Archive for September, 2009

Talk Together deeply concerned as reports of further beatings highlight need for dialogue

September 6, 2009

Talk Together is deeply concerned by reports that a second member of its group of Layounne participants has been abducted and beaten by police. Razouk Choummad, aged 20, told Saharawi human rights activists on September 2, that he had been abducted, blind folded, undressed, tortured for 5 hours, and covered in a liquid which he was told was petrol.

The reports come a week after his fellow participant, El Haouasi Nguia, a 19-year-old woman, was reportedly abducted, stripped, beaten and threatened with rape. She was apparently told that the footage of the attack would be posted on the internet if she failed to renounce her political opinions and activities. Both students were reportedly quizzed about their planned attendance at the Talk Together programme.

Last month the students were due to travel to the UK to take part in the Talk Together conflict resolution course focussing on Western Sahara. A group of six young people from Layounne were prevented from boarding their plane at Agadir airport in Morocco, and subsequently detained and allegedly beaten by the authorities. A second group of seven Moroccan students, plus their group leader, was also prevented from travelling from Casablanca.

Talk Together is concerned for the well-being of both groups of young people and has sought advice from Amnesty International regarding their situation. Talk Together has written to the Moroccan authorities asking for clarification on the interventions which prevented the two groups from travelling to Oxford. It is also requesting that the Layounne and Moroccan groups are reassured they will not be subjected to further attention from the authorities.

Talk Together rests on the principles that it is always beneficial to talk to people with differing views and build understanding to promote the possibility of making the future better. Apparent efforts to prevent Talk Together taking place have demonstrated the importance of these principles.

Talk Together founder, Andrew Brown, says: “Both sides have expressed to Talk Together grave distrust of the other, along with accusations and counter claims.

“We are not a lobbying organisation and we’re not making judgements about either side. We’re here to promote the importance of good communication and bringing people together to understand each other better and move forward. The need for this is now even more overwhelmingly clear.”

Talk Together exists to bring together different sides of a conflict, to discuss their differences, to learn conflict resolution skills, and to explore ways in which the future could be better.

Despite the absence of the Layounne and Moroccan participants in Oxford, the programme was a success. Twenty two participants from the refugee camps near Tindouf, from the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Israel and the Philippines took part. These participants are now working on their projects to improve the situation.

Talk Together is funded with support from the European Commission and the British Council, as well as private and charitable donations. For further information check Talk Together’s website for background on the project, and for updates check the blog . For additional information, logos, images and footage of the event, and of the Layounne group of students describing their experiences, contact Andrew Brown on 07779 021464 or info@TalkTogether.info. Talk Together is on Facebook and Twitter.