An imprisoned Sahrawi independence advocate in Morocco began a hunger strike protesting poor conditions Wednesday.
During his imprisonment Sidi Bouamud has faced discrimination based on his Sahrawi ethnicity and has been denied access to medical care, according to activists. Sidi is one of a handful of high profile Sahrawi activists in Moroccan prisons. The Sahrawi are the indigenous people of Western Sahara, a territory which claimed independence, despite being annexed by Morocco following Spain’s withdrawal in 1975. Activists have long accused Moroccan authorities of widespread human rights violations in occupied Western Sahara, including torture and abuse of Sahrawi independence advocates like Sidi.
Sidi himself was sentenced to four years imprisonment in 2013 for participating in pro-independence rallies in 2008. He is now being held in a prison in southern Morocco.
His current protest is at least the second hunger strike he has attempted. In September 2014, activists in contact with Sidi said he and another prisoner refused to eat for two days to protest poor healthcare in the prison.
Details of Sidi's conditions are scarce, due to a Moroccan media blackout on coverage of Western Sahara. Journalists that report on human rights abuses against Sahrawi are regularly detained and intimidated by Moroccan security forces, according to a complaint to the United Nation's free speech rapporteur issued by the Western Saharan media collective SCMC.
The SCMC estimates that around 30 Sahrawi journalists have been “beaten and severely injured” by Moroccan security forces, and 13 have had equipment “confiscated or damaged” over the past four years.
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