40-YEAR SAHRAWI STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE OF AFRICA’S LAST COLONY
SMARA – The Sahrawis were displaced during the Western Sahara War (1975-76) by Moroccan forces and have been living in refugees camps near Tindouf, Algeria ever since. With most of the estimated 90,000 to 135,000 Sahrawis still living in the camps, their situation is one of the most protracted refugee crisis in the world.
The limited opportunities for self-reliance in the harsh desert environment have forced the Sahrawis to rely on international humanitarian assistance for their survival. However, the Sahrawi camps differ from most refugee camps in the level of self-organisation. Most affairs in camps are run by the refugees themselves, with relatively little outside interference. The five camps are governed by the Polisario Front, the government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). SADR’s government in exile and administration are located in the Rabouni refugee camp.
A photo essay.
Boy helping out his parents who own a garage in the Smara refugee camp
Torrential rains destroyed mud-brick homes, shops, hospitals, schools and roads last October
Young Sahrawis learn to box. The banner reads “Boxing school. Resist and win”.
Man crossing main road of the Smara refugee camp
Elementary school pupils heading home
“Long live the RASD [Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic]”
Outskirts of Smara refugee camp where goats are contained in makeshift fenced boxes
Monthly distribution of flour by the World Food Program
Banner for divestment campaign in Western Sahara, which Morocco has opened up to foreign companies to mine for phosphate and harvest fish.
Tea time in a Sahrawi household
Sahrawis celebrating 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic on February 26
Stationary military parade by the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army on 40th anniversary of the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, February 26
President of the Republic, Secretary General of the Polisario Front, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Mohamed Abdelaziz (left) speaks with the Minister of National Defence, Abdellah Lehbib.
Armored brigade of Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army
Soldiers of the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, men of all ages, who are mainly recruited from the inhabitants of the refugee camps
Entrance to the dilapidated Museum of National Resistance, which tells the story of the struggle for independence of the Sahrawis, in the Rabouni refugee camp, seat of the Polisario Front government in exile.
Cemetery near the Smara refugee camp, where Sahrawis have buried their dead in the past 40 years
Sandstorm in the Smara refugee camp