Friday, July 18, 2014


It is Prison Friday and...

As Project NIA writes:

In the words of writer Mychal Denzel Smith, “Marissa Alexander was just trying to save her life” when she was assaulted and threatened (again) by her estranged husband. When she retrieved a gun and fired a warning shot in self-defense, she could not have imagined being convicted and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. Yet we know from history that too often women who protect themselves from unrelenting violence are criminalized.

‘No Selves to Defend’ features the stories of women of color who have been criminalized for self-defense. The exhibition examines the contested meanings and historical and contemporary understandings of self-defense. It seeks to locate Marissa Alexander’s story within a broader historical context and legacy. The exhibition also addresses the campaigns and mobilizations that emerged to resist their criminalization and demand their freedom. Finally, it considers how we can support current survivors of violence who have been criminalized for self-defense.

The exhibition which opens today in Chicago  is organized by Project NIA, Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women and the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander. It is co-curated by Rachel Caidor and Mariame Kaba

There is more.  A series of events will take place to raise awareness about Marissa’s case, to learn about the historical context of the case, and to take action.
July 18, 6 to 9 p.m. – Opening Reception for No Selves To Defend Exhibition at Art in These Times, 2nd floor of 2040 N Milwaukee Ave. Chicago, IL 60647 USA. Details are HERE. Facebook event page here.
July 18 through September 21 – at Art in These Times – No Selves To Defend: An Exhibition about the Criminalization of Women of Color
July 19, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Free Screening of Crime After Crime – Join us for a screening and discussion of the film Crime After Crime. Roosevelt University, 425 S. Wabash Ave, Room 418. RSVP to – Facebook event page here.
July 25, 5:30 p.m.Sticks and Stones and Stories – Storytelling for Self and Survival. Storytelling to fight back. Storytelling in Solidarity
The more we are injured by oppressive institutions and trauma in our lives, the more we are identified by the stories told about us, and not the stories we share about ourselves. This event is about sharing personal experiences of forcible displacement. That can happen through incarceration, deportation, detention, eviction, or other systems that exist to confine us to a single identity: criminal, unfit, illegal, homeless, invisible. We can fight that violence against us. We can share something about our lives and how we see ourselves, and find love and support in the process. That solidarity makes us infinitely more powerful, unstoppable, and ready to fight back! Join us.
What: Story Sharing Event plus Dinner
Where: 114 N Aberdeen, Chicago
When: Friday, July 25, 5:30 pm
This event is co-organized by Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander, Black on Both Sides, Moms United Against Violence and Incarceration. Contact Holly for more info: 630-258-8552,
July 26, 2 p.m.A Community Gathering and Rally in Support of Marissa in solidarity with Stand Our Ground Week of Action. We invite all community members to join us in song, performance, poetry and more. This is a family-friendly event. More details to come.
Find all upcoming events here.

In Jacksonville, Florida:

  • FRIDAY, JULY 25:
    Registration & Opening Ceremony
    Logistical details here; Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel, 1201 Riverplace Boulevard
    SisterSong Reproductive Justice Institute & Southern Freedom Alliance/ National Youth Bill of Rights Youth-Led Assembly
    Logistical details here; Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront Hotel, 1201 Riverplace Boulevard
  • SUNDAY, JULY 27Beach Day for Youth; VIP Legal Defense Fund Benefit; Waterfront Benefit Concert to Free Marissa Alexander
    Concert at Waterfront Jacksonville Landing, 2 Independent Dr (time TBA)
  • MONDAY, JULY 28March from CROWNE PLAZA Hotel to Duval County Courthouse - meet at 1201 Riverplace Boulevard, march to 501 W Adams St (time TBA)
    Southern Movement Assembly (SMA) at Courthouse (time TBA)
    Verbal Essence Poetry Night (location/time TBA)
    12pm - 2pm: 
    Book reading of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison Nation by author, Prof. Beth Richie
    Chamblin Uptown, 215 N Laura St
    3 pm: Forum on the Women's Movement and Social Change, featuring Prof. Beth Richie, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America's Prison NationDowntown Jacksonville Library, 303 N. Laura Street
  • WEDNESDAY, JULY 30: Forum on Prison Industrial Complex and Mass Incarceration
    Milne Auditorium, Edward Waters College, Grunthal St. & W. 5th St. (time TBA)
  • THURSDAY, JULY 31Civil Rights Law & Community Legal Support
    Milne Auditorium, Edward Waters College, Grunthal St. & W. 5th St. (time TBA)
    Evening Jazz, Ritz Theatre and Museum, 829 N Davis St (time TBA)
  • FRIDAY, AUGUST 1Court Watch at Marissa Alexander's hearing
    Duval County Courthouse, 501 W Adams St (time TBA)

