Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Life of a Saharawi Student in the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara

The Life of a Saharawi Student in the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara. By: Mohamed Brahim, Feb 23rd,2013. Ismail Hamdi, a Saharawi student, is from Elaaiun where he was born and raised. When he first opened his eyes to this world, he saw oppression, abuses, and plundering of natural resources. He has been witnessing occupation at work in his homeland: Western Sahara. Throughout the years, he was never able to understand why Saharawis, who never invaded any other nations or any other neighboring territories, were invaded in 1975 by Morocco, and thus the never-ending journey of suffering and terror begun. Ismail kept asking himself questions repeatedly all the time as he saw himself growing up and then going to school. He could not help but to realize the Sahara was never and could never be Moroccan or moroccanized. At school, Ismail was always aware of the forged history they have all been taught at the hands of Moroccan teachers. He could sense bitterness and resent amongst his Saharawi classmates building up and mounting each day. During Moroccan national holiday, they were all forced to learn by heart the Moroccan national anthem, and to sing it loudly in the main halls of schools while saluting the Moroccan flag. They were even forced to go on day-long festive parades wearing the Moroccan flag colors chanting slogans praising the king and his dynasty. As years went by, Ismail has become a bright student. He was highly admired and was a very distinguished student amongst his peers. He was even excelling in foreign languages namely in French which most Saharawis despised and disliked. Most Saharawis believe that France is Morocco’s legal guardian and protector. They think that France is the ultimate accomplice of the Moroccan regime and is behind the continuity of their ongoing misery. Saharawis prefer Spanish and English language. Ismail Hamdi is a bright, cultured and a well-disciplined Saharawi who is always getting good grades and is regarded as an icon in his small Saharawi community. Most Saharawis are bright students and very intelligent. Therefore, they are an easy target for the Moroccan regime through the appointed teachers who all dislike this fact. The Moroccan -run schools have, unofficially, a secret instructions agenda to keep the Saharawis underrated and below the education’s average “national guidelines”. Unfortunately enough, most Moroccans have been brainwashed to go against whatever is Saharawi. The settlers rejoice when they see their children get good grades, and they would hate themselves when they see a Saharawi student score high! Moroccan teachers in Western Sahara are just another arm for the regime to misinform the Saharawis. Some teachers would even ignore Saharawis students raising their hands high up wanting the permission to speak when in the classroom, but soon enough they are all ignored and not given the opportunity to participate. Most often, Saharawis are not given the chance to take part in workshops and educational training while Moroccan students enjoy that benefit in Morocco. Ismail would always laugh when he would see the Moroccan secret service plain-cloth agents trying to blend in with the students in and outside the schools. It was very obvious they did not belong in there. Even a small kid can tell! Very often, Ismail and other Saharawis were chased by the police officers in police vans and by some “Ghoulish looking” undercover cops whenever there is a peaceful demonstration calling out for the right of Self Determination for Saharawis. Usually, Ismail and his friends would use graffiti on the walls of the schools to express their refusal of the oppression and their condemnation of the plundering and abuses taking place in the Western Sahara. In the peaceful demonstrations, Saharawi students would raise the Saharawi flag as an indication to their ultimate and most honored demand: “Independence for Western Sahara”. These kind of brave amateur acts have proven to be very effective in irritating the Moroccan regime and the local authorities. This same regime is always plotting against the Sahrawis including the kids. They wanted to break the will of the Saharawis at any price. They started building strategies and mobilizing their institutions towards achieving their schematic plans. The local authorities, under the supervision of the police and the intelligence services agents, introduced drugs into schools and encouraged drug dealers to sell it at lower prices to Saharawis. Cocaine has become popular. For them, it is just another tool to exterminate the Saharawis. Selling drugs at lower prices was a bait to lure young Saharawis into moving to the: “Wasteland”. Ismail, wittingly, noticed this new phenomenon and alerted his people. His friends and him watched and watched for days and weeks. Their suspicions were confirmed. The authorities were behind this drug trafficking at schools. The secret government agents supplied and facilitated the access to the merchandise and encouraged the addiction among teenagers. The aim was to make Saharawis drug addicted in order to lure them away from politics and to subdue them. The motto is” Get away from politics and do whatever you want”. The demand for the right of self-determination is a no-no for the Moroccan regime. Saharawis, upon this blatant discover, engaged themselves into fighting the drugs that became widespread in their environment. These efforts paid back. The risks have been minimized to the least. Saharawi students have become aware of the dangers around them in their own backyards. Ismail Hamdi is a proud dignified Saharawi. He always thinks of himself as a member of a very distinguished authentic society that has special characteristics of its own. Wearing a Saharawi Darraa is always a privilege for him and for his peers. It is considered an act of cultural resistance. It is about self-assertion.Darra3a for males and Melhfa for females. These traditional clothes are symbols of the national identity. Far more than that, it is now, in these special circumstances, to preserve the national Saharawi heritage. To Ismail’s dismay, the Moroccan administration placed a ban on wearing such clothes: no male Saharawi dress is allowed in schools. This unofficial statement is brutally enforced especially on Saharawi national holidays that are prohibited in the occupied territory. Clear enough, wearing the Darraa on the school premises was considered a plot against the regime. Oddly enough, this was another war against anything that makes Saharawis look different than the Moroccans. It is just another tactic of assimilation conducted and run by any occupation force throughout known history. Ismail Hamdi is about to get his baccalaureate soon. He wants to go to the university to pursue his undergraduate studies since he has big plans for the future. Needless to say, there are no universities in Western Sahara. It is a sad thing, but the Moroccan regime never wanted to build colleges or universities in there. Ismail is sharing his frustration and worried with his friends: How would Moroccan students in Morocco treat a young ambitious patriotic Sahrawi? With fear? Contempt? Loathing? Or-perhaps worse: violence and total aggressiveness? Disregard? He thinks most of them would say” He is trouble, stay away from him!”

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