WITNESS and FiSahara Train Human Rights Defenders and Video Activists from Western Sahara

By Isabelle Mbaye

Disponible en français ici

In February 2016, WITNESS and FiSahara conducted a week-long intensive training on how to use video as a tool for human rights advocacy, in the Sahrawi refugee camps located in the Tindouf province of Algeria.

WITNESS has been working in partnership with the Western Sahara International Film Festival (FiSahara) for the past 3 years on training video activists and human rights defenders from Western Sahara occupied territories and the refugee camps to raise awareness on the human rights abuse regularly committed by the Moroccan Authority.

Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since 1975 after Spain renounced control of the territory. Morocco immediately annexed the area leading to a war between the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi national liberation movement, and the Moroccan Government. In 1991 a truce was reached. As part of the agreement the Moroccan government agreed to allow for an independence referendum in Western Sahara. 25 years later Saharawis are still waiting to vote.

Following the war, thousands of Saharawi fled to southwest Algeria and have been living since then in harsh conditions in refugee camps in the Sahara Desert. For those who stayed in Western Sahara, many continue to protest against Moroccan occupation, and can be subject to violent human right abuses such as beatings, torture, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment. Morocco heavily restricts the presence of journalists and international human rights monitors in the occupied territory, meaning many of these abuses go undocumented.

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From February 15 to 22, 2016, this intensive workshop gathered 15 participants from different human rights organizations that use video to promote human rights and document abuses by the Moroccan authorities.

The aim of this training was to work with participants from refugee camps and from the occupied territories to improve their skills on video advocacy for human rights and to learn to train others on these skills. Some participants were already trainers and this workshop gave them the opportunity to strengthen their abilities.

Throughout the training WITNESS covered different areas in video advocacy. These areas included creating a video action plan for change, storytelling, ethical filming, and editing. Participants also discussed and provided input on the WITNESS Media Lab’s ongoing project verifying and curating eyewitness videos of abuse in Western Sahara.

The training served also as a platform to teach the future trainers to share the skills that they have learned to empower others in their communities who want to use video for social and political change. You can hear from the participants directly in the video below.


Interested in learning more about using video for change? WITNESS materials on video advocacy are available for free download here.

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