The history of Western Sahara is as follows in chronological order beginning in 1000 BC the beginning of Sanhaja Berber migrations into Western Sahara. From 700-900 the Zenata berbers assume control of the north-western fringes of the Sahara, then in 1039 Abdallah Ibn Yacin arrives among the Gadala. By the 1040s Abdallah Ibn Yacin assembles the nucleus of Almoravids and Abubakr Ibn Omar leads Sanhaja in war against Soninke Kingdom of Ghana. In 1069 Yusuf Ibn Tashfin lands in Spain and decimates Castilian army. By the year 1110 All Muslim Spain is united under Almoravids' rule. Expeditions to Western Sahara and international treaties began in the 15th century. Portugal and other countries were interested in the region: gold trade, ostrich feathers and gum Arabic. The first raiding expeditions by Spaniards to the coast of Western Sahara were at the end of the 15th and 16th centuries. In the year of 1638 the Dutch seized the Island of Arguin, which the English temporarily controlled in 1665. In 1727, by the Treaty of Hague, The Dutch ceded Arguin to France, also that year the Marrakech treaty signed between Spain and Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah of Morocco. In 1799 the Meknes treaty was signed between Spain and Sultan Sidi Moulay Souleiman of Morocco.
The years of 1884/85 were the times of Spanish Colonization. The European powers assembled at the Berlin Conference to divide Africa. Western Sahara was placed under the "protection of Spain". In Nov. 1884, The Spanish army, led by captain Emilio Bonelli Hernando, occupied Dajhla (ex Villa Cisneros) and set up a trading post, later that year the Spanish Government announced, by royal decree, its intention to take possession of Western Sahara. On the March 13, 1885 the Anglo Morocco Agreement leads to Tarfaya being handed over to Morocco for 50,000 pounds. The year of 1899 contains batttles at Daora between Saharawi tribesmen and Moroccan troops, the following year Franco-Spanish Convention defines the southern border of Spain's Saharawi colony on June 27th. On Nov. 27, 1912 the Spanish-French Convention demarcated the borders of W.S. In 1923 – 1934 bloody clashes between the French army and the Saharawi Resistance. 1934 Final "Pacification" of the interior of Western Sahara . Spain took full possession of the northern part of the territory. The Saharawi Resistance was stamped out. In 1949-1959 came the discovery in Bucraa of the biggest high grade phosphate deposits in the world. The reserves of this zone were estimated to be more than 10 million tons and 70 to 80% pure. Riots and bloody battles between the Spanish Troops and the Saharawi resistance came in 1956-58. In Feb. 10, 1958 Military treaty signed between Spain and France, with the approval of the Moroccan regime. Through the Ecouvillon Operation, the Saharawi liberation army was destroyed. The Spanish Sahara and the near French possessions had to be saved at any price. On April 1, 1958: Cintra Agreements (Portugal): whereby Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro came under the authority of Spain. Spain ceded Tarfaya to Morocco. December 14, 1960 marked the date that The United Nations adopted the resolution 1514 (XV) in a Declaration granting independence to colonialized countries and peoples. In 1961: Western Sahara was declared a "Spanish province" and two years later the U.N. included Western Sahara in the list of countries to be decolonized.
