The Gdeim Izik Heroes have been tortured and are now facing life in prison—or worse.
Source: Chile’s Committee of Friendship with the Saharawi People / The Dawn News / March 20, 2017
On Monday, March 20, the trial —known as Gdeim Izik— against the Saharawi political prisoners of Rabat, Morocco, will be renewed.
A much-needed recount
In October 1975, going against international law, Morocco militarily invaded Western Sahara and then made a civil invasion, known by the Saharawi people as the ‘Black March’ and by the rest of the world as the ‘Green March.’
The Moroccan occupation was carried out by fire and blood, even bombing the Saharawi civil population with napalm and white phosphorus, forcing them to retreat to Argenlia’s Hamada, near Tinduf.
There, they created what were supposed to be temporary refugee camps, but 40 years later they’re still living there, in inhospitable conditions, with temperatures that reach almost 50ºC (122ºF).
The Polisario front led the heroic struggle of resistance of the Saharawi people, forcing Mauritania—who had invaded the southern area of Western Sahara— to retreat, and taking Morocco to the edge of defeat, until France, the US and Israel came to help the oppressors.
A ceasefire was signed between Morocco and the Polisario front in 1991, which meant freezing the existing positions: Morocco occupied 80% of Western Sahara and the Polisario front only 20%—the internal territory bordered by the Moroccan wall of Shame, with 2,720 kilometers of casemates and barbed wire, and the biggest minefield in the world, with over 7 million anti-personnel mines.
The ceasefire was signed with mediation of the UN, and it established that a referendum would be held in which the Saharawi people would either vote for their independence or for Western Sahara to be a part of Morocco. But Morocco has opposed the referendum and has used several strategies to prevent it from being held.
The Saharawi people has been oppressed in the occupied areas. Torture is a part of Morocco’s policies in the occupied area, as well as forced disappearances. In the occupied territories, Saharawis are denied the right to work, in schools, Saharawi children are discriminated against and Saharawi girls are constantly harassed by the Moroccan police and Army, which has meant sexual abuse and rape.
But the Saharawi people resist and undertook many forms of action, most notably the 2005 Intifada and the Gdeim Izik dignity camp. This camp was built 15 km away from El Aaiun, from October to November 2010.
There, for a little over a month, the Sahrawi people organized, lived in freedom, enjoyed their culture and traditions, shared food and tea, and danced. It was a defiance against the Moroccan occupier, so it was violently attacked by the Army and the occupation police, who destroyed the camp and set it on fire.
The farce of the Moroccan trial
Moroccan security forces detained 24 Saharawi leaders and accused them of several charges, including the death of 11 Moroccan police officers. They were imprisoned, tortured and treated inhumanely. In fact, what Morocco calls their “confessions” were obtained through torture.
In 2013 they were judged by a Moroccan military court. Nine prisoners were sentenced to life, four to 30 years in prison, seven to 25 years and three to 20 years. The trial was filled with irregularities and it completely ignored the fact that Morocco has no authority over Western Sahara, according to international law.
Finally, the military trial was suspended and they were trialed by Moroccan civil courts, beginning December 2016. Last March 13, the third court hearing will be held, and it continued on March 20.
The morale of the prisoners is high, and during the interrogations of the Moroccan court or lawyers, many reply only ‘labadil, labadil, aan takrir, almasir’ (there’s no alternative but self-determination). Others have stated the tortures and abuses they’ve been subjected to, including rapes.
Family-members of the political prisoners, activists, human rights organizations and the Saharawi people in general have come to Rabat to show their support to the ‘Heroes of Gdeim Izik’. Media of the Saharawi occupied territories and of the diaspora have reunited there—a photographer of one of them went missing after being detained by the Moroccan police.
Morocco has forbidden the entry of overseers from the UN and French lawyer associations, among others.This trial has also been full of irregularities and the results are unpredictable, but sources have reported that the Moroccan M6 is asking for the death sentence against the Saharawi political prisoners.
Solidarity with the Saharawi Political Prisoners!