12 June 2013

Echoes of Occupy in Western Sahara

Foreign Policy in Focus

A project of the Institute for Policy Studies

In the fall of 2010, on the outskirts of the Western Saharan capital of Laayoune, the “occupy” movement came to North Africa. For over three weeks, thousands of Sahrawis gathered at the Gdeim Izik protest camp to peacefully protest job discrimination, poor living conditions, the misallocation of Western Sahara's rich resources, and human rights abuses.

But this was no Zuccotti Park. What followed, according to Western Sahara expert Jacob Mundy, was “the most violent 48 hours witnessed by Western Sahara” since the UN ceasefire in 1991.
On the morning of November 8th, 2010, Moroccan authorities raided and dismantled the camp, burning its remains. Though the protest had been a peaceful up until that point, violence erupted between security forces and protesters as they were forcibly evicted. In the fracas that followed, hundreds of Sahrawis were wounded and approximately 200 were arrested. Eleven members of the Moroccan security forces were killed as the violence moved to nearby Laayoune.