Whenever Israel builds in her historic heartland of Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem, there is usually highly publicized international condemnation. However, there are other regions of the world that are truly subjected to foreign military occupation and yet the world doesn’t focus so much on these cases. Yet if one examines the history regarding Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara, Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno Karabakh, and Turkey’s control over Northern Cyprus, one can not help but conclude that each of these cases are worthy of getting more international attention than they presently are.
In 1975, the Kingdom of Morocco illegally occupied Western Sahara on the eve of its expected independence from Spain in violation of the will of the international community. Several UN Security Council resolutions and a 1975 decision by the International Court of Justice supported the right of the indigenous Sahrawi population of Western Sahara to form their own country. Regardless of these facts, when Moroccan forces moved into the Western Sahara, the vast majority of the indigenous Sahrawi population was forced to move into refugee camps in neighboring Algeria, where up to 300,000 native Sahrawi refugees presently live.
Thanks to America’s and France’s support for the Moroccan government, the Sahrawi population never received the self-determination that they were promised. The United States and France blocked the enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions that called for Morocco to withdraw its forces from Western Sahara. Meanwhile, Moroccan settlers have moved into the Western Sahara, yet no one really condemns these settlers. Any hope that the Sahrawi people would be able to overcome the Moroccans by force was dashed due to the enormous military aid that Morocco received from the United States and France. Since the 1990’s, Moroccan settlers presently outnumber the native Sahrawi people in Western Sahara by a ratio of more than two to one. Javier Bardem, who visited Western Sahara, claims that the Moroccan government systematically abuses the human rights of the Sahrawi people who are “living in darkness.”
Since the beginning of 1988, there has been a conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh region, which Armenia has illegally occupied. As a result of this conflict, over 20,000 people have been killed and over one million people made refugees. According to the Azerbaijani government, Armenia has illegally occupied one fifth of Azerbaijani territory and has made one out of every nine Azerbaijanis either a refugee or an internally displaced person as part of Armenia’s ethnic cleansing campaign.
Numerous UN Security Council resolutions have backed up Azerbaijan’s claims on this. Yet, despite the fact that this conflict poses a threat to the regional security of the wider Middle East, this Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict has received very little attention. Azerbaijani officials have complained that many governments have taken no action in support of implementing UN Security Council resolutions on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, which “may be actually evaluated as their support to aggressive Armenia.”
Last year, it was reported that Turkey has claimed that she may annex Northern Cyprus if an agreement is not reached between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots over the fate of the island of Cyprus. Such a move would go contrary to the wishes of the international community, who doesn’t recognize Turkey’s right to control Northern Cyprus, as well as Greek Cypriots who view Turkey’s presence there to be illegitimate and indigenous Turkish Cypriots who would rather create a state independent of both Greek Cyprus and Turkey. Turkish Cypriots are known to be more secular than mainland Turks and fear Turkey annexing Northern Cyprus because they don’t want to be dominated by the mainland Turkish AKP government.
Under international law, while Turkey may have had the right to intervene to prevent the slaughter of the Turkish Cypriot people in 1974 under the Treaty of Gaurentee, that does not mean that Turkey has the right to annex Northern Cyprus and permanently convert Northern Cyprus into a Turkish colony instead of the independent Turkish Cypriot state that most indigenous Turkish Cypriots want. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t so much international reaction to Turkey’s threat to illegally annex Northern Cyprus. The above occupations receive little to no attention in the international media and highlight the biased nature of the international communities interest in Israeli affairs.
By Rachel Avraham