Organize in Your Communities:

If you can't make it to Jacksonville or Chicago, we encourage you to raise your voices in your own community!  Supporters of Marissa Alexander have done incredible actions to make sure that her name is not forgotten.  This week of action is the BIG PUSH!  We need you to really raise your voices when her trial begins so that everyone knows what's happening and why it's important that Marissa is free!

POSSIBLE PROJECTS:Find resources here to support your local action!
  • Direct Actions: rallies, marches, let's get seen!  Rally in parks, in front of courthouses in your community, table in the community to share information about the case and the urgent issues around it.
  • Participate in #SelfiesForSelfDefense online activism!
  • Media action: write op/eds, share updates on social media, blog about it, urge local media shows to cover the trial and the movement to free Marissa.
  • Organize forums, panels, or workshops about mass incarceration and domestic violence.  
  • Do a fundraiser for the Marissa Alexander Legal Defense Fund!
  • Host a letter-writing get together to write letters to Marissa to let her know you support her freedom.
  • Create art!  Visual art, videos, music, everything is welcome to get the word out beautifully!

If you're organizing an event in solidarity with Standing Our Ground Week of Action, let us know!  We want to connect your group with what's going on in Jacksonville via phone or web during the week.  We'd love to share photos or video of your action!  Stay in touch


Show your support for Marissa Alexander, a black mother of three and survivor of domestic violence from Florida who is being threatened with 60 years in prison for defending her life! 


  1. Take a selfie that includes a photo of you holding a supportive message to Marissa like the ones in the gallery below. Make your own or download this pre-made sign.
  2. During July 25-Aug 1, post your selfie on twitter, facebook,& tumblr! Use hashtag #SelfiesForSelfDefense.
    You can also send it to us @freemarissanow on twitter or post so we can help share your selfie.
    Free Marissa Now will print out the selfies and mail them to Marissa Alexander at the end of the week.
  3. E-mail your photo to the following addresses & let them know you want Florida to DROP THE CASE against Marissa Alexander:

July 25-Aug 1: Standing Our Ground Week of Action
Standing Our Ground Week of Action is a major mobilization of support for Marissa Alexander in Jacksonville, FL and other communities who will stand our ground to demand the end of domestic violence, mass incarceration, and reproductive violence.  On August 1st, Marissa Alexander will learn from a judge if he will grant her a new Stand Your Ground hearing. More ways to take action can be found HERE!
  • Latest status of Marissa's case, as of June 21, 2014: Currently, Marissa is still under home detention, awaiting two dates: August 1st, when Judge James Daniel is expected to rule if she gets another Stand Your Ground (SYG) hearing, and December 8th, when the trial is scheduled to begin if there is still a need for a trial. If she doesn't get SYG immunity and is found guilty in a new trial, State Attorney Angela Corey wants to sentence Marissa to a mandatory 60 years in prison.  More info about possible ways her case could unfold can be found here.

Free Marissa Now is an alliance of organizations and activists working to free Marissa Alexander.  The core organizing team includes members from African-American/Black Women's Cultural Alliance,New Jim Crow MovementRadical Women and Pacific Northwest Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander, and INCITE!.  The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign engages people in the US and all around the world with projects that help support the call to free Marissa Alexander and organize towards ending domestic violence and mass incarceration.  The campaign includes:

Contact us for more info about the campaign and how to get involved.
Thanks for all this to Free Marissa Now

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Ontario Power Generation, one of North America's largest producers of electricity has been at work for fifteen years to obtain approval to build an underground site near the Great Lakes to store its nuclear waste.

Hey, why not.  Sounds good.  Nuclear waste, Great Lakes.  Swell thinking.

