A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, November 6, 2015

Forty Years Since the Green March

The Green March, 1975. Portrait is King Hasan II
On November 6, 1975, with Francisco Franco on his deathbed, thousands of Moroccan civilians and units of the Moroccan Army gathered at Tarfaya in southern Morocco and prepared to cross into the Spanish colony of Spanish Sahara. The "Green March" was not resisted by Spain, but led to a war between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front (and for the first few years, Mauritania, allied with Morocco).

The war ended with a ceasefire in 1991 and an agreement to hold a referendum on Independence, Moroccan rule, or autonomy. Twenty-four years later the issue remains unresolved, and Morocco controls the bulk of the territory behind a defensive berm, while POLISARIO controls the eastern desert area, which has access to neither the phosphates nor the fisheries in the Moroccan zone. What in 1975 seemed to be the decolonization of one of Europe's last African colonies remains incomplete, with some Sahrawis seeing Spanish colonial rule as merely supplanted by Moroccan (though the Moroccan-occupied areas do vote in Moroccan elections).

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