Day five

I’ll let our participant bloggers tell you their highlights for the day in a moment.  

For at least one part of the Talk Together team, the highlight was confirming some Moroccan guest speakers for later in the week. All those taking part in Talk Together were very disappointed that the Moroccan group could not travel to Oxford. We feel that to ensure the participants hear the views of all sides, we needed to work hard to make sure some Moroccans take part in the course.

There’s some news on potential progress on investigating the official Moroccan position in one of today’s guest blogs, and I’ll leave it to them to explain the news there. However, to ensure we provide several Moroccan sources, the Talk Together team has also been working hard to find some other Moroccan people to come and take part. And we now have two, and will continue to invite more people. Please post here if you’re interested in taking part!

Now I’ll leave you in the hands of our excellent participant bloggers.

PB#3 “This afternoon we enjoyed a presentation from Nick Brooks entitled “Archaeology and Politics in Western Sahara”. He gave an interesting insight into the heritage and history of Western Sahara-such that the Sahara desert was green and lush…though this was 5000 years ago! He showed us photos of various burial grounds in the “Free Zone”-which really showed us how little population there was in this area and how desolate the area is. He also showed us pictures of cave paintings which had graffiti on them-it seems a great shame that people are defacing such incredible archaeology.

“He showed us pictures of the Berm-the sand wall that separates the occupied territories from the “Free Zone”. It seemed strange when he said that people did not cross the Berm, I am struggling to imagine my country being split by such a huge man-made structure.

“It was also possible to “Skype” Sidi M. Omar-the deputy POLISARIO representative to the UN. Probably a very busy man, he was so incredibly understanding as we waded through all sorts of “technical difficulties” and the conversation being disturbed so many times. Despite the problems with technology, we managed to ask him various questions and gain the Saharawi insight into the conflict.

“We were also lucky enough to have another visitor today. I only joined the conversation later on, when he highlighted his view that the Saharawis were Moroccan and he felt that they were being held in Tindouf in the refugee camps against their will. It was also very interesting to get our first viewpoint of this kind.

“Alongside the various workshops and speeches, we somehow managed to fit in time to call the Moroccan Embassy in the hopes of arranging a meeting. Fiona rang the embassy in our first morning break-to the response that ‘he’ would have to check with someone else and would ring us back. It felt great to get a foot in the door-many of us doubted whether the embassy would listen to us. Fiona, the camera crew and her ‘supporters’ were fully prepared for the possibility of having the phone put down as soon as we said who we were!

“The first hurdle completed, we were shocked when the embassy rang back in the afternoon-we were half expecting that they would not call us and we would have to call them. The embassy has agreed to a preliminary meeting with Andrew to discuss the possibility of a meeting with the students. So fingers crossed and we’ll keep you updated…

“So all in all, a very intense, hectic and busy day-but I’m looking forward to what tomorrow and the rest of our time here brings!”

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