For some strange reason the people of the region think, really, not such a good idea.  You know it just seems wrong to dump radioactive materials into the ground less then a half mile from Lake Huron (or anywhere else for that matter, I might add).  Groups such as Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump argue that if radioactive nuclear waste leaked into the water, 40 million Canadians and Americans who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, would find themselves without access to a source of clean freshwater.

But then California may not have any water either soon.  Oh but wait, that's a whole other story.

Back to this one.

William Fyfe, a retired University of Western Ontario professor who worked as an international consultant on nuclear waste before he passed away last fall, voiced his concerns about the project due to the site’s close proximity to water said,

It is universally acknowledged that nuclear waste must be kept away from water circulating through the environment of living things since water is seen as the main vehicle for eventual dissolution and dissemination of radiotoxic pollutants.

Concerns regarding contaminated water have prompted more than 50 cities and towns in Ontario and in the U.S. states bordering the Great Lakes to pass resolutions opposing the DGR.
Beverly Fernandez, spokesperson for Stop The Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, an opposition group formed last year, says the project “defies common sense.”
“Would you bury poison beside your well?” she asked rhetorically.
Nuclear scientist Frank Greening who once worked for Ontario Power Generation says some of the materials that would be stored underground are hundreds of times more radioactive than what was told to Canadian government officials who are considering the site.    "My first feeling was, look, you messed up the most basic first step in establishing the safety of this facility, namely, how much radioactive waste they're going to be putting in the ground, you admit you got that wrong, but now you're telling me that everything else is okay," Greening told Michigan Radio, according to Huffington Post. "You can't just fluff off this error as one error. It raises too many questions about all your other numbers. And I'm sorry, I now have lost faith in what you're doing."

Ah, they wouldn't lie (or fluff off), not these big corporations, would they?   But, wait, what am I saying, this isn't some private corporation.
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is a public company totally owned by the province of Ontario. The company was established in 1999 under the Ontario Progressive Conservative government of Premier Mike Harris. OPG is currently the largest owner of nuclear power plants in Canada.


Earlier this month   Blue Mountains Mayor Ellen Anderson told an Ontario Power Generation official that she can never be convinced that creating a deep geological repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste near the Great Lakes is a good idea.    She said,   “No matter how good the source is, history has shown there is always a chance of accidents.” 

Can't really argue with that.

Have I remembered to mention that Lake Huron is connected to all the other Great Lakes via waterways?  This  has also drawn concern, since the five bodies of water make up the largest collection of freshwater lakes on the Earth and provide drinking supplies to tens of millions of Americans and Canadians.

“Burying nuclear waste a quarter-mile from the Great Lakes is a shockingly bad idea — it poses a serious threat to people, fish, wildlife, and the lakes themselves,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, in a statement to the Detroit News.

Anyway, the following is from Eco Watch.

A Nuclear Waste Dump on the Shore of the Great Lakes?

