Please do not ask me to be silent. Allow me to breathe (11)

The tent of my uncle, who was hosting me, was in an isolated corner, so I decided to take my mother to her sisters near "Tamergit" halfway between us and Mehaires, my next destination.

I was confident of being arrested and had no idea what would follow, but I didn't occupy myself with those concerns. I wanted my mind to stay clear.

We arrived at my aunts’ tents and had lunch, then we said goodbye.. Farewell my mother, as I was going to an unknown waiting for me kilometers away and what I heard is already enough to make me hesitate.

Suddenly my sister calls from the camps crying and sobbing begging me not to go, for they told the poor woman that they would kill me.

I don’t know how I got out of that situation.. I really don’t know.

One idea was taking over me, and that is that if I return today, I will sentence myself to death and conviction and confirm  the front’s version of the story. I would be giving them an excuse in the future to expel those they didn’t want and keep those they wanted. 

If being expelled is necessary, then let them do it, not me. As for me to leave my town and my birth place only because someone doesn't like it, then no.

I gathered all my strength, put on my best clothes, and pretended to be enthusiastic as if I was going on a trip, to lighten the situation’s difficulty on my mother. I did not say goodbye to her. I said goodbye to everyone else and I got in the car with my younger brother and my cousins. In another car, accompanied us Uncle Bouzid who was the most knowledgeable on the region.

When we got to a place called "Gerfet Snadra", we stopped a few meters after entering the front’s borders. We got out of the car and I asked my uncle to go to the Fourth Military District Command and tell them that I had entered the border, and if they had orders to arrest me, then please do. I wanted it to take place outside the town, away from women and children.

After about an hour, my uncle came back to tell us that the military command had asked us to wait where we were and that they would send us feedback.

Minutes later, a military vehicle carrying a machine gun approached and stopped not far from us.

We waited for about two hours until dark and we performed sunset prayer.

My uncle told me that the congregation as he called them came, although I had not noticed or heard anything. He asked me to walk with him, so I did.

Not far from us, we found two people standing in the dark, in uniform and unarmed.

We started greeting them, they greeted us back and shook hands with us.

I recognized them at first glance. They were the director of security in the military district, my cousin: “Muhammad Salem Ould Al-Hussein”, and with him was a brigade commander named “Ammar Ould Mhamed”.

They said that they are just messengers, and they are not decision makers. The leadership in Rabouni ordered them to give me a choice between returning or being arrested. I told them, addressing my cousin, that I can leave from anywhere except Mehaires, because you know that every well in it is we who dug it, and every inch in it is a home for us or pasture for our livestock. If you have orders to arrest me, I am ready. All you have to do is bring your car. They said they were waiting for me on the way and the meeting ended.

I went back to the young men who were accompanying me and told them that we would go towards Mehaires. I said goodbye to my uncle so that he would return to my mother.. I asked my brother to take care of the kids, and we left.

In those moments, journalist Mohamed Saeed Al-Wafi, correspondent of France24 in Washington, called me as he had been calling me the last days. I told him that I could no longer talk and that I will be arrested in a few moments. My contact with the outside world was cut off from that moment on the evening of September 21, 2010.

Less than a kilometer from our starting point, the ground turned into lights from all sides.

It was dark, and we did not distinguish how many they were, they quickly stormed us from all sides. So we stopped. Some soldiers got out and asked me to get out of the car, so I did. The young men who were accompanying me wanted to get off as well, but they stopped them and asked them to return to where they came from after unloading my luggage from the car. The town was closed that night and it was not allowed to enter.

One of the soldiers approached and ordered me to get in a car, so I did ... to begin my 71-day journey of disappearance from the world.


The story continues...


Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud is a former police chief of the Polisario Front, and political dissident.