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Ali Salem Tamek - Testimony

Ali Salem Tamek - Testimony

 Trigger warning: Sexual violence

My mother hated hunger strikes because it was a direct path to death.

My name is Ali Salem Tamek, 49 years old, a Saharawi human rights defender, trade union and political and civic activist. I have been involved in peaceful activism since the age of 16 for objective and subjective reasons :The objective one is related to the evolution of the Saharawi struggle for liberation and the increasing number of the crimes committed by the Moroccan military occupation against Saharawi civilians in Western Sahara.As for the subjective reason, it is embodied in the assassination of my uncle, Lahcen Tamek*, who is considered by all Saharawi as the martyr of the Student Movement, and the kidnapping of another uncle by the Moroccan secret services on the same day of May 21, 1977 in Rabat. In addition, some members of my family were imprisoned while others joined the refugee camps in Tindouf city in the south-west of Algeria.’’Along my activism journey, I was subjected to kidnapping and arrests six times by the Moroccan occupation forces’’ :

• From 1993 to 1994   
• In 1996   
• Between 1997 and 1998   
• From 2002 to 2004   
• From 2005 to 2006   
• From 2009 to 2011In 2011, I was also subjected to legal proceedings by the Moroccan occupation after being tried with a group of Saharawi human rights defenders, then temporarily released without a verdict, which is considered, in legal norms, a suspended arrest .

*  A report on the follow-up to the implementation of the recommendations of the Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation  Commission. Annex 1, Enforced Disappearances issued in December 2010.During the periods of my kidnappings and arrests, I was often subjected to many forms of physical and psychological torture, and all my trials took place in civilian and military courts, outside the territory of Western Sahara with the exception of one trial in 2005 in Laâyoune / Western Sahara. As a result, many international and Moroccan well-known human rights organizations have supported my case as a Saharawi human rights defender and political prisoner, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Front Line, and AMDH since 2002. These organizations have conducted international campaigns under the title : ’’Freedom for the Prisoner of Conscience, Ali Salem Tamek’’ which have been supported by other governmental and non-governmental foundations around the world. And on October 27th, 2005, the European Parliament issued a resolution requesting my release as well as that of other Saharawi political prisoners (group 37) .

My activism journey started at a very young age. I was engaged, fought and assumed leadership responsibilities in Saharawi and credible Moroccan trade union and human rights organizations. In the nineties of the last century, I also followed up on the situation of Saharawi political prisoners by attending their trials or visiting them in Moroccan prisons.I also visited the Saharawi captives (group 66), who were released under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1996 in Agadir/Morocco.

Additionally, I followed up on the situation of kidnapped missing persons and contributed to the formation of a preparatory committee for the unaccounted Saharawi disappeared.Additionally, I was one of the founders of the human rights organizations ’’Truth and Equity Forum / Sahara Branch in 2000’’ (FVJ) and ’’the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders ’’ CODESA in 2002 in Laâyoune / Western Sahara .I also participated in the formation of several human rights, trade union, information and cultural organizations and commissions in Western Sahara. Moreover, I took part in conferences and trade union and human rights activities on a local, regional and international level, and awareness campaigns on the human rights situation in Western Sahara.Finally, I was also a member of local, regional and international organizations and coordination commissions, including "the international NGO FRONT LINE, of which I have been its coordinator in Western Sahara since 2004. And in this capacity, I have obtained international awards relating to human rights.’’Crimes of Prevention, Rape, and Defamation’’By acting in the field of human rights, and participating in publicizing the crimes committed by the Moroccan occupier against Saharawi civilians, alongside with other human rights defenders, my family and I have been subjected so many times to several most egregious abuses, some of which are :   

• I was deprived of my passport for 12 years and obtained it only after an international campaign, a demonstration organized by people in solidarity with my cause in the town of Assa on October 25, 2004, and after threatening to engage in an open hunger strike*.   
• My ex-wife, a simple housewife without any political knowledge, was subjected to a crime of mass and brutal rape in Agadir / Morocco by a group of five agents of the Moroccan (DST) secret services in front of my daughter, Thawra Tamek, who was three years old at the time. This crime was committed right after my first direct interview with the Saharawi national radio of the Polisario Front from inside the prison of Salé / Morocco.
* See the European Parliament's correspondence to the Moroccan authorities dated October 29, 2004. According to her own testimony given to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, and other news websites, they urinated on her while raping her as revenge for failing to lure her into spying on me. Because of that, she was and is still subjected to medical follow-up and psychological treatment in Spain.The famous Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet wrote in El Mundo (June 27, 2005) :“Aicha Chafaâ is the wife of Ali Ali Salem Tamek, the famous trade unionist and active member of the Polisario Front in Morocco, the symbol of the Saharawi patriots clinging to independence. Tamek is a headache for the Moroccan Ministry of the Interior, which has tried hard, using all its means to buy and silence him, or question his credibility.  During the past weeks, the official news agency “MAP” in Madrid sent to Rabat a clip accusing him of resorting in his statements to the method of terrorism “.Lmrabet continued, “We know that this news is nothing, but a lie aimed at giving the official Moroccan press the green light to attack the young Saharawi, who was previously threatened with death.

