Western-Sahara – Africa’s last colony

On Wednesday, 3rd of March, our class listened to Asria talking about a conflict that takes place in Western-Sahara. She is an activist currently living in Norway, traveling around and enlightening Norwegian pupils and students about the conflict. Asria is ethnically a Sahrawi, born in a refugee-camp in Algerie. Although she has never been in her home country, she feels responsible for spreading the awareness of the conflict.

Since colonial times Western-Sahara has been a Spanish colony. However, in 1975, Mauritania and Morocco, invaded Western Sahara saying the lands belong to them. After a short time, Mauritania left the country, but Morocco kept the territory under occupation. Asria talks, thereon, about the resistance movement, Polisario, and how they fought for the freedom of their country. I was extremely shocked when she talked about the harsh regime Morocco brought into Western-Sahara. The slightest of criticism, information-sharing, or resistance from the Sahrawis was crushed by the police or military. Asria showed several pictures of how a Sahrawi woman was beaten after she wrote an article about the current situation in Western-Sahara. The pictures were horrifying and sent shivers down my spine.

Why does the UN do nothing to help? Asria explained that the UN’s Security Council which consists of permanent members France, Russia, the USA, China and the UK has to be in full agreement before taking further actions. These countries have veto power, which means that if one of the countries votes against a solution then no change will happen. They must be unanimous in any case. Asria says that France and the USA are currently supporting Morocco, and are the countries voting against helping Western-Sahara. Therefore, the UN can do nothing to assist in this situation.

Asria has a big passion for helping the Sahrawi people and spends a lot of time spreading awareness. She says she has no choice but help the Sahrawi people however she can. What is the reason behind her devotion? Asria’s whole family originates from Western-Sahara, and even today, some of her family members live there. Even though she was born in Algerie, she has a strong sentimental connection to this place. Furthermore, the conflict in Western-Sahara is sort of forgotten in the media as well as unknown outside the borders of Africa’s continent. I, myself, was unaware of this conflict and that colonies still exist. I think a reason for this could be that Western-Sahara has been Morocco’s colony for approximately 45 years, and we got “used” to it. We do not see a problem in the situation because it had lasted for such a long time. Probably for this reason she feels bound to spread awareness to remind or enlighten everyone about the problem.

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