The Western Sahara ( Arabic الصحرة الغربية ; transliterated as-Ṣaḥrā’ al-Gharbīyah ; Spanish Sahara Occidental ) is a territory in North Africa that borders Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.. It consists mainly of desert plains and is one of the least populated areas in the world. The largest city, where more than half of the population lives, is El Aaiún/Laâyoune.

According to Countryaah, Western Sahara has been on the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories since the 1960s, when it was still a Spanish colony. [2] After the departure of the Spanish colonizers in 1976, Western Sahara declared independence, which was desecrated the following days by the invasion of the Moroccan army in the north and the Mauritanian army in the south. In the Moroccan invasion of 1976, the majority of Sahars and Saharians were driven to neighboring Algeria, where they still live as refugees. Saharkas and Sahrawis who remained under Moroccan occupation are experiencing one of the worst violations of human rights in the world. It is controlled by both the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement (and the government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic- DARS).

Since a 1991 UN -sponsored ceasefire, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco, with the rest in the hands of the Algerian-backed Polisario/ DARS. [3] In the international context, major powers such as the United States of America took a generally ambiguous and neutral attitude towards the positions of each side, and pressured both sides to reach a peaceful solution. Both Morocco and Polisario have tried to consolidate their position by accumulating formal recognitions, mostly from African, Asian and Latin American countries of the developing world. Polisario gathered formal recognition for DARS from around 46 countries and gained membership in the African Union, while Morocco’s position was supported by the Arab League countries. [4] [5] In both cases, recognitions have been granted and withdrawn in the past two decades as international trends changed.

The Wall

A mined, radar-monitored and military-guarded sand wall divides the Western Sahara in two from north to south and encloses the approximately two-thirds of the Western Sahara currently controlled by Morocco, i.e. the western parts, which include all the major cities, the Bou Craa phosphate mine, the fisheries and the vegetable gardens at Dakhla.

Built in stages from 1981–1987, to shut out the Polisario Front during the war, the wall is about 220 – 270 miles long and built as a series of sand and gravel embankments. Morocco continued the construction work for a few more years, until the early 1990s.

Several million mines, cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnance cover the area along the wall, causing great damage to animals and people.

Free Zone

Polisario’s eastern third is largely uninhabited, but many nomadic Western Saharans have their camel herds there. The Polisario Front’s army SPLA is also located here.

Here is also the oasis and former trading post of Tifariti, which has become a provisional capital for Western Sahara. In recent years, the city has been the headquarters of both the Polisario Front’s General People’s Congresses and of the National Council, Western Sahara’s legislative assembly, or parliament. The UN force MINURSO has one of its facilities outside Tifariti.

Occupied Area

In violation of UN resolutions and agreements, Morocco has attracted thousands of Moroccans to settle in the occupied part of Western Sahara with the help of subsidies and tax breaks. Today, the Western Saharans are in the minority and are treated as second-class residents with difficulties in finding work and tolerable housing.

There is a media blockade in the territory. International journalists and organizations are not admitted.

Western Saharans who peacefully and openly speak out for independence for Western Sahara, or only for a referendum on the future, risk being beaten and imprisoned. The Moroccan authorities prohibit organizations, meetings or gatherings that deal with independence. The police often use brutality to break up meetings and sit-ins.

Attempts by Western Saharans to demonstrate against the occupation have been met with long prison sentences. About 500 Western Saharas remain “disappeared” since the 1980s, having been abducted by Moroccan police or military. Large protests against Morocco’s occupation occurred in 1999 and 2005, but were put down by riot police.

Trial observers from, among other things, the Swedish part of the International Commission of Jurists have reported on trials that were more or less unlawful.

In 2010, around 20,000 Western Saharans set up a protest tent camp, Gdeim Izik, outside the capital El Aaiún. They demanded housing, work, an end to marginalization and an end to the theft of natural resources. After a month, Moroccan police and military stormed the camp, which was completely destroyed. Hundreds of Western Saharans were arrested. Many were abused. In February 2013, after two years in prison awaiting trial, 25 Western Saharans were sentenced by a military court to life, 30, 25 and two years in prison. They were accused of murdering 11 policemen. According to international observers, confessions under torture were used as evidence. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights came out with a report in 2012. In 2013, the UN’s rapporteur on torture came out with a report on the conditions in Morocco and Western Sahara, where, among other things, torture against Western Saharans was confirmed.

The Western Sahara

The Western Sahara
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