Paris museum cancels concert by Western Sahara singer

The Arab World Institute Museum (AWI) in Paris has cancelled a concert by Western Sahara singer Aziza Brahim, reportedly after diplomatic pressure from Morocco.Brahim had been scheduled to play at the AWI, or Institut du monde arabe, on 10 March.The story made headlines on 29 January, when a website close to the royal palace in Morocco, known as the 360, labelled the singer an activist for the Polisario Front, the Algerian-backed independence movement.The Moroccan ambassador in Paris got involved, asking the institute to justify its decision to hold Brahim's concert. The AWI defended its choice, saying she had her rightful place in the festival Arabofolies, which has the theme of women and resistance.However, as RFI's Africa service reports, the argument did not convince Moroccan diplomats, who then put pressure on sponsors which regularly support events at the institute.The sponsors eventually threatened to pull out unless the AWI cancelled the concert.Jack Lang, the President of the AWI, insisted the singer had nothing to do with the Polisario Front arguing that she was simply an artist telling the history of her people.But his arguments went unheard.Surprise and disappointment over the cancellationOn 7 February, the AWI website published a statement saying "for reasons beyond the artist's control", Brahim's concert would be cancelled and tickets refunded.Brahim said she was saddened by the decision."It surprised me because we are talking about a French public institution, in a country which is a pillar of democracy in Europe," she told RFI."It's surprising that an institution of this calibre should fall prey to foreign political pressure when its job is to plan cultural events."The singer managed to find another venue for her concert on 26 April at the Pan Piper in Paris.Long-running disputeMorocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.Rabat views Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom and has proposed autonomy for the resource-rich territory but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence.The AWI and the Moroccan Embassy both declined to answer RFI's questions when contacted over the affair.In November last year, a book documenting the Sahara conflict through photos was removed from the Pompidou Centre library due to pressure from the Moroccan authorities.

The Arab World Institute Museum (AWI) in Paris has cancelled a concert by Western Sahara singer Aziza Brahim, reportedly after diplomatic pressure from Morocco.

Brahim had been scheduled to play at the AWI, or Institut du monde arabe, on 10 March.

The story made headlines on 29 January, when a website close to the royal palace in Morocco, known as the 360, labelled the singer an activist for the Polisario Front, the Algerian-backed independence movement.

The Moroccan ambassador in Paris got involved, asking the institute to justify its decision to hold Brahim's concert. The AWI defended its choice, saying she had her rightful place in the festival Arabofolies, which has the theme of women and resistance.

However, as RFI's Africa service reports, the argument did not convince Moroccan diplomats, who then put pressure on sponsors which regularly support events at the institute.

The sponsors eventually threatened to pull out unless the AWI cancelled the concert.

Jack Lang, the President of the AWI, insisted the singer had nothing to do with the Polisario Front arguing that she was simply an artist telling the history of her people.

But his arguments went unheard.

Surprise and disappointment over the cancellation

On 7 February, the AWI website published a statement saying "for reasons beyond the artist's control", Brahim's concert would be cancelled and tickets refunded.

Brahim said she was saddened by the decision.

"It surprised me because we are talking about a French public institution, in a country which is a pillar of democracy in Europe," she told RFI.

"It's surprising that an institution of this calibre should fall prey to foreign political pressure when its job is to plan cultural events."

The singer managed to find another venue for her concert on 26 April at the Pan Piper in Paris.

Long-running dispute

Morocco and the Polisario Front fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, with Rabat taking over the desert territory before a UN-brokered ceasefire in the former Spanish colony.

Rabat views Western Sahara as an integral part of the kingdom and has proposed autonomy for the resource-rich territory but the Polisario Front insists on a UN referendum on independence.

The AWI and the Moroccan Embassy both declined to answer RFI's questions when contacted over the affair.

In November last year, a book documenting the Sahara conflict through photos was removed from the Pompidou Centre library due to pressure from the Moroccan authorities.