Nonviolent Resistance in/for Western Sahara

Nonviolent Resistance to the Occupation and Annexation of Western Sahara by Morocco

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

NVI supports a coalition of groups called Just Visit Western Sahara. Our mission is to support human rights and self-determination of the Sahrawi people and to support the international tourists to visit the has long supported Sahrawis who continue to resist the occupation and annexation of Western Sahara by Morocco. Invaded by Morocco in 1975 (with strong support from the USA), resistance has been armed and nonviolent. NVI supports nonviolent resistance and an end to the Moroccan occupation.  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.

In recent years, nonviolent resistance has been led substantially by Sahrawi women including the Khaya Sisters. In 2022, NVI in conjunction with other groups, intervened in the siege of the Khaya Sisters At the invitation of the Khaya family in Boujdour, Western Sahara, US-based volunteers 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. Sultana Khaya was escorted to Spain by our team on Jun 3rd, 2022 to obtain medical care.

In June of 2023, Wynd Kaufman and Adrienne Kenney who were participants in the intervention to save the Khaya family, spoke powerfully of their experiences of the Saharawi people and Moroccan illegal occupation at the UN Special Committee on Decolonization. Please these 4 minutes videos and read more below the Saharawi people.

Here is Wynd Kaufman's testimony!

Here is Adrienne Kinne's testimony


September 2023 Waari Khaya and Sahrawi Women Protest During UN Visit. 

"Sahawaris peacefully demonstrated in the capital city of El-Aaiún in response to the arrival of the United Nations Special Envoy to Western Sahara, Staffan de Mistura."

Nonviolent resistance to occupation and annexation continues. The media release is here and the results of her beating by Moroccan authorities are shown below.

 


Sultana Khaya is touring the world speaking out against Moroccan occupation and abuses. 

On February 7th, 2023, Sultana Khaya spoke to the European Parliament about her experience in the aftermath of a scandal in which massive Moroccan corruption of the European Parliament led to failure to win the Sakharov Prize.

In December, the Vice President of Parliament, Eva Kaili as well as other key figures were arrested in conjunction with allegations that they recieved money in exchange for favorable actions for Qatar and Morocco.  " The Italian newspaper "Il fatto quotidiano", quoting investigators from the federal prosecutor's office in Brussels, indicated that the interference of the Moroccan regime would not have been limited to influencing the decisions of the European Parliament concerning Morocco, but would also have been focused on the "appointment of members of Eurochamber committees that dealt with sensitive issues for the Maghreb country", including that of 'candidates for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought'.  See here for the full article. https://www.spsrasd.info/news/en/articles/2022/12/24/43391.html For more information on the scandal, watch the Democracy Now Interview


The Siege of the Khaya Sisters in 2021 and 2022.

A report with photos can be found here.

US-Based Volunteer Adrienne Kinne interrupting the siege with Sultana Khaya and friends. 

Supported by the Human Rights Action Center (HRAC), NVI and a network of other human rights groups, the international unarmed civilian protection (UCP) volunteers, Ruth McDonough, Adrienne Kinne, Merwyn De Mello and Tim Pluth visited the Sultana family.

Since November 2020, the Khaya Sisters had 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.

The US-based visitors called 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.

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.” 


Nonviolence International's History of Nonviolent Action in Western Sahara

NVI has been worked to support nonviolent resistance to Moroccan occupation since 1991.

September 2022, NVI launches an online pledge calling on everyone to support nonviolent resistance to all occupations and forcible annexations, whether they be in Western Sahara, Golan Heights, Greater Jerusalem, or Ukraine.

June 2022, Sultana Khaya is escorted to Spain for medical care.

May 2022, A 2nd delegation of US based visitors to the Khaya family were kidnapped by unknown Moroccans and deported from Western Sahara.

May 2022. Moroccan authorities repeatedly smash the Khaya residence with a massive truck to kill all of its residents and US guests.

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.

