Friday, May 2, 2008

My Struggle to Get a Good Education

I asked myself: “What has impacted me the most as a person?” The answer is my journey to get a good education. This journey has made me sacrifice the most precious things in my life: my family, friends and culture. However, it has made me a young woman of dignity by giving me a purpose in life and by opening the doors of unexpected opportunities.
I was born in one of the biggest refugee camps in the world. It is located in the Southwestern Algerian desert, where the temperature can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It was there where my family and I, as victims of a three-decade-long dispute between Western Sahara and Morocco, took shelter. It was there where knowledge about the outside world was lacking, but where there was a hunger for learning and the determination to improve the rate of illiteracy was found. Growing up, all I knew were the hardships of the desert, mud-brick houses, and the tents made of thick, green canvas material. Nevertheless, things took a turn in another direction when I was selected for a special program that takes children who lost their fathers in the war to spend the summer with a Spanish host-family away from the hardship and the heat of the refugee camps.
It was at the age of ten when I made the decision to stay in Spain to begin my education. It was not an easy decision to make after having to leave behind my most beloved ones for twelve years. This decision made me miss the births and the most important stages in the life of my four younger sisters. Not only has this decision made me sacrifice my family, but also my culture, language and values. However, this sacrifice has taught me the most important principles which have helped me to learn how to live in different cultures and to respect their peoples. In addition to that, I built my character and strengthened my beliefs as an independent young woman.
These principles have helped me to be the young women of dignity that I am today by giving me a purpose that has given me a sense of understanding of my own hunger to get a good education. This hunger is the root of my passion and the dream of being one of the first female ambassadors of my nation to help my people in their fight for freedom. This purpose has given me a sense of belonging that makes me appreciate my own ethnicity, culture and language despite the fact that I have not lived with my people for a long time. It has also helped me maintain my language and culture throughout these years
My determination has opened the doors of unexpected opportunities, making the impossible a reality: first, going to Spain to study and later, being one of the first Saharawi to ever come to the USA and graduate from an American high school. This summer, I had the opportunity to read one of my poems in the presence of dozens of congressmen and senators in a reception on Capitol Hill. Similarly, in October of this year, I spoke as a petitioner before the UN’s Fourth Committee as an advocate for my people making me one of the first Saharawi women to do such a thing. Not only have these opportunities allowed me to meet many ambassadors and representatives from around the world, but also allowed me to have a Saharawi diplomatic-traditional tea and make connections with the Saharawi ambassador to the UN. Moreover, I received lectures by the Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs. In fact, when I asked him at the end: “What advice would you give to a young woman like me?” he simply said: “Study, study and study very hard, and be a good diplomat for our nation.”
Having analyzed the impact of education on my journey in life, I ask myself yet again: “Do I regret the sacrifice of being away from my beloved ones?” The answer is: No, I do not regret the sacrifice of being away from my family, or any other sacrifice because those sacrifices are what have given me a purpose to pursue my dreams and the opportunity to live an extraordinary life that leaves me with a unique story to tell. Moreover, my journey and the determination to get a good education will have an impact on my people in the refugee camps as well as others of different nations

By Agaila Abba blog freeewesternsahara

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The story of my grandmother

The night has just worn it black coat with bright stars. My grandmother and I sit on the cold-soft dunes of the Algerian desert. She points with her fingers to the wide sky and
starts to explain the Saharawi astronomy. Though she is utterly blind, she still can sense what once was a reality for her. She usually tells me stories at night, some are fairytales and others she considers real. However, on this night she was about to tell me a different kind of story, a story that does not make me fall asleep, but one that wakes me for the rest of my life. It is her story.

Asisa is a widow and a mother of three daughters. Like many women in her time, she got married at the age of twelve, but did not give birth until twenty. The fact that she did not give birth one year after getting married was a big concern amongst her family members. Yet, her husband was understanding and did not divorce her for that reason. As a mother and a wife, her day usually starts very early in the morning by milking the cattle. “Everything was green and the air was so fresh”, she compares the country side of Smara with Smara camp, where she lived for the last three decades. She went on and on telling me about the fantasies of my homeland. She remembers, the great people, who were separated by a wall bigger than the Palestinian separation wall, the beautiful nature and beaches that she will never again enjoy seeing. All the time I would interrupt with a question in an attempt to imagine where she once lived and really loved. Then, the story got twisted. She started to talk about the point that would change her life for ever.

