We returned from school to our camp, which we will discover for the first time. We now know that our address is: Laayoune State - Aldawra Department - District 2.
Even though the camp looks to the outside as just a sea of similar green cloth tents, the organization (the Front’s regime) can know in less than 5 minutes what is going on in each tent.
This huge number of tents is divided administratively into three states: Laayoune, Smara and Dakhla. Our camp, Laayoune, is divided into six large squares called departments: Amgala, Elgelta, Boukraa, Elhagounia, Aldawra and Edchira. Each department is divided into four squares of tents. One square is called a district and they are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4. Each district consists of several rows of tents between 15 to 25 rows.
The women of each row are organized into what is called a cell, under the responsibility of a female corporal. The corporal transmits the news between the tents of a row and the political official, residing in a building in the middle of the four districts forming what’s called an administration. The political official reports to the governor who centralizes the reports of the six departments. The institutions in a state are: the school, the hospital… The governor reports to the Secretariat of the Political Organization in the capital, “Rabouni”.
Normally every morning, the corporal goes through the administration to present her report after she collects all the news of the department, tent by tent. The correspondence is prepared for the state then someone from the guard takes it. Everyone waits until he returns with feedback and orders from the state.
At the headquarters of each department under the supervision of the local authority, a group of elderly and infirm people who are unable to fight are called a militia. They guard the facilities and bring female offenders to oversee their imprisonment or the implementation of the penalties issued against them.
There is no money in our camp. Food, drinks and clothing are mostly uniform, because their source is one, the organization: the name given to the one and only authority that controls everything and knows everything.
In our camp, it is rare to see men other than those of the organization, as all men must be on the front lines. Every 3 months, a fighter on the front line would get authorization for 15 days to visit his family, or 20 days if he spends more than 4 months.
In order to move from one department to another, you have to inform the corporal, but if you are leaving from a state to another, you need a permit that goes from the department to the state to the police station. Interstate transportation is done with a truck on which is written public transport, we call it the transportation truck. It starts off from police stations, so that those without a license do not travel. As for cars in our camp, that would be a luxury that only the leaders can afford.
The license to visit the city of Tindouf, which is visible to us, is a prize for those who are devoted and loyal to organization. As for the license to go outside the camp borders, that is the stuff of dreams.
In our camp, the organization determines the meal that all tents should cook for lunch and dinner. Militia members roam with the female corporals around the tents to make sure that no one breaks the rules of the organization's (the regime). Any woman who does break the rules, gets punished at the administration and sees her meal confiscated.
The penalties specified in the so-called document of disciplinary measures that the administration applies to women in violation, might include imprisonment at the administration, participation in brickmaking, reprimand in gatherings…
In our camp, you will only hear what the organization wants you to hear. There is no television or press, there is only a political leaflet. The organization is the source of news, analysis, explanation and interpretation. Whenever the organization sends a leaflet, the representative of the organization - called the political official - rings the administration bell so that people gather at the festival and he recites to them what the organization said if the topic is important. If the topic is less important, he calls and updates the female corporals who would then organize meetings with their cells and pass on what the organization said.
Whoever leaves our camp for any reason, we entrust them to God and the organization until they return, as we have no phone or post office.
Our camp was more organized than any other military camp in the world, and our organization was the most controlling authority in the world. Living in our camp needed you to be very, very disciplined, or else ...?
The people of our camp believed in the organization, as if it was the one meant by the Quranic verse (4:65):
“But no, by your Lord, they cannot become true believers until they seek your arbitration in all matters on which they disagree among themselves, and then find not the least vexation in their hearts over what you have decided, and accept it in willing submission.”
We walked in their footsteps..
The story continues...
Mustapha Salma Ould Sidi Mouloud is a former police chief of the Polisario Front, and political dissident.