Saharawi activists call for investigation of student leader’s death

Saharawi activists are calling for the investigation of the murder of a student activist, which took place two years ago.  

Published 19 May 2020

On 19 May 2018, a 24-year-old Saharawi student activist named Abdel Rahim Badri was attacked in front of the University of Agadir, Morocco. Badri had come to the university site to hang up posters of a group of Saharawi student activists imprisoned in Moroccan jails, calling for the release of his friends. According to information from eyewitnesses, Badri was attacked by several perpetrators with machetes. Ambulances were reportedly prevented from coming to his rescue, leaving Badri bleeding for hours before he died. As of now, the incident has been left uninvestigated by the Moroccan authorities and the perpetrators have been given impunity.  

The family and friends of Badri continue to call on the Moroccan authorities to investigate the death and to hold the perpetrators accountable.  

The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara has received a personal call from one of the activist and former political prisoner, which we have chosen to publish in its entirety, below.  

Brahim Mouyssaih is one of the former political detainees that Abdel Rahim Badri wanted to hang up a picture of on the day of his murder, with Brahim being one of the members of the so-called Student Group or the Group of El Wali. The Student Group is a group of Saharawi students that was arrested and imprisoned in 2016 in response to their student activism and their support for the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. The case of the Student Group was treated by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in a recent decision published last March, finding that their detention was and is arbitrary. To this day, five of the students remain imprisoned. Eleven of the students, including Brahim, were released from prison in January/March 2019 after having served a 3-year sentence.  

Brahim and his co-activists have been harassed for their campaigning. Last December 2019, Brahim was arrested and threatened with imprisonment after having demanded footage from the surveillance cameras located outside of the university.  

According to a report published by Front Line Defenders in 2019, over 300 human rights defenders working to protect the freedom of others were killed during the course of 2019. The report of Front Line Defenders details how 85 % of those killed had been previously threatened either individually or as a group, 13 % of those killed were women and 40 % worked on land, indigenous peoples and environmental issues. Across all regions, perpetrators were given impunity. 

The newly appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Mary Lawlor, has proclaimed that she will focus on the matter of killings of human rights defenders during her term.  


"I always ask myself, did Badri really leave us? I don´t think so.  

It is soon the day of the second anniversary of the murder of my friend Abdel Rahim Badri, and I turn more spiritual than I normally am. Perhaps it is these times of social distancing that keeps bringing back old memories. Some that I tried to forget and to run away from; but somehow failed.  

Truth be told, we probably all often experience personal, inner conflicts, battling with ourselves whilst shedding tears over grievance and sorrow. Remaining human is to remember the love and tenderness of our lost friends.  

For the Saharawi people, the month of May is always marked by the national day of Western Sahara. It reminds us of the sacrifices of the Sahrawi people when fighting for our right to self-determination. The month of May also reminds us of Badri, our good friend who left us, far too early, on 19 May 2018.  

A fellow of mine asked me recently what I would do to honor Badri’s memory this year. I left without saying a word. I did not have anything to say. What I feel is unutterable pain. No words can describe it. Where do I even start. After leaving my friend, I went up to my room. The “quarantine room”, as my friends always call it. I sat down and lit my candle and my cigarette. If I could only find what to say about him. I was surprised by tears pressing behind my eyes. I blocked them from coming out. It's not the time to start wailing. In the memory of Abdel Rahim Badri, we have to show the world that we are still walking on the same path. That we still have a wish to see the dawning of freedom in Western Sahara.  

Undeniably, losing Badri is a suffering of the worst kind. But still, we cannot sit silently. Yes, Badri is no longer here, but the injustices continue. It is not a matter of persons. In fact, it's a national battle. And the core of our existence is to be a person of principles and life is about working continuously towards us as human beings. In the end, all we can do is to remember the words of Badri, “We are human beings and one day we will die. It doesn't matter what caused you to die, you will leave this world in either case”. The basic truth of life is after all death. Time will come when I will not be here anymore too. But I have made myself one promise. Before that time comes, the killers of my friend will be exposed.

For this, we demand that the killing of our dead friend be investigated.  

Badri took his last breath at a very young age, at the age of 24. Nevertheless, he was and still is a beacon for us in showing the way forward. He was an example of loyalty and integrity. Badri showed real bravery and, for this reason, he was killed. Badri's death is not the end of our story. Of course, every year when May comes, we will have grief knocking on our doors. But, the assassination of our friend is one out of many murders added to the painful Sahrawi history.  

Badri, I will never say goodbye to you. You are still alive inside of me and in the hearts of all people you have touched."

May 2020, Brahim Mouyssaih




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