Is dilution really the solution to pollution—especially when it’snuclear waste that can stay radioactive for 100,000 years? A four-member expert group told a federal joint review panel it is.
The panel is examining an Ontario Power Generation proposal to bury low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the Darlington, Pickering and Bruce nuclear plants in limestone at the Bruce site in Kincardine, beside Lake Huron. According to the Toronto Star, the experts reported that 1,000 cubic meters of contaminated water could leak from the site, although it’s “highly improbable.” But even if it did leak, they argued, the amount is small compared to Lake Huron’s water volume and the quantity of rain that falls into it.
This “out of sight, out of mind” mentality must end. We can’t continue to dump garbage into the oceans, waterways and air or bury it in the ground and hope it will disappear.
If the materials were instead buried in Canadian Shield granite, any leaking waste would be diluted by active streams and marshes, the experts claimed: “Hence, the volumes of the bodies of water available for dilution at the surface are either immense (Great Lakes) or actively flowing … so the dilution capacity is significant.” 
Others aren’t convinced. The Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump group has more than 62,000 signatures on a petition opposing the dump. Many communities around the Great Lakes, home to 40-million people, have passed resolutions against the project, including Canadian cities Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and more, and local governments in the states of Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Ohio. The United Tribes of Michigan, representing 12 First Nations, is also opposed.
Michigan’s Senate recently adopted resolutions to urge President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Congress to intervene, and for the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission and all Great Lakes States and Ontario and Quebec to get involved.
According to Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Dump, burying such highly toxic wastes in limestone next to 21 percent of the world’s fresh water “defies common sense.” The group’s website notes, “There are no precedents anywhere in the world for burying radioactive nuclear waste in limestone. The repository must function to safely contain the nuclear wastes for over 100,000 years. No scientist or geologist can provide a 100,000 year guarantee.” The Great Lakes are only 12,000 years old!
On top of that, retired Ontario Power Generation research scientist and chemist Frank R. Greening wrote to the review panel stating that OPG has “seriously underestimated, sometimes by factors of more than 100” the radioactivity of material to be buried.
Greening says the company acknowledged his criticism but downplayed its seriousness, which he believes raises doubts about the credibility of OPG’s research justifying the project. “Their response has been, ‘Oops we made a mistake but it isn’t a problem’ and that really bothers me as a scientist,” he told Kincardine News. “It is rationalizing after the fact.”
According to the newspaper, “a radiation leak at a nuclear waste site in New Mexico—cited by OPG as an example of a successful facility—is further fueling criticism of the project.” In February, radiation was detected in vaults and in the air a kilometre from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, where radioactive materials from the nuclear weapons program are stored. The facility, the world’s only deep geologic repository, had only been in use for 15 years and is closed for now. The cause of the leak isn’t yet known.
Those and other factors led the joint review panel to re-open hearings beginning September 9. They initially ended October 30, 2013. A federal cabinet decision is expected sometime next year.
This “out of sight, out of mind” mentality must end. We can’t continue to dump garbage into the oceans, waterways and air or bury it in the ground and hope it will disappear. If we can’t find better ways to use or at least reduce waste products, we must stop producing them.
In the meantime, this project must be halted. The Great Lakes are already threatened by pollution, agricultural runoff, invasive species, climate change and more. We can’t afford to add the risk of radioactive contamination to one of the world’s largest sources of fresh water.
Written with Contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Only my good friend Bill Berkowitz would be able to come up with a piece that somehow connects the Ukraine, Uganda, homophobia, Christian fundamentalism and more.  Only Bill.

Well, I am glad he did.

This exporting of hate by religious theocrats and fundamentalist types is a sickening phenomena.  They figure, I suppose, as Bill points out, they are losing ground at home so they will take their hate to "greener" pastures.  This is not funny business.  We have already seen in Africa where this sort of things leads. People aren't just repressed, they die, gay people die.  Gay people are forced into hiding like Jews trying to escape nazis and these "good" Christian people are helping to make it so.

Wouldn't you like to gather all these people up one day, find some remote island without inhabitants, and ship them there where they can play with each other to their hearts content...and I am not just talking about fundamentalists of the Christian variety.  Jews have these fools, Muslims have these fools, Hindus have these fools, for "god's" sake, even Buddhist have these fools.  I should not say fools as that implies they are just stupid.  They may be stupid, but that isn't all they are, and anyway, they are not all stupid.  They are just people so filled with hate and so full of themselves that they actually believe they are on a mission from some sky god to "clean" things up.


Anyway, sorry for the outburst.  I now turn you over to the far more reasoned, analytical voice of Mr. Berkowitz.

The following comes from Truthdig.

Will Ukraine Be the Christian Right's Next Anti-Gay Battleground?

There is no contesting the fact that high-profile religious right leaders from the United States helped set the table for Uganda's appalling anti-gay laws. Now, emboldened by "victories" in Uganda and the prospect for further discriminatory legislation in other African countries, and Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws in Russia, some elements of the religious right appear to be setting their sights on Ukraine.