And, the Moroccan regime's interest in this man of short stature and strong convictions, who was repeatedly imprisoned because of his ideas, can be measured by the unofficial meeting that took place in 2004 between officials of the Moroccan press and Fouad Ali Elhimma*, Minister Delegate for the Interior, accompanied by Tayyib Fassi Fihri* Minister for Foreign Affairs, where the two affirm that Tamek represents a big problem for the Kingdom of Morocco, and that contact with him causes conflagration, and this is exactly what happened to Aicha”* Fouad Ali Elhimma: born on 06 December 1962 former minister delegate to the interior; and has worked as an advisor to the king of Morocco 2012.* Taieb fassi fihri: born on 09 april 1958. He worked as minister of state for foreign affairs and Moroccan cooperation form 1993 to 2011. When he was appointed as an advisor to the king of morocco since 2012.   
• My current wife was also arrested from a hotel room in Rabat / Morocco on November 14th, 2013 as a way of intimidation and punishment, and it is possible that the Moroccan occupation intelligence has planted secret recording and filming machines in the room as per their usual practice in dealing with Moroccan opponents or those who have a contrary opinion of the Moroccan occupier in relation to the Western Sahara issue. As a result of this incident, the Moroccan press launched a campaign against my wife, targeting her honour and falsely accusing her of “marital infidelity” * in a cheap attempt to exploit the nature of the conservative Saharawi society where it can lead to social isolation, and a method of pressure and character assassination.In order to stop and limit my struggle and human rights activities the Moroccan occupier adopted another scenario of punishment, which is the decision to put me in a mental and psychiatric hospital in the city of Inezgane / Morocco following my kidnapping from Laâyoune prison / Western Sahara on August 1st, 2005.  It also adopted the method of defamation and abuse of my family in the majority of the Moroccan press, putting pressure on my father and uncles, whom they forced to sign against me and repudiate me, with the justification that I disobeyed the family’s rules (the issue was published by the Moroccan press in 2005).* Kamal Karroua ; Tamek's wife released after being arrested in the arms of a "Sahrawi fighter" ; website Heba Press ; 16 november 2013.

This systematic punishment extended to preventing me from entering Western Sahara on July 24th 2006, and from continuing my studies at Moroccan universities. In order to retrieve my right to education, which was confiscated since 2007, I went on a sit-in and an open hunger strike that lasted for 09 days in the city of Assa, which was interspersed with demonstrations and peaceful solidarity movements. However, the Moroccan occupier refused that and continued its policy of discrimination against me by confiscating my right to higher education and by slandering me in the Moroccan press by stating that I should go to Tindouf to pursue university studies. As a result, all these tools of oppression, torture and suffering had profound psychological and health effects on my personal and family life and caused chronic sleep disturbances.’’The Crime of Arresting my Minor Son and Assaulting his Mother’’In this regard, I would like to inform you about a very serious incident related to my son, Obbi Tamek, a seven years old child, who was arrested in the night of May 03th 2022 in Skikima Street in Laâyoune/ Western Sahara by the Moroccan occupation police, accompanied by his relative Jamila Mujahid, the Saharawi human rights defender,  and a member of the Organization of the Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders Association in Western Sahara (CODESA).

It should be noted here that because of this incident, Mujahid is currently in a state of temporary release by the Moroccan occupation judiciary, and her court session, which was postponed for the fourth time, will be held in Laâyoune on October 31, 2022.My son was put in a police vehicle in a situation of panic and extreme fear, and his mother, the Saharawi human rights defender Al-Khalifa Al-Raguibi, was violently abused and assaulted when she tried to rescue him.By the way, my wife Al-Khalifa Raguibi has already been the object of physical and verbal aggression during her participation in peaceful demonstrations demanding self-determination for the Saharawi people. Afterwards, his mother transferred him to ’’Al-Hassan Belmahdi’’ Hospital in Laâyoune / Western Sahara, where he was deliberately neglected, and did not receive any significant examinations, which would have been warranted given the seriousness of what happened to him.The administration of the hospital, by order of the Moroccan occupation intelligence, refused to treat him and to give him any medical certificate regarding his psychosomatic state. Since that time, he has suffered from poor psychological and health conditions, and he suffers from   involuntary urination, sleep disorders, panic attacks and nightmares that cause him psychological, physical and educational complications, as a student in the first section of primary school.In the same context, the house I rented in Laâyoune was attacked by stone-throwing from the Moroccan occupation forces on November 27th, 2020 while my son,Obbi Tamek, was celebrating his fifth birthday in the presence of his family members.

