Resisting Occupation: Connecting Palestine and Western Sahara - Webinar

Nonviolence International is proud to make connections across boundaries that for far too long we have allowed to divide us. We believe in the power of active nonviolence and offer this conversation as a way to celebrate the brave nonviolent leaders and our shared use of creative tactics and training to make us even more impactful. 

(Video above shows Sultana Khaya - while under heavy surveillance - joining our webinar through Salka Barca.)

This webinar was historic. This was one of the first times that we could hear Palestinian and Sahrawi voices share their experience of nonviolent resistance to occupation in Palestine and Western Sahara on the same panel. Israel and Morocco are in contravention of the UN charter through their military occupation and annexation of neighboring territories. Our Palestinian speakers, Mubarak Awad and Jonathan Kuttab have travelled to the Western Sahara and spoke about/on the parallels between the two occupations. Kuttab, a renowned international lawyer also discussed about the illegality of occupations and annexations and how these are a threat to world peace. Salka Marco talked about Sahrawi resistance to Moroccan occupation and human rights abuses. Kamal spoke to the need for solidarity with Palestinians and Sahrawis and how support for occupations and violation of human rights is damaging to the people of Morocco. Stephen Zunes provided an academic perspective outlining the similarities and connections between these two conflicts including the US government’s recognition of the Moroccan annexation in return for Morocco recognizing Israel.

Please Note: Mubarak would like to make a correction regarding the evacuation of a city by the Sahrawi people. During this discussion he said Moroccans left while it was the Sahwari people who held this amazing act of nonviolent resistance and would like to make this distinction to anyone watching to not cause confusion.

Time Stamps:

Rafif Jouejati - 0:00

Mubarak Awad - 5:40

Jonathan Kuttab - 14:30

Salka Barca - 20:00

Sultana Khaya - 22:40

Kamal Lfahsi - 32:30

Stephen Zunes - 42:10

Discussion - 52:00


Rafif Jouejati is a board member of Nonviolence International. She is the co-founder and director of the Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria (FREE Syria), and the principal architect of the Syrian Freedom Charter project, which surveyed more than 50,000 Syrians on democratic aspirations and political transition. She is also a founding member of the Syrian Women’s Political Network, a member of the Board of Directors of The Day After, and President of the Board of Directors of Baytna. Rafif is the CEO of a company that helps client organizations evolve to higher levels of capacity and maturity through business development, targeted training, and strategic communication.

Mubarak Awad is a co-founder of Nonviolence International, an organization which promotes nonviolence worldwide. He was a leader in the 1st intifada in Palestine before he was deported by Israel to the United States. He visited Western Sahara in 2015 where he provided training in nonviolent struggle. He has a PhD in psychology, and also is the founder of a number of organizations that have focused on advocating and providing support for troubled and orphaned youth.

Jonathan Kuttab is a co-founder of Nonviolence International. Kuttab is a well-known international human rights attorney who is a member of the bar in Israel, Palestine, and the United States. He is the author of Beyond the Two-State Solution and many other publications. He is also a co-founder of the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq and is President of the Board of Bethlehem Bible College. He has travelled to the occupied Western Sahara twice to provide training in human rights law and in nonviolent action.

Salka Barca is a nonviolence struggle advocate Born in Laayoune, the capital city of Western Sahara. She lived the first years of her childhood in the refugee camps, southwest Algeria. Obtained education in Tripoli, Libya and then Algeria. Barca was a literacy teacher in refugee camps. Furthermore, she was a member of the Saharawi women union.
Ms. Barca was the first Woman to advocate for Western Sahara nationally on immigration status in the United States. Worked with several organizations as an outreach for the Saharawi Cause, such as American Friends Service Committee and Sahara Fund; Ms. Barca is a linguist and a legal and medical interpreter/translator; an advocate for domestic-violence prevention. translated (50 crucial points for nonviolence struggle). Visited the occupied territories after 43 years in exile but was under surveillance of the
Moroccan police. co-founder of Karama Sahara, the first Non-governmental organization to include Moroccan human rights activists as honorary members.

Sultana Khaya is a Sahrawi woman human rights defender whose work focuses on promoting the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people.. She is president of the organisation League for the Defense of Human Rights and against Plunder of Natural Resources in Boujdour. In the occupied territories, Sultana Khaya is a prominent figure on the frontline of the Moroccan occupation, participating in demonstrations and advocating for the end of the occupation and denouncing violence against Saharawi women. The woman human rights defender has travelled internationally to participate in conferences and other events relating to the human rights situation in Western Sahara and she has participated in the UN Human Rights Council twice.

Kamal Lfahsi is from Morocco and was born in 1971 in Morocco. He graduated from college in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in biology. At the same time, he became a leader among the National Union of the Students of Morocco. After graduating, Mr Lfahsi joined human rights activities and became the president of a local organization, the National Association of the Unemployed University Graduate in Morocco; later was arrested in 1999 for his role as a president and sentenced to 6 months in prison. 2000 Mr Lfahsi left Morocco to the United States and continued his education later and graduated from the Grove School of Engineering in New York City as environmental engineering. Currently, He is a Field utility Engineer and safety specialist of natural gas pipeline for a government agency in New York. Mr., Lfahsi is among many Moroccans who stands with the Saharawis in their plight of self-determination and a supporter of promoting human rights issues in Western Sahara and Morocco.

Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he served as founding director of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, and a contributing editor of Tikkun.
He is the author of hundreds of articles for scholarly and general readership on Middle Eastern politics, U.S. foreign policy, nonviolent action, and human rights. He is the principal editor of Nonviolent Social Movements (Blackwell Publishers, 1999), the author of the Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism (Common Courage Press, 2003) and co-author (with Jacob Mundy) of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution (Syracuse University Press, 2010).

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