March 2022: NVI in conjunction with other NGOs, organized a team of US based activists to visit the Khaya Sisters and break the almost 500 day siege.

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

 

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

2015, 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.

2014, Jonathan Kuttab visits Western Sahara to speak about nonviolent resistance to occupation, human rights, and international law.

2005, NVI invites a Sahrawi representative to speak in Bethlehem at the World Conference on Nonviolent Resistance.

1991-2013, NVI is one of the only organizations to lead protests in Washington DC against Moroccan occupation and abuse in Western Sahara.

 


Resources on Western Sahara

A BATTLEFIELD TRANSFORMED: FROM GUERILLA RESISTANCE TO MASS NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE IN THE 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. 



An 2022 update on the Geo-politics of Western Sahara, by Jacob Mundy.

https://theconversation.com/unpacking-the-power-plays-over-western-sahara-186675  

Donate to support NVI's ongoing efforts to promote nonviolence in Western Sahara here.

 

Latest posts

Kenyan Finance Bill Protests

 

As I lay in bed on the night of June 12th, 2024, scrolling through X, I stumbled upon a tweet by a user named Amerix. The tweet sharply criticized the government for the taxes it was already imposing on citizens. Being new to the job market, I felt an immediate connection to the sentiment and liked the tweet, resonating with its frustration. Little did I know that this single tweet by Amerix would mark the beginning of a revolution led by the Kenyan youth.

In the days that followed, Amerix flooded X with tweets that further fanned the flames of discontent. He posted phone numbers of various Members of Parliament, urging Kenyans to call and text them, demanding they reject the Finance Bill 2024. Though I had heard about the bill in passing, I hadn't paid much attention to it until now. The leak of the MPs' phone numbers piqued my curiosity, driving me to learn more about the bill that was causing such an uproar.

Knowing the struggle of coping with the existing taxes and being new to the workforce, I understood that Finance Bill 2024 would add even more burden and this pushed me to take immediate action. I searched for a copy of the bill and read it, determined to understand the full extent of its implications. Unfortunately, I realized that the window for public comment had already closed on June 10th at 5 pm.

Nevertheless, my curiosity had been sparked, and I knew I couldn't ignore the issue. This was no longer just a series of tweets; it was the beginning of a movement, and I found myself swept up in its momentum.

Users of X began posting their respective MPs' responses to texts urging them to reject the bill. As expected, most responses dismissed our concerns with condescension. This sparked a deep frustration within me. "Who do these MPs think they are?" I asked myself. The anger bubbling inside me fueled my determination. "I will show them," I resolved.

Without hesitation, I searched for my MP's phone number and sent a text, voicing my opposition to Finance Bill 2024. I gathered phone numbers of other MPs, texting them as well, pretending to be a member of their constituencies. Each message was a small act of defiance, a way to make my voice and the voices of many other heard.

The feeling of taking action, even in such a small way, was empowering. It wasn't just about a single bill anymore; it was about standing up to a system that seemed to have forgotten the people it was supposed to represent and serve. And so, with each text, I felt a growing sense of solidarity with my fellow Kenyans. The arrogance that came with some of the MPs' responses led to a turning point. On the evening of June 16th, 2024, an X user tweeted, "Why can't we all show up in town on the 18th of June and have a peaceful protest so that these MPs see we mean business in rejecting this bill?" The tweet resonated deeply, garnering countless impressions and agreement from others. Soon, the idea of a peaceful protest took on a life of its own.

What began as a single suggestion quickly became a movement. The X timeline was soon flooded with posters detailing the peaceful demonstration. Users tweeted about dress codes, meet-up points, and volunteered to print T-shirts with messages rejecting the bill. Others offered to create placards and distribute water. As I watched these plans unfold, a realization hit me: "Holy shit! It's actually happening. People are actually angry enough to take to the streets." Despite this, I told myself I would wait until the protest day to see if people were truly as fired up as they seemed online.

Like wildfire, the call for protest spread across other social media platforms. A day before the scheduled protest, content about the Finance Bill and the upcoming demonstration was shared to millions of people. The momentum was unstoppable, and it was clear that this might be more than just an online outcry—it was a collective movement ready to take to the streets. What I did not know was that this first demonstration would spark a string of demonstrations that would bring about fear, joy and sadness collectively to many in the country. 

I remember waking up at 8:10 am on that fateful Tuesday. I hurriedly said my morning prayers, asking God for protection for everyone going to the protest. I grabbed my phone and opened the X app, shouting to my mom in the other room, “I am off chicken duty today!” My timeline was flooded with tweets about people heading to town and amplifying the #RejectFinanceBill2024 hashtag with content related to the finance bill.

True to what had been discussed online, protesters carried banners, wore black shirts with messages rejecting the finance bill, and had vuvuzelas, water, and whistles, all while exercising peaceful protesting. The protest was soon dubbed the “Gen Z” protest.

As people started gathering in the Central Business District, the police began arresting anyone who had carried banners or had worn a black shirt with the #RejectFinanceBill slogan on it. These events were broadcast live on TV and shared across social media. Yet, the more people were arrested, the more determined they became to show up for the protest. "Because I did not borrow permission from work, I will just become a keyboard warrior today, but the Thursday demonstration I must attend," I told myself. I continued to follow the protest’s progress on various platforms, tweeting about the protest and its main agenda on my X account.

The scale and nonviolent discipline of the protests may mark a change in Kenya's history of demonstrations. The turnout of that first protest motivated many to come out for the next one on Thursday, June 20th. As I woke up on that fateful Thursday of the protest I told myself "I am doing this for my dad and many more who cannot afford cancer treatment," as I got out of bed. After my usual morning routine, I left for the CBD, coordinating with my friend who was also attending the protest. Upon arrival, the air was filled with a tingling smell that made me sneeze. I alighted the bus and saw a crowd gathering, so I joined them while waiting for my friend. The crowd was fiery, charged, and invigorated, ready for the day. My friend arrived within 20 minutes, and the running began.

We marched towards the police officers, chanting “We come in peace,” trying to head towards Parliament. Each advance was met with tear gas, scattering us in different directions. After the effects of the gas subsided, we regrouped and tried again. I remember one protestor telling a police officer, “We are here not only to fight for our rights but also yours. You are one of the civil servants who take home the lowest of salaries, and you still defend this government that pays you peanuts by tear-gassing us.” 

Despite our repeated attempts, we couldn't reach Parliament, but our spirits remained unbroken. We even helped police who thirsted for water and conversed with them, an act never seen before in Kenya. We gathered along Kenyatta Avenue, awaiting the first vote on the bill. Protesters followed the live proceedings from Parliament, hoping their presence would influence their MPs. When a protester announced, “Guys, the vote was 204-Yes and 115-No,” my heart sank. I felt despair. "All this for nothing," I thought. However, as I scrolled through X, I learned that the bill could still be rejected in the second reading, restoring a bit of hope.

The bill passing the first reading did not kill our spirit. Protesters decided to party in the streets, singing and dancing before going home. Little did we know that night would see a mother and father robbed of their son, marking the beginning of protestors getting killed. Rex Maasai was the young man that was shot dead by the police and when I got home I got to learn about this sad news. The video of his shooting spread across social media platforms, igniting further outrage

The days following the protest were marked by demands for accountability from the government regarding Rex Maasai's death. This incident galvanized even larger numbers to come out on Tuesday, June 25th, a day now petitioned to be named Mashujaa Day. Close to 30 people lost their lives on this day alone, shocking the nation. Parliament was accessed by citizens, a section burned, the mace (symbol of power) stolen, snipers deployed, and protests erupted in 35 out of 47 counties. What made the situation escalate to this point is because unethical politicians hired goons to pose as protesters who smeared the reputation of the peaceful protest and caused chaos. These hired goons looted, destroyed property and caused havoc jeopardizing the demonstration's main goal which was peaceful protesting. Even with all these happenings, the MPs still decided to pass the bill during the second reading.

One remarkable event was when a group of protesters entering Parliament, saw a differently-abled MP who had voted yes and was trying to flee the chaos, helped the MP by carrying him across the street to safety. This act of kindness amplified our peaceful mantra, yet the police remained violently relentless. Many went home injured and disappointed by the government's response. That evening the president had a brief address where he announced that he was not going to sign the Finance Bill into law and that he would return it back to parliament. Even with the Finance bill being brought back to parliament, people still decided to protest on Thursday. The protest was characterized by the same brutality as seen on Tuesday.

The president's addresses to the youth and the nation have only alienated him further from the people who once supported him. Each address shows he still isn't fully listening to the youth. As I write this, Kenyan youth have vowed to protest every Tuesday and Thursday with a new agenda and the hashtag #RutoMustGo, demanding accountability for police brutality, auditing the national debt, tackling corruption, and most importantly, the president's resignation. Citizens are demanding his resignation due to his failure to uphold the Kenyan Constitution, particularly the right to demonstrate and picket. They accuse him of deploying the police force against peaceful protesters. But the big question remains: will the peaceful protests be free of police brutality as the president has promised?

In conclusion, there has been a historical shift in protests in Kenya. A country once characterized by violent demonstrations, marked by stone-throwing and tire-burning, has seen a new dawn ushered in by Gen Z. This new generation of activists, armed not with weapons but with phones, water bottles, and hearts full of dreams and aspirations for a better Kenya, has embraced non-violence as their strategy. Civil disobedience has been portrayed in a planned and methodical approach. The non-violence approach in the protests has showcased the power of solidarity and peaceful resistance. Personally, the demonstrations have reinforced the teaching of how powerful social media can be and the impact it has if used correctly. Kenyan youth have also learned and are still learning the power of civic engagement and collective action. The demonstrations have proven that active participation in democracy goes beyond voting and that more civic actions need to be done post-voting.

Kuttab Brothers Debate the Future of Palestine

Kuttab Brothers Debate the Future of Palestine:

Where are We Now and Where are We Going?

Webinar Transcript

The situation in Palestine is becoming increasingly dire. Daily ferocious and deadly attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue, alongside the blockade of humanitarian aid and medical care for those most in need. In the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ongoing violence from settlers and the Israeli army against Palestinians persists, including harming civilians, land confiscation, and destruction of property. In Israel (1948 territories), Palestinians are facing unprecedented levels of discrimination and violence. 

Public declarations and positions by Israeli officials are undermining efforts not only for a ceasefire but also for a genuine and viable solution that ensures peace and security for all residents of the region. Subjugating the Palestinians seems to be the only solution offered by these politicians and there seems to be wide support for them.

Additionally, many experts warn that the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, rendering it even more powerless than before to provide for its population and protect it from these relentless attacks and violations, even in statements of condemnation.

The ongoing struggle has left many around the world with questions about the future of Palestine and the nonviolence resistance movement.

The Crucial Questions:

  • Where is the Palestinian movement for liberation standing now?
  • What is the future of the Palestinian political leadership?
  • Is there any viable solution to the occupation and what does it look like?

Watch the recording to answer these questions and many more are two brothers who have dedicated their lives to Palestinian liberation and peace.

Featured Speakers:

Jonathan Kuttab: Jonathan Kuttab is a leading human rights lawyer. In 1979, he co-founded Al Haq, the first international human rights legal organization in Palestine. Later, he co-founded the Palestinian Center for the Study of Non-Violence (now Nonviolence International) and also founded the Mandela Institute for Prisoners. Jonathan is a Palestinian Christian, past chair of the Bethlehem Bible College, and serves on the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Center in Jerusalem. Jonathan was part of the 1994 legal team for the Cairo agreement that resulted in the Oslo II Accord. He was a visiting scholar at Osgoode Law School at York University in Toronto in the Fall of 2017 and is a founding director of Just Peace Advocates Mouvement pour une Paix Juste, a Canadian-based international law human rights not-for-profit. Jonathan is a resident of East Jerusalem and a partner of the Kuttab, Khoury, and Hanna Law Firm in East Jerusalem.