By December of 1965 the U.N. General Assembly reaffirmed the inalienable right of self-determination by the Saharawi people and requested Spain to end its colonial rule. In 1966 the U.N. ratified the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. Morocco and Mauritania support the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and independence at meeting of the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (June); the OAU Council of Ministers adopts its first resolution on Western Sahara, calling for the "freedom and independence" of Western Sahara (October-November); for the first time the UN General Assembly adopts a resolution calling for self-determination to be exercised through a referendum. In the year 1967, Mohamed Sidi Brahim Bassiri returns to the territory and starts organizing the anticolonial movement that came to be known as "Harakat Tahrir Saguia El Hamra wa Uad Ed-Dahab" or (Organization for the Liberation of Saguia El Hamra y Rio de Oro). The following year bears witness to the rebirth of the Sahrawi resistance movement with the formation of Liberation Movement for Saguia el Hamra y Rio de Oro under the leadership of Sidi Brahim Bassiri. On June 17, 1970 Bassiri's movement organized a large, peaceful manifestation at Zemla (El Aaiun), demanding the right to independence. It ended with the massacre of civilians and the arrest of hundreds of citizens. In 1973 the Djemaa requests from Franco to allow it greater participation in the territory's administration (Feb 20). Foundation of Polisario Front (May 10th), independence movement which begins armed struggle against Spain. The First Polisario attack on a Spanish post El-Khanga was on May 20th. Houari Boumedienne, Hassan II and Mokhtar Ould Daddah call for self-determination to be exercised in Western Sahara in line with UN resolutions at a summit conference in Agadir, Morocco (July 23-24).
In 1974 the Spanish and Polisario forces clash at Galb Lahmar (January 26) and Aoukeyra (March 13). The Coup in Portugal (April 25) Spain accelerates its plans for internal self-government; General Federico Gomez de Salazar is appointed governor-general of the territory. The Spanish government formally announces plans for internal autonomy (July 4). Hassan II protests to Franco about these plans (July 4). The Djemaa approves Madrid's ESTATUTO POLITICO on internal autonomy (July 4-6) but is not implemented; Hassan launches major diplomatic campaign to lobby for support for Moroccan claim, sending political leaders of the Istiglal Party, the USFP, to world capitals (July 16). Algeria begins for first time to give some low-key support to Polisario Front (July). Ahmed Osman and Ahmed Laraki (Hassan's emissaries) fail to persuade the Spanish government to drop plans for internal autonomy during talks in Madrid (August 13); Hassan says that he cannot accept a referendum that includes the option of independence and warns that Morocco will go to war to annex Western Sahara if diplomatic means fail (Aug 20). Spain announces plan to hold a referendum in the first six months of 1975 (Aug 21). Hassan proposes submitting Western Sahara dispute to the ICJ (International Court of Justice). On Sept 17 of that same year, Ahmed Laraki, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, offers Mauritania a deal over the future of the territory (Sept 30). Polisario supporters sabotage two control stations of Fosbucraa (phosphate) conveyor belt on October 20th.
In 1975 two units of Tropas Nomadas mutiny, take 15 Spanish officers and soldiers prisoner and join the Polisario Front with their arms and equipment (May 10 and 11). A UN visiting mission tours the country, witnessing unprecedented pro-Polisario demonstrations (May 12-19) and later reporting that the overwhelming majority of Saharawis want independence and reject the territorial claims of Morocco and Mauritania. Polisario guerrillas seize the commander of Spanish forces in Guelta Zemmur (May 14). Algerian President, Houari Boumedienne upholds the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination (June 19). The ICJ holds its sessions in The Hague on the Western Sahara problem (June 25-July 30). Abdelaziz Bouteflika negotiates with Hassan II over Western Sahara in Rabat (July 1-4). Spanish troops are withdrawn from several small outlying posts (October). Many of the Chioukh in the Djemaa declare their support for the Polisario Front at a conference at Ain Ben Tili (October 12). International Court of Justice declares that the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination (October 16). Hassan responds by announcing the "Green March" on the same day. The Moroccan army crosses Western Sahara border, clashing with Polisario Front as it tries to occupy Farsia, Haousa and Jdiriya (October 31). Negotiations open in Madrid between Spanish, Moroccan and Mauritanian officials (Nov. 12), culminating in the signing of Madrid Agreement on Nov. 14. The Moroccan troops arrive in El Aaiún (December 11). Then on December 20th, the Mauritanian troops occupy Tichla and La Guera.
