Is Spanish widely spoken in Western Sahara

Why the war for Western Sahara is raging behind closed doors

The human rights situation in Western Sahara, which Morocco has occupied since 1976, has deteriorated considerably since the arms spoke again. Since Morocco broke the ceasefire with the Polisario independence movement on November 13, it has been shooting at Moroccan positions along the 2,700-kilometer-long sand wall along the occupied territories almost every day.

"On the day the war broke out, the occupation soldiers searched the houses and apartments of Sahrawi families in the capital El Aaiún," explains Hassan Duihi via Whatsapp. He is deputy chairman of the League for the Protection of Sahrawi Prisoners at one of the local human rights organizations in the former Spanish colony on Africa's west coast.

Over two thirds of Western Sahara - an area three times the size of Austria - is occupied, the rest is in the hands of the Polisario and the government-in-exile of the Democratic Arab Republic of the Sahara (DARS), which is located in the Saharawi refugee camps in neighboring Algeria. The renewed conflict began after Moroccan troops forcibly cleared a peaceful blockade on the border between Western Sahara and Mauritania and opened a border crossing, even though the area is a demilitarized zone. The transition is unlikely to exist because it did not exist in 1991 when the armistice between Polisario and Morocco was signed.

Voting never implemented

A referendum on the independence of Western Sahara, which was part of the agreement, has not yet taken place. The necessary registration of eligible voters failed due to the attitude of the Moroccan government. She wanted to include tribes living on the border with Western Sahara in the census. Today fewer than 100,000 of the more than half a million inhabitants of the occupied territories are Saharawi people. The rest are resettled Moroccans. 170,000 Saharawi people have been living in Algerian refugee camps for 45 years.

"The cities are like one big police station," said 56-year-old Duihi. Activists like him are being monitored, spontaneous protests are suppressed, and people are arbitrarily stopped.

Twelve year old arrested

"The most dramatic and inhumane case is the twelve-year-old Hayat Daya," reports Duihi. The girl went to school three days after the start of the war wearing military trousers and a shirt with the flag of the government-in-exile. Teachers called the Moroccan police. "Hayat was arrested, beaten and tortured," says Duihi. "She was threatened with rape."

The political prisoners are also suffering from the worsening situation. For example the 19 prisoners of the Saharawi protest camp in Gdeim Izik, not far from El Aaiún, which was violently dissolved in 2010. "You will no longer receive mail. And you can only be called five minutes a week instead of the previous 15 minutes by a direct family member," reports Claude Mangin, whose husband, human rights activist and economist Enaama Asfari, is serving a 30-year prison sentence in Kenitra .

There are no really objective reports on the events of the war or the human rights situation. "It is extremely unusual for human rights organizations to be allowed to carry out observation tasks on site, neither in Western Sahara nor in the refugee camps," explains Amnesty International. The same goes for journalists.

The UN ceasefire control mission in Western Sahara, Minurso, is also of no help. In contrast to the usual practice of blue helmets, the Minurso does not have the task of guarding human rights. (Reiner Wandler from Madrid, December 8th, 2020)