Stop the propaganda!

From the 10th to 13th January the Moroccan National Tourist Office will be represented at the International Travel Fair 2008 at Lillestrøm, Norway. It is expected that again, the Moroccan tourist authorities will use the fair as an arena for falsely marketing Western Sahara as a tourist destination within Morocco. The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara demands that Norwegian Trade Fairs forbids the Moroccan marketing of its neighbouring country.

Published 17 January 2008

The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara requests that Norwegian Trade Fairs intervenes by demanding the Moroccan tourism authorities to stop the practice of presenting and promoting the occupied Western Sahara as Moroccan territory when they participate at the Travel Fair in Lillestrøm.

A similar request was made to Norwegian Trade Fairs, by the Support Committee, prior to the Travel Fair that was arranged in 2007. On that occasion their reply informed us that they had relayed our protest to the Moroccan Tourist Office and that they had also requested advice from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
We are of the opinion that this was far from being a satisfactory response.
The Support Committee expects more concrete preventive measures from Norwegian Trade Fairs this year. The following letter was sent to Norwegian Trade Fairs on 20th December 2007

To: Norwegian Trade Fairs

Oslo, 20th December 2007

REF: Participation of Moroccan Authorities at International Travel Fair 2008
The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara has registered that the Moroccan National Tourist Office will participate in the International Travel Fair 2008. We refer to our previous correspondence of January 2007, and wish to repeat our protest concerning Morocco’s possibilities of pursuing propaganda activity in relation to the illegally occupied territory of Western Sahara while a participant of the International Travel Fair.

Morocco has illegally occupied the majority of the territory that comprises Western Sahara since 1975. Norway, and the rest of the International Community, does not recognize Morocco’s right to occupy the territory. Several UN Resolutions demand that the occupation should cease. Morocco, however, refuses to comply with the peace-agreements that have been entered into, and breaks - on a daily basis - all the resolutions that demand the holding of a referendum on self-determination for the ethnic Sahrawi population. 

While the majority of Sahrawis, today, are living in refugee camps in the Algerian desert, the remaining population of Western Sahara is continually harassed by the Moroccan authorities. Additionally, Morocco is profiteering through the exploitation of the rich natural resources of the occupied territory. Western Sahara's government in exile demands that Moroccan businesses and the tourism industry
stay out of the area.

The Norwegian Government, due to above stated reasons, advises against any economic relations with Moroccan interests in Western Sahara. The results of this advice have resulted in Norwegian fishing, oil, shipping and phosphate interests ceasing to trade with Moroccan companies in the territory.

The Norwegian tourist industry has, for the most part, stayed away from the occupied territory. This does not prevent, however, Morocco from pursuing the marketing of Western Sahara as a tourist destination on an international basis. By attracting foreign operators and tourists to Western Sahara, Morocco is attempting to legitimize its occupation of the area. This leads us to Norwegian Trade Fairs: The annual International Travel Fair at Lillestrøm is the most important forum that Morocco uses, at the present time, to reach the travelling public in Norway. 

It is extremely worrisome, both ethically and politically, that Norwegian Trade Fairs allow a trade customer to attract, in their own trade center, Norwegian tourists to the occupied area. It not only gives an unfortunate impression of legitimacy to the occupation, it is also in conflict with advice from Norwegian authorities.

In addition to distributing incorrect brochures and maps, we are also aware that employees of the Moroccan tourist information office give consistently misleading information when discussing with the public the political and human rights issues within the occupied area.

We have also noted, and are grateful for, that Norwegian Trade Fairs had informed the Moroccan tourist office of official Norwegian policy during the International Travel Fair in 2007. We are, however, of the opinion that this action is far from being an adequate response.

The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara is of the opinion that the Moroccan tourist office must not be given the opportunity, by any means, of spreading information that gives the impression that Western Sahara is an integral part of Morocco. 

If the Moroccan National Tourist Office can not give a guarantee to Norwegian Trade Fairs that it will market Morocco in line with internationally recognized borders only, then we request that the tourist office be denied permission to participate at the Travel Fair. 

If Norwegian Trade Fairs, despite the controversial ethical and political aspects of this case, can not find a basis for pursuing further action against the Moroccan tourist authorities, we then request a meeting with the board of the Trade Fairs. Further argumentation and documentation, if required, can be made available prior to a meeting.

For further information on Western Sahara see our webpage

Yours faithfully

Ronny Hansen
Chairman, The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara

Encl: Copy of “Morocco Brochure” from previous years

Copy has been sent to:
- Moroccan National Tourist Office, Stockholm
- Hilde Solheim, Director of business, travel and tourism, Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise
- Norwegian media

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