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Green March (November 6)

The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. At that time, the Spanish government was preparing to abandon the territory as part of the decolonization of Africa, just as it had previously granted independence to Equatorial Guinea in 1968. The Sahrawi people aspired to form an independent state. The demonstration of some 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometres into the Western Sahara territory. Morocco later gained control over most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold.

In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S. and France supported the claim of a Moroccan Sahara since they considered that after the Spanish intention to leave the territory, either the Sahara was occupied by Morocco or the other option was a puppet Sahara of Algeria (a regional rival of Morocco and with whom it had a war the previous decade), which was then a communist country in the Soviet orbit. That Algeria had achieved an exit to the Atlantic Ocean through Western Sahara would have cornered Morocco and would have produced a significant geopolitical change in favor of Algeria, and therefore of the communist bloc.

The Green March was condemned by the international community, notably in United Nations Security Council Resolution 380, as the march was considered an attempt to bypass the International Court of Justice’s Advisory opinion on Western Sahara that had been issued three weeks prior.

Morocco gained control of most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it still holds to this day. The refusal of the Saharawi people to submit to the Moroccan monarchy gave rise to the Western Sahara conflict, still unresolved today, and whose main episode was the Western Sahara War.

The Green March was a well-publicized popular march of enormous proportions. On 6 November 1975 approximately 350,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the city of Tarfaya in southern Morocco and waited for a signal from King Hassan II to cross into the region of Saguia El Hamra. They brandished Moroccan flags and Qur’an; banners calling for the “return of the Moroccan Sahara,” photographs of the King and the Qur’an; the color green for the march’s name was intended as a symbol of Islam. As the marchers reached the border, the Spanish Armed Forces were ordered not to fire to avoid bloodshed. The Spanish troops also cleared some previously mined zones.