CASABLANCA – A state Turkish television channel’s broadcast of an interview with Sahrawi separatist Aminatou Haidar triggered a wave of criticism by Moroccan media as Morocco’s Islamist-led has so far remained silent.
In an interview aired last week on TRT World and made available on social media, Haidar was dubbed as the “Ghandi of Western Sahara.”
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and fought a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed.
The UN mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.
Morocco considers Western Sahara an integral part of the kingdom and has offered autonomy, but not an independence referendum.
Moroccan media lashed out at Turkey for using Haidar as blackmail few days after Morocco’s Minister of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy Moulay Hafid Elalamy announced that the North African kingdom called for a readjustment of the terms of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which was signed between Morocco and Turkey in 2004 but has not been activated until 2016.
Elalamy and his Turkish counterpart Ruhsar Pekcan held talks in Istanbul on the sidelines of the 34th Session of the Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC) on the worsening of the trade deficit between the two nations and the negative impact of the FTA on Moroccan companies.
“It's hard to believe that Aminatou Haidar's portrait-documentary on Turkish state TV channel, the TRT World, aired in English, is pure coincidence!” wrote news website EcoActu in its editorial.
“To blackmail or to try to bend Morocco's will by titillating it on the question of its territorial integrity, is not to know its history of struggle against the powers that finally rallied to its cause. It is also a call to order of these Moroccans so much in adoration of some Turkish leaders,” said EcoActu in reference to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
News website LesEcos said that TRT World’s declaration that “throughout the last 30 years, Aminatou Haidar fights for the independence of his country of Morocco” until qualifying her as the “Gandhi of Western Sahara” fell, in the best of cases, to the unusual.
“In its report, more propagandist than factual, TRT World uses the terminology of “Western Sahara” to describe the Moroccan Sahara, A first in the history of the official Turkish channel, which has always supported the Moroccan Sahara, in line with the official position of the Turkish state,” said LesEcos.
EcoActu called on Morocco’s ruling Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD), which has close ties with Erdogan’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), to denounce TRT World’s interview with Haidar.