Moroccans march into Western Sahara in the Green March, 1975


To bring the Western Sahara region into Morocco.

Time period

October 16, 1975 to November 9, 1975


Western Sahara
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

  • King Hassan II declared his intention to hold the Green March

Methods in 2nd segment

  • from all over Morocco to the city of Tarfaya

Methods in 3rd segment

  • from all over Morocco to the city of Tarfaya

Methods in 4th segment

  • from all over Morocco to the city of Tarfaya

Methods in 5th segment

Segment Length

Four days


King Hassan II


Not Known

External allies

Not Known

Involvement of social elites

King Hassan II of Morocco led the campaign


Spanish Troops in the Western Sahara

Nonviolent responses of opponent

Not Known

Campaigner violence

Not Known, King Hassan stationed troops on the borders of Western Sahara to protect against any intervention, but no violence was used.

Repressive Violence

Not Known


National-Ethnic Identity



Group characterization

Moroccan volunteers

Additional notes on joining/exiting order

As far as is known, all participants joined after King Hassan II's original announcement of the march.

Segment Length

Four days

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

4 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

8 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

Although the March itself did not immediately bring about Moroccan control of the Western Sahara, it did lead to negotiations and eventual Moroccan control. The infrastructure for the mobilization of this sort very much stayed in place, and the growth of the campaign was incredible, with high sustained numbers throughout the action.

Database Narrative

Ever since gaining its independence from Spain in 1956, Morocco firmly held that the Spanish Sahara (now known as the Western Sahara) should be included within its borders. Morocco based this assertion on the fact that some of the nomadic populations in the region had apparently once owed allegiance to the Moroccan sultan, yet the strength of its commitment to securing control over Spanish Sahara may have increased after it became known in the early 1970s that the region contained substantial phosphate mines. Morocco was already the world’s largest phosphate exporter, and was keen to gain control of the newly found reserves.  Mauritania also wished to control the region, with similar justifications for its desire.

Spain had been under pressure from the United Nations to relinquish control of Spanish Sahara since 1965. This was compounded by two years of guerrilla warfare by POLISARIO (the Sahrawi liberation movement) and a drawn-out UN led process of decolonization, and by 1975 Spain was willing to step back from its role in Spanish Sahara and to accept the UN’s renaming of the region as the Western Sahara.

On October 16, 1975, the International Court of Justice in the Hague released an advisory ruling which stated that the people of the Spanish Sahara should have the right to exercise self-rule, despite Morocco and Mauritania’s opposition. In response to the announcement, that night King Hassan II of Morocco announced to the entire nation over radio that he would organize and lead a “Green March” in order to “reclaim” the Western Sahara.  The announcement of the Green March triggered a massive mobilization of 350,000 Moroccans: King Hassan outlined in his initial address that 306,500 of the volunteers were to be members of the general public roughly representing each of Morocco’s districts (although rural Morocco was over-represented), and the remaining 43,500 were to be government officials, yet all were to take part on a voluntary basis.

Quietly, King Hassan deployed troops along the northwest region of Western Sahara on October 31 in order to fend off any external interference from other African countries, while much more publicly in the south volunteers continued to gather in the city of Tarfaya for the Green March. On November 6, King Hassan gave the signal for the march to begin, and the Moroccans who had congregated in southern Morocco entered Western Sahara.  

The Moroccans carried pictures of their king and of the Qur’an with them, as well as flags representing Morocco, Jordan, the United States, and Saudi Arabia.  The march itself was called the Green March because of the religious importance of the color green, which symbolizes Islam. The Spanish troops still positioned in the area were given orders not to attack, in order to avoid a massacre.  

The march continued for four days until November 9, by which point the marchers had pushed ten kilometers into Western Sahara.  Once there, King Hassan called the volunteers back and they returned to Morocco, completely unharmed.   On the 14th of that month, Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania arrived at a tripartite agreement during the Madrid Accords, where the three countries were given joint control over the region until 1976 when Spain would pull out entirely.

Over the next decades the region experienced substantial political (and military) turmoil since the native Sahrawi people still believe in their right to self-determination. Nearly half of the Sahrawi have left the region entirely and are now housed in four refugee camps in Algeria.  The Western Sahara remains a disputed territory, and the Green March has become a powerful symbol for Moroccans who believe that the region belongs to Morocco.


Landmark Cases in Public International Law, Eric Heinze, M. Fitzmaurice. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1998.

"The Green March in Historical Perspective" Jerome B. Weiner. Middle East Journal, Vol. 33 No. 1, Winter 1979. Middle East Institute.

"The Green March, a Specific Instrument for a Peaceful Regulation of the Sahara Conflict" Abdelhak Dahbi. Moroccan Sahara, 2007. accessed 04/16/2011.

Sahara Monitor Colonial Timeline III accessed 04/16/2011

"How the US and Morocco Seized the Spanish Sahara," Jacob Mundy. Le Monde Diplomatique, English Edition. January 2006. accessed 04/16/2011.

Additional Notes

This case illustrates that strategic nonviolence can be affective even in situations that ordinarily are considered to be primarily violent, such as international conquest. Although there was a military component to Morocco's invasion of the Western Sahara, it was the nonviolent Green March that placed Spain in the greatest dilemma.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Elowyn Corby, 17/04/2011