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|Western Sahara is mainly a desert territory in north-west Africa.|
The terrain is mostly low flat desert with large areas of rocky or
sandy surfaces rising to small mountains in south and northeast.
The languages spoken in Western Sahara are Hassaniya, Arabic and Moroccan Arabic.
The major ethnic group is the Sahrawis that claim descent from the Beni Hassan, a Yemeni tribe.
Western Sahara is one of the most sparsely populated territories
due to the fact that the area mainly consists of desert flatlands.
Most of the population is Arab while some are Berbers.
All of them follow the Islam religion. The natural hazards are
hot, dry, dust-laden sirocco wind which causes widespread harmattan haze which restricts visibility severely.
The general climate in Western Sahara is hot, dry with
scarce rain. The cold offshore air currents produce fog and heavy dew.
The lowest point is Sebjet
Tah at 55 m and the highest point is an unnamed located
at 463 m. Agriculture includes fruits and vegetables that are grown in the oases, camels, sheep,
goats and fish. Western Sahara boasts rich fishing waters.
The economy is small market-based. Main industries are phosphate mining and handicrafts.
They import fuel for fishing fleet and foodstuffs.
The Bafour were among the earliest
inhabitants of the Western Sahara, and were
followed by the Serer and some Arabian tribes, before being replaced completely by Berber-speaking populations that ultimately merged with the Beni Hassan Arabian tribe.
Trade developed with the arrival of Islam in the 8th century, and by
the 11th century, Maqil Arabian tribes had settled in Morocco.
The Maghreb tribes of North Africa and some of the Berber
tribes mixed with the Maqil Arabian over a span of 500 years,
ultimately creating a culture that became unique to the regions
of Morocco and Mauritania. An agreement amongst European colonial powers at the Berlin Conference
in 1884 was proposed for the division of spheres of influence in Africa,
and Spain was given control of the Western Sahara.
The area was administered by Spanish Morocco in 1939, however as time went by,
the Spanish rule began to deteriorate.
As World War II came to an end, Europeans as a whole began to
lose control of North Africa possessions and protectorates.
The Western Sahara is considered by the United Nations to be a non-self governing territory and
has been that way since the 1960's when it was a Spanish colony.
There continues to be an ongoing dispute between the Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic (SADR) government and the Kingdom or Morocco and the Polisario Front regarding its status.
Since a ceasefire agreement in 1991, sponsored by the United Nations,
the majority of the territory has been controlled by Morocco.
However, the ceasefire agreement was contingent upon a referendum regarding independence.
The UN, for more than a decade, has failed to retain the referendum
with disputes over voter eligibility the major stumbling block
along with Morocco's opposition to the referendum.
In 2003, another peace plan was introduced that would have Western Sahara become a semiautonomous
region of Morocco for five years. At the end of that period,
a referendum would be held to determine the final status:
independence, autonomy or integration into Morocco.
The Polisario agreed to this plan, but Morocco would not give it any consideration. Displaced Sahrawi people - angry about their
living conditions - set up Gadaym Izik camp near Laayoune
in October 2010 as a form of protest, and it became a home for more than 12,000 people.
Nearly a month later, Moroccan security forces entered the camp forcing the people to
leave, sparking outrage and protests by the residents.
Where is Western Sahara? What is the Capital of Western Sahara?
What Is the Capital of Western Sahara? What Is The Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic (Western Sahara)? Is Western Sahara a Country?
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What is Cultural Appropriation?
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The history of the people of Sanhaja Berber and Arab blood who inhabit Western Sahara goes back
hundreds of years. In the XIth century, a confederation of tribes, the "veiled Sanhaja",
formed the Almoravid State. The Almoravids were pious Sanhaja marabouts , who left the Sahara to go north where they
conquered Morocco. Then there was a split; one faction returned south to the desert while the other crossed the Mediterranean, invaded Andalusia,
settling in large parts of Spain, as well a in the present Maghreb.
They founded Marrakesh and other centres and there
was a great flowering of culture during their reign. However they lost contact with the country of their origin and their
former way of life.
The direct ancestors of the present-day Saharawis were tribes which came from the Yemen in the XVth century.
They crossed North Africa and eventually established themselves in the region of Western Sahara.
In the following centuries there were clashes bet ween these tribes and any newcomers,
for they have always been fiercely independent. The situation was stabilized
in the XVIIIth century when Saguia el-Hamra became known as
the "Land of Saints", a centre of learning and holiness, which attracted people in search of instruction from
far and wide. Because of the low, irregular rainfall, the region was inhabited
exclusively by nomadic tribes.
