Skip to content or view screen version

Western Saharan hunger-strike students “risk everything” to get to Oxford

Free Western Sahara Network | 06.08.2009 14:58 | Repression | Social Struggles

Concerns grow for the safety of 6 Western Saharan students removed from flight to London by Moroccan authorities

Campaigners today expressed concern about the fate of six Saharawi students who were due to fly to London yesterday but were prevented from boarding their plane by Moroccan police. The students from the disputed territory of Western Sahara were enroute to England as part of an EU / British Council sponsored initiative to increase understanding between Moroccans and Western Saharans but were marched off the plane and across the runway at Agadir airport. The students have been given no reason for being detained and have gone on hunger-strike in the airport terminal in protest despite growing fears for their safety.

The students aged between 17 and 24 are from occupied Western Sahara and were travelling together with students from Morocco where they were all due to attend a two week residential course in Oxford exploring ways of resolving a conflict that has gone on for over 34 years. The Moroccan students pulled out from travelling to England yesterday, all of them citing family problems for their sudden withdrawal.

The course run by the British-based organisation, Talk Together, aims to take young people from either side of an ongoing conflict and challenge them to generate new ways forward. Organiser Andrew Brown said today:
“It would be a huge disappointment if participants were to be blocked from attending a project that aims to confront prejudice, foster understanding, and find new solutions”.

As well as being a disappointment for all those involved in the two years of organising the project the situation also represents a genuine danger for the students. Last year reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed concerns about human rights violations by the Moroccan state against Saharawis who take part in non-violent protests. These have regularly been violently broken up by Moroccan forces and numerous people have been arrested, tortured or ‘disappeared’.

One of the hunger-strikers, Amaidane Maimouna,17, understands the risk they are taking but says that they are determined to continue with their protest for as long as it takes.
“Either we will go to the UK or we will go to hospital” she says, “There is no third way”.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara said:
“With representatives of Morocco and the Polisario Front meeting next week in Vienna to discuss the resumption of negotiations it would be a cruel irony if these young people from both sides of this terrible conflict were to miss out on an opportunity to share ideas and develop greater understanding.”

Contact press office on 07799650791 or 01622 747885 or 00213 776 889167
To contact the students directly in the airport call: 00 21267.22.539.53


Visit or or

Further information:

The six Saharawi youngsters are:
• El Haouasi Nguia (19, female), Amaidane Maimouna (17, female), Hayat Rguibi (19 female ), Elassri Mohamed Fadel (24; male) Razouk Choummad (20; male) Mohamed Daanoun (20; male).

• The students were due to attend the workshop from 5th – 18th August in St Edward’s School, Oxford. The course will still go ahead with students from the UK, Norway, the Philippines and the refugee camps in Tindouf.

• The project is Funded by the EU Youth In Action programme and the British Council

• A 2008 report by Human Rights Watch found that Morocco has violated the rights to expression, association, and assembly in Western Sahara.

• A 2008 Amnesty International report found that “politically motivated administrative impediments have been used to prevent human rights groups obtaining legal registration and curtailing their scope of activities.”

• The dispute in Western Sahara is one of the longest running and most forgotten conflicts in the world. The country has been subject to an occupation by neighbouring Morocco despite rulings by the International Court of Justice and over 100 UN Resolutions. For the past 34 years 165,000 Saharawi refugees have been forced to live in refugee camps in the Algerian desert.

For additional information about the workshop contact Melissa Mehta on 07772 488373 or .

Free Western Sahara Network
- e-mail: