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. 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

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.  

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


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