Saharawi political prisoners speak out against Kosmos Energy
The 21 Saharawi political prisoners that are still imprisoned on the back of the Gdeim Izik mass protest camp, have today appealed to the church communities in Texas to denounce Kosmos Energy's plans in occupied Western Sahara. Read their full letter here.
We are Saharawi prisoners of conscience from the occupied territory of Western Sahara. We would like to appeal to your Christian faith and ask for your support in convincing Dallas-based oil company Kosmos Energy to do what is right. The future of our people is at stake.
We wish to thank you for taking the time to read this letter. The connection between our situation and your community may not be self-evident, but it is strong and tangible. As it happens, some members of your community are in a position to significantly influence our people’s fate. The Dallas-based oil firm Kosmos Energy is at the brink of commencing oil exploration offshore our occupied land, and in doing so, could dramatically impact on our future.
Who are they? Why were they arrested? Why was the military trial considered a farse? Read more
In 1975, Morocco invaded and subsequently annexed large parts of our country, in blatant disrespect for international law and a raft of UN Resolutions. Ever since, we have been enduring the dire consequences of occupation. Hundreds of Saharawis have perished in Moroccan jails or have disappeared. Many fled the napalm bombardments, and found shelter in one of the most inhospitable parts of the Algerian desert. Today still, more than 160.000 of our relatives live in these refugee camps, surviving on decreasing international aid and suffering malnutrition and poor living conditions. They have now spent 40 years in the desert, waiting for the international community to react.
Those that stayed behind are now forced to face oppression and gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Moroccan state. We are not allowed to organise, to express our culture or to vocalise our political views – it will only result in inhumane treatment; kidnapping, beatings, rape, torture, arbitrary detention, unfair trials resulting in unfounded prison sentences, etc. Today, we live as a marginalised minority in our own country. Social and economic discrimination favouring a now majority of Moroccan settlers has relegated us to the fringes of society in our own land under occupation.
In the meantime, Morocco has proceeded to sell of our country’s natural resources as if they were its own. However, it has no right to do so. We, the Saharawi people, have a right to self-determination, as stated by the International Court of Justice, repeated over and over by the United Nations and recognised by the entire international community. We have the right to choose the political future of our country, and of the resources it harbours.
Accordingly, we have protested, time and again, against the ongoing illegal and immoral looting of our land. While Morocco’s treasury fills its coffers, our people are starving in refugee camps or subjected to inhumane treatment for demanding our rights. That is a grave injustice.
Through the years, we have also protested against Kosmos Energy’s presence and plans in our territorial waters. The company’s decision to team up with the Moroccan government for drilling in occupied waters may permanently destroy our future: it will give the Moroccan government even more incentive to stop us from exercising our right to self-determination. The drilling starts this December.
In the fall of 2010, thousands of Saharawis pitched their tents in the desert to protest the plunder of our resources, starkly contrasting our social and economic discrimination. This protest camp, known as Gdeim Izik, was burned to the ground by the Moroccan army and hundreds of Saharawis were arrested. Most spent months in prison, though there were never any charges against them. However a group of 25 men – many of them known human rights activists - was held in prison for years, before being tried in connection to the protest camp. During the trials, they referred to Morocco’s plunder of our resources, with the aid of foreign companies such as Kosmos Energy. But in a mockery of justice, more than 20 of those men were condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to the protest camp. We are those men.
We ask for your support. Kosmos Energy has a unique chance to create peace; by refraining from drilling until the voice of the Saharawi people has been heard. But if the company decides to go ahead, without respect for our rights, it will only aggravate an already horrific situation. We, who have suffered the Moroccan repression for decades, are afraid that the future human rights situation will be even more intense should oil be found.
Jesus Christ, who is also a prophet for us, once said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me." Jesus also said, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
We, the Saharawi prisoners of conscience from occupied Western Sahara known as the Gdeim Izik group, are hoping that Kosmos Energy and the Christian community in Texas, will not forget these words.
Please, we ask you, make contact with Kosmos Energy (www.kosmosenergy.com) – so far the company refuses to listen to our appeal. Please ask them to stay away from our country. Contact your local politicians, senators, journalists, ask them to intervene and uncover the injustice.
Keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.
The Gdeim Izik prisoners Salé prison Rabat, Morocco
Elakhfaouni Abdalahi Boutamguiza Mohamed El Bachir Ahmed Sbai Laaroussi Abdeljalil Brahim Ismaili Mohamed Bani Sid Ahmed Lamjaid Sidi Abdallah Abhah Mohamed Lamine Haddi Asfari Ennaama Mohamed Bouryal Hassan Dah Cheikh Banga Mohamed Embark Lefkir Deich Eddaf Elhoussin Ezzaoui Abdalahi Taoubali Mohamed Tahlil El Bachir Khadda Babait Mohamed Khona Laarabi Bakay
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.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.