Protest by unemployed Saharawi graduates brutally stopped in Rabat
A peaceful manifestation by unemployed Saharawi graduates came to an abrupt end by a violent intervention from the Moroccan police yesterday. Banners stating “Sahara’s natural resources are sufficient to employ us” triggered a swift response by the authorities right in front of the Royal Palace.
For two days in a row, unemployed Saharawi graduates have taken to the streets of Rabat, protesting the discrimination they face in the job market – simply for being Saharawi.
A manifestation, that took off in front of the Ministry of Interior, and was supposed to end in front of the Prime Minister’s office, was violently stopped in front of the Ambassadors’ entry to the Royal Palace. Eye-witnesses report that the protesters were surrounded and viciously attacked by the Moroccan police Thursday 7 October at 13h45.
According to the protesters, five people were arrested: Lehcen Lemgharbi, Hicham Azagan, Slayman Iaaich, Elwafi Chiyahou and Anouzla Majid (see picture on the right). At the time of writing, all but the latter had been released.
The following people are said to have been injured: Tayar Naaima, Abdelhadi Rafiki, Ahmednah Bougnin, Ahmednah Elhansali and Zahra Essahel. The latter suffers from a serious head injury and was beaten all over her body.
The protesters carried banners, saying: ''Sahara’s natural resources are sufficient to employ us". (see above picture)
A participant, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that particularly the non-Arabic slogans were annoying the police. All banners have been confiscated by the Moroccan police.
“We were brutally attacked just because we demand our rights”, another participant comments. “Morocco has so many lucrative trade agreements with foreign governments, selling Saharawi natural resources, yet this doesn’t result in jobs for Saharawi people”.
It is not the first time that the unemployed Saharawi graduates stage such protests. During the first two weeks of July, hundreds of unemployed Saharawi graduates rallied in Rabat, for the exact same reasons: being discriminated in the job market for being Saharawi. At the time, the Moroccan state had employed 1.265 Moroccan diplômés chômeurs in the public sector. Despite promises by the Moroccan authorities to the contrary, not one Saharawi received a job through this employment-scheme.
According to the Saharawi graduates, the July protests resulted in a promise by Abdesalam Elbakkari, the unemployment officer at the Prime Minister’s Kabinet, who would have stated to be willing to tackle the protesters’ grievances. But the protesters say nothing has happened since then.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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