Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic: The Refugee State Ready For Liberation

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Frente Polisario. The Sahrawi fighters -- ready to go home. Photo: Alfons Rodriguez

Story By: Alfons Rodriguez and Quim Pujals


They've spent 40 years forgotten in one of the harshest deserts of the world, the stony hammada of Western Algeria, but they are different to the other millions of refugees all over the world.

They have their own government, parliament and other institutions, an active diplomacy and a tested army that controls its borders and contains the Saharan drug trafficking networks and the incursions of jihadism.

Though impoverished, they have created all the symbols and services of a true state, including their passports, currency, a television and a national football team among others institutions. Everything ready to be transplanted to their land if anytime they're allowed to return there.

This autumn, November 2015, marks the 40 anniversary when in 1975 Spain abandoned its last colony, the Western Sahara, opening the door to one of the oldest unsolved conflicts in the world; triggered by a violent Moroccan invasion and occupation. The country has been stranded since 1991 because Rabat hinders the self-determination referendum required by the United Nations, whose mission there is the only one anywhere in the world which bars it from monitoring human rights abuses.

When they had just arrived to the refugee camps, the exiles began to organize the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), where some 160,000 people live. Next February, 2016, is the 40 year anniversary of the foundation of the SADR State.

With an advanced constitution for the region, recognized by over 80 countries, founding member of the African Union --that's why Morocco abandoned the African Union-- it controls a vast territory beyond the colossal Moroccan-built wall of 2,700 kilometers guarded by 150,000 Moroccan soldiers and millions of land mines mines that defend the disputed territory.

This is a snapshot of the only state created in a refugee camp in the world and the people who survive there. For the Photo Essay Please go to  click on "stories" and "Sahrwi Arab Democratic Republic" For a photo essay on Global Hunger please see 

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