Daoud Kuttab: Daoud Kuttab is a Palestinian journalist and media activist. He is the former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Daoud Kuttab is currently the director general of Community Media Network (CMN), a not-for-profit media organization dedicated to advancing independent media in the Arab region. CMN is registered in Jordan and Palestine and administers Radio al Balad in Amman and ammannet.net. He is a regular columnist on Palestinian issues with Al-Monitor, Arab News, and writes frequently in the Washington Post, LA Times, Al Jazeera, New Arab, Newsweek, The New Republic, and other publications.

Born in Jerusalem in 1955, Daoud studied in the United States and has worked in journalism since 1980. He has received several international awards, among them: the CPJ Freedom of Expression Award, the IPI World Press Freedom Hero, the PEN Club USA Writing Freedom Award, the Leipzig Courage in Freedom Award, the Next Foundation Peace in Journalism Award, and the Japanese Peace Award for producing Shara'a Simsim, the Palestinian version of Sesame Street.

Watch the recording for an insightful and compelling discussion on the current state and future of the Palestinian movement, political leadership, and the quest for a viable solution to the occupation.

Watch the Recording Here

Nonviolence Advocate Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Dies.
                                   Photo Credit: Thai PBS WORLD

Renowned advocate and scholar of nonviolence and peace,  Chaiwat Satha-Anand has died of cancer at the age of 69 on June 27th, 2024.

Chaiwat was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1955. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Hawai'i and created a legacy of nonviolence theory and activism. Chaiwat was a professor of political science at Thammasat University and served as the director of the Thai Peace Information Centre. 

He was an expert on nonviolence theories and activism, and the overlap between these theories and Islam. For several years he directed the International Peace Research Association’s (IPRA) commission on nonviolence and also served on the Scientific Committee of the International University for Peoples’ Initiative for Peace (IUPIP).

In 2003, he was nominated to lead efforts to reduce violence in Thailand, serving as a member of the National Reconciliation Commission, and was the lead author of the final report to the Thai government. In 2012, Chaiwat was selected by Nonviolence International as the winner of the El-Hibri Peace Education Prize. 

After decades of leading nonviolent actions and educating others, Chaiwat succumbed to his illness. His legacy will undoubtedly live on through his students, and his many published works including “Non-killing Security and the State.”

A ceremony for those who wish to pay their respects to Chaiwat was held at the Maroon Mosque in Bang Rak district of Bangkok on June 27th,2024. His funeral took place on the morning of June 28th, 2024. 

One of his most notable works, The Nonviolent Crescent: Eight Theses on Muslim Nonviolent Actions can be found here.

Direct Action by Solidarity Activists to Break the Siege

 

https://youtube.com/shorts/yD8V3kn-UKE?si=bGj0edTBl51e5Fst

 

 As we witness the daily horrific attacks against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, we also see the global movement calling for a ceasefire and an end to Israeli genocide grow with protests taking place across every major city in the world today. Taking this activism a step further, many are also engaged in direct action to break the siege of Gaza that has lasted for over 17 years and intensified in the last 8 months. People that are ready to put their lives on the line to save others. These people represent us, the global nonviolence movement, coming together from different parts of the world and from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.These are the ones who said, in the face of the impossible, we want to do something.

This will be hosted by Sami Awad. Our impressive speakers updated us and answered our questions!

Freedom Flotilla-Ann Wright

Rabbis for a Ceasefire- Ilana Sumka

Host- Co-Director of Nonviolence International, Sami Awad


Watch the Recording Here!

Share this page

Take action

Join Our Growing Global Movement!
Get in Touch
Donate to NVI or our partners

Sign up for updates