The 25-minute documentary Broken Families, which premieres on Sunday 2
February on Al Jazeera English at 22h30 GMT, follows Western Saharan
community leader and activist Brahim Dahane as he seeks justice for his
community against a range of abuses.
“Brahim never set out to be an activist,” says Giles Trendle, Al Jazeera’s director
of programming. “But from his first detention while a teenager, he has been
imprisoned three times and undergone severe physical and psychological torture
at the hands of the Moroccan authorities.
“His marriage has been destroyed by the stress of his imprisonments and his
family life deeply affected. Now, through his work and voice, he is determined to
help reunite other families separated by the conflict,” Trendle adds.
In the documentary, which was filmed over six months, Dahane finds himself
becoming the voice for the families whose sons or brothers have been randomly
imprisoned, secretly detained or disappeared, held without trial, tortured and
ultimately tried by a Moroccan military court during peacetime.
The documentary follows Dahane, a spokesperson for his Saharawi community,
in his daily life as he is caught up in the conflict in Western Sahara, which has
been occupied by Morocco since 1975 and is one of the world’s longest-running
and least-known struggles.
Comments Dahane: “For me, occupation is a synonym for slavery. It is injustice
and punishment. It is all forms of human rights violations. It is aggression and
Met with resistance, Morocco signed a controversial European Union fisheries
agreement for Western Sahara waters in December 2013. Morocco also has a
bold solar project planned for the disputed region. This, combined with repeated
human rights abuses, has led to increasing pressure and demonstrations across
Western Sahara before April’s United Nations’ (UN) discussions on the
peacekeeping mission there.
Calling for the UN to monitor human rights abuses, Dahane was one of a number
of activists assaulted in January 2014 at a demonstration. “Dozens of Saharawi
protesters were injured after police attacked the crowd with their truncheons,’
says Louise Orton who directed Broken Families. “Amnesty International and
Human Rights Watch have consistently reported human rights abuses in the
Moroccan-occupied zone of Western Sahara.
“But astonishingly, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western
Sahara, the peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, is the only modern
peacekeeping mission in the world without a mandate to monitor human rights.
People in Western Sahara are eagerly waiting to see what will happen when
this is up for discussion in April this year,’ concludes Orton.