Saturday, November 6, 2010

Victory Without Violence

Magnet # 387:  Moroccan Knife

Material:  Pewter

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

Morocco observes the Anniversary of the Green March today in honor of the 1975 peaceful mass demonstration that gained the nation control of the Western Sahara.  In April of 1956, they had gained their independence from Spain, but that country had not let go of all its holdings on the African continent, most notably the Spanish Sahara.  It remained a territory of Spain, despite Moroccan claims that the area had belonged to it in pre-colonial times.  A year later, the Moroccan Army of Liberation made a move on the area, but were put down by Spanish troops.  As a result, Spain focused on building up towns and villages in the Spanish Sahara, forcing some nomadic tribes to settle specified areas while exiling others.  But the Moroccan government, undeterred, continued to insist the area belonged to it.  They won a partial victory in 1969 when the relatively small region of Ifni was returned to them, yet Morocco refused to back down.  By 1975, they had become considerably more aggressive in their efforts and been joined by Mauritania, a nation to the east of the Spanish Sahara, who now also made a partial claim on the territory.  And when an International Court of Justice based in Hague recognized on October 16th that centuries-old legal bonds of sovereignty and allegiance connected the people of Spanish Sahara to the rulers of Morocco, King Hassan II of Morocco saw his chance.  Within hours, he had announced to his people that, in three weeks, there would be a peaceful green march to the Sahara to assert their place there.  And on November 6, an enormous crowd of around 350,000 volunteers, both men and women, had assembled in the southern city of Tarfaya.  At their King's signal, they crossed the border into the Spanish Sahara, where they hoisted their national flag at 10:33. Spanish Armed Forces did not open fire on them - they were ordered not to, as Spain did not want to create an international incident.  Their dictator, Franco, was dying and they'd had enough trouble with their colonies.  In just over a week, they had divided the territory between Morocco and Mauritania with the Madrid Accords.  The Spanish Sahara was gone as of February 26 of the next year.

What made the Green March so incredible, besides the staggering amount of participants, was the fact that none of them carried weapons, per their King's instructions.  Morocco is certainly not a country that had abstained from military actions in the past and, even prior to its formation, the region had seen a good deal of bloodshed.  In fact, this magnet, which features the green interwoven star that is depicted on the Moroccan flag, is characteristic of the knives that have been carried in the area for centuries.  And yet, the marchers put their faith in King Hassan II, believing that if they did not prepare to defend themselves, they would not be attacked.  It was a risky move - the Spanish Armed Forces could have mowed them down - but it paid off in the end.  Instead of knives and guns, the men and women in the crowd carried items varying from flags of their nation, as well as those of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United States, signs calling for the return of Moroccan Sahara, the Quran, photos of their King, and green banners.  The crowd must have been staggering to behold with its 350,000 volunteers.  As a comparison, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom during which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech held somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 participants.  And 350,000 is roughly the population of the city of New Orleans.  So you can imagine just how massive this number must have been.  By not resorting to violence, they not only achieved their goal, but gave the world another successful example of peaceful protesting.  In the time since then, Morocco has worked hard to improve the lives of those living in their Saharan holdings, making great strides in social and economic development there.  And every year on the anniversary of that historic march, the government reaffirms its commitment to the area.  I guess they're happy to finally be whole.

By the way, I also wanted to remind everyone that we fall back,  or go off of Daylight Savings time, tomorrow.  I've already discussed my mixed feelings about this practice a couple of times on here, so I won't go into them again. But it is worth pointing out that this year, it's occurring almost a week later than last year - I hope it continues to be pushed further back.  And at least we'll all have an extra hour of sleep to enjoy.  But be sure to move your clocks back an hour - come Monday, you don't want to be too early to work, right?


  1. Thanks for the interesting history lesson about Morocco. You must be learning so much while you make these posts.

  2. I really am - at some point, it's going to be tough to beat me at Trivial Pursuit (except for the sports questions).