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Saharawi resistance figure speaks against blood phosphates

Saharawi resistance figure, Tecber Ahmed Saleh, has begun a tour across New Zealand to talk about life under Moroccan occupation and the role New Zealand’s fertiliser companies have had in prolonging this occupation through importing phosphates from the region.

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975, and now 173,600 Saharawi people live in exile in Algerian refugee camps, where Saleh was born. The Saharawi have been waiting for a referendum for self-determination, mandated by the United Nations, since 1991, but it has not yet been put on the table by the Moroccan government.

New Zealand is the only country to import large quantities of “blood phosphate” from the conflict zone, where human rights cannot possibly be assured.

Human rights violations include widely corroborated reports of torture, police brutality, and the repeated arrest and sentencing of members of human rights NGOs. Journalists are also frequently targeted with “assaults, arrests and harassment.”

“New Zealand fertiliser companies, Ravensdown and Ballance Agri-Nutrients, have been buying phosphate from The OCP Group, controlled by the Moroccan Royal Family,” says spokesperson for the Western Sahara Solidarity campaign, Mike Barton. “There’s profit to be made by extracting phosphate from Western Sahara, and our trade is undermining Saharawi human rights.”

“New Zealand needs to stop importing blood phosphate from Western Sahara.”

Ravensdown maintains that it is confident the practice is still legal under international law, despite the mounting weight of international resolutions and even legal blockades of ships carrying phosphate to NZ.

Saleh’s sold-out tour of Australia was cut short when she was prevented from speaking at the University of Sydney due to pressure from the Morroccan embassy.

Saleh began her tour of Aotearoa with a visit to the land occupation site at Ihumātao, and spoke in Auckland the following night. She has speaking appointments in Hamilton, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and Lower Hutt.

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