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  Issue No 109 Official Organ of LaborNet 31 August 2001  

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International

Spreading the Word


Veronica Apap profiles Kamal Fadel and the battle he is fighting for the independence of his homeland of West Sahara.

 
 

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When Kamal Fadel came to Australia from West Sahara two years ago, he was surprised at how little we knew of a 25 year old struggle by his people for independence. "I was astonished by the lack of knowledge when I arrived, despite the fact that it has been going on for 25 years. I was also surprised at the sympathy, understanding and support I got," Fadel said.

"I lived in West Sahara until 1975. Then because of the invasion and occupation by Morocco, most of my people and myself, fled our homes and settled in areas of West Sahara controlled by the independence movement. Then we were bombed and attacked and we moved to Algeria," said Fadel.

Kamal Fadel is a member of Polisario, the liberation group fighting for West Sahara's independence. Since the invasion about 180,000 Saharawi's have been expelled from their country and live in refugee camps in the dessert of Algeria. Fadel grew up in these camps. He went to school just outside the camp.

Fadel came to Australia for several reasons. "One is that we didn't have representation in this part of the world. I wanted to bring the message here to educate people and gain government understanding. I also came just before the East Timor referendum, their situation is very similar to ours, and it's important to follow this example and learn from it," he says.

Like East Timor, West Saharawi's were also promised a referendum by the UN. In 1991 the UN intervened and a ceasefire was called. Plans were drawn up for a referendum to decide who would control West Sahara. Unlike the East Timorese, Saharawi's are still waiting for their chance to vote.

Stephanie Brennan, of the Western Sahara Alliance, believes that the situation could get worse if the UN does not take action soon. "Morocco has broken the ceasefire. The Saharawi's will return to armed conflict if the UN abandons them. They've been waiting for 11 years," Brennan says.

The UN Security Council will vote in November on a report which seeks to abandon the plans for a referendum and endorses Morocco's view. "Morocco is looking for a 'third way' which is autonomy within Morocco," says Brennan.

Polisario have rejected the attempt to override their right to self-determination. They see this move as an attempt to legitimise. Morocco's illegal occupation of West Sahara. They have stated that if the UN bows to Moroccan pressure, the UN will be used as an instrument of colonisation.

The report was prepared by American James Baker. There is some speculation as to why the US is supporting the plan for autonomy instead of independence. "Morocco is notorious for lobbying and paying people off," says Brennan. Other observers have said that it is because Morocco is America's one reliable Arab ally.

Australia does not have an official stance on the sovereignty of West Sahara. "We don't have a stance in particular, we support the UN all the way. We are supportive of the UN resolution which is holding off having a referendum," says Caroline Thompson of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Kamal believes most Australians will support the Saharawi's struggle. "Australians have been involved in similar issues such as South Africa and East Timor. West Sahara is not an exception. The government can show its interest and can make its voice heard at the UN in support of justice," he says.

The Western Sahara Alliance and the Australian Western Sahara Association are raising funds to bring a woman from the refugee camps to Australia. "Nobody has come from the refugee camps. Especially not a woman as they play a crucial role in running the camps," says Fadel.

If they are successful, this woman will go on an international speaking tour to raise awareness of the plight of the West Saharawi's and talk about the experiences of living in the refugee camps.

There have been horrifying reports of rape, torture, detention without trial, and murder, from the Saharawi's. In some cases electric shock treatment is used to torture suspected Polisario members.

"They face imminent danger everyday," Brennan says. "There is 2000 kilometres of wall separating those in the refugee camps from their homeland. There is also 175 000 Moroccan troops who have British arms trained on the refugee camps," she says.

Recently Britain refurbished the Moroccan forces with 30 new 105mm guns. However the British parliament claims it was misled over the sale. Around 75 countries recognise West Sahara as a sovereign state. "They do not agree with the human rights abuses and they do not agree with the obstructions to the referendum," Fadel says.

Fadel intends to continue his work in Australia. Based on the support he has received so far, he believes his message is getting heard and more Australians know about the situation than they did when he arrived two years ago. "We're getting somewhere," he says.

A fundraiser for West Sahara will be held this week - details in the news section


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*    Latest West Saharan news

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 109 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Union Power
Electrical Trades Union state secretary Bernie Riordan surveys the union movement's troubled relationship with Labor.
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*  International: Spreading the Word
Veronica Apap profiles Kamal Fadel and the battle he is fighting for the independence of his homeland of West Sahara.
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*  E-Change: Training for a Wired Workforce
Education is the entry point into the new economy; but the system still reflects an industrial age view of the world.
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*  Unions: AWU Defends Millennium Train Workers
Mark Hearn looks at how a group of Newcastle workers are setting a new standard in the railways.
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*  Politics: Chatting with Enemies of the State
Brazils MST is the largest and most radical social movement in the Americas. The CFMEU´s Phil Davey drops in for a chat.
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*  History: Struggle and Inspiration
Rowan Cahill argues that it is only through understanding history that we can make sense of the present plight of workers.
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*  Technology: A World Without Microsoft
Heather Sharp argues that all technologies involve political choices and moral values. Computer software is no exception, and it is Bill Gates' choices that dominate.
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*  Review: Let There Be Rock
Kid Rock and Beer Bong, Australia’s Oldest Rock Fans review the week’s music and political events from the safety of the bar stool.
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*  Satire: Tampa refugees ask to go home: "It's less inhumane than Australia"
The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren’t nearly as hostile as Australia.
*

News
»  The Meaning of Working Life – The Answer is 7.1!
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»  Unions Stand Up for National Soul
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»  MUA Salvages Some Pride
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»  Common Law Report Plea – Make It Public
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»  Maintenance Contract 'Could Put Lives at Risk'
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»  Tax Office's GST Scam - 10 Per Cent Off!
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»  Della Moves on Pay Slip Concerns
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»  Authorities Scotch Bra-Burning
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»  Manusafe Decision Faces Appeal
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»  Orange Finally Saved from Closure
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»  Award Win For Telco Workers
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»  Abbott Clears Way for Lower Wages
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»  SDA Defeats 'Obscene' Westfield Parking Fees
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»  Labor Calls On Abbott To Abide By Convention
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»  Nurses Highlight Staff Shortages
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»  Keystone Cops At Wonderland Protest
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»  Call for Change in Award Increases
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»  Green Tin Box Values Gone At Commonwealth
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»  Dance for Independence
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»  Get Ready to Wobble
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»  Activist Notebook
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»  STOP PRESS: ITF says PM Tampa action illegal
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  The Locker Room
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»  Trades Hall
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»  Tool Shed
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Letters to the editor
»  Unite Against Racism
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»  WorkCover Impact
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»  Improving the Debate
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»  Botsman's Satire
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»  MUA - Take a Bow!
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»  Economic Predators
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»  Email and the Waterfront Dispuite
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