On 15th October 2014, following a call from the Coordinator of human rights associations in El Aiun, and despite the blockade by the Moroccan occupation forces, over 100 Saharawis attended a peaceful demonstration in Smara Street. They protested against the occupation of their territory and the exploitation of their natural resources, and demanded self-determination for the Saharawi people, which is recognised in UN resolution 1514, and the liberation of Saharawi political prisoners.
Moroccan police agents spread out across buildings and rooftops surrounding the area where the protest took place in order to stop journalists from filming violent attacks by the Moroccan forces on the protesters.
‘We weren’t able to film much of the attacks at all, as uniformed and plain clothes police officers were present everywhere, watching people, all along Smara Street. The few photos we have were taken secretly and at great risk’ said Hassan, a member of Adala UK, based in El Aiun.
Several journalists were attacked by the Moroccan forces, amongst them Hayat Khatari who works for the local Saharawi TV chanel RASD-TV.
Several demonstrators, mainly women and minors, were injured in the police attacks.
‘From my window, I saw how they were beating the peaceful demonstrators. Moroccan police officers were pulling women by their hair and pushing them over. They threw stones at everyone who was in the street. They forced me to close my window, threating and insulting me, and then they broke my window with their stones’ one eye witness told Adala UK.
Members of the Moroccan auxiliary forces were amongst those who intervened in the protests. Adala UK members who were present reported that security forces had pursued protesters all the way to Smara Street where they surrounded them and started attacking them with sticks, stones and metal bars.
Adala UK condemns the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters in Western Sahara, and urges the Moroccan authorities to respect and defend the citizens’ right to peaceful gatherings and expression of opinion. We also ask for an impartial and thorough investigation into the reported use of violence and that those responsible will be brought to justice.