Morocco and Western Sahara’s sea / Data on knowledge and use of Basque / Leyla Zana acquitted

7 to 13 July

Shipwreck along the Western Sahara coast.
Shipwreck along the Western Sahara coast. Author: Jurgen @ Flickr
 WEEKLY ROUNDUP.The Moroccan government has announced the incorporation of the territorial waters of Western Sahara as a part of the Moroccan sea, a principle that goes against the former Spanish colony’s status as a non-decolonized territory. The announcement has raised controversy, as controversial is also the situation of two Mozabite Amazigh activists that have been arrested in Melilla. In the same week, Kurdish MP Leyla Zana has been acquitted of three terrorism charges, and new data have been released regarding knowledge and use of the Basque language.


Spain “not worried at allby Morocco’s incorporation of Western Sahara sea. Controversy is being raised by the announcement that the Moroccan government will be soon including the territorial waters corresponding to Western Sahara into Moroccan law. The Alawite kingdom argues the move is being made in accordance with international law, albeit it ignores in practice that Western Sahara formally remains a non-decolonized, occupied territory. Reaction from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has been immediate: “The bill is null and void,” the Sahrawi ministry of Information has said, adding that “such a decision blatantly violates international law.”

Morocco’s intentions could in the future be affecting the extension of Spain’s exclusive economic zone, which is calculated spanning from the coast of the Canary Islands. Spanish Foreign minister Alfonso María Dastis sees no problem, as according to him the Moroccan regulations are “a technical adjustment”. The Spanish government, Dastis has said, “is not worried at all” because the demarcation of the Spanish-Moroccan sea border “will continue to be mutually agreed”. No reference to the Western Sahara status has been made. CEAS —an umbrella group of pro-Sahrawi Spanish civil society organizations— has criticized the stances taken by both the Spanish and the Moroccan governments.

In the meantime, media reports and political parties such as Nueva Canarias and Podemos alike point out that Morocco’s true intention is securing a place in the exploitation of valuable mineral deposits underneath the sea in the future.


New data released on knowledge and social use of Basque language. According to data included in the 6th Sociolinguistic Survey, the number of Basque speakers in the Northern Basque Country, or Iparralde (France) has stabilized: 51,200 people aged 16 and over speak it, which is equivalent to 20.5% of the inhabitants of this age group in that territory. Five years ago, the figure was 51,100 people. Because Iparralde’s overall population was smaller five years ago, the proportion of Basque speakers in 2011 was 21.4%. The highest share of Basque speakers in Iparralde is to be found among the elderly (aged 65 and more: 28.1%) and the youngest (ages 16-24: 18.9%). Among the latter, Basque is the initial language of only 10.9%. The rest, therefore, have acquired the language at school. The survey, however, has found out that a gradual rise in family transmission when both parents are Basque speakers is taking place.

On the other hand, the Sociolinguistics Cluster has unveiled the data from the VII Measurement of the Use of Languages on the Streets. In the Basque Country as a whole, the share of use of the language in street conversations has dropped from 13.2% in 2011 to 12.6% in 2016. The report speaks of “lights and shadows”: in Álava, Navarra (Lower and Upper) and Zuberoa the use of Basque on the streets is on the rise, but in Guipúzcoa, Vizcaya and Lapurdi it is diminishing. The age group mostly speaking Basque on the streets is children, followed by the youth. The elderly are the least prone to speak in Basque. In all territories and age groups, women use Basque more than men.

Leyla Zana acquitted from three terrorism charges. The Kurdish MP, an HDP member, was being prosecuted over her alleged belonging to armed organization and praising crime. But the 5th High Criminal Court of Amed (Diyarbakir in Turkish, the capital of North Kurdistan) considers that her activities had not been “constant” and that “there was no direct evidence of the guilt.” Zana (1961) has been an activist for the rights of Kurds and women since her youth. In 1991 she became the first Kurdish woman to be an MP in the Turkish Parliament. She spent 10 years in prison from 1994 to 2004 after being convicted for her activism. Meanwhile, 11 HDP MPs continue to be jailed, among which party co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, whom Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has just described as a “terrorist”, despite the fact that the Kurdish leader has not received any sentence over any related charge.

Spain asked to grant political asylum to two Amazigh activists.According to the Kabyle movement-linked Siwel news agency, Khodir Sekkouti and Salah Abbouna are members of the Movement for the Autonomy of the Mzab (MAM), who fled Algeria in 2015 and are now seeking refuge in Spain’s north African town of Melilla. Both activists have been arrested by the Spanish police and could be extradited to Algeria. The north African country claims they are two suspected terrorists. Anavad —a self-proclaimed Kabyle government in exile— is calling on Madrid to grant them political asylum. The Amazigh World Assembly —to which Sekkouti is linked— is also demanding his immediate release.