Last summer, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report titled "Dangerous Liaisons: The American Religious Right & the Criminalization of Homosexuality in Belize." Although the report focused on a dangerous situation for the LGBT community in Belize, Heidi Beirich, the author of the report and director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, offered an overview: "Many ... American religious-right groups know they have lost the battle against LGBT rights in the United States, ... they're now aiding and abetting anti-LGBT forces in countries where anti-gay violence is prevalent. These groups are pouring fuel on an exceedingly volatile fire."
A recent report-back from a group calling itself the American Pastor's Network (APN), told of attending an International Leadership Summit in Ukraine and "working with and encouraging pastors and elected leaders there who are making a concerted effort to embrace American ideas to restore the country."
An APN News Release pointed out that members of the group were "invited to the summit by Presiding Bishop Valery Reshetinsky, who also serves as the Chairman of the Ukrainian Interchurch Council that represents 20 different evangelical denominations. Reshetinsky wrote that pastors and officials attending the summit were 'excited about what the American Pastors Network can do to help our government and pastoral leaders at this time of great need in our nation. It is our hope ... that Almighty God hears the prayers of His people in Ukraine and around the world and permits us to govern ourselves not in corruption but through biblical principles.'"
The release went on to note that, "APN President Sam Rohrer said that the initial communication with Ukraine leaders was encouraging, given their commitment to strengthening the country through biblical and constitutional principles. It also proved ironic, as leaders within the American government are walking away from our Constitution while leaders in Ukraine, by contrast, are hungry to establish a government based on biblical principles."
"Our time in Ukraine gave us a glimpse into the struggles within a country that does not currently embrace God and biblical principles," Rohrer said. "The people of Ukraine recognize that these are the principles that create and will sustain liberty, and as they move forward, they want to build a government based on them. Sadly, here in America, every day our leaders are turning away from the fundamental principles and ideals on which our country was built. The crisis in Ukraine is a wake-up call for our country."
Rohrer added: "The pastors we met with in Ukraine desperately want biblically based freedom. Here in America, we have it but are throwing it away. We must work to keep these freedoms—through our daily activities, our involvement in our churches and communities and through our voices at the ballot box."
The last time the American public heard from Rohrer was when he spoke at last month's National Organization for Marriage's sparsely attended anti-same-sex march and rally. He told the crowd that, "For any national leader to redefine the truth is to spurn [God's] blessing and to invite God's judgment." He added, "Laws that bless the murder of the unborn and now arrogance seeking to rewrite God's eternal law on marriage and family are destroying the very fabric of our nation."
Gary Dull of Faith Baptist Church of Altoona, Pa., and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network (PPN) was another member of the traveling pastors. "The Ukrainian people realize that they are still in existence because of God and they recognize that only by God's grace will they be able to maintain religious freedom and biblical principles in the land," Dull said.
"What is taking place in Ukraine serves as a challenge for pastors and political leaders to work together more closely here in America. God truly worked a miracle in Ukraine last week, and the key now is to follow through with what was established at the summit. Our experience in Ukraine should be a motivation for pastors, business leaders, politicians and citizens to become involved prayerfully, financially and personally in what the Lord is doing in both Ukraine and in their own nations around the world."
According to its website, the American Pastors Network is a Ministry Program Affiliate of Capstone Legacy Foundation
a (501(c)(3) non-profit Christian Community Foundation registered nationwide. Rohrer, APN's president is a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
APN describes itself as "a network of biblical and faith based clergy and church liaisons whose objective is to build a permanent infrastructure of like-minded clergy who":
* "Affirm the authority of Scripture"
* "Take seriously Jesus' command to be 'salt and light' to the culture"
* "Want to encourage informed Christian thinking about contemporary social issues"
* "Want to examine public policy issues without politicizing their pulpits, using well-prepared teaching and preaching resources"
* "Want to engage their congregations in taking part in our political process on a non-partisan basis."
The general state of affairs in Ukraine is still chaotic as Pro-Russian separatists continue to battle the government. For gays, the situation is complicated and fraught with challenges. After a recent visit to Ukraine, Marusya Bociurkiw, filmmaker and Associate Professor of Media Theory at Ryerson University in Toronto, reported the following at
"While western leftists (including myself) took it upon ourselves to critique the Ukrainian enthusiasm for the EU, it was suddenly clear to me that the LGBT community had no choice. It was either Europe, or a return to Russian anti-gay legislation. In fact, a law similar to Russia's was already being proposed under the Yanukovich regime. And yet, Ukraine had been the first of the post-Soviet countries to decriminalize homosexuality. These activists wanted to keep things that way but they want much, much more.
"Unlike their counterparts in the west, the Ukrainian LGBT activists aren't devoting most of their resources to gay marriage. For certain practical matters, they support civil partnership but it's only a part of their multi-pronged strategy. Their activities including building a gay-friendly doctor's network, both for People With AIDS and for the increasing number of lesbians wishing to give birth. They are excited about their building of alliances with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) -- family is very important in Ukraine."

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.