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Interest of Russians to Western Sahara increases



by: Katerina Ermakova

Interest of Russia to Western Sahara problem grows every year. More and more Russian scientists, politicians, journalists and students discuss case of Western Sahara on different conferences and lectures.

Every year this issue is brought up at Graduate School of Journalism and Mass Communications of Saint-Petersburg State University (SPbSU). During the 51st international conference “Media in the modern world” that took place on 19-20 of April 2012 and received more than 400 guests from 14 countries of the world, media of Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic (RASD) and the growing influence of civil journalism were traditionally discussed.

Although informational agency, radio, television and newspapers function on the liberated zone of Western Sahara, exchange of information with occupied territories is strongly complicated. Professor Sergey Mickailov, the first political scientist and journalist, who began covering saharaui question in late 90th , claims that civil journalism is playing the leading role today in this case. If for Russians it’s just a hobby and free creativity, for Saharaui people social nets and blogs is the only way to publish news and opinions about events on the occupied territories, because Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal and YouTube are not censored by Morocco.

As the part of the Conference the meeting of POLISARIO Representative in Moscow Ali Salem Mohamed Fadel with the Graduate School of Journalism director Anatoly Puyu took place. “Students of International journalism department investigate Western Sahara question since 1st year. Our professors and student always take part in conferences dedicated to the case of Western Sahara in Algeria, Spain, on the liberated zones of SADR. We are doing our best to cover Saharaui problem in the Russian media”, - told mister Puyu. 3 interviews with POLISARIO Representative, translated into Chinese and Norwegian languages, were made on the TV studio of Saint-Petersburg State University.

Information blockade around Western Sahara and struggle of Saharauis was also discussed on the meeting of journalism department students of “Russian Service and Economy University” with Ali Salem Mohamed Fadel and Katerina Ermakova, saharaui question researcher from SPbSU.

Professors and students of the University were interested in traditions of Western Sahara people, education level and ways to develop relationship with Russia. “The day we get independence we will have all we need for happy life of our people on their land, in the sovereign state. That’s what the people and the government of SADR are working for”, Ali Salem commented on the situation in Western Sahara today.
Guests told that the most part of the state is occupied by Moroccan army. Refugees have to live in the camps near Tindouf, on the South-Western part of Algeria, and on the liberated zone. But nevertheless today saharaui living standards are more acceptable comparing with 70s : people are not starving any more, every family has mobiles ant TV. Children go to school, more than 90% of adults have higher education.
After this lecture, students published more than 5 articles in different newspapers of the University: “Meeting with guests from Africa was really successful. Every participant discovered lots of new about rough life in the desert. Sure we have a lot of questions about political situation around Saharaui Arab Democratic Republic, so we hope that’s not the last time we meet”, is written in the official site of “Russian Service and Economy University” . Head of journalism department, professor Valery Takazov, claims that “As practice shows people fighting for independence get international recognition sooner or later. In the nearest future, we hope, Western Sahara will regain its territories”.

Very important event in Russian and Western Sahara relationship development is the official meeting of Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov with Foreign Minister of Kingdom of Morocco Saadeddin al-Osmani that was held on April, 18, 2012 in Moscow. According to press-service of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs mister Lavrov declared the need of mutually acceptable solutions of the problem of Western Sahara research, which settlement under the aegis of the United Nations is unconditionally supported by Russia. It is necessary to notice that the Russian contingent is present in Western Sahara since the beginning of MINURSO activity and is the most numerous. “Russia is not only the the UN Security Council permanent member, but also enters in so-called «Group of friends» of saharaui people, therefore we watch the situation. Opinions of negotiation process participants are significant for us, first of all. Today we heard estimates of the Moroccan part - they are important for our further work”, added Sergey Lavrov.
Russia, possessing huge influence in the world, attentively researches human rights question that is proved by Ministry of Foreign Affairs report № 2076-28-12-2011 “About a situation with human rights in a number of the world states”. The facts of secret prisons existence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Thailand, Morocco and other countries are given in this report, as well as the facts of political prisoners’ deaths from tortures in these prisons.

Following this subject April 25, 2012, Ali Salem Mohamed Fadel visited ” Igor Kucherenko, the vice-president of International Board of Lawyers, Saint-Petersburg. “I am sure that the right of the nation to self-determination is much more important than principle of integrity of any state. Having found the sovereignty and the international recognition, Western Sahara undoubtedly becomes in the long term the worthy partner for any member of the world community and will manage to maintain the kind relations with neighbors in the continent and other countries», mister Kucherenko commented on positions of the parties of the conflict. Also they discussed the question of human rights violation in occupied territories of Western Sahara. The main opinion was that the information activities on drawing attention of world community and human rights activists to the facts of beatings and tortures of saharaui, opposing the Moroccan occupation, the illegal detention of people in prisons of Morocco, should be most expanded. However the main problem on a way to this purpose is that occupied territories are patrolled by the Moroccan military, access for journalists, politicians, non-governmental organizations and human rights activists is closed.

On the contrary, Russian journalists and scientists always note hospitality of saharaui in the liberated territories. In 2008 journalists from Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg made investigation of Western Sahara question in refugee camps: School "27th of February", Vilaya El Aaiun, Vilaya Smara, Shahid El-Hafed (Rabuni) and Tifariti, then 2 documentary films about Western Sahara «The sand city » and «Explosive Sahara» were published. In December, 2011 the XIII-th General National Congress of the POLISARIO Front in a name of Mahfud Ali Beiba who has lost for freedom was visited by group of NTV journalists .

In November, 2009 the Russian political scientists and journalists managed to interview Martyr Mahfud Ali Beiba, the chairman of National Parliament of SADR. On a question, if he had a dream, mister Mahfud Ali Beiba answered «Yes, yes! I have a dream. Sometimes I even see it right here. It is the homecoming. I want to see the free and independent country recognized by the international community».



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