Robin Kahn


Preproduction for The Art of Sahrawi Cooking installation, courtesy of Robin Kahn, Kirby Gookin, Maura Sheehan


Robin Kahn is encouraging people to write to their governments in support of the Sahrawi people and their effort to be officially recognized as a country. The following letter can be filled in with your name and contact details and sent to the United States Department of State. If you are a citizen of another country, parts of this letter can be used to compose an e-mail or letter to your foreign secretary or appropriate government official.  



Instructions for the United States:

Please input the following information into the public comments section of the Department of State at



[Email Address] Insert your email address


[Topic] U.S. Foreign Policy Middle East


[Subject] Human Rights in Western Sahara




Dear Secretary Kerry,


In the decades since the creation of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) mandate, Morocco has persistently violated the basic human rights of the Sahrawi people, particularly those who advocate for change in Western Sahara. Today, the human rights situation in Western Sahara continues to deteriorate and last year we saw a tragic and marked increase in attacks against Sahrawi minors and students and the militarization of the city of El Aaiun.


MINURSO is the only modern-day UN peacekeeping mission that does not contain a human rights component.  In April 2012, when the United Nations Security Council reviews the mandate for MINURSO, I urge you to lead calls for the establishment of a permanent, impartial, international human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism in Western Sahara and Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria, under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Office.


In your speech to the United Nations Security Council on March 12, 2012, you made a commitment that, “as a community of nations, [we] must help the people of the Middle East and North Africa make the most of the rights and freedoms for which they have risked so much.”


Human rights monitoring and reporting mechanisms have become standard procedure for UN peacekeeping missions. I urge you to ensure those mechanisms are added to the MINURSO mandate to make good on your commitment to the supporting those who are in the midst of their struggle.



[insert name]


Western Sahara is the last remaining colony in Africa.  After the withdrawal of Spain in 1975, Morocco invaded the country forcing its indigenous population, the Sahrawi people, to live under the arbitrary conditions of occupation and exile. Since then, the Sahrawi people have been separated between two lands. Those that live in the area that border the Atlantic Ocean (The Occupied Territory) endure an occupation imposed upon them by the Moroccan government. Forbidden to earn a living, they can neither fish their well-stocked waters, nor benefit from their land’s abundant supply of natural resources (phosphates and oil). Those who fled during Morocco’s initial attacks, reside today in refugee camps in the Algerian desert or within a narrow strip of barren land in the “Liberated Territory” of Western Sahara which is flanked by a Moroccan built wall that is 2700 km long and armed with a standing military, electronic sensors and buried landmines.


As a guest artist selected to participate in the “Art & Human Rights Festival” Artifariti, Robin Kahn spent a month in 2009 with Sahrawi families living in the Tindouf Refugee Camps and within the “Liberated Territory” of Western Sahara. There she created a cookbook that explores the Sahrawis’ connection to food as a ways of tracing their identity and use of hospitality as a means for dialogue and community building. By combining the sparse materials available locally, she collaged photos, histories, and drawings into a 50 page recipe book that examines the art of Sahrawi food production: how kitchens are improvised, food is procured and prepared, and traditional dishes are innovated from humanitarian aid. Her publication Dining in Refugee Camps: The Art of Sahrawi Cooking is a testament to the daily struggles of Sahrawi women to provide sustenance, fortitude and comfort and a non-violent way forward within a compromised society.