Moreover, my wife and members of my family were exposed to sexual harassment and threats, and my son lived through the repercussions of that intimidation and an attempt to raid and break into my house by force. After that I was summoned by the Moroccan occupation judiciary in Laâyoune, and a lawsuit was drafted about the incident without opening any investigation into the attack and punishing the culprits.It is also worth noting that I was fired from my work because of my opinion and my human rights and trade union activities on June 1st, 2002. Before that, I was forcibly expelled as a student in 1992 to the city of Tiznit / Morocco because I was representing the Student Union movement in the city of Assa at the time, and in 2002 I was expelled as an employee from the city of Assa to the city of Meknes El Menzah / Morocco.I also support a family consisting of my wife and two children without any financial resources for more than 20 years as a result of the Moroccan occupation authorities’ revenge for my human rights and trade union activities.’’Deprived of my Daughter, a Political Refugee in Spain’’My 22-year-old daughter, Al-Thawra, was forced to seek political asylum in Spain in 2004, accompanied by her mother, and they have not yet obtained Spanish citizenship, nor have they been able to visit Western Sahara since that time. In addition, I find many difficulties communicating with her because of the Spanish language barrier as she speaks only Spanish. My daughter suffers also from psychological problems as a result of alienation and forced distance from family.Moreover, my daughter Al-Thawra was prohibited by the Moroccan occupation from registering in the civil status with her real name ’’Al-Thawra’’, which means “revolution”, by a judicial decision issued by the Court of First Instance in the city of Guelmim in 2001.Also, when I tried to visit her after years of interruption by obtaining a visa to go to Spain or Europe, which I have been traveling to since 2004, some European consulates in Morocco didn't take any humanitarian considerations as they granted me visas for only short period of time that would not allow to spend enough time with my daughter. This is without mentioning the financial and technical difficulties I encountered to obtain visas.In regard to my state of health, it is deteriorating by the day because of the conditions of abduction, kidnapping, detention, torture and the nature of the prisons I passed through. Most of these prisons are a sort of mass graves, where my fellow political prisoners and I endured hunger, torture, overcrowding, and insects such as bugs, lice and others, not to mention contagious diseases, and skin diseases, and deprivation of all rights.While I was in prison, I had issued in 2003 a detailed report on the civil prison in Inezgane / Morocco * , which is one of the darkest and most dangerous prisons where the most basic rights of prisoners are violated.’’The Consequences of 31 Hunger Strikes’’Under these circumstances, I was forced to go on 31 hunger strikes inside and outside Moroccan prisons; the longest one lasted 52 days. I remember vividly each time when I was taken to hospitals due to the deterioration of my health as a result of the hunger strikes.

And because of the injection they gave me, I got vitiligo spots on my right hand and on my lips. Indeed, the Moroccan prison administration were deliberately pushing us to a slow death by forcing us to go on hunger strikes to secure the very basic rights, and through that, draining and exhausting physical and mental capabilities. If when we leave prison, we would be in a state of health that would prevent us from continuing our struggle.*  Al-Ayyam Weekly Moroccan Newspaper, Issue 75, issued on February 27 - March 5, 2003, p. 15.