In 1976 the Moroccan aviation forces bombard the camps in the desert causing hundreds of deaths and the exodus towards the Tindouf area begins. The Polisario Front attacks the Fosbucraa conveyor belt, forcing a halt to phosphate mining for several years (January). The Moroccan troops arrive in Dakhla (January 9). Spanish troops are withdrawn from El Aaiún (January 9). Mauritanian troops arrive in Dakhla and the last Spanish troops leave the territory , departing from Dakhla (January 12). Spanish Foreign Minister, Areilza, communicates that Spain has not transferred to Morocco the sovereignty over the territory, it has only transferred its administration (February 14). Spain officially terminates its administration in Western Sahara (February 26). The UN receives communication of the end of the Spanish presence in the Saharawi territory. From this moment on Western Sahara will form part, according to the United Nations, of the non-autonomous territories and Spain will be designated as administrative power "de jure" and not "de facto". For their part, Morocco and Mauritania (the latter until 1979) will be considered as invading powers. The Polisario declares the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (February 27). SADR's first government is announced (March 4). Morocco and Mauritania partition Western Sahara (April 14). Having completed the refugee evacuation, the Polisario Front begins offensive military actions, spreading the war beyond Western Sahara's borders into southern Morocco and, above all, Mauritania (May). A column of Polisario guerrillas crosses 1,500 km of desert and shells Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital (June 8), during clashes with Mauritanian forces El-Ouali Mustapha Sayed is killed (June 9). Next France and Mauritania sign a military agreement on Sept 2.
In 1977, Polisario starts attacks on Spanish fishing boats (April) then the Polisario guerrillas raid Zouerate (Mauritania), killing two French citizens and taking six others captive (May 1). Morocco and Mauritania sign a defense pact (May 13) under which 9,000 Moroccan troops arrive in Mauritania by mid-1978. Next Polisario shells Nouakchott for the second time (July 3). Polisario boards the Saa, a Spanish fishing boat, and captures 3 Spanish fishermen (Nov 13). French air-force Jaguar jets bomb and strafe Polisario guerrillas for the first time, near Boulanour, Mauritania (Dec. 2). The French Jaguars attack guerrillas again, near Choum, Mauritania, (December 14-15) and near Tmeimichatt, Mauritania (Dec 18)
In the year 1978, the Polisario guerrillas board a Spanish fishing boat, Las Palomas, and captures 8 of its crew (April 20). French jaguars attack Polisario guerrillas again (May 4-5). Ould Daddah is deposed in a coup in Nouakchott led by army officers who set up a Comite Militaire de Redressement National and pledge to restore peace (July 10). Polisario declares a cease-fire in Mauritanian territory (July 12). Spain's ruling Union de Centro Democratico recognizes the Polisario Front (October 12)
In 1979, the Polisario Front announces the launching of the Houari Boumedienne offensive after the Algerian President's death on December 27, 1978 (January 4). The guerrillas fight their way into Tan-Tan, southern Morocco (January 28). Mauritania and Polisario Front hold talks in Tripoli (May 21-23). Polisario guerrillas stage another attack in Tan-Tan (June 13). The Polisario rescinds its cease-fire with Mauritania and attacks Tichla (July 12). The OAU summit in Monrovia approves the report submitted by the OAU ad hoc committee, proposing a cease-fire and a referendum (July 20. Polisario and Mauritania sign the Algiers Agreement, by which Mauritania renounces its claim to Western Sahara and promises to withdraw completely within seven months (August 5). Morocco annexes south after Mauritanians pull out (Aug 14). The Polisario Front overruns the Moroccan base of Lebouirate (August 14); the guerrillas fight their way into Smara (Oct. 6) and overrun a Moroccan base at Mahbes (October 14). The UN General Assembly adopts a resolution urging Morocco to withdraw from Western Sahara and negotiate directly with the Polisario Front
