On Monday, (23rd May) some 300 demonstrators reportedly had taken to the streets
of El Aaiun. As these were met by units of the Moroccan police,
engaging them in street battles, the protest immediately widened.
Yesterday, Sahrawi sources claim that over 1300 protesters filled the
streets of El Aaiun, demanding a Moroccan withdrawal.
Saharawian students in solidarity with the demonstrators in Laayoune took to the streets in Rabat last week while supporters in Almeria and Sevilla (Spain) also held demonstrations. So far some
19 33 people have been arrested and are missing including a family of four whose home is believed to have been violated.
Morocco annexed and occupied Western Sahara after the colonial rulers Spain pulled out of the oil rich territory in 1975 despite a ruling by the World Court in favor of autonomy for the territory. The Polisario Front is the political movement for the independence of Western Sahara and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is the government in exile and is a member of the African Union, recognised by 75 countries and the UN. Following a 16 year war between Polisario Front and Morocco a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1991. To date nothing has been resolved for the 300,000 Saharawis living in occupied territory and a further 150,000 plus living in the refugee camps of southern Algeria in Tindouf for the past 30 years. The camps are organised democratically into 4 Wilaya (districts) each named after a town in Western Sahara – Laayoune, Smara, Dahla and Aousserd. Each district is then divided into a daira (village) and then hays (neighbourhoods). Representatives are elected from each village and district and women are represented at all levels. In fact it is the Saharawi women who have been at the forefront of the organisation and management of the camps taking responsibility for health, education and sanitation. Women continue today to be at the center of life in the camps.