Western Sahara has been rated “not free”, and has been given the lowest score of 7 in freedom, civil liberties and political rights in a report released yesterday [May 18] by Freedom House, an American human rights monitoring NGO. Western Sahara has been colonized by Morocco since 1975.
According to Freedom House’s 2012 Report, Morocco and Moroccan settlers profit from its colonization of Western Sahara while leaving the indigenous population, the Saharawis, impoverished. “Although the territory possesses extensive natural resources, including phosphate, iron ore deposits, hydrocarbon reserves, and fisheries, the local population remains largely impoverished.”
Political freedom for the indigenous population, the Saharawis, in calling for the end to such discrimination or independence from Morocco is virtually non-existent, however. “Morocco controls local elections and works to ensure that independence-minded leaders are excluded from both the local political process and the Moroccan Parliament … Sahrawis are not permitted to form independent political or nongovernmental organizations, and their freedom of assembly is severely restricted.”
And Morocco maintains a media blackout to ensure that news of human rights violations in Western Sahara is not reported upon. “Freedom of the press is severely limited in Western Sahara,” says the report. “The authorities expel or detain Sahrawi, Moroccan, and foreign reporters who attempt to conduct first-hand reporting on the issue.”