The Please Prize 2016 and Movie Night with Driss Dambar

The Please Prize 2016 and Movie Night with Driss Dambar

Before Easter, we had a political campaign week with focus on the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Because of the Please Prize 2016, won by Erna Solberg, the Moroccan king and the president of Western Sahara, we had some events and stands in our school. We wanted to make people aware of what is happening in the last colony in Africa and the efforts being made for a peaceful change where the Sahrawi people get the opportunity to autonomy and to decide their own governance. The Please Prize is an initiative by SAIH to beg the leaders of Morocco, Western Sahara and Norway to please make peace and create a dialogue where this can be resolved.

To celebrate the Please Prize we had stands in Glassgården at HiL with cake, where we informed people passing by about the Please Prize and the situation in Western Sahara. The one day we had a cake shaped as a wall to symbolize the wall built by Moroccan soldiers that is splitting the free and the occupied part of Western Sahara into two pieces. The other day we had a cake that celebrated the Please Prize. At 17th of March, we celebrated the prize with a "Cake party", where Erik Hagen, the leader of The Support Committee for Western Sahara, and Inga Marie Nymo Riseth, political deputy in SAIH, were invited to talk about the development in the case of independence of the Sahrawi people. One of the big problems in this case is that many financial companies continue to trade with Morocco, even though Morocco is exploiting Western Sahara's resources. In addition, none of the biggest and most influential states in the world are bringing up the case in for example the EU or UN. In Norway, it has been said that we support what the UN says, and Ban Ki Moon recently said that Morocco's claim for Western Sahara is an occupation, and then we also should be able to call it what it is. Norway and the Netherlands are the only countries in the world who discourage companies from trading with Moroccan companies.

By awarding the three state leaders with the Please Prize, we claim that the Moroccan King has to work for human rights and to honor the agreement from 1991 where the Sahrawi people was promised a referendum, the leader of Polisario is encouraged to continue the peaceful demands for freedom, and Erna Solberg is encouraged to contribute to progress in these negotiations.

On March 15th, we watched a movie named La Badil (No Other Choice), a short undercover documentary that was made to show the Sahrawi's situation. The purpose of the movie is to give attention to a conflict that rarely get any media attention. We were also lucky to have a Sahrawi, Driss Dambar, visiting us here in Lillehammer. He presented the movie and told us about his experiences with the Moroccan authorities. He has written down his story so we can share it with you on our blog.

"My personal story

I'm Driss Dambar, I was born and brought up in the occupied territory of the western Sahara. Last year I got my political asylum from Spain because I was forced to escape from my own country one year before as a consequence of my political engagement for a free western Sahara. I escaped because of my ethnicity as a Sahrawi and because of my name. I was prevented to work or to continue higher studies in all the Moroccan universities as is the case with all of my family.

As many people know, this 27th February we celebrated (not our independence day like other peoples), but we celebrated the 40th anniversary of our colonization by Morocco, which is in reality the 131st anniversary of our existence as a colonized people if we add 91 years of the Spanish colonization (we have suffered under occupation for generations).

During this 40 years under Moroccan occupation, we have been subject of all manner of the Moroccan Barbary:
- Massacres: Napalm bombes and white phosphorous were used against civilians by the Moroccan army, families killed and buried in mass graves (we have 4 500 disappeared since 1975);
- Kidnapping and incarceration: we have 9 000 detainees in the Moroccan prisons, 599 tried by military courts
- Torturing: during these 40 years, we have 30 000 victims of torture and ill treatment, 7 000 of them seriously injured by the Moroccan troops;
- Hundreds of civilians killed by the anti-personnel mines placed in front of the wall of shame built in the middle of desert to divide the territory and separate families;
- Added to that, Morocco steals and robs my country's wealth and natural resources.

BUT we have persisted and have not given up in spite of this Moroccan Barbary, we claim PEACEFULLY our right to be a free people.