One morning, of January 1976, something unusual happened. Before that day, Asisa heard about the Moroccan army attacking the region and forcing people to move. Nevertheless, no one in the family really paid much attention until they were victims themselves. On that day, the whole Frigg or neighborhood was forced to abandon their properties and village. “They had strange looks and indeed looked unmerciful”, she describes the Moroccan solders. On that instant, her husband, my grandfather went to fight for his people. She and her three daughters and three sons had to cross the desert to seek refuge in Algeria. They had to cross on feet, no camels, cars or any other form of transportation could be used because they were afraid of airplanes dropping bombs on them. During their journey, they could only walk at night and hide behind trees or rocks during the day to take a rest. “Lala and I had to take turns watching for airplanes, while the other ones took a nap”, Asisa recalls. Lala, my mother, was only twelve years old as the oldest child, while Brahim, the youngest was eight months. Three days later, they run out of food and water since they could carry limited amounts. So, they had to survive on whatever they found in the naked desert. Not long after that, unfortunately, Brahim died of dehydration. Still, they had to continue or worse could happen. Just another two days after that, while taking a break, the other two young boys died on a landmine explosion. “Half of the family was gone. It was a true devastation and heartbreaking”, she tells with tears in her eyes. The tragedy did not end here. As my tears continue to drop, she says: “and then I lost my sight”. On the following day, as they continue their journey, an airplane dropped a bomb before them. Since my grandmother was in the front, some of the ashes got in her eyes and she lost her sight for ever. Nevertheless, they could not stop or else all of them die. With a smile and tears in her eyes, she says: “the next day two men came on a truck and took us to the camps.” A month after they arrived the refugee camps in the southern west of the Algerian desert, she got the message of her husband’s death in one of the battles.

A widow and no sight, Asisa had to take care of her three daughters in the harsh conditions of the Hamada. For me, she is the example of courage and just struggle. Despite all of that she gone through and three decades in one of the most inhospitable corners, she still hopes to go back to her homeland. “They [Moroccans] may have weapons, guns and airplanes; we [Saharawis] have patience and determination”, she always tells me. This is the story of my grandmother, which many other Saharawi women share.

Who I admire the most and Why?

When a nation gives birth to a man who is able to produce a great thought, another is born who is able to understand and admire it”, Joseph Joubert. Have you ever thought of the person who you admire the most, and have you thought of the reasons why you admire that person? I asked those same questions to myself. Who do I admire, and why?” I realized that the person I admire the most is my Grandfather. I admire him because he’s the foundation of my life. I also admire him for being a freedom fighter and for being the best teacher I ever had.

When I was growing up my mother left to visit my father’s side of our family in a different city. The visit lasted for six months. While she was gone I was under the care of my grandfather. He was the one who made sure I didn’t need anything and he also made sure I was going to school everyday as well as doing my homework. My grandfather had a large part of raising me because I was with him in this important stage of my life. He was with me when I needed a person to be my father, mother, and my teacher. He was all this and more, not only for these six months, but for all of my life. I call him the foundation of my life because he have built my life on the principles that he taught me and for this I am so very thankful to him and I admire him dearly.

He wasn’t only the foundation of my life, but also he was a freedom fighter for my country. In 1976 he fought in the war between the Western Sahara, and Morocco. He left his family and his new bride when he went to war. This war cost him his sight, his legs, and his health. He made this sacrifice because of his belief in freedom for my nation, and for my people. He also fought for the rights of women in our society as well as in my family. He instructed the elderly men of our family and tribe to release the young women from arranged marriages, and encouraged the women to pursue their dreams and to study no matter if it was in the refugee camps or abroad. He’s the reason why I am here today, and why I have such determination to pursue my dreams of an education, and to build a future for myself, my family and my nation. He was the one who believed and fought for the principle of freedom and through that he became my inspiration to do the same. For this I admire him greatly.

Along with being the Foundation, and Freedom fighter he was also my teacher. A teacher that taught me the most important principles of life, respect for others, integrity and character. Those principles have become my best friend in everyday life. Not only did he teach me those principles, but he also taught them to every single member in my family. Because of his gifts my family, tribal members and our leaders rely on his intelligence, wisdom, and his knowledge of the history of our nation, tribe, and the customs of my culture. While I was growing up I have always saw my grandfather’s tent full of people, young and old, listening to his lectures. I also saw many elderly people from my tribe coming and asking him for advice and his blessing on important occasions like a child’s birth, wedding or resolution to a conflict between tribes. He was always trusted with such things. Because of this I have come to love him, and respect him very much.

