I slept great last night even without the fan on. Yehaaww

I woke to find that I had missed the slaughter due to the fact that the car we were going to use wasn’t working so they didn’t wake me.

I have just returned from a morning of visiting various centres around the camps. First we visited the human rights centre where I met the president, Abdelslam Omar Lehcen, where he gave me a tour of the facilities. There is a lot of photographic evidence, which he says is recent and shows some very painful images from the jails in morocco that house the Saharawi prisoners; some who are there for simply speaking publicly against the occupation and some being soldiers from the war.

I ask the president if the Saharawi people are getting much assistance from the rest of the Muslim / Arab nations seeing as they are two Muslim / Arab nations at war. He tells me that they do get help in the form of aid from some of the Muslim / Arab nations but the bigger more influential nations will not intervene as the Saharawi people are a liberal Muslim / Arab country and if someone wants to eat during Ramadan they are not frowned upon and that women are not forced to follow the same rules as in other Muslim / Arab countries. This does not sit well with the bigger Muslim / Arab countries.

What I saw and heard alarmed me. The invasion of Western Sahara can very easily be deemed contentious, as so often is the case, it seems to come down to a case of natural resources – in the Western Sahara’s case it is oil, phosphates and fishing rights. However, the Moroccan government state that they have occupied the Western Sahara because it was once the Moroccan Sahara and they had a claim on the land prior to the Spanish occupation. The UN asked the advisory committee of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague to rule on the plight of the Western Sahara. They ruled that the Western Sahara should be ruled under the sovereignty of the Saharawi people. As there is no way of enforcing the rule of the ICJ advisory committee, unless the UN or the bigger world powers put pressure on the Moroccan government, the occupation is going to remain as it is.

I am told that the UN is now pushing for a referendum in Western Sahara as the solution to this occupation. However, the French have vetoed this option so it seems that this is not going to happen anytime soon. Meanwhile the UN are spending $75 per annum on working on behalf of the Saharaui people, $25 on aid for the refugee’s and $50 on the delegation who are working on the referendum. It seems like a bit of a joke to me.

I have asked most people I have met as to their opinion of the best way to get their country back. The overwhelming view is that it should be done via a political route and not war. So even though the UN has effectively given their country to the Moroccan government they are still pinning all their hopes on the UN to get it back. Politics over war is great in principle. However, I am sceptical of their chances, and although I don’t think that war is the option, I can foresee problems akin to the Israel – Palestinian situation happening. I also foresee the Moroccan government being in power for a long time, at least until all the natural resources are gone.

Next I visited the Hospital for the survivors of land mines, located outside Rabuni and a 10 minute desert drive.

I met one victim of the war here called Saheed Mohamed who was a Saharawi soldier fighting in the occupied territory and was paralyzed by a land mine explosion. He has been at the hospital since Dec 1982. He mainly talks about getting the word out to the West about the situation in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. He asked me to thank the people of the UK for their help so far and to continue their aid even if it’s the smallest of help. He finishes by asking me to say hello to Elizabeth, our queen… yep you read right. I said I would try… Saheed filled me with sorrow and then hope as his positive attitude came out during our meeting. Even after being here for 22years without any hope of recovery his thoughts are first for the people in the occupied territories and not for himself. I got the same response from another patient in the hospital who was simply a Bedouin family man who was not involved in the war but was paralyzed by mines and has been in the hospital system since 1981. Both men wanted me to get the message of their countries situation out the west so that the future will be better for the future generations of Saharawi people.

We headed back to Feb27 to have lunch and sleep through the midday sun although, as I am not used to this, I sit and write.

In the evening we headed out to Samara which is one of the biggest camps here in the desert. It’s a 35min drive from Feb27.

We go to visit one of Hamdi’s friends who has been staying with us in Feb27 and helping Hamdi out whilst I am there. His name is Mohammad Lamine although I call him Manchester City as his English is limited to football teams and players and every now and then he shouts out the name of a football club in either Spain or the UK. I keep telling him that Arsenal will win the champions league this year and that always gets a laugh out of him.

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Samara
Samara is a huge place with maybe 50,000 people living here without mains electricity. All the houses are on solar power and, as in Feb27, all houses have satellite TV. The surroundings are more like my preconceived ideas of what a refugee camp would look like: a lot more rubbish and dogs here with more close-nit-quarters and narrow alley ways. Although Samara is less developed in terms of electrical facilities it does have better shops that are better stocked and I can see that there are definitely some entrepreneurial people here. I met a young friend of Hamdi’s who owns a store which sells everything from knives and forks to solar panels and car stereos. He’s been in the camps for 8 years and started with nothing. He’s 24 now and looks only to grow his shop into a thriving business.

 


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Samara Rubbish

We return to Feb27 and get dinner This time I get to help out in the kitchen, but not for long as the women turn up again and I am ousted. The women to my surprise start speaking English which was nice to hear, but I’m soon taken to the living room to drink tea.

We still have no electricity in Hamdi’s house but we are promised it will be back on in the morning. Dinner is ready about 0030 and all of the women leave when dinner is served except one, I think her and Hamdi are “friends” – it’s hard to tell as affection is not openly shown here.. we eat and sleep…