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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Western Sahara


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
July 28, 2014

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Executive SummaryShare    

The Moroccan constitution and other laws and policies generally protect the freedoms of worship and conscience but prohibit non-Muslims from proselytizing. Moroccan laws and restrictions regarding religious organizations and religious freedom apply in the approximately 85 percent of the Western Sahara that Morocco administers.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice in the territory.

The U.S. Ambassador and embassy staff discussed religious freedom with the Moroccan government within the context of official meetings and visits.

The Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), a Sahrawi independence movement based in Algeria, administers the part of the territory not under Moroccan administration. There were no reports of restrictions on religious freedom in that sparsely populated part of the territory.

Section I. Religious DemographyShare    

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 540,000 (July 2013 estimate). The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim. Islamic practice is frequently characterized by maraboutism, the veneration of religious figures and the tombs in which they are believed to be interred. There is a small group of Roman Catholics.

There is a small foreign community working for the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). Many of its members are non-Muslims.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Legal/Policy Framework

The Moroccan constitution and other laws and policies generally protect the freedoms of worship and conscience but restrict attempts to convert Moroccans from Maliki Islam. Individual conversion is discouraged but not explicitly prohibited for adults. Due to continuing Moroccan administrative control of approximately 85 percent of the territory, laws and restrictions regarding religious organizations and religious freedom for most of the territory are the same as those in Morocco. The POLISARIO administers the remaining sparsely populated territory.

Government Practices

The laws and policies in the part of Western Sahara under Moroccan administration continued to prohibit non-Muslims from proselytizing; however, there were no reported arrests or prosecutions related to such activity during the year.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

Non-Muslim foreign communities generally practiced their faith openly.

There were no reports of restrictions on religious freedom in the area controlled by the POLISARIO.

Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare    

U.S. government representatives and officials of the U.S. Embassy in Rabat and Consulate General in Casablanca discussed religious freedom in the territory with the Moroccan government within the context of official meetings and visits.



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