By Sidahmed Tfeil and Madeleine Bair
A series of recent videos document the latest attack against Sahrawi protesters calling on Morocco to recognize the sovereignty of Western Sahara. In this video of a September 23 protest in the city of Assa, the figure of 20-year-old activist Shin Rashid is circled so that viewers can see where he stood when a vehicle pulled up to the protest quickly before taking off. When the filmer and others approach Rashid, he is bleeding and severely injured. According to the uploader and various reports, Rashid died from a rubber bullet wound. In a video taken later that day, Rashid’s mother tells the cameraman her son had been protesting with friends. In her hands, she holds rubber bullets she says were used to kill her son. She implores viewers and the international community to join her in demanding an independent investigation of Moroccan authorities, whom she believes are responsible for her son’s death.
Human Rights Context
The killing of Shin Rashid took place just weeks before UN envoy Christopher Ross visited Western Sahara in an attempt to resolve the country’s long-disputed status. While much of the world recognizes the sovereignty of the state, Morocco regards it as part of the Moroccan kingdom. The 2012 U.S. State Department report on the country documents impunity for human rights violations, and the restriction on pro-independent views and associations. Protesters are often jailed for peaceful demonstrations, or even for raising a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic flag, During Ross’s visit, demonstrators surrounded a UN vehicle to draw attention to these issues. Even then, authorities reportedly used violence to break up the demonstrations, resulting in several injured civilians, as depicted in this video of a man filmed in a hospital.
Behind the camera
Western Sahara is a dangerous place for those filming protests. Morocco prohibits reports that would support or even document the independence movement or criticize the king. Because of that risk, those who film social movements do not dare upload them to their own YouTube accounts, but rather send them to third parties, such as Al Khayma Press, Assa Presse and Equipe Media, which often operate outside of Western Sahara or Morocco.