NVI Helps Break Siege in Western Sahara.

Western Sahara Occupation and Efforts to Break the Siege of the Khaya Sisters

For those new to this topic, please scroll down to learn from the many resources below. 

Human rights organizations have recorded widespread detentions, the torture of dissidents, and violent suppression of peaceful protests by Moroccan forces in Western Sahara. In addition to the oppression of peaceful protestors, since November 2020, Moroccan occupation forces have been forcibly confining the Khaya Sisters to their home and the family is facing many forms of abuse, including home invasions, sexual violence and injections of unknown substances. We cannot allow this abuse and violence to continue. We are called to expose these human rights injustices and join together to build peace in Western Sahara. At the invitation of the Khaya family in Boujdour, Western Sahara, US-based volunteers have arrived at their home to protect them from human rights abuses and break the almost 500-day siege of the house imposed by Moroccan occupation forces.

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UCP Volunteer Adrienne Kinne with Sultana Khaya and friends. 

Supported by the Human Rights Action Center (HRAC) and a network of other human rights groups, the international unarmed civilian protection (UCP) volunteers, Ruth McDonough, Adrienne Kinne, and others, are currently guests in the Khaya family home. 

Since November 2020, the Khaya Sisters have been forcibly confined to their home and the family has faced many forms of abuse, including home invasions, sexual violence and injections of unknown substances. The Khaya sisters have been raped by Moroccan security forces in front of their 84-year-old mother. Furthermore, their water has been poisoned, furniture and property destroyed, and electricity cut-off.

Referring to her experience, Sultana Khaya shared, “I am not the first Saharawi woman to be raped by the occupiers. I am simply the first woman to speak publicly about it. I have to expose the reality of the occupation. And I need to pave the way for the next generation of Saharawi women.” 

Sultana Khaya is a Saharawi human rights defender whose work focuses on promoting the right of self-determination for the Saharawi people and ending violence against Saharawi women, through active participation in nonviolent efforts and demonstrations. She serves as the president of the Saharawi League for the Defense of Human Rights and the Protection of Western Sahara’s Natural Resources, and is a member of the Saharawi Commission against the Moroccan occupation (ISACOM). She is a nominee for the Sakharov Prize and winner of the Esther Garcia Award. As an outspoken activist, she has been targeted by the occupying Moroccan forces while engaged in peaceful protests, enduring abductions, beatings, and having one eye gouged out.

According to Ruth McDonough, “Violence against women must stop everywhere. I am here to support Saharawi women who are demanding their rights.” 

Jack Healey, founder of HRAC and former Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA, said, "I insist that the U.S. government stand up for human rights in Western Sahara."

The HRAC visitors call for an end to the rapes, freedom of movement for the Khaya family and all visitors, and an independent international investigation of these human rights abuses. HRAC supports a more detailed list of demands made by the Khaya sisters which include removal of forces and barricades around their house and neighborhood and the remediation of their poisoned water reservoir.

Grounded in international law, Unarmed Civilian Protection is a nonpartisan strategy that revolves around the use of nonviolent methods by civilians to protect other civilians under threat. Such protection is provided on invitation from local actors and supports local agency and infrastructures for peace.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other highly respected investigative groups have documented widespread detentions, the torture of dissidents, and violent suppression of peaceful protests by Moroccan forces in Western Sahara. 

On 1 July 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor, condemned the reprisals against Sultana Khaya and expressed “particular concern about the apparent use of violence and the threat of violence to prevent and obstruct women human rights defenders in their peaceful human rights activities.” 

Morocco invaded the Western Sahara in 1975, and has occupied it since then. The Western Sahara has UN status as the world's last major non-self-governing territory. In 1991, the United Nations promised to hold a referendum for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. To this day, the referendum has not transpired.

Please Take Action 

Sign Our Petition to End the Siege


TAKE ACTION: Make some urgent phone calls!

Support HRAC in their Demands of the Moroccan Forces

    1. We call for and end to the rapes.
    2. We call for the freedom of movement for the Khaya Family and all visitors.
    3. We call for an independent international investigation of these human rights abuses.
    4. Insist that our Break-the-Siege US and International tourists not be attacked and permitted freedom of movement.

Please pick up your phone and speak to someone:

US Citizens:
Moroccan Desk, Joseph Debernardo +1 202 647 1724 

Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya +1 537 637 200


Morocco Citizens and anyone anywhere:

Prime Minister of Morocco:
Aziz Akhannouch
+212 537716168

Europeans and Global Citizens: Please contact your foreign ministry.

Media Release 

March 15, 2022: Tourists Break Moroccan Siege in Western Sahara: U.S. and International Women’s Rights Defenders Invited into Khaya Home Until Rapes Stop

Nonviolence International's History of Nonviolent Action in Western Sahara

(Mubarak Awad & Jonathan Kuttab in Western Sahara in 2015)

NVI has been concerned about Western Sahara for over 3 decades. NVI's co-founders Mubarak Awad and Jonathan Kuttab are some of the few Palestinians and Americans who have gone and done solidarity work with them in the occupied territory.

April 2022: In Nonviolent Strategies and Stories in Israel-Palestine and Western Sahara, Michael Beer and Osama Elewat speak with the Metta Center for Nonviolence on the power of nonviolence.

January 2022: Stephen Zunes writes in Foreign Policy in Focus that President Biden's refusal to reverse President Trump's policy on Western Sahara has dangerous global implications. 

Zunes piece in The Progressive warned that the threat of further Russian aggression against Ukraine was real and noted that the Biden administration is in a weak position to lead an international response.

December 2021: Khaya Family Update

March 2021: Nonviolence International is proud to make connections across boundaries that for far too long we have allowed to divide us. This NVI webinar connects those resisting occupation from Palestine to Western Sahara. We believe in the power of active nonviolence and offer this conversation as a way to celebrate brave nonviolent leaders and our shared use of creative Nonviolent Tactics and Training to make us even more impactful. 

(Video above shows Sultana Khaya - while under heavy surveillance - joining our webinar through Salka Barca. Note the 22-minute mark, at which Sultana Khaya dramatically confronts those who besiege her house.)

CNN featured Sultana Khaya’s powerful op-ed on a difficult topic that rarely gets the attention it deserves (Morocco: Western Sahara Activist Raped)

November 2020: NVI's Director, Michael Beer co-wrote this piece calling for an End to the Conflict in Western Sahara) and encouraging the US Government to change it policies towards Western Sahara. 

Nonviolence International supports international law and opposes the unlawful and violent occupations of its neighbors by Israel, Morocco and Russia.

July 2020:  Nonviolence International's statement on annexation

Resources on Western Sahara

Dr. Maria J. Stephan and Jacob Mundy. 

War Resisters International’s January 2021

Statement in the Face of War and Western Sahara Country Profile

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's nine minute video on Western Sahara

Democracy Now's hour long documentary: Four Days in Occupied Western Sahara: Africa's Last Colony. 


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