I have come to admire my grandfather because he has shaped my life and given me my core values. He gave me the strength and courage to face the difficult situations that I encounter. He has shown me the importance of helping other people and sacrificing for others. He has been my guide and inspiration. For these reasons I admire my grandfather. So as Joseph Joubert said “one person is born who is able to introduce great thoughts, and another is born to understand, and admire them.” Let us be the ones who understand the thoughts of the people who we admire the most, and through this understanding and admiration grow into the person that they would be proud of.

From the Blog Free Western Sahara by Agaila Abba Hemeida

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hijab: danger or respect?

I always wondered how much one can tell about the others from the way they dress. Does it tell you anything about their personality, their social life or whether they are terrorists or not? To me, the answer is: “no.” However, from my personal experience, it seems that that it is not the case for everyone. I have been called socially awkward, a terrorist and stupid simply because of the way I decided to dress. In this essay, I attempt to explore my own experience to better understand how someone can be misunderstood or misjudged from the way she/he dresses.
Eight years ago, after a very long and hot summer day, I was sitting in the shade of my tent in the Saharawi refugee camps in southern Algeria, trying to revise the verses we covered that week in my Qur’an class. The Qur’an is the holy book for the Muslim belief. It is our primary source of information on how to carry out the message that was sent to us from Allah (God). There are things that are not explicit enough, which are then farther explained in the Hadeeth or the prophet Mohamed’s sayings and deeds. While drowned in many other thoughts including the next school year and flipping the pages, a section called Al-Noor (light in Arabic) shone on the page. After reading it, my whole life seemed to have brightened up. I finally discovered it after six years of studying the Qur’an. I found it myself, and no one told me about it. It was the section about Hijab. Hijab is dressing modest and being respectful to one’s self and to their creator. I decided not to start wearing it immediately that summer because of the difficulties I would face from my family and community. I, thus, started wearing it when I went back to boarding school in northern Algeria, for it was easier since most people wear it there. When I first put it on, I felt all the respect and security in the whole world. I then felt free and comfortable walking around without any Algerian giving the usual looks: “Why doesn’t she have some respect for herself?”

Somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware of some of the challenges I would face as a young Muslim wearing the Hijab. However, it never occurred to me my own society’s reaction and especially that of my family and community members. Despite the fact that my society is Muslim, very few Islamic rules are followed and Hijab is just one of them. When I arrived home after a four days long trip in the bus from my school in the north to the camps in southern Algeria, the first thing I received after “welcome back” was criticism. The first person said: “You have become like them [extremist Muslims or commonly known terrorists]”, and then my aunt agreed: “Yes, this is the way they brain wash your young generation.” My grandmother had a whole different approach to it. Even though she was blind and obviously could not see how I was dressing, immediately I was fully described to her by my younger aunt. She then went on to say: “This is not our culture, this is not Islam. Islam is to pray five times a day and fast if you ‘can’.” It seemed that I was coming up with new ‘Islam’. All of these comments entered one ear and left the other. I was and I am still very certain and confident that the decision I made is the best for me.
My first victim was a Spanish security officer. Four years ago, when I first arrived to Murcia in southern Spain for vacation, I encountered my first foreign victim. While waiting for the bus leaving to the main city, I decided to check out the shops in the airport. I was walking in my long white skirt and my head covered with a matching scarf. Then, I saw him approaching closer and closer. When he arrived, he grabbed my hand without asking any questions and took me to the nearest office. He took my bags and documents and asked me what I was doing in the airport, which I found very silly to ask because what else do you do in the airport apart from being a passenger waiting for your next plane or bus to the city! I decided to answer him in plain and simple English and I said: “I am coming for vacations to Murcia.” He seemed lost; perhaps she is threatening me, and so he ran to bring an interpreter but asked someone to look after me until he came back. I then turned back to the appointed ‘guard’ and asked him in Spanish what was wrong with the officer: “Que pasó con él?” He looked at me with great surprise and told me that he went to get someone to translate for me. When the officer came back with an interpreter, I started to speak to him in Spanish and told him the purpose of my visit, yet he still insisted in searching my belongings and performing some security ‘check-ups’. He was not the only security officer that behaved in the exact some way ever since I started traveling in Europe and other parts of the world. Moreover, it was also the public that look at me in suspicion when walking in the street or even worse when I am running my four miles runs in the mornings.

