Ali Salem Tamek was born in Assa, southern Morocco. He has emerged as one of the most outspoken Sahrawi dissidents under Moroccan rule. He is vice president of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). He was active in Moroccan trade unions and leftist Moroccan spheres.
He has been jailed five times for nationalist activities, fired from his job, and for a long period of time had his passport confiscated. On September 13, 1993, he was detained for the first time, along with other Sahrawis, on the Moroccan-Algerian border in the region of Tata, where he was attempting to join the POLISARIO. He was condemned to one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams. On November 24, 1997 he was detained again in the Dakhla region, trying to cross the Moroccan-Mauritanian border. Since 1997, he worked as a local administration functionary in Tuesgui (Assa-Zag region), but in April 2002 he was forcibly moved to Meknes, 1,300 km. away from his home. In late 2002, he was sentenced to 2 years of prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams after being detained on August 26 in Rabat for "undermining the internal security of the state", as head of the Sahrawi branch of the human rights organization Forum for Truth and Justice. This led to him being referred to by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. Morocco accuses him of being an agent for the Polisario Front, which he denies, as he admits he supports the goal of the liberation movement, of holding a United Nations backed referendum on independence. Tamek wishes Western Sahara to become an independent state under the auspices of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, the government-in-exile created by the Polisario Front, based in the Sahrawi refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria.
During his incarceration, he has been on numerous hunger strikes, and in 2003 came close to death before being released in a general royal pardon on January 7, 2004, on orders from the "Equity and Reconciliation Commission". Due to the precarious conditions of detention in Moroccan jails, his health had worsened (he suffers from asthma, rheumatism, skin allergies, and other ailments).
He has been the target of smear campaigns in the Moroccan press, and complains of politically motivated harassment and threats to his life and family. His wife, Aicha Ramdan, reported in 2005 that in 2003 she had been raped by five policemen in front of her 3-year-old daughter, while visiting her husband in Agadir prison. She declared that one of them was Brahim Tamek, cousin of her husband, and other Mbarek Arsalane, both members of the Direction Générale de la Sûreté Nationale (Moroccan police). She had asked for political asylum in Spain. The Moroccan authorities had refused to recognize the name the family has given to their first daughter, Thawra. The name means "revolution" in Arabic. For that reason, the family was illegally deprived of the family allowance that the Moroccan law gives.
On July 18, 2005 he was detained in El Aaiun airport while returning from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, after touring Switzerland, Italy and Spain on conferences supporting the independence of Western Sahara. The magazine Maroc Hebdo International put him in its July 2005 cover with the heading "Public Enemy Nº 1". The European parliament called for his "immediate release" in a resolution on October 27. On December 14, Ali Salem Tamek was sentenced to 8 months in prison by a Moroccan court in El-Aaiún, being accusated of incitement to trouble the public order during the Independence Intifada. Both before and after the trial, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued reports  with concerns that Ali Salem Tamek and other Sahrawi activists were not getting fair trials, and may be prisoners of conscience. He was released again by a general royal pardon in April 2006.
Tamek completed final secondary-school examinations in 2007 in Morocco, but wasn't allowed by the Moroccan authorities to study law and journalism.
On October 8, 2009, he was arrested with six other Sahrawi human rights activists (known as "The Casablanca 7") at Casablanca Airport, after returning from visiting family members at the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. The judge accused them of "threatening state security", and sent the case to a military court. They were declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.
Tamek, Brahim Dahhane, and Ahmed Nasiri were freed on 23 April 2011, shortly before they were set to begin a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their imprisonment.
On June 10, 2005 he was awarded with the III "Juan Antonio González Caraballo" Solidarity Prize, in a ceremony in Seville (Spain).
On March 14, 2010 he was awarded with the I "Jose Manuel Méndez" human rights and social justice prize, given by the citizens platform "Asamblea por Tenerife".Call of Thawra (Letter to Ali Salem Tamek from his daughter)
Photo of Tamek on his 2004 prison release, in his hometown of Assa