Date of Graduation

Spring 5-19-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Stephen Zunes


This paper will address the illegality of Morocco’s nationalist annexation of Western Sahara and how the United States plays the accommodating role through the selling of arms, economic aid, and diplomatic support. Considered as Africa’s last colony, the Saharawi people have not experienced the basic human right to self-determination and the right for independence. These rights are continued to be withheld for the sake of Moroccan nationalism and their “rightful and ethnic” claims to the territory, disregarding the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s advisory opinion ruling in favor of Saharawi self-determination. It explores the chronology of the Saharawi population from the migration of the Sanhanja Berbers prior to Spanish colonization up to the initiation of Morocco’s autonomy plan in the occupied territory. Although this paper briefly examines the background to the conflict, the significance of the conflict is illustrated through a framework of international law and human rights by examining the ICJ’s advisory opinion, the Moroccan invasion and military occupancy, and the torture of Saharawis by Moroccan forces. Examining the occupation in an international law and human rights framework thus poses an important question: How does the United States, a close ally to the Moroccan Kingdom, support the illegal occupation? This will examine the United States’ “neutrality” by exploring the US’ involvement in the Madrid Accords up to the current Obama administration’s support for autonomy in the occupied territory. Finally, by examining the operation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and how gender equality is a tool to fight colonialism, the United States’ support to the Kingdom will be questioned. The goal of this paper is to challenge US foreign policy, which ignores the violation of human rights and international law committed by Morocco in occupied Western Sahara, and the US’ narrowly defined national interests in the region.