In the year of 1988, Morocco and Polisario accept UN peace plan. Then in 1990 UN Security Council resolutions 158/90 and 160/90 contain the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara, and referendum set for Jan 1992. In 1991, Ceasefire begins, monitored by the UN and Morocco sends thousands of settlers to the territory and attempts to block the referendum process by forcing the UN to accept them as voters. The following year the referendum is delayed following disputes about who is eligible. In 2000 came the failure of negotiations between Polisario Front and Morocco in London and Berlin. In January of 2001 - Rally Paris-Dakar increases tension in the region, SADR considers itself released from all ceasefire obligations and later that year in April - MINURSO mandate expires and is extended again until end of June. Morocco presents to the United Nations a new proposal (commonly known as "third option") on Western Sahara; the Moroccan project provides a «substantial devolution of authority» during a 10 years transitory period, during which the implementation of a self-determination referendum would be studied. The National Secretariat of the Polisario Front (SN), met in an ordinary session (May) chaired by its general secretary, Mohamed Abdelaziz. It reaffirmed that the conflict in Western Sahara cannot be resolved without respecting the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. Saharawi Special Envoy, Mr. Emhamed Khadad, handed over a letter from President Mohamed Abdelaziz to the UN SG, Mr. Koffi Annan. A release from the Sahara Press Service stated that Abdelaziz's letter reflected Polisario's propositions to help break the stalemate over the UN Peace Plan (June 4). The UN Secretary General has proposed UN to abandon the settlement plan by offering instead a "framework agreement" (a.k.a. the Moroccan proposal), denying the Saharawi people their inalienable right to self-determination. UN Security Council approved a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara by five months, until the end of November 2001 (June 29). The OAU ministerial session firmly rejected - during the examination of 'other matters'- a request from the Senegalese foreign affairs minister backed by his counterparts from Gambia, Gabon, Burkina Faso, to register on the agenda of the OAU summit of Lusaka the question of Morocco admission to the African Union. (July 8). The Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, James Baker, met with representatives of the Polisario Front and the Governments of Algeria and Mauritania in Pinedale, Wyoming. Morocco was not asked to attend this round of talks. The proposals made by the Polisario Front to overcome the obstacles in the implementation of the settlement plan were fully considered. The proposed Framework on the status of Western Sahara was discussed. The Algerian delegation gave its views and objections on the Framework Agreement and promised to provide further clarifications. The Polisario Front expressed its objection to and reservations about the Framework Agreement, but indicated that it would consult its leadership and revert to the Personal Envoy from 27-29 in August in the Wyoming Meeting.
Until the late nineteenth century, the Western Sahara, a land inhabited by the nomadic Sahrawi people, had remained largely free of any central authority. But when competing European colonial powers embarked on their division of Africa, Spain claimed the Western Sahara. Spain historically had had an interest in the territory, primarily because it lay near the Spanish-owned Canary Islands. In 1884 Spain occupied the Western Sahara and remained until 1976.
For the first fifty years after the occupation, intermittent Sahrawi resistance to Spanish rule in what was then called the Spanish Sahara effectively forced the Spanish occupiers to limit their presence to several coastal enclaves. It was not until the 1950s, following the discovery of vast phosphate deposits at Bu Craa, that Sahrawi nationalism developed. For the first time, the Spanish Sahara appeared valuable to the indigenous population as well as to the governments of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. The discovery of the deposits also renewed the historic rivalry between Algeria and Morocco, both of which encouraged Sahrawi aggression against the Spanish occupiers. In 1973 a number of indigenous Spanish Sahara groups formed an organization called the Polisario, the purpose of which was to secure independence from Spain.
By the mid-1970s, the government of Spain appeared willing to relinquish the territory, which was becoming more costly to administer. In addition, the sudden collapse of Portugal's empire in Africa and the ensuing liberation of Mozambique and Angola had strengthened the determination of the Polisario to shake off Spanish colonial rule, and attacks on Spanish settlements and forts had become more intense. Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria also orchestrated international opposition in the United Nations to continued Spanish occupation. The Spanish government finally terminated its claim to the Spanish Sahara in February 1976 and bequeathed the territory--renamed the Western Sahara--jointly to Morocco and Mauritania, both of which consented to allow Spain to exploit the Bu Craa phosphates. Spain excluded Algeria from the withdrawal agreement, largely because Algeria intended to prevent Spain from exploiting the Bu Craa deposits, a decision which contributed considerably to the growing discord in an already troubled area.
