Struggle for Independence
The history of the Sahrawi people is a centuries-long saga of annexation and subjugation. The Arabs were the first invading power. They ruled the people of Western Sahara from the 1300s to the 1600s. After the Arabs, came the colonizing power–Spain. They stayed until 1975. The final occupiers are the Moroccans. Morocco still continues to occupy large parts of resource-rich Western Sahara, wrongfully insisting they are rightful owners.
Ending colonial rule in Western Sahara, Spain negotiated a settlement with Morocco and Mauritania. On November 14, 1975, the region was partitioned. Morocco acquired two-thirds in the north and Mauritania the remaining third. The following year, the Polisario-the Sahrawi national liberation movement-declared the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and announced its first government on March 4, 1976.
When a new Mauritanian government signed a peace deal with Polisario renouncing all territorial claims, Morocco forcefully began to occupy areas that Mauritania gave up. They divided the territory with a berm–a land mined embankment–that stretched 2,700 kilometers (1,677 miles), quite literally separating Sahrawi families. As Morocco began its ruthless, illegal annexation with relentless bombardments, men, women, and children were forced to flee the region on foot. Algeria allowed refugees to settle near the military town of Tindouf.
In recent times, talks brokered by the United Nations have stalled and countless refugees continue to brave awful conditions. The refugee camps are located in vast, flat wastelands under scorching desert heat.
“We do not need anything more, by the grace of God,” said the head of one refugee family.
Their fierce optimism doesn’t hide the grim conditions they live in. Food is scarce. Most of the people live almost exclusively on humanitarian aid. Hence, they suffer from severe malnutrition and acute anemia. Except for a few hours everyday, there is no electricity in the camps. There are no latrines.
Many Sahrawi people have given up hope of ever returning to their homeland. They don’t expect anything to change. While others continue to demand the right to self-determination of Western Sahara. These brave people who demand freedom and independence are subject to unspeakable cruelty. They are often jailed, falsely charged, and tortured into making “confessions” of crimes they did not commit.
Pray for the Sahrawi people in refugee camps in Algeria. Pray for the provision of food and medical care (The Bible, Matthew 6:11).
Pray for God to soften the hearts of those in governance in Morocco. Pray the Sahrawi people will be allowed to return to their God given land (The Bible, 2 Corinthians 3:17).
Pray for the speedy release of all those who have been falsely charged and imprisoned for demanding the right to self-determination (The Bible, Isaiah 42:7).
Pray for the international community to stand with the Sahrawis in their struggle against Morocco for self-determination. Pray the Sahrawis are allowed a vote to decide their future. Pray for Western Sahara to be recognized once again by the world as a sovereign nation (The Bible, Jeremiah 31:2-3).
Pray for the Sahrawi people to come to know, understand, and experience the love of Jesus Christ (The Bible, Zephaniah 3:17).
A Sahrawi Spring? Not Likely (The Economist)
This article originally appeared in the August 2013 Edition of the Win 10/40 Reporter.
See what $10.40 / month can do!
Stay in touch with news & updates.
Buy books, study guides & calendars.
The latest issue of the Reporter