I’ve just received a follow-up post from NI contributor Nikolaj Nielsen, in Morocco.
Day four after the tragedy of Agadir (see my previous post, 'State of fear'). My contact in Laayoune [the capital of Western Sahara, occupied by Morocco] says students are being rounded up and arrested. In Agadir, things can’t be much better. As I left the station, police vans were stationed at the far end of the concrete tarmac. Somewhere on that concrete pad once lay the crushed bodies of 22-year-old Baba Khaya and 20-year-old Lheussein Abdsadek Laktei.
Eugene Delacroix said that in Morocco, glory is a word empty of meaning. The vibrant colours of the Atlas mountains, the drive from Agadir to Marrakesh, the desolation of the deserts in Western Sahara: all of these seem empty beside an oppression that has been resisted for 30 years. The Saharawi, a noble people, kind and generous, seek only what is their due. Justice and the right to self-determination - granted to so many other people but denied to these, who are forgotten and do not have the benefit of a proper media campaign. Let the power-hungry seek their glory somewhere else.
I have seen MINURSO [the UN operation supposedly there to oversee a referendum that Morocco prevents from happening] in Laayoune. I have seen the fleet of UN SUVs parked at the expensive hotels. Shining in the hot sun. A man walking his mule bearing goods past a mandate that has no political will. A double row of Moroccan flags waving alongside MINURSO HQ. Moroccan soldiers 'guarding' the HQ and asking me politely but firmly to walk on the opposite side of the street. This 'neutral' arbiter has succumbed to the realpolitik of the Security Council, a bloated and incoherent institution.
And now here I am in Marrakesh. I just received a text message from a young man who can no longer meet me. 'I am being followed by the police,' he says. Two more days before I board that plane back home. And I feel ashamed and bitter.