“No other choice” than self-determination for Western Sahara

Western Sahara

“There is no other choice but self-determination,” says a lady interviewed in a new documentary about Western Sahara made by 31-year-old English independent film-maker and journalist, Dominic Brown. She is the wife of one of the many activists belonging to Western Sahara’s indigenous population, the Saharawis, who have been imprisoned and tortured for campaigning for independence for Africa’s last colony.

According to the documentary, called La Badil  (literally “ no other choice”),  the Saharawis have been discriminated and systematically robbed of their resources by Morocco since a Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara in 1975 that was carried out in agreement with the colonial power Spain. Because, as a speak over in the documentary says, “Western Sahara’s abundance of natural resources provides vital revenue to the Moroccan state.”

La Badil is a documentary about the daily life of the indigenous population – the Saharawis – in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. The film focuses on both Gdeim Izik, where Moroccan troops attacked a peaceful protest camp in October 2010, killing several people and detaining and torturing many more, and on the daily lives of the Saharawis.

Through footage filmed undercover from the major towns in occupied Western Sahara, as well as through interviews, the documentary portrays the Saharawis as being virtually under siege in their own country by Moroccan troops, as being beaten up and tortured for even daring to show the Saharawi flag in public, and as being discriminated against by the Moroccan authorities, companies and Moroccan settlers.

“They [the Moroccans] are reaping all the benefits from our country’s riches. The Saharawis get nothing,” as one person says in the film. “They [Moroccan police] storm our houses and kidnap our children. We are really suffering here,” says another.

But while conflicts elsewhere are more or less regularly covered in the Western media, the Western Sahara conflict is all but forgotten. “The media were almost silent when the [Gdeim Izik] uprisings occurred compared to in Libya and Tunisia, because of the blockade the Moroccan authorities imposed” as a young activist points out in the documentary. This media blockade has meant that the Saharawis have begun uploading mobile phone footage to YouTube to try and bring attention to their situation.

And this is exactly the reason why the film was made, Dominic Brown tells me. “I decided to make the film because the situation in Western Sahara is one that very rarely gets the media coverage that it deserves. Especially here in the UK, most people have no idea about what is happening there. More and more people are taking cheap flights on Easyjet to Morocco, but they don’t realise they are contributing in some way to the oppression of the Sahrawi.”

But as the documentary also points out, powerful countries such as the USA and France – and the EU as a whole – are by no means neutral. On the contrary, they are aiding and abetting Morocco in its exploitation of Western Sahara’s population and their resources by e.g. accepting Morocco’s proposal to have Western Sahara remain a Moroccan province, by denying the UN the ability to monitor the human rights situation in Western Sahara, by supplying arms to Morocco, and by illegally dealing in goods and fishing quotas from the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

“I hope that the film will open more peoples eyes to the plight of the Sahrawi, and also show how there are many vested interests involved (eg. France and their trade deals with Morocco), that are preventing the people there getting justice,” says Dominic Brown.

The message from those interviewed in the documentary to the populations and governments in the West is certainly clear: help us achieve independence from Morocco. “We just demand freedom like all people around the world,” says one lady. “We are asking for organisations in Europe to help us, both government and non-government,” pleaded another.

Dominic Brown has previously made an undercover documentary about the independence struggle in West Papua called ‘Forgotten Bird of Paradise’ that was shown on the BBC as well as screened at film festivals in 10 countries. He will be entering La Badil into film festivals as well as approaching broadcasters. In the meantime the film can be purchased here: http://www.dancingturtle.co.uk/shop/labadil.php or seen here: http://www.labadil.com/film/


By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact

© 2012, Peter Kenworthy. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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  1. rachid

    blabla as usual,always this frustreted leftist wannabe,thinking they are the best in the world.
    the sahara is moroccan,no one can change this

  2. mmbrahim

    south africa lived many troubles during apartheid, the moroccans were in the first line of people that admit the freedoom of south african people.

    After that, they want to give us the money return by “supporting” sahara terrorist…. Ouaaaa, I am still choced to read in this article and how moroccan are traited as invasion people.
    Many of moroccan went by walking to western sahara not to do an invasion but to recover a part of their country. for the lector that don t know this, it was a peacfull walk in 1975 called in french ” la marche verte”
    The “documentary” is reflecting the way of thinking of people that nows nothing about history in this region in the world. Morocco was and still one of the most peacfull country in the world, how can we colonized a part of the world after in 1975, the goal of moroccan at that time was to rebuild the country after many years of colonization… no expensionist mood as some neighbours.
    those neighbours (Algeria, Libya during kadafi…) are trying to hide their own internal problems by supporting some terroriste.
    South african should now that the problems in their country are still goes on, They also should now that the diplomatic deal with polisario will end soon, because a country canot support a terrorist organisation. how it gonna be hard to change this !
    If a separatist problem begin in south africa, what will be the position of morocco ? Let s deal about all of these in a impartial media, there are many media where we can discuss those point, but now, i m living this website because of the position of their journalist.
    (Wikipedia deliver many historical detail about morocco and algeria, polisario… it doesn t take a genious to understund what s happning there)
    I am sorry for mistakes, i m not english speaker but moroccan one 😉

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