Women and the Western Sahara

After decades of inhumane treatment under Moroccan rule, the indigenous Saharawi people continue to demand their independence.

Numerous demonstrations denouncing occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco since 1975 has resulted in widespread discrimination and police brutality.

Last month, several dozen Saharawi activists were injured after a police crackdown outside the office of the ruling Justice and Development Party where protestors gathered to voice outrage over the postponement of a verdict on the continued detention of Saharawi people in the notorious Sale prison.

History of the Western Sahara 

The Western Sahara is a disputed territory in North Africa, bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.

Despite recognition of the Saharawis’ right to self-determination by the International Court of Justice at end of Spain’s colonial rule, the 1975 Madrid Agreement handed over two thirds of land in Western Sahara to Morocco and one third to Mauritania.

Following a 1978 peace accord, Mauritania relinquished areas under their control. However, Morocco seized the opportunity to control the entire Western Sahara. As a result, tens of thousands of Saharawis have been displaced from their lands and their struggle represents one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.

Saharawi Women

Women have a played a key role in traditional Saharawi culture and in resisting foreign occupation. Traditionally, Saharawi women could inherit property and could subsist independently of their husbands, fathers, and brothers. They were also valued by Saharawi tribes, had great personal freedoms, and were active participants in major tribal decisions.

Women Koranic teachers, traditional healers, marabouts (mystic holy leaders), and scholars are an integral part of the Saharawi oral heritage.

Over the course of thirty-three years in their fight for the liberation of Africa’s last colony, Saharawi women have played a major role in the struggle for the Western Sahara by developing various skills, ranging from education to military as well as obtaining power in the social and political life.

Western Sahara and the Arab Spring

Every day languages, traditions and cultures are being lost. In an effort to share the social and humanitarian challenges facing Saharawi women living under occupation, I initiated a project called Barakah Bashad. The aim of the project is to bring the voices of Saharawi women and others to a global audience. The best part? I will be blogging the journey here on Her Blueprint.

There’s only 15 days left. Help make this project happen by donating today!

I would like to leave you with this interesting short documentary about what young Saharawi women think about gender equality.