They lived by pasturing animals and growing crops
where possible. Their religion was that of Islam, their law was based on custom and the Koran. Ethnically and culturally distinct from
the populations around them, they moved across the desert on more or less regular routes, dictated by seasons, wells, waterholes.
They knew no frontiers. Towards the end of the XVIth century,
the Sultan of Morocco, Ahmad al-Mansour, sent an expedition to conquer Timbuktu.
His motivation was economics: the desire for salt, with which to purchase gold and silver.
This expedition, which followed the regular caravan route, had a great influence in the region. However,
it turned out to be ephemeral, the descendants quickly becoming absorbed
in the local population. For slightly over a century Timbuktu paid tribute to Morocco, then this came to an end.
There were connections over the centuries: religious, cultural and personal ties,
but they were sporadic and did not at any time constitute ties of territorial sovereignty between Moroc co and
The N1 road from Tan Tan to Laayoune hugs the coast, passing over dramatic oued mouths and through sand dunes as
it rolls down through the southernmost slice of Morocco.
The only towns of note are Akhfenir and, 3km off the road, Tarfaya.
The Western Sahara starts at the village of Tah, where a red granite monument flanking the road
commemorates the 1975 Green March (see Economic and social problems).
Once south of the border, you begin to traverse real sand desert - the Erg Lakhbayta - before crossing
the Seguiat al-Hamra (a wide and usually dry river) to enter Laayoune.
AOAV was the first organization working to survey and clear
landmines and cluster munitions east of the berm in Polisario-controlled Western Sahara.
For over 7 years, AOAV worked with local Saharawi staff
members to improve the safety of communities east of the berm by clearing over 26 million square meters of land and destroying
over 22,000 dangerous items. Local communities and survivors of
explosive remnants of war were at the centre of AOAVâ€™s programme.
AOAV operations were carried out by 96 exceptional employees, 89 of whom were Saharawi.
They were trained to International Mine action Standards and
received professional training in first aid, emergency
trauma care, and administration and management procedures.
AOAV is committed to gender equality and has worked
actively to encourage women to be part of mine action. As part
of AOAVâ€™s operations team, a majority women team was established,
having women deminers, team leader and medic. AOAVâ€™s work
in Western Sahara was supported by the United Nations, the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the Federal Republic of Germany.
Work was carried out in cooperation with Polisario and the Saharawi Association for the Victims of Mines
(ASAVIM). Throughout AOAVâ€™s mine action operations, an Emergency Response Team provided 24/7 emergency
response 365 days a year in case of mine/ERW-related accidents.
This was often the only life-line for communities living in remote areas.
AOAV developed the capacity of the National Demining Authority known as the SMACO (Saharawi Mine Action Coordination Centre)
and Polisario representatives.
This included technical training on: International Mine Action Standards
(IMAS), Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS),
Quality Assurance, Mine Risk Education (MRE) and casualty evacuation (CASEVAC).
AOAV also provided training on programme management, logistics and
administrative support. SMACO is now successfully taking a central role in supporting and coordinating
mine action programmes in Polisario-controlled Western Sahara.
In 2012, AOAV partnered with the Saharawi Mine Victims Association (ASAVIM) to
conduct a survey assessing the needs and aspirations of victims.
Over 1,390 people injured by explosive remnants of war and their families
were consulted, providing unprecedented and
valuable insight into the issues that survivors care most about.
Survivors were a driving force in shaping the process:
they were members of the survey team and involved
in outreach and building communitiesâ€™ confidence.
As a result of the survey, AOAV together with its local partner,
ASAVIM, established 48 survivor cooperatives consisting of
205 people injured by explosives remnants of war were given micro-grants.
With these small start-up grants survivor cooperatives have been able to support themselves and their families through trade, livestock rearing and agricultural projects on land cleared by AOAV teams.
These projects supported survivors to achieve economic independence,
enhance social inclusion and improve survivorsâ€™ quality of life.
The people of Western Sahara continue to live with the threat
of explosive remnants of war, such as cluster munitions, rockets and various types of landmines.
Dangerous items do not only kill and injure, but they also prevent affected communities from earning a
living in this harsh desert environment. Many mine fields, cluster strikes,
and dangerous items are located perilously close to areas vital to
the Sahrawi population, including wells and watering holes,
grazing areas and transport routes. Children, who help their families with herding, are often those most at risk of death or injury as they follow their
herds into dangerous areas.
Here is my web site: SAHARAPOLICY.COM
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