Morocco and Western Sahara. Investigate targeted attacks committed against Sahrawi women activists

Moroccan authorities must immediately investigate allegations that police and security force agents violently assaulted five Sahrawi women activists, Amnesty International said on Friday, May 27, 2022. The organization has investigated the circumstances of these five separate attacks that took place on the 15th and April 16 in Boujdour (Western Sahara).

Zeinab Babi, Embarka Al Hafidhi, Fatima al Hafidhi, Oum Al Moumin Al Kharashi and Nasrathum (Hajatna) Babi were attacked after participating in peaceful demonstrations in favor of the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and after publicly expressing their support for Sultana Khaya, a leading Sahrawi activist. Civilian security forces agents and Moroccan police beat the women with sticks, punches and kicks. One woman lost consciousness and her hand required reconstruction surgery. Two of these women said they had been sexually assaulted.

“Five weeks after these shocking attacks, the authorities have still not taken steps to open an investigation. These women peacefully exercised their right to freedom of expression and assembly, yet they were subjected to brutal assaults that left them with cuts, bruises and, in at least one case, broken bones, said Amna Guellai, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“Until now, those responsible have enjoyed total impunity. Instead of seeking to bring these women to justice, the Moroccan authorities have deployed members of the security forces in front of their homes, which scares them and prevents them from leaving. We urge the Moroccan authorities to put an end to the harassment and violence against Sahrawi activists, and to immediately conduct impartial investigations into all acts of torture and other ill-treatment attributed to police officers and agents of the armed forces. Moroccan security forces. “

peaceful solidarity

Sultana Khaya and her family have been under house arrest since November 2020. Moroccan authorities have since subjected them to serious human rights violations, including when Sultana Khaya was raped.

The five activists were on the streets of Boujdour, most of them on their way to Sultana Khaya’s house to take part in peaceful protests on her roof as they each attacked groups of Moroccan security forces.

One of the most serious cases took place on April 16, when Moroccan police officers arrested Zeinab Babi, without explaining why, when she was going to the supermarket by taxi. Two police officers hit and kicked her in the car on the way to the police station. At the station, four officers questioned Zeinab about her activism while insulting her and beating her at intervals, including beating her.

Zeinab was finally released after three hours, but her ordeal was not over. As she walked home from the police station, other police and security forces attacked her. During the first attack, which took place near the police station, a group of police and security forces hit her with batons. Zeinab was about to reach her house when a group of security forces surrounded her, beating and kicking her and beating her with sticks until she lost consciousness.

Zeinab’s family took her to the hospital, where she was treated for her injuries. She had to undergo a reconstruction operation in her left hand, which had been broken in various places.

That same day, five plainclothes officers intercepted Embarka Al Hafidhi as she walked with her son toward Sultana Khaya’s house to attend a peaceful meeting. The officers beat Embarka, and some tore her clothes and shot her in the groin.

The five women told Amnesty International that officers have been stationed outside their homes since the attacks and they do not want to leave their homes for fear of being attacked again.

Amnesty International calls on the Moroccan authorities to comply with their obligations under international human rights law to respect the right to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and the right not to be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

More info

Moroccan authorities have long imposed arbitrary restrictions on the Sahrawi people’s right to freedom of expression, peaceful assemblies and associations, especially when the exercise of these rights concerns the status of the Sahara. Moroccan security forces have used unnecessary and excessive force to disperse peaceful protests, and Sahrawi activists have been subjected to harassment, intimidation and legal action.

President of an organization called the League for the Defense of Human Rights and against the looting of natural resources, Sultana Khaya is known for campaigning loud and clear, peacefully to achieve that the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination is respected. Moroccan authorities have arbitrarily detained Sultana and her family under house arrest since November 2020; during this period, the authorities subjected these persons to acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including sexual assault and rape.

Moroccan authorities continue to restrict access to Morocco and Western Sahara for journalists, peaceful activists and human rights defenders and prevent impartial and independent monitoring and reporting by the UN in Western Sahara.

On March 16, 2022, four American activists managed to enter the home of the Khaya family to show their solidarity with Sultana and her relatives. Initially, the close surveillance carried out by the security forces eased due to the presence of these volunteers, but since April 15, the police presence has intensified in front of Sultana Khaya’s house, as well as in front of other home activists.

Leave a Comment