Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, allow me to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak here today before you all on behalf of the Saharawi people in general and the youth specifically. My name is Senia Bachir Abderahman. I am a Saharawi student at Mount Holyoke College, a college that brings young and determined women from allover the world to share, teach and make a difference in the world today.
Four 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 figure out the best way to gain the highest grades in my high school final exams that would eventually allow me to be one of the first Saharawi women to graduate from an Algerian Medical School. At that time, I had one dream; I wanted my people to be free and independent. But I did not exactly know how to go about it, perhaps becoming a doctor was the best option. While drowned in these thoughts, two ladies who did not look Saharawis and a man approached my tent. They asked me whether this was Senia’s family tent and I replied: “yes.” From then, things took a turn to a direction that never was in the back of my mind. The two ladies told me that I was nominated as a candidate for a two years program in an international high school called United World College (UWC). After a long process of writing application, sitting for a written exam and making interviews, I was selected as the first Saharawi student to attend the UWC in Norway. Not only have these two years gave me the greatest insight on the world today and its dynamics, but also give me a better understanding of the Western Sahara issue and what needs to be done about it. For this, I decided to be the voice for those who do not have a voice; the Saharawi Youth.
Since the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara took place in 1975, the Moroccan government has systematically violated international law, the resolutions of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions by refusing the Sahrawi people their right to self-determination, by importing several hundred thousand Moroccan settlers into the occupied territories of Western Sahara and by humiliating the Saharawi citizens through imprisonment of thousands, and the "disappearance" of hundreds.
Given that the protest of the Sahrawis in general and the youth specially in the occupied territories of Western Sahara have been focused on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and freedom from the Moroccan occupation, it is important to remember that this right has been recognized through various United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as in the agreements signed between the kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. For instance, the 1991 peace plan stated that Sahrawis are to choose between independence and integration in a free, fair and transparent referendum. However, sixteen years later, this agreement has still not been implemented. Today, the Moroccan government openly rejects these agreements and offers autonomy as the ultimate solution.
As a young Saharawi student, I am lucky to have this opportunity to express my concerns before you today. There are so many other young Saharawis who do not have the opportunity to express their opinion and concerns in simple day to day interactions, let alone before the UN 4th Committee.
Many Sahrawi students and youth at universities and other places all over Morocco and Western Sahara have since May 2005 been attacked in unacceptable ways by the Moroccan police and armed forces. According to many Western Sahara human rights organizations, Moroccan and international press and witnesses, dozens of Sahrawis have been detained and arrested, while many more have been injured. It is also reported that some of the attacks involve severe beatings and sexual abuse, as well as harassment of hospitalized victims.
As I speak now, many Saharawi prisoners are being harassed and tortured in many Moroccan prisons. There are many examples and stories that demonstrate Morocco’s violation of the Universal Human Right Declaration. For instance, Sultana Khaya was cruelly beaten up by the police, which led to the loss of her right eye and severe bruising of her body. Similarly, Elwali Amidane is a 21 year old student who was sentenced to five years in jail for having participated in a peaceful demonstration. Currently, he is not allowed to continue his studies, when according to Moroccan regulations, all prisoners have the right to study while in prison.
On behalf of the Saharawi youth, I urge the UN to look into what can be done and take immediate action to prevent the ongoing human right violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.
As these atrocities continue to take place by the Moroccan government in attempt to silence the Saharawi struggle, the Saharawi people continue to fight and stand, and as my grandmother once told me: “they [Moroccans] have bombs and advanced military forces, but we [Saharawis] have patience and determination.”
Thank you for your attention!