In this context, I'm still suffering from the consequences of incarceration and hunger strikes and from a lot of chronic diseases, such as asthma, stomach intestines and skin diseases, allergies, rheumatism, hemorrhoids and urinary problems. This resulted in me undergoing two surgeries. The last one was at the public hospital of Geulimim. Because of this surgery, I was subjected to a campaign of defamation and discrimination in the Moroccan press against my legitimate right to medical treatment. In addition to my medical condition, I suffer from nightmares and severe insomnia that require medical follow-up and high costs of treatment that I cannot afford.My mother was deeply affected by my recurring hunger strikes. And despite the cruelty, brutality and horror of what I was exposed to in police investigation stations, prisons, and outside, my mother kept telling me with pain that ’’the hunger strike is the thing [she] hate [s] most because it is a direct path to death’’.I am also constantly subjected to harassment, surveillance and persecution in cities, airports, and police checkpoints during my travels, and the people I meet are also threatened and intimidated. Moreover, my house in Laâyoune/Western Sahara was besieged and secretly monitored by the Moroccan occupation, not to mention the constant terror I live in. Also, the Moroccan press describes me with incendiary and hateful descriptions, such as: - ’’The separatist Ali Salem Tamek, Enemy No. 01’’.- ’’Should Tamek be deported to Tindouf’’ *-’’The spy who returned to us from Algeria’’.-"What is the truth about Tamek’s relations with the Moroccan intelligence?” “Sahrawi ... etc.” *.- Tamek: the biography of a traitor.-"The Release of Tamek’s Wife after her Arrest in the Arms of a Saharawi man…’’*And all these descriptions are considered a direct incitement to assassinate me and that was exactly what I was subjected to in January 2003 in Sale Prison/ Morocco when a common law prisoner tried to stab me with a knife.In fact, my wife, son, daughter and I are threatened and exposed to permanent danger as we live with the specter of imprisonment, punishment and revenge constantly and in multiple forms.It is not surprising that the Moroccan occupation forces could fabricate any accusation against me in order to get rid of me because of my civil activism and my adherence and commitment to human rights in Western Sahara and the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and because of my activity in CODESA. As a matter of fact, the majority of CODESA activists are always exposed to kidnapping, detention, torture, illegal political trials, dismissal from work, espionage using the Pegasus spyware, and various humiliating and degrading practices.

*  L’espion qui nous revient d’Alger ; couverture du magazine marocain maroc Hebdo ; n 857 ; du 16 au 22 octobre 2009 .* What is the truth about Tamek’s relations with the Moroccan intelligence?” ; The Moroccan weekly newspaper, Al-Mustaqbal, No. 831, 22-28 April 2005* Kamal Karroua ; The Release of Tamek’s Wife after her Arrest in the Arms of a Sahrawi man; website  hibapress ; N 831 ; 22-28 April 2005

’’Traitor Suspended’’The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued on July 28th, 2022, under the title: “Fic fic” (we will get you no matter what you do), confirmed that the Moroccan occupation is capable of employing all disguised and twisted political scenarios and tactics to eliminate Saharawi human rights defenders and political activists.  Here, I would recall that after my abduction  alongside a group of Saharawi human rights defenders on October 08th 2009, following our first visit to the Saharawi refugee camps west of Tindouf/Algeria, we were prosecuted before the Military Court in Rabat/Morocco for “High Treason” .A few days later, in the speech of the Moroccan King delivered  on November 06th, 2009, and in order to legitimize the systematic punitive policy of the Moroccan occupation against the Saharawi civilians who are peacefully demanding the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and  respect for human rights in the Western Sahara, he said: "...Either the citizen is Moroccan or non-Moroccan...Either the person is a patriot or a traitor, as there is no middle ground between patriotism and treason. There is no room for enjoying the rights of citizenship, and denying them, by conspiring with the enemies of the homeland... " This proves that the repression and revenge of the Moroccan occupation against Saharawi civilians in general and human rights defenders in particular, are systematic and without limits, disregarding all legal and moral considerations.

 Epilogue :Overall, the aim of making public some of the atrocious crimes that my family and I have been subjected to is an appeal to people with real conscience, to those individuals who are interested in human rights and to all human rights organizations in the world in order to protect me and my family and preserve my dignity as a human rights defender and activist in Western Sahara. I would also like to have, along with the group of human rights defenders, political prisoners, journalists who defend the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination, a decent and dignified life and enjoy all our rights guaranteed by the international human rights conventions.After the publication of this testimony, the Moroccan occupation and its followers, and the octopus of its political, media and other relations, as usual, will carry out smear campaigns to take revenge. It will probably be manipulating my relatives as it did previously not only to deter me and attempt to silence my voice, but to intimidate all Saharawi human rights defenders and victims of the Moroccan occupation’s repression, Saharawi civilians and their families who wish or try to speak up and disclose what they have been exposed to. Although these daily and multiple incidents of attacks against individuals seem isolated, they are in fact part of an integrated repressive system.Finally, I am very grateful to those who have contributed to giving me the possibility to enjoy my partial freedom on several occasions and who have helped to reveal a part of my suffering and the suffering of my people.

“The choice to defend the values ​​of human rights and the freedom of the Saharawi people is a choice that takes its toll, but it is a guarantee to protect the future and the dignity of future generations.”* Ali Salem Tamek                                 

Ali Salem TamekMember of the Executive Office of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara CODESA.Ali Salem Tamek‘s Email Address

Mahjoub Malihaelmahjoub.maliha@gmail.comChairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara CODESA 

General email

31 October 2022 El Aaiún, Western SaharaCODESA 2022©