Sunday, August 5, 2007
A Brief Overview of the Saharawi Situation
Declaration of our nation by our Father ( El Wali Mustapha Syed) and true testimony of women during the war
We come from the biggest refugee camp in the world. It has existed for so long and in such a remote place that we imagine most people elsewhere do not even know about. We belong to the Saharawi people of Western Sahara; a country once was a Spanish colony for more then a century. The native population, known as Saharawis at that time was numbering fewer than 100,000 became impatient and began to fight for independence. Not fortunate enough; the Saharawi happiness for independence did not last longer than a couple of months. When Spain decided to leave in 1975, its leader, General Franco, was dying, the northern neighbor, Morocco, saw an interest in the region and claimed it as its own.
In November 25th, 1975, the Moroccan force took control over the capital, Laayoune. Then, Morocco’s tenth king, Hassan II, massed more than 200,000 people on to the territory in a well-known show of force called the Green March. Then, the double operation of Mauritania and Morocco takes its way to the phosphate rich territory. However the Sahara guerrilla movement for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro, known as the POLISARIO Front, continued to fight, and with great tenacity.
The nasty desert war lasted until 1991 and cost Morocco as many as 25,000 casualties. It displaced half the Saharawi population, pushing them into the desolate southwestern corner of the neighboring Algeria where thirty two years later, we remain there today, more than 200,000 of us. The influx of Moroccans, lured by government perks and subsidies, turned the remaining Saharawi into a minority in their own land .Those who tried to speak-up were viciously suppressed. Hundreds simply disappeared.
We were born in a refugee camp southwest Algerian desert and have lived as refugees our whole lives. We were born in a tent, where our family members still live. The temperature can climb to 125 Fahrenheit. It rains once or twice a year. We get everything from food to cloths and health care from International Humanitarian Aid, which is mostly run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and World Food Program. In addition to UNHCR and WFP, there are some 19 NGOs – two Algerian, 16 European and one from the United States – operating complementary assistance programs in the camps.
Medications in particular are provided by UNHCR, International Red Cross and other small NGOs. The nurses and doctors are mostly Saharawis; there are few aid workers, however. These aid workers are mostly from Spain, but there are other nationalities as well. Most of the nurses get their education in the camps, they are mostly women and they are trained by professional nurses who obtained their degrees in Cuba mostly. Medical assistance is not sufficient, and hence far too many children have not been vaccinated and are now at high risk of the lethal combination of malnutrition, acute respiratory infections and diarrhea. Sadly enough, the UNICEF is strangely absent as a UN player in Tindouf, where the camps are located. Although it is know that UNICEF’s regional office in Amman visited Tindouf in February 2003, no interest was showed after the visit.