Live Report! Breaking a Siege in Occupied Western Sahara
Date(s) - 04/20/2022
11:00 am - 12:30 pm
S2020B, NVI, and WNV
About this event
An International Online Learning, Discussion, and Organizing Event on the ongoing Western Sahara Unarmed Civilian Protection project to defend human rights activist Sultana Khaya. This Zoom meeting is co-sponsored by Solidarity 2020 and Beyond (S2020B), Nonviolence International (NVI), and Waging Nonviolence (WNV)
While the world’s attention is focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we must also remember other countries that struggle for freedom, justice and dignity. Ukraine is not alone in being occupied and having its land annexed violently and illegally. Two other prominent examples are in Western Sahara and Palestine where ongoing brutal occupations are supported by the US, European, and other nations.
Western Sahara, colonized by Spain and then occupied by Morocco since 1975, is the last colony in Africa. In 1991, the UN brokered a ceasefire between Morocco and the Sahrawi armed resistance, the Polisario. An essential element of the ceasefire was the promise of a referendum for self-determination. This has not been implemented. The Sahrawis continue to engage in ongoing disciplined nonviolent resistance despite the fact that Morocco broke the ceasefire agreement in 2021.
It is into this highly repressive and militarized context that Sultana Khaya invited Unarmed Civilian Protectors to Boujdour, Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. The Khaya sisters, Sultana and Waari, are internationally renowned women human rights defenders who live with their mother, Minto. All three were living under arbitrary detention that included house raids, beatings, rapes, and more. Supported by an international Steering Committee, Human Rights Action Center, and local activists, four US-based visitors entered the home on March 16th, 2022, breaking the 482-day siege.
Since the volunteers entered the house, there has been a halt to the raids, beatings, and rapes. Family and friends have finally been able to visit the home. A doctor on the team has conducted health examinations and one family member was able to travel out of the home for medical attention. Despite these gains, local Sahrawis continue to be threatened, beaten and blocked from entering the home by Moroccan Occupation Forces. A young boy was detained and beaten merely for visiting the family. A Moroccan settler assaulted Sultana Khaya and issued death threats to her and her guests this week.
Please join us for a Live Report on this developing situation in the Western Sahara. You will get updates from the UCP field volunteers and from Sultana Khaya herself, gain knowledge of this little-reported area of the world and hear about the power of UCP as a tool of nonviolent resistance. You’ll also learn about US-based advocacy organizations and ways you can get involved to further advocate to keep the family safe and continue working on the three main demands of our project: 1) Stop the Rapes; 2) Break the Siege of the Khaya Home and Ensure it Remains Open; and 3) Conduct an Independent Investigation and Report of the human rights abuses at the Khaya home and in Occupied Western Sahara. Also, please consider volunteering on our Steering Committee, Planning Committee and/or on a delegation of field volunteers.
Free tickets available, but all contributions to this Zoom webinar will go to the continuation of the UCP Western Sahara project and Karama Sahara nonprofit organization.
Moderator: Adrienne Kinne
Volunteer organizer with 15+ years’ experience in peace and social justice nonprofit organizations, including serving as President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Board of Veterans for Peace US and as a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, UK. Ten years’ additional experience working in the Department of Veterans Affairs as a researcher, program manager, outreach specialist, and social worker/counselor and as an Arabic language specialist in the US army prior to that. She believes that we as a society need to recognize the impacts racism, prejudice, and discrimination have had on our country historically and today while we work to transform ourselves and our communities in support of a better tomorrow. Prior to her current role as an Unarmed Civilian Protector, UCP, volunteer to Break the Siege of the Khaya family home in Boujdour, Western Sahara, Adrienne was a member of the international delegation to Okinawa. She earned a Master of Social Work and Master of Science in Psychology in 2004 and a BA in History and Psychology.
Salka is a nonviolent activist who is both Saharawi and American. She was born in El-Ayune, the capital of Western Sahara. She spent her earliest years of life in refugee camps in southwest Algeria. Her education was obtained in Libya, Algeria, and finally the United States. Barca is a volunteer and advocate for the national prevention of violence against women and human trafficking prevention. She is the co-founder of Karama Sahara, a non-governmental organization focused on advocacy for self-determination and human rights in Occupied Western Sahara. Ms. Barca is also a linguist and a legal/medical interpreter/translator who has worked with numerous organizations, including as an outreach for the Saharawi Cause, including the American Friends Service Committee. After 43 years in exile, Salka traveled to her birthplace in 2018 and witnessed firsthand Moroccan police brutality against the Saharawi people in El-Ayune, Western Sahara. Today, Barca is working with activists to end the occupation of her homeland and is pushing for Spain to assume its responsibilities.
