When you’d arrive at the Sahrawi camps during that period, you’d find yourself in a large prison without walls.. Three large communities isolated from each other. Laayoune camp is 8 kilometers away from the city of Tindouf to the east. Smara camp is 35 kilometers south from Laayoune camp, and Dakhla camp is 140 km south from Smara camp. While the administrative capital called Rabouni, or “Hassi Abdallah” according to the Algerian administrative designation, is 28 km west of Smara camp.


The only connection that exists between the camps and Rabouni is one wireless communication device in each camp under the supervision of the governor, dedicated to official telegrams. Movement between these communities requires a license with fixed duration and destination.


There are no shops in the camps, and cash and cars are exclusive to the men of the organization. As for the citizens, as the inhabitants are called, a precise share of food is distributed to them once a month depending on the number of family members, and clothes once or twice a year.

It is rare for members of the same family to meet once a year. The man is on the battle fronts and the children are in boarding schools or abroad. The son’s vacation may not coincide with the father’s authorization. If the family is destined to meet once a year, such as if the fighters license coincides with the students vacation, their get-together would not exceed 15 days per year, which is the duration of a fighter’s license. If it is ever exceeded, he will be deprived of his subsequent license according to the laws of the army..

Year after year passes and family members are busy counting the days when it is time for them to return to the nest. When they meet, the time-bound license will separate them again.


The organization does not need to place walls or fences around the camps. No one will leave without their father, mother or child. People will not feel that they are in a big prison, when rather they are waiting to get together ..

This is how it was and they got accustomed with the camp life despite its harshness, they do not complain about anything .. they are grateful to the organization that blesses them with food, drinks, clothing and medicine until they get together ..

We also joined the waiting circle on the day we were sent to boarding school, so that our young minds would be preoccupied with returning to the tent, and our mother preoccupied waiting for us.


In the last third of 1980, we were transferred to the “October 12th School for the Cubs of the Revolution”, which is a school established primarily for military training, but the organization recently decided to make it a dual school that combines military training and academic attainment, and opened classes there.

The school is located between the states of Smara and Dakhla, it is a military school par excellence, with a teaching staff and a group of military trainers. When you join, you go to the barber, receive your uniform and get under the supervision of the military trainer who replaced the educator in our first school. As for the teacher, only the classroom links you to him, for he is, like you, subject to the military regime.


In the new school, there was only one class for the first grade of middle school and I was in the only class for the last year of elementary school. There were many classes for the fourth grade of elementary school.. Most of the children in the school were older than me, as most of them started school late. I was the youngest in my class entering the age of thirteen years.


In our new school, with regular teachings, we had classes on weapons and combat, in theory and practice, such as learning to disassemble and assemble individual weapons and use them in shooting lessons. I remember in my first shooting lesson with a weapon called Siminov, when I fired my first shot, the weapon fired backwards and my cheeks were swollen. The coach laughed at me.


The most difficult in the “October 12th School for the Cubs” was the night of the so-called raid .. which is a training session and a test of combat readiness that takes place late at night, attended by the students as well as the soldiers who train with us in the same school ..

I remember on one of the first nights at school, I was asleep as all the children, and suddenly we woke up to the sounds of heavy bullets inside our dormitories and whistles and screams to go out to the assembly square, I ran with the rest of the children to the yard, terrified ... 

In the yard, each class gathers separately to inspect attendance and uniforms. Whoever delays in joining the gathering in less than a few minutes, or comes with a military uniform missing anything from cap to shoe, will be punished by spending the rest of the night in the yard in standing at attention position, or by night marching.


With time, despite our young age, we became familiar with raids, we were no longer intimidated by waking up to the sounds of bullets, explosions, shouting and whistles. We started making fun of our colleagues who were taken captives on the night of the raid and considered them losers. We learned to use weapons and we were rather good students. We had a good teaching staff, most of them from the Mauritanian volunteers who joined the front in the previous two years, after the war with Mauritania ended.

We went back on vacation with something to brag about to the camp kids. Not only we excelled over them in studying, now we mastered disassembling and assembling weapons, and we learned shooting with live ammunition. As for the stories of raiding adventures, only the elite of the comrades can have those ..


The story continues