Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reply to Karim #2

Two quick poitns:

Karim Said, "...parallels between Palestinians and Sahrawi are not accurate. Israeli want Palestinians out of those lands, not to mention restriction of movement etc..."

My comparison was at the level of rights, not the details of each case. Again, a people do not lose rights depending on who represents them or who they are allied with, whether its the right of return for Palestinians or the right of self-determination for native Western Saharans. Algeria's relation to the conflict at the level of rights is a non-sequitur. That was my point.

Secondly, Karim said, "What's relevant is the Al-morabitun were based in Marrakech. That's what gives them a Moroccan character."

They also had capitals in Timbuktu and Spain. Does that make them Malian and Spanish? And what is the direct relation between Mawlay Idriss, the founder of Morocco, and al-Murabitun beside geographical coincidence? The ultimate point, however, is that one can use history to justify anything. That's why the international practice of decolonization stuck to the borders drawn by colonialism. Otherwise, irredentism would lead to endless conflict, like we're seeing in Western Sahara.


Friday, October 20, 2006

Polisario and Algeria & What is a Sahrawi?: Comments on 'Karim's' comments

I received an anonymous and constructive comment from a Moroccan named 'Karim' on my post Drawing Dissent (he also left a rather negative comment on my re-post Morocco: Narco-state?, which doesn't really warrant a response.)

Here's Karim's comment:

Isn't the Alaoutite dynasty from Tafilat, basically the Sahara?

They are sahrawi, just not from the same tribes as the ones they are fighting now.

The Sahrawi should first disassociate themselves from the military Algerian regime that caused the brutal Algerian civil war in which countless people were slaughtered.

Sahrawi should understand that the Moroccan government abuses everyone not just them.

As a Moroccan, I will protest abuses by the oppressive Moroccan gov against the Sahrawi people but I can not stand with polisario when it gets backing from an equally oppressive regime in Algeria.

Is there any Sahrawi in this blog that I can discuss this issue with in a civil manner?

I'm not Sahrawi but I do like talking about this issue.

I do agree that Polisario (and Western Saharan nationalism generally) should distance itself from Algeria given the nature of the regime in Algiers. Being associated with Algeria often does Polisario more harm than good. There are few worse authoritarian regimes than the Algerian one, which is responsible for thousands of disappearances and state murders.

However, politics can not diminish rights. No matter who Polisario works with -- Algeria, Cuba or other despots -- does not change the fact that the native Western Saharans have a right to self-determination.

Do the Palestinians forfeit their rights because they're supported by Saudi Arabia or Iran? No, of course not. The conflict is one of human rights, self-determination, and beligerent occupation, corrupted by politics, both regional and international.

Secondly, I disagree with Karim's definition of Sahrawi. First, the Tafilalt is not the Sahara, as in Western Sahara, it's southeast Morocco -- today Rissani-Erfoud region -- where the great trans-Saharan trading post Sijilmasa was located.

Though the term Sahrawi is contested by many Moroccan, the general consensus, which the Moroccan government recognizes, is that a Sahrawi tribe is one of the major groups (confederations, tribes, fractions) listed on the 1974 Spanish Sahara Census (i.e., the Rgaybat al-Sharq, Rgaybat al-Sahil, Ait al-Hasan, Izargiyyin, al-Arusiyyin, Awlad Dlim, etc.). In participating with the UN referendum effort in the 1990s, the Moroccan government agreed that these constitute the native tribes of Western Sahara.

By Karim's reasoning, Tuaregs from Mali, Algeria and Niger, who live in the Sahara (generally) are as 'Sahrawi' as the Sahrawis of Western Sahara.

Like many Moroccans, Karim refuses to aknowledge that the term Sahrawi has gained a new meaning, one with nationalist connotations that transcends blood and place of birth. Words change and gain new meanings. The word Sahrawi does not mean what it did when the 'Alawis came to power in the 1600s.

Another problem with Karim's arguement is how far back to take these historical examples. One could then argue that, because of the Almoravids, Morocco belongs to Mauritania.

As a member of the United Nations, Morocco has an obligation to uphold the UN Chater and obey international law (as does Algeria). If Morocco doesn't like that, and wants to justify its occupation and colonization of Western Sahara because some tyrant stole slaves from Mauritania two hundred years ago, then they should leave the UN.