Saharawi Voice: Stories from the Last African Colony

Saharawi Voice compiles the “stories from the forgotten people of Africa's last colony”, with the aim of conveying a sense of daily life in Western Sahara and the hardships of living in an occupied territory.

Western Sahara is a disputed territory in the Maghreb region of North Africa, and one of the most sparsely populated places in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. Nearly 40% of the population lives in El Aaiún, the largest city in Western Sahara.

Sahara Occidental

Boy from Western Sahara. Image by Flickr user Alvaro León Rodríguez (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Occupied by Spain since the late 19th century, in 1975 it relinquished administrative control of the territory to a joint administration between Morocco and Mauritania. A war erupted between those countries and the Sahrawi national liberation movement, the Polisario Front, proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with a government-in-exile in Tindouf, Algeria. Mauritania withdrew in 1979, and Morocco eventually secured effective control of most of the territory.

Over the past two decades, recognitions have been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.

In the words of Saharawi Voice, they hope to:

[…] to be a voice for those who lost theirs. […] We want to offer our readers knowledge about the other side of the Saharawi life. Besides their longing for freedom, the culture, music, daily life in the refugee camps.

The website includes a blog, news and videos contributed mostly by young Saharawis who are living in refugee camps. They say:

It's also a space for Saharawis who are living in the refugee camps, in the occupied territories and in Spain to connect, exchange ideas and share their points of view about the collective destiny.

The website recounts first hand testimonies about personal experiences, like the answer given by Saharawi athlete Salah Amidan when asked why he runs representing France instead of his own country:

Simply, 'till we have an independent country, we will have to
represent [another country] if we want to participate in international competitions.

Education is another issue addressed on the blog. Native Saharawi Agaila Abba Hemieda shares a difficult decision she made in her childhood:

[…] my life took a turn in a new direction when [at ten] 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.

[…] I made the decision to stay in Spain to begin my education. It was not an easy decision to make after leaving behind my most beloved ones for the next twelve years.

Contributor Aseria Mohamed Taleb shares her thoughts on what the question “what is home for you?” means to someone who has “only seen these refugee camps”. She says she has to answer this question every day.

‘Sahara zaina’ (Sahara the beautiful) my grandmother once said while we were sat listening to our national radio. The difference between my grandmother and I is that she knew what our homeland looked like and I do not because I have only seen these refugee camps.

Sahawari Voices also tweets in English, where members of the group occasionally express their longing to return:

It is also a place to share traditions liked to nationality, such as songs:

But in spite of all the hardships, there is always place for hope:


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