Torrential rains preceded Saray Pérez Castilla in the Saharawi refugee camps. “It was as if nature intended to drive them out of the place, from their sand castles, from that life not life.” The demolished adobe houses and the precariousness moved this young woman from Bilbao. “My soul fell to the ground when I ate beans from the United Nations humanitarian aid,” he recalls. It happened three years ago, when he participated in a solidarity project promoted by the San Sebastian capital and was the first of his trips as an artivist, a concept that mixes art and political activism. The result was a historical memory project destined to combat oblivion and that the collective drama does not fade in the Algerian Hamada.
This newspaper has given voice to three actors in that drama, recovered and updated by the media as a result of the recent breaking of the ceasefire. The occupation by Morocco started an exodus that the creator documented in the exhibition ‘Invisible Landscapes’, shown by the Sala Rekalde in 2018. “The narratives speak of people who worked in the Spanish Army and who one day turned their backs and he had to escape while dodging the bombings, it is a story that talks about selling people and territories “, he explains and assures that, despite the pain, those who suffered exile do not hold a grudge. “They know that the responsibilities correspond to the ruling class that agreed to surrender.”
Limam Sidi Bachir, delegate of the Polisario Front in Euskadi, is one of those Sahrawis who continue to fight, against all odds and general opposition, for the return to the land of their elders. The Guerguerat incident, the trigger for a new phase of the armed conflict, supposes, in his opinion, that patience has overflowed with a strategy of fait accompli. “The road was already a violation of the pact and civil society demonstrated against what it supposes, a traffic derived from the incessant looting of resources and the drug trade,” he explains.
Demographic transformation and cultural ethnocide have been the tools used by Rabat, in the words of the leader, since it took control of the Saharawi coastline. “The occupied territories are closed to the ground and the local United Nations mission lacks a mandate to monitor respect for human rights,” he says. But, how to fight a much bigger rival and that has important support? “We managed to reach the Mauritanian capital and Morocco barricaded itself behind a wall,” he alleges. «They have not managed to win. It is not the same to fight for a cause than for a salary.
The Basque solidarity network with the Tindouf camps has made a common front around the Sahara Euskadi Movement, the coordinator that supports the claim. In addition, the resumption of hostilities has coincided with the presentation of ‘Occupation S.A’, a documentary produced by the NGO Mundubat that denounces the collusion of Spanish companies with the control forces. Antonio Montoro is the technical coordinator of the entity and served as delegate in the fields of Tindouf. “It is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, temperatures can reach 55 degrees and it is very difficult to maintain hope,” he says. “Building and maintaining national identity have been key to continuing when the diplomatic battle breaks down again and again.”
Giving priority to self-determination was the conclusion of the last assembly held at the end of last year by the Polisario Front. There is no reliable news of what is happening along the 2,700-kilometer barrier, but it seems difficult for there to be modifications to the weapons or for negotiations to break out. “Didn’t apartheid fall in South Africa?” Argues the aid worker. “The relations of forces change and we have to trust International Law.”
The future rests with the young Sahrawis on both sides of the wall. Montoro assures that they are nonconformists, that they do not renounce to a better future, many through the departure and that some manage to overcome migratory obstacles thanks to their exile status and Spanish nationality. Saray Pérez Castilla recalls that uncertainty surrounds them, although they have a teaching system of an unusual quality for the scenario in which they grow up, including a film school, an art school and an engineering center.
“I learned about the harsh and unique experience of children who left for Cuba and returned to their families as adults, doctors or nurses, and I suppose the cultural and sentimental shock they experienced when they returned to their families,” he explains. «Now they can study in higher centers in Algeria, but where do they go back? There is no labor demand. They have only been able to return, endure and wait.