"Morocco's lobbying efforts still appear capable of influencing American policy. The U.S. mission to the United Nations, for instance, recently proposed adding a human rights mandate to the UN mission in Western Sahara -- it is, after all, currently the only UN peacekeeping force without one. But the United States dropped the proposal after the government of Morocco and its allies lobbied against it."
LAAYOUNE, Morocco — The peculiar form of Western Saharan hospitality, at least as practiced by the Moroccan government, is to watch visitors closely. Upon our arrival last winter to Laayoune, the capital of this disputed territory, as part of a delegation of six female journalists, the first gesture was two pairs of headlights behind us as we drove from the airport to our hotel. We'd been invited by the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) to travel to Western Sahara to report on this often forgotten story.
Men in dark sunglasses and leather jackets were ready for our arrival at the hotel, posted on the corners across the street. As our group of six journalists and two IWMF staffers traveled around town in the days to come, the men stayed close, on motorbikes and in dark cars. These men, who looked like the security agents ubiquitous around the Middle East, usually pulled around a nearby corner as we rolled to a stop. When we looked their way, they made feeble attempts to duck around a corner or hide behind a car.