Ruth is a current member of the Unarmed Civilian Accompaniment based at the Khaya family home in Boujdour, Western Sahara. Ruth has been an Arabic teacher and strong proponent of cross-cultural understanding and peacebuilding and is the site Director of Middlebury College’s Jiran: Arabic Community Action Summer 2021 to present. Previously, she was head of the World Languages and Cultures Department at The American School in London–London, UK; Arabic Teacher at The American School in London, UK; Field Instructor at Where There Be Dragons, Amman, Jordan; Arabic Teacher at Arabic Summer Academy–Boston, MA, USA; Curriculum Consultant at One World Now, Seattle, Washington and Portland State University–Portland, OR, USA and Arabic Teacher at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School–Cambridge, MA, USA. Ruth served as co-founder/facilitator of Anti-Racism Enquiry Group at The American School in London, co-chair of the Upper School Diversity Committee and co-advisor to SHADES at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School–Cambridge, MA, USA. She is skilled at international and outdoor program management as Ecology Facilitator and Wilderness Trail Co-Leader at The American School in London, UK and an emergency wilderness responder. Ruth lived and traveled in many Arab countries and is proficient at several languages including English, Arabic, French and American Sign Language. She earned a BA in Religion at Swarthmore College with minors in Linguistics and Peace & Conflict Studies and a Certificate in Humanistic Integrative Counseling from CPPD Counseling School.
Merwyn De Mello
Merwyn is a member of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, Washington DC, living gospel values of nonviolent actions and community organizing through initiating and joining in movements raising awareness and advocating on local issues around climate change, racism, poverty, education, housing and health. Extensive international peacebuilding experience including participating as an Unarmed Civilian Accompanier in Western Sahara. Previously, he was with the Mennonite Central Committee Dhaka, Bangladesh, as a Peacebuilding Advisor; a member of the International Assistance Mission to Kabul, Afghanistan; a member of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute in Davao City, Philippines as a Transitional Justice course Facilitator; Project Director of the Public Concern for Governance Trust in Mumbai, India; Director of the Counselling Services Unit in Harare, Zimbabwe and lecturer at the Africa University, Institute of Peace, in Harare, Zimbabwe. Additionally, Merwyn served as lay missioner in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Japan. In the US, he served as Co-Director and Member of the Christian Peacemaking Team and Lay Missioners in NY. Born in Kenya, Merwyn is a world citizen having lived in India, Kuwait, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Tanzania and the US. He speaks several languages including English, Hindi, Kiswahili, Dari, ChiShona, Japanese, Arabic, Dari, and Bengali and earned a Master of Arts in Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding from the Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.
Sultana is a human rights defender promoting independence for the Saharawi people and advocating for the end of violence against Saharawi women. She is president of the Saharawi League for the Defense of Human Rights and the Protection of Western Sahara’s Natural Resources in occupied Boujdour, Western Sahara, and a member of the Saharawi Commission against the Moroccan occupation (ISACOM). Khaya was nominated for the Sakharov Prize and winner of the Esther Garcia Award. As an outspoken activist, she has been targeted by the occupying Moroccan forces while engaged in peaceful protests. Khaya is one of the most influential human rights activists of Western Sahara. Waving Saharawi flags, she peacefully demonstrates for human rights, especially women’s rights. She dares to protest in front of the occupying Moroccan authorities and chant slogans of the Saharawi self-determination to their face. She has been abducted, beaten, and tortured by Moroccan police. In a particularly violent assault in 2007, her right eye was gouged out by a Moroccan agent. She has become a symbol of courage and a source of inspiration for Saharawi independence.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Bill has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college, he went to work as a welder in a shipyard and entered the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staff person in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com; and in the leadership of several other projects, including serving as a board member on the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Co-Chair of the Campaign to End the Moroccan Occupation of Western Sahara. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.
We hope to see you for this Live Report! Breaking the Siege in Occupied Western Sahara.