'We will never give up our struggle' ― a voice from the Saharawi refugee camps

June 24, 2013
Minetu Larabas Sueidat.

Minetu Larabas Sueidat is a young Saharawi woman living in refugee camps in Tinduf in the south-west of Algeria. Western Sahara, the land of the Saharawi people, has been occupied by Morocco since 1975. In 1991, the United Nations brokered ceasfire between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front that supposed to include a referendum on self-determination, which has still not occurred.

Larabas Sueidat describes the lives and struggles of Saharawi people, forced to live as refuigees aond continuing to struggle for their freedom. She can be contacted at: larabastata@yahoo.es

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As a young Saharawi woman who born and lives in exile away from the land of my ancestors, I wish to share with the world the hard life that my people, especially my generation, have to deal with in the Saharawi refugee camps here in Tinduf.

Five years ago, I met with amazing group from Australia who came to attend Saharawi Workers Congress in the Saharawai refugee camps, October 2008. I had the chance to know about Green left Weekly. Journalist Margarita Windisch trained me along with other Saharawi women on the best way to report our rights and shed light on our situation.

The long period of no war and no peace has left us without, and with no option but to try to rebuild our lives here in the camps. We are doing our best to cope with the hard climate in the hot Algerian desert, along with the lack of conditions for a dignified life.

I finally decided I must speak out about my extreme pain over the suffering of my people, over the newborn children who will suffer the same pain that my generation are trying to overcome every day of our forgotten lives here.

For young Saharawi refugees, disappointment is an everlasting nightmare that turns to frustration.

Young Saharawis have been lucky enough to study and educate themselves thanks to many allies, NGOs and supporting countries such as Algeria, Cuba, Libya, and Venezuela. But after graduating, each Sahawari student must face the shocking reality that we are nothing yet, we are simply refugees who depend on the world for charity.

We are simply waiting for the world to take action for us, while suffering human rights violations perpetrated by Moroccan authorities.

My heart is aching for young people who are denied a normal life where they can work and realise their dreams and enjoy their natural resources.

Take myself as an example. I studied English literature in one of Algeria's universities. I thought I would be able to extend my studies. I had a strong commitment and desire to compare literatures and take part in the global movement to decrease the gap between the peoples globally.

But unfortunately, I was obliged to wake up from my dreams to face the reality of being a refugee where nothing is possible but to take part in the daily struggle in the camps. Our only choice is to focus on the peaceful fight that the Polisario Front (the only representative of the Saharawi people) chose as the means to gain our legitimate right to self-determination.

My life in the refugee camps reflects the daily challenge every woman in my situation is trying to cope with. My everlasting pain is the frustration and the disappointment that most of us feel due to the silence of international community.

How could the world keep quiet while we suffer in exile? How can the world sleep while innocent people are being tortured in occupied Western Sahara?

Being in refugee camps while your natural resources are illegally exploited is something that hurts every Saharawi in the camps. We keep asking ourselves, where is international law in the face of all these illegal commercial treaties that many dishonourable companies sign with Morocco to exploit our resources?

How can a society like Australia keep silent while Australian companies illegally exploit our phosphates?

Many Saharawi women in the refugee camps are dying with their children every day due to malnutrition, while companies from Switzerland, Denmark, France and others are exploiting Saharawi products. Our tomatoes are being sold in Swiss markets while we wait for charity from the world.

Sometimes I feel sorry for the naivety of my people, who still have a strong faith in the UN. Honestly, I am fed up with the continuous fabrications of the UN and its helpless attempts at negotiations between Polisario and Morocco. Surely it is better to first stop the illegal agreements before any new talks.

Life in the refugee is full of pain and loss, but as Saharawis we will never give up our struggle.

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