Western Sahara. In the camps, women in resistance

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Boujdour refugee camp, Tindouf (Algeria), special correspondent.

In the still cold sands of early morning, a shadow bows down in prayer. Black blouses, hair caught in red ribbons, some girls are already heading to school. A hurried teenager passes them, proudly perched on his tired bicycle, before disappearing into an alley piercing a labyrinth of cinder blocks. In the honey lights, the shadows lengthen; the Boujdour camp is slowly waking up to the scent of charcoal and baked bread.

Ghalia, 54, was born far from these sterile and rocky plateaus: she was born on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, near Laâyoune; his family was driven from their land by the Moroccan invasion in 1975, as Spanish settlers left Western Sahara. You will never find a complete family, neither on this side, nor on the side of the occupied territories: we are forced to separate ”she breathes, her gaze hidden behind tinted glasses, her body wrapped in an indigo-hued malhafa. She saw her family, who remained on the other side of the sand wall, only once, in 2003, when the peacekeepers of Minurso organized flights from Tindouf to make short-lived family visits possible. “I saw my sister. We were happy to find our land. We want the Moroccan occupation to end. We want our land free ”, she says.

Water, food … everything is counted

In a dusty courtyard surrounded by a container, a rusty fence and low mud brick walls, Mounina, round face, features marked by weariness, goes about her household chores, a little girl with wavering first steps clinging to her legs. She herself was born here thirty-five years after the exodus. “We are a free people. We want our independence, to return to our land. We do not want to live under the domination of anyone, Morocco must leave this land, which is that of a people who are fighting to assert their rights, their independence ”, she smiles. Like Ghalia, she applauds the resumption of arms, since the ceasefire was shattered in Guerguerat on November 13, 2020: “We have returned to war after thirty years of lies, games and pretenses. Morocco never intended to let us choose our fate through a referendum it was sure to lose. Neither Morocco nor the great powers. We are taking back the guns, come what may. We cannot take it any longer, after thirty years wasted, thirty years of tears and suffering. “ In the trying life of the camps where everything is closely counted – water, food and all the basic necessities -, women draw miracles from their daily deprivation, assert themselves, verbally, on the social and political scene. Like sentinels of freedom holding at arm’s length a people struggling in exile for their independence. R. M.

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