers to the thousands of Saharwis who gathered there to demonstrate against both their unequal social and economic status and the brutal denial of their human rights as the real beginning of the Arab Spring.

Then Ahmed Salem, a war veteran and commander of the Polisario's 2nd Battalion, shows us around the makeshift refugee camps in the arid desert, where more than 100,000 Sahrawis who have escaped the Moroccan occupation have lived for nearly 40 years, relying on humanitarian aid and waiting for the chance to return to their homeland.

In Part 2, VICE News heads to the Polisario-controlled liberated territories, an all but uninhabitable no man's land littered with land mines from the 16-year war. On the way, we pass a Sahrawi protest near the Moroccan Wall — also known as the berm or the wall of shame — that separates the Polisario-controlled Free Zone from the Moroccan-occupied territories. Once we reach the heart of the liberated territories, Polisario Commander Ahmed Salem shows off one of the many pieces of art he has created and placed in the desert. Then he has his soldiers demonstrate their desert guerrilla tactics.

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