To conclude with, from my experience, not have I learned how to deal with misunderstanding situations, but I also found out that these clashes can happen between different cultures and within the same culture. For instance, in my case I was misunderstood within my Muslim-Arab society and also by Europeans. Moreover, it is very important that one explains her/his situation when such misunderstanding takes place. Similarly, confidence and patience are the best solutions in most of the cases. Hence, if you believe in your decision, go ahead and do it but be aware of the challenges and obstacles in life.

Note : The viewpoint of Author doesnt reflect with the Zeina Staff viewpoint

Language evolution and cultural transitions

Hassaniya, is it a language, a dialect, both or neither? Where is it spoken and who speak it? These are the common questions directed to me when I say that I speak Hassaniya. They are valid and good questions and the answer is in the past, the present and the future of the culture and the language. The reason Hassaniya has been hard to classify is because of its evolution over time. Moreover, it is not only the case for this language/dialect, which is spoken in Northwest Africa, but also many other languages. Language and culture commonly are hard to separate and in some cases the first is referred to as the carrier of the latter. I always believed in the analogy for one very important reason, which is the fact that both have been evolving of overtime and are affected by time and the surrounding cultural environment. Moreover, language is the mechanism through which we inherit history and culture, and then each individual word functions as a type of gene. In this essay, I attempt to highlight the mechanism by which language is evolving just like a gene and also the complexity of the process of passing on a language.
The analogy that language is like a gene is true in the sense that like genes, language is inherited through parental lineage. We get the language from our parents who got it from theirs and then we pass it on to our children, and they in terns pass it on to the next generation. Moreover, languages undergo changes or mutations genetically speaking. These mutations can be both positive and negative. As for genes, they mutate to give new traits that make an individual unique and different or leads to a disorder that may be fatal to the carrier. In addition, these mutations are caused by external factors such as radiation. Similarly, language changes over time. These changes can be both positive and negative. Languages adopt new words due to the influence of other languages, which is in some cases due to technological advancement and the invention of new techniques and equipments. However, languages are affected by other external factors that lead to the disappearance of that language over time. One of the most important factors – I believe – is that of colonialism. Like radiation which can destroy a chromosome, colonialism can erase the language and its culture.
In most of the Arab world, the official language is Arabic, but how many people do actually speak Arabic, which is referred to as classical Arabic? Very few people do! Each country has its own unique dialect, which is a mixture of Arabic and other languages. In my country, we speak Hassaniya, which is a mixture of Arabic, Spanish, French, Swahili and English. Very few Arabs understand me when I speak it because it is the least close to the classical Arabic and that is due to the colonial powers we experienced. Hassaniya has traditionally been transmitted orally from one generation to the next. It has been the responsibility of each and every individual to carry on this spoken language or else it would have died centuries ago. In addition, it has undergone many changes and transitions, in the same way the culture has evolved. Furthermore, language, any language has a dual character: it is both a means of communications and a carrier of culture. Like many other spoken languages, Hassaniya has mainly been inherited through storytelling. The stories told are the ones that teach lessons and so the parents choose which ones to tell their children. In this sense, the parents have been able to control what aspect of culture they want to pass on to their children.
There are so many aspects to culture, ranging from language, music, history to simply the food. For this, describing language as a gene may be not an accurate analogy because language is much more complex than just a gene. For instance, parents are able to choose and control what aspect of their culture to pass on the next generation, whereas, they cannot decide what genes their children should inherit. Moreover, people can learn a new language and adapt to new culture, meanwhile, it is impossible for one to adapt a new gene and hence new trait. For instance, one cannot change his/her eye color or hair color. However, it is easy for a person to speak multiple languages and experience many different cultures. Moreover, the geopolitics, religion and personal interests affect the culture. For instance, people may be from the same culture but have different music taste and like different foods.
In conclusion, culture is determined by many factors and language is the most important one of them. The latter has been affected over time, which in terns has big impacts on the nature of the corresponding culture. Hence, on the one hand, language is like the human body and each word is a cell that renews its self. On the other hand however, culture is a hard and complex concept to analyze. These complexities give birth to a unique and diverse culture.

