Portal:Western Sahara

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The Western Sahara Portal – بـوابـة الـصـحـراء الـغـربـيـة

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Western Sahara is the name of a disputed region in northwest Africa. The legal status of the territory and the issue of sovereignty are unresolved; the territory is contested by Morocco and the Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro), which in February 1976 formally formed a government-in-exile of what it refers to as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The Polisario views the SADR as incorporating the entire territory of Western Sahara, referring to the region controlled by Morocco as the "Occupied Territories" and the remainder, of which it claims control, as the free zone. Morocco also claims the entire territory, which it refers to as its "Southern Provinces". The Moroccan government refers to the Polisario controlled regions as its "buffer zone", claiming these regions as part of Moroccan territory. On the ground the Moroccan controlled zones are physically protected by a series of defensive works constructed by the Moroccan armed forces and manned by an estimate 160,000 Moroccan troops. It is estimated that several thousand Polisario troops are present in the area behind the Moroccan Wall of defense, which they regularly enter. Troop movements of Polisario are regularly subject to severe condemnations by the UN. The government-in-exile of the self-proclaimed SADR is headquartered in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the vicinity of the town of Tindouf in Algeria, situated close to the Algeria-Western Sahara border.

Western Sahara was appropriated by Spain at the Berlin Conference in 1884 along with other provinces that were returned to Morocco (Sidi Ifni and Tarfaya). After the colonial era the Polisario Front has fought guerrilla war against Morocco, and Mauritania for independence of Western Sahara. The war ended in a 1991 UN-brokered cease-fire; a UN-organized referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed. Today, 50 states, mainly from Africa and Latin America, recognize the SADR as the legitimate government in Western Sahara. It is a member of the African Union, but not the United Nations nor the Arab League. Morocco is considered by the UN and many other countries as the administrative power of Western Sahara, though they don't recognize its sovereignty over it. Several thousand Sahrawis live in refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.

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The history of Western Sahara took a new turn in the 14th century, when Arab tribes, the Beni Hassan, first travelled to this region. The society of the Western Sahara survived the invasion. Both Berber and Arab features persist today. The region was still largely organised in tribes when the Spanish arrived in Río de Oro in the late 19th century. Resistance was organised by Morocco and led by the caid of sultan Hassan I Ma al-'Aynayn, but the territory would be cut off from Morocco by Spain and France for colonization at the Berlin Conference in 1884. Today, the region is the last area in Africa to remain on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

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A town in Western Sahara

A NASA photo of the main city of Western Sahara, El Aaiún, taken from outer space.

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El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed (c. 1950-1976) was one of the founders of the Polisario Front, an organisation that fights for the independence of Western Sahara. Born in a Sahrawi bedouin family, Mustapha became interested in the politics of Western Sahara when he met other Sahrawi students at the universities in Morocco. El-Ouali became a member of the communist party of Morocco[citation needed] and received a military training in Gadaffi's Libya[citation needed]. In 1970 he participate in Sahrawi demonstrations in Tan Tan, being detained and tortured. He then organized the predecessor of the POLISARIO, the "Embryonic Movement for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro" in 1971. In addition to being the Secretary-General of the POLISARIO, he became the first President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1976. On June 9 of that year, he was killed in combat, fighting in Nouakchott, Mauritania's capital.

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"Whoever is afraid of the referendum, is afraid of the truth" - Xanana Gusmão, first President of East Timor [15]

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