Many human rights advocates have launched a distress call before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to denounce the humanitarian tragedy thousands of Sahrawis are going through in the Tindouf camps in Algeria.
Held as hostages for nearly four decades, thousands of Sahrawis are paying for the standoff between Morocco and Algeria, through the Polisario Front, over the Western Sahara.
Two NGOs have drawn the attention of the HRC, currently holding its 24th session in Geneva, to the dangers of the status quo in the Tindouf camps, which are genuine areas of lawlessness in Algeria. In these camps, human rights are violated on a daily basis and the Sahrawis who are held there under the relentless control of the Algeria-backed Polisario are deprived of any right to freedom of expression and freedom of movement. The Sahrawis are not allowed to leave the camps and any opposition to the Polisario is ruthlessly repressed.
The repression is most harsh on the Sahrawis who defy the ban and dare to publicly express their support for the Morocco-proposed autonomy plan for Western Sahara. Human rights defenders spoke of their outrage at this situation which has lasted for decades and stressed the urgency to identify the Sahrawi people who are living like prisoners in the camps.
The same outrage was expressed by Sahrawi human rights activist Saadani Maoulainine. She has herself been victim of Polisario abuses and had been deported to Cuba when she was a child.
This is the fate of many Sahrawi children who are snatched from their parents and sent by the Polisario, with Algeria’s blessing, to the country of Fidel Castro. Saadani Maoulainine, who told the UNHRC all the sufferings and distress she endured, pleaded the UNHRC and the international community to help rescue the Sahrawis detained in the Tindouf camps.
Women in particular need support because they are subjected to all kinds of abuses and privations but have only silence to defend themselves, insisted Saadani Maoulainine.
By Katherine Junger