More than 24 years have passed since the U.N came to the region to control ceasefire and organize a referendum, and because of its passivity, the Morocco's intransigence and the silence of the international community, we are still denied our right to practice democracy; I mean to exercise our right to self-determination by a free and fair referendum.

We organize demonstrations peacefully, we require democracy and justice with the most appropriate and civilized ways.

Apart from the daily peaceful demonstrations against the occupation, we have had three big civilian revolutions. The first one was held against the Spanish occupation in 1970, leaded by the martyr BASSIRI, the second revolution was held against the Moroccan occupation in 2005 and the last, but not least revolution was the protest camp of GDEIM IZIK established on October 9th 2010;

During a month, 20 000 Sahrawi joined the camp, there have been housed 8000 tents, claiming our economics rights, social policy and at least claiming Freedom. We participated as a family in the camp like the majority of other Sahrawi families, and early in the day of 8th November 2010, a military attack is launched against us, destroying all the camp and soon, the Moroccan troops and police take over all the town sowing hate, terror and fear.

The Moroccan troops have taken, just randomly, 23 innocent civilians to be tried before a military court, and from this moment forward, all the occupied territory has been turned into a military zone. There were more military personnel and police officers than civilians in the streets;

Under this terrible circumstances, on December 21st 2010 (one month and a half later), my youngest brother -SAID DAMBAR- left normally our house at 3 o'clock pm. 10 hours later, on December 22nd at 2:00 am, the Moroccan police knocked at our door. They asked for Said's identity card, their motive presented was that my youngest brother had attacked a Moroccan police officer. They brought my older brother -Mohammed- with them leaving us in a horrible situation.

1 hour later, my older brother called us and told that my youngest brother had been shot by a gun and he is actually in the hospital and the doctors are trying to get the bullet out from his head. More than 30 hours have passed and several stories were presented on the fact to us during we manifested at the door of the hospital, because the Moroccan authorities prevented us to go inside

At 1:45 pm the next day 23rd December 2010, the emergency doctor declares the death of my brother caused by a gunshot.

The Moroccan authorities said to us to take the corpse to bury him and they will give us a medical report about the death, a thing that we refused until having a legal autopsy and a police report describing the circumstances of his murder.

The next day, we had been prevented to organize peacefully a demonstration on the street to claim truth and justice, so this is why we were obliged to demonstrate in our house.

Other Sahrawi citizens and activists and local and foreign organizations of human rights, came and joined us in our house to support us each 22nd every month. This is to require with us truth and justice; and this ritual of solidarity became embarrassing for the Moroccan authorities and they began to prevent people to come and attack us and all who could come in our house;

In this climate of hate, 8 months later, my father died and he is gone without having the chance to know the truth about the murder of his youngest son. 2 months later, on October 3rd 2011, I was accepted for a position in the department of finance, but because of my name, the Moroccan authorities prevented me and tried to blackmail us. If I wanted the position, we should cover up the affair of my brother's murder.

The body of SAID stayed in the morgue for 17 months because we require truth and justice for his murder and we don't know until now where he is.

Our demand remain the same since the first day; we require a legal autopsy that could reveal the truth about:
- The circumstances of the murder,
- The number of bullets that were fired on him,
- The scene of the crime,
- Eventual cases of torture which he was subjected to before the assassination;
And of course, the responsibility of the Moroccan state in the murder because the alleged offender is one of its agents and the gun is official."

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One of our stands with the "wall cake"

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Oda, one activist from SAIH Lillehammer, with the Western Sahara flag in the city center of Lillehammer

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One of our other stands with the celebration cake

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Erik Hagen, the leader of The Support Committee for Western Sahara, talking during our Cake party

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Florian, one activist from SAIH Lillehammer, with the flag of Western Sahara wrapped around his shoulders. Inga Marie Nymo Riseth is talking about the Please Prize initiative.

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The cakes we had on our Cake party

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The Sahrawi Driss Dambar telling us his story

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Sahrawi's showing the peace sign in the movie La Badil