Imagine if you lived in a refugee camp and had to sleep in a tent in an inhospitable desert where temperatures can go up to 40 degrees in the summer and go down to 0 degrees in the winter. Imagine being punished or even killed by just expressing your political views. Imagine having no decision at all about your education. Just imagine all of this in the year 2013…. Do you believe this is possible? Should it be possible? No! But it still happens, and this is sadly a reality the Saharawi’s have to face in Western Sahara.
On the 13th of March Ahmed Abdi Lehbib, leader for the Saharawi student union, UESARIOs, came to Ås to tell us about the very impacting conflict in Western Sahara. He gave a very interesting presentation on the issue, shocking many of us about how this could be possible in the modern time we live today. He especially focused on the case of students and how it is to live in Western Sahara. Morroco is trying to drain the area of youth. They are trying to ‘morrocanize’ the students. The discrimination is felt by most students. The Saharawi’s are treated as second class citizens, all benefits are given only to Moroccans. The Saharawi’s are not assisted in any living costs, transport fees or anything. They are repressed from expressing their political and ideological beliefs. They have absolutely no choice in what they study or the specializations they follow. The Morrocan’s wish to ‘educate’ them, has nothing to do with really educating them but it has all to do with simply ‘morroconizing’ them.
The Saharawi students will however not give in under this opression. They have demonstrations and they want to start a revolution, even though they know this might cost them their lives. They prefer to stand up for their cause than to be opressed in this way. As a result of demonstrations six students are held in Morrocan prisons, just because they declare their political ideology and find that the control of Western Sahara should end. What ever happened to freedom of speech? This seems to be non-existent there. Three students were even killed. Morrocans thought this would silence them but this actually worked the other way around as it fueled the student demonstrations even more.
The topics going on in this area are very shocking, it is unbelievable to think such a situation would could still be happening now. Sometimes the situation gets so aggravated that the Saharawis lose all hope, they have nothing to look forward to anymore, they lead themselves to preffer war than continuing under this situation. A lot of the youth thinks that peaceful demonstration might work in other parts of the world but not there. The people are sick of being in this opressing environment, they have nothing more to look forward to and so they see war as the only solution. The Saharawi even feel a sense of abadonment, they find that the international community and the UN has let them down!
These are some topics that were discussed during the seminar. It was a mind-opening afternoon, thinking that something like this still happens in the world. Which is why we were so glad to see a full room of students wanting to know more about the issue. Informing is a very important first step seeing change happen. The Saharawi’s might have given up on the international community but this doesn’t mean we can’t still try to get the message out to more people in order to maybe get their trust again and find a solution to their problem. Thinkin g about the issue is already a step forward, however we dont only have to think we have to ACT! And lastly and maybe most importantly as Ahmed commented in the end we must not forget:
“Please don’t forget about us.”