Youth from Western Sahara and Morocco were this week to meet in London to discuss the Western Sahara conflict. Moroccan authorities have now sabotaged the talks, by denying the Moroccan and Sahrawi delegations exit from Morocco. "All the seven Moroccans had family problems", told the Moroccan ambassador to London.
‘Talk Together’ is the name of the project, which has been planned for the last year. The project was supposed to take place this and next week, and only few days prior to the peace talks between Morocco and Polisario. Also official representatives from the two parties to the conflict were to give presentations at the youth event.
United World Colleges from Fjaler in Norway has been central in the planning, and is co-organisor of the event.
But now, Morocco has sabotaged the entire project.
Thursday morning, one day after they were stopped by Moroccan police, the Sahrawi youth delegation is still sitting at Agadir airport, protesting the denial of exit from Morocco. They demand to be able to travel to London.
Among the Sahrawis who are refused to leave Morocco, is Meimuna Amidane, the sister of Elkouria Amidane who won the Student Peace Prize in Norway in February. The photo to the right shows Meimuna after she was attacked by Moroccan police in her own home in 2007.
When the six Sahrawis were stopped, the police searched through all their luggage, and took photos of them.
Also a group of Norwegian youth participate in the project. They have already arrived London. In addition, a group of Sahrawi youth from the refugee camps in Algeria have arrived the city - among them Senia Abderahman, who studied at the United World Colleges in Norway a few years ago.
"The Saharawi students [from El Aaiun, Western Sahara] earlier said they were followed by what they believe were the Moroccan secret police on their way to the British embassy to collect their visas. As a result, two of the original group had previously pulled out, after what they have reported as threats of arrest and provocation by the authorities, Talk Together wrote on their blog yesterday.
The remainder of the Sahrawi group were stopped, and are still sitting at Agadir airport. When the Sahrawi news service UPES spoke to them last night, they told they would not leave the airport until they have been given a reason as to why they are not permitted to leave Morocco.
"As if this were not frustrating enough, the group of students from Morocco has also been unable to travel. According to the Moroccan embassy in London, the group of seven students suddenly all had family problems which prevented them from travelling to Oxford", the blog reads.
Talk Together reports that Amnesty International is looking into the affair.
It has certainly not been easy for the organisors to get goodwill from the Moroccan authorities. Morocco demanded for instance that the words "occupied territories" were not to be used by the project. This was told by one of their coordinators to the Moroccan newspaper TelQuel last week.
Formal peace talks between Morocco and Polisario are resumed in Vienna, Austria, on 9 August 2009.
Morocco has occupied the major part of Western Sahara since 1975,
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