Saharawi Women and Their Struggle for Independence

In the recent years, Africa has been perpetuated in the media – both TV and print – as the symbol of poverty, hunger and oppression. The situation of women especially has been misinterpreted and they are seen as uneducated and uninvolved in the social and political construction of their prospective societies. The people of Africa we hear about and see in the media are starving refugee women and children. In this paper, I would like to present another image of African refugees as an example of women’s important role in the society. The purpose of this research paper is to look at how the Saharawi (natives of the Western Sahara) women have both directly and indirectly participated in the struggle for independence of the Western Sahara. I also attempt to look at the social structure that helped create an environment where more women are becoming involved and empowered. Through personal experience and examples of women who have lived first hand in this erupted region, I hope to give insight into the important role that women have played in more than three-decade-long struggle.
I come from the biggest refugee camp in the world. It has existed for such a long time in such a remote place that I imagine most people elsewhere do not even know about it. I belong to the Saharawi people of Western Sahara, a country currently occupied by Morocco. Western Sahara is situated in the desert region of northwest Africa and it is rich in minerals and oil. It is bordered from the north by Morocco, from the south by Mauritania, from the east by Algeria and Mauritania and from the west by the Atlantic Ocean. This region used to be a Spanish colony for over a century. When the Spaniards left the country, the people did not celebrate their independence for more than a couple of months when both Morocco and Mauritania doubly invaded the territory in 1975 (Hodges 5). Three years later, Mauritania withdrew and Morocco took over the entire region. After sixteen years of violence, which led to the death of hundred of thousands, the kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front: the Movement for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro signed a cease-fire in 1991. Three decades later, this conflict is still to be solved and more than 200,000 refugees still remain in the Algerian desert (Hodges 8).
Historically in the Saharawi nomadic life, women have been involved in many leadership positions in the society. Unlike in many Muslim and Arab societies, Saharawi women could inherit property and could subsist independently of fathers, brothers and husbands (Lippert 638). Moreover, women ruled the tents and played a major role in tribal life. Since most men spent a lot of time away from the frig (a group families or a camp) warring or trading, it was the women who had the full responsibility for everything. They watched over the cattle, took care of the children, the guests and the community as a whole. Moreover, women were the ones consulted when it came to tribal decision-making. There are historical accounts of women’s direct participation in the ait Arbeen’s meetings. Ait Arbeen used to be the highest political and social constitution in the Saharawi society and it was made up of representatives from the forty tribes in the region. In these meetings many issues are discussed concerning matters in the frig as well as in the nation as a whole. Similarly, it was the mothers and the grandmothers who decided upon the value of dowry for the wedding of any girl. Although, most if not all marriages were arranged amongst families and the girls were not to be consulted. This in one way was a struggle for young girls and so nowadays arranged marriages are becoming less common.
When the Polisario Front was founded to fight against Spanish colonialism, Saharawi women responded immediately and started participating in this struggle. The women’s first activities were conventional. They started recruiting their husbands and sons to join the front, provided shelter for the Saharawi Popular Liberation Army (SPLA) members and contributed materially to aid the struggle. Later on, their role widened and they founded the National Union of Saharawi Women (NUSW) in 1974, which participated alongside with the Polisario Front militarily and politically (Lippert 642). When the bloody war started between Morocco and the Polisario guerilla fighters, women from the NUSW were ready to take action. Many young women took up arms and started to fight with the SPLA militants. In addition, they guarded prisoners captured during the war. One of the first martyrs of the war was Chaia Ahmed Sein who was a woman. Moreover, the death of several women was occasionally reported from the different battles between the Front and the Moroccan army. In addition, Saharawi women soldiers took charge of people fleeing the major towns of the Western Sahara for refuge in the Algerian desert. They were the ones who organized shelter, supplies and protection for the refugees who were primarily women and children.
Now in the camps, women play the most important role in all sectors. The Saharawi refugee camps in southern Algeria are 90% women and children (Lawless et al. 190). This is due to the fact that the majority of able men joined Polisario Front’s army and were fighting against Morocco. It was the women who created the camps and still are the most responsible ones in all aspects of life for the refugees. Saharawi women occupy most of the basic jobs in the camps: education, administration and health. At the present, it is believed that more than 90% of the teachers are women. In contrast, in the early years of the camp, there were only two women teachers because females were not allowed to study during the Spanish colonialism. Similarly, the majority of the nurses are females; there are also few female doctors who earned their degrees in foreign countries such as Cuba. My mother for instance graduated from a Libyan university with a degree in education and so she has been a teacher for over twenty years in the camps. In addition, she was just elected as a primary school director this year. This is also very common amongst women nowadays. Despite the fact that all jobs are unpaid, everyone work for the good of the whole community. They all want their children to be the future generation of a free Western Sahara and build an independent nation like other countries. In the same way, my neighbor is currently one of the two surgeons in the camps. She studied in Cuba for twenty-four years and came back to serve the community.
