Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Miss. Senia to the Fourth Committee: take action to prevent human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara



Saharawi student, Miss. Senia Bachir Abderahman, called on the UN to “take immediate action to prevent the ongoing human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara”.

Here is the text of her complete petition:

Petition to United Nations Special Political and Decolonization Committee

The Question of Western Sahara

By Senia Bachir Abderahman

Hearings of October 6-7, 2009

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am humbled and honored to speak before you today as the voice representing those whose voices cannot be heard in the world: the Saharawi people. My name is Senia Bachir Abderahman. I am a native of Western Sahara, a country that I can only dream to see someday. Currently, I am in my last year at Mount Holyoke College; a women’s institution in Western Massachusetts that brings young and determined women from around the globe to share ideas and teach each other to make a difference in our world today.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee

This is the third year I speak before the UN Special Political and Decolonization Committee, and it is unfortunate to say that little, if nothing, has been done regarding Africa’s last colony. Since the invasion of my country took place in 1975, the Moroccan authorities have knowingly violated international law, the resolutions of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions. First, they refused the Saharawi people their right to self-determination, and then they imported several thousand Moroccan settlers into the territories of Western Sahara, which forced numerous Saharawis, including my family and friends to seek refuge in Algeria. Over three decades later, we remain there, more than 200,000 of us. Today, the Moroccan government goes even beyond that by violating human rights, exploiting our natural resources, and spreading deliberate lies through the media.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee

As a young student, I am very fortunate to have this opportunity to express my concerns before you today. My fellow Saharawi students still living in the occupied territories of Western Sahara are not so lucky. Since May 2005, many Saharawi youths in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and students at universities in Morocco have taken on a nonviolent resistance for a basic human right; their right to self-determination. It is important to remember that this right has been recognized through various United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as in the agreements signed between the kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. Yet, according to many Saharawis, numerous international bodies including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and witnesses, dozens of Saharawis continue to be brutally attacked, detained and arrested, while many more are getting injured and even killed by the Moroccan police and armed forces. In addition, it has been reported that the attacks involve severe beatings and sexual abuse, as well as harassment of hospitalized victims.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee

The latest case occurred on August 2009 in Agadir airport, Morocco, where a group of six Saharawi and seven Moroccan students were banned from traveling to Oxford, UK to attend a program named TalkTogether. This program aims to foster greater trust and mutual understanding between the Saharawi and Moroccan youths by enabling them to explore possible solutions to the conflict. To protest against the injustice, the Saharawi students staged an open hunger-strike. However, after 23 hours, the airport authorities responded by calling the Moroccan police, who stormed in, beat students rigorously and drove them away in vehicles. Days after the incident, one of the female students, Nguia El Haouassi – it is sad her name does not ring a bell to many of you sitting here today – was kidnapped, beaten, sexually harassed and left naked in the outskirts of her city, Al-Aiun. It is absolutely unacceptable in today’s world, where we have organizations like you, the United Nations, that any individual be it young or old should face any kind of torture.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee

As I speak now, many Saharawi prisoners are being harassed and tortured in Moroccan prisons, many students are discriminated against in universities and many are simply disappearing. I ask you why; as these deliberate violations continue to take place, does the International Community turn a blind-eye to the Western Sahara issue? Why does the Moroccan government’s ignorance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (articles two, three, five, seven, nine, etc.) go unnoticed? Why is our primary right to be “born, free and equal in dignity rights” as stated in Article 1, breached?

On behalf of the Saharawi youth, I urge the UN and the rest of the world to consider these questions, and take immediate action to prevent the ongoing human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. As the president of the United States, Barack Obama said: “change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek,” I invite all of you to be THAT change.

Thank you!

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