Furthermore, not only are women actively involved in the social construction of life in the camps, but also are involved in the political arena as well. As my grandmother recalls, in the early days of the creation of the camps, women had to start building it from literally nothing. For this, the NUSW has played a major role in the political formation in the camps. The camps are divided into four provinces (Willaya) named after the major cities in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. Each Willaya is subdivided into Daira or camp with a population of about 5,000 people (Lerner 9). The political makeup of each Willaya is entirely in the hands of women, especially in the Dairas. Every four years, a mayor is elected for the Willaya, who is a man in most cases with the exception of Smara, which is the province I live in. It was the first one to have a women mayor in the early 1990s, as my grandmother told me. Nevertheless, the heads of all Dairas are women, who are elected yearly from a group of candidates. In contrast, women’s representation in higher political position is quite small. Currently, there is only one woman-minister who is the minister of culture and sport and there are about two women ambassadors in Germany and Kenya.
In the present, women are fighting in other forms, which is that of education. Sadly enough, there are much fewer women studying abroad than men. However, the ones who have the opportunity are carrying on with the struggle of their mothers and grandmothers. I was born in a refugee camp and have lived as refugee my whole life. I was born in a tent, where seven members of my family still live. The temperature can climb to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. It rains once or twice a year. We get everything from food to cloths from International Humanitarian Aid. Due to unavailability of educational facilities, at the age of eight I had to leave my family to attend a boarding school in northern Algeria, thousands of miles away from my camp. I would come back only for the summer break to see them. After that, I was selected as the first Saharawi to study in United World Colleges in Norway for two years, and now I am yet the first Saharawi woman to ever attend Mount Holyoke College. I represent a group of women who are fighting for a country they have never seen but strongly believe in justice for its people.
The role Saharawi women play internationally is very crucial to the Saharawi struggle for independence because this struggle in general and that of women specifically is virtually unheard of in most parts of the world. As a representative of the Saharawi women, I try to talk about our struggle in the small scale with my friends at the lunch table and on the big scale when speaking before the UN Fourth Committee. In addition, I got the opportunity to give presentations both in Norway and now in the USA about the current situation of the conflict in general and women in particular. Moreover, it is – I believe – the new generation that would make a difference for this on-going struggle.
Women around the world have struggled over centuries for many rights and equal opportunities with the dominant males. Saharawi women, on the contrary, did not have to go through that stage. Nonetheless, they had to struggle for another type of right, which is that of freedom and independence for their country. Saharawi women have played and still play a major role in the liberation of Africa’s last colony: Western Sahara. Over the course of these thirty-three years, Saharawi women have developed many skills, ranging from military to education. In addition, they have gained power in many aspects of life: political, educational and most importantly social. These skills will hopefully help in the development and the creation of free Western Sahara. The occupation of Western Sahara may have been the greatest factor in pushing the Saharawi women to excel in the society compared to many women in the Arab world. This is to say, if life and the situation in the country had been easier there might have not been the need to push the women to do as well. Hence, one of the biggest questions is would the Saharawi women have been in the position they are in today had their country not been occupied?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Lights of Smara

A clear night in the liberated zone and the stars as numberless as the grains of sand on the ground.
Staring out into the night I see the lights of Smara glowing in the darkness far away with the luminescence of life of the people that live there.

Families, eating together or sleeping, talking and reading.
I Imagine them, so near to me and yet so far away.
For between us is the Wall that has split our families for 30 years.
The stone and sand, the mines and barbed wire, the soldiers and guns – all reminders of what we’ve lost and how far we are from where we should be.
On nights like this it is the most painful time when you could almost believe that you could walk home out of the desert towards those lights and to the families you’ve left behind.

But it might as well be another world – for all its seeming tangibility it is occupied – waiting to be free.
And so we wait as well, in the liberated zone, in the camps for our return – for our freedom.
We wait to see our families again but all we can see of them now are the lights of Smara.

About the Author

Fred is a Law student at Nottingham University in the UK and he is studying Human Rights. He likes to use poetry to express his feelings about different situations in the world and Western Sahara is one of them. He believes and supports the Saharawi people right to self-determination. He also think that the Saharawi culture should be celebrated and affirmed.