Western Sahara depends on pastoral nomadism, fishing, and phosphate mining as the principal sources of income for the population. The territory lacks sufficient rainfall for sustainable agricultural production, and most of the food for the urban population must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan Government. Moroccan energy interests in 2001 signed contracts to explore for oil off the coast of Western Sahara, which has angered the Polisario. Incomes and standards of living in Western Sahara are substantially below the Moroccan level. The Moroccan Government has undertaken a sizable economic program subsidizing migration and development in the Western Sahara as part of its efforts to strengthen Moroccan claims to the territory, although incomes and standards of living were substantially below Moroccan levels. The population of the territory was an estimated 400,000.
From the 1960s through 1987, Mauritania's foreign policy was directed toward protecting the country's national sovereignty. Mauritania at first sought and received French support to prevent Morocco from attempting to annex the country. Then, after Morocco recognized Mauritanian sovereignty, Mauritania distanced itself from France and cultivated ties with various Arab countries, including Algeria and Morocco, in hopes of avoiding regional disputes. Yet by 1976, Mauritania was again involved in regional conflict. Along with Morocco, Mauritania, as party to the Madrid Agreements, claimed a portion of the Spanish Sahara (now generally called Western Sahara). As the struggle of the Polisario for sovereignty in the Western Sahara escalated, it became clear that Mauritania's armed forces were incapable of either asserting its territorial claims in the Western Sahara or defending its own territory. Mauritania sought assistance from France and Morocco in its struggle to defend itself against Polisario guerrillas. After relinquishing its claims in the Western Sahara in 1978, Mauritania again sought foreign military support from France and also Morocco.As the Western Sahara war continued into the mid-1980s, Moroccan advances forced Polisario guerrillas into Mauritanian territory. In response, Mauritania placed troops along its northern border. In 1987, when Mauritania found itself unable to defend its 2,500-kilometer border with the Western Sahara, the country feared it would be dragged back into a conflict from which it had extricated itself nine years earlier.
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
Western Sahara has provided data neither for United Nations nor INTERPOL surveys of crime, and Western Sahara is not described in travel warnings by the United States State Department; thus, there is no information on crime in Western Sahara.
Police arrested and detained Sahrawis who supported Saharan independence. In June police arrested Ahmed Nassiri, Sahrawi activist and a member of the Morocan human rights NGO, Forum for Truth and Justice (FVJ), who had been sought since the violent conflicts with police in Smara in November 2001. His trial was postponed twice due to the absence of witnesses (who were themselves imprisoned) and had not taken place at year's end. Four foreign observers followed the process. In August police arrested Ali Salem Tamek, an official of the Moroccan Democratic Confederation of Workers and an FVJ member. One week later he was accused of membership in a political group working for a foreign power and convicted of threats to the security of the state. Sentenced to 2 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 (10,000 dirhams), Tamek began a hunger strike in November to protest against his conditions of detention. Moroccan human rights NGOs considered these cases to be ordinary criminal cases involving assault and property damage.
The Polisario reportedly restricted freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. According to Amnesty International (AI), Moroccan authorities continued to refuse to register the independent newspaper Sawt Al-Janoub. In November 2001 in Smara, according to the NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF), police arrested and physically abused Nouredinne Darif, a correspondent for the weekly Al Amal Addimocrati, when he went to the hospital to inquire about the condition of demonstrators beaten by the police at the demonstration on the same day. While Darif was acquited in April, a court in Laayoune convicted 14 of the Sahrawi demonstrators of arson and armed violence and other charges related to violence. According to a report of the trial by Spanish observers from the law schools of Barcelona and Badajoz, the defendants claimed that they had been tortured.
Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association remain very restricted in the Western Sahara. Demonstrations were disrupted during the year. In March there was a minor civil disturbance in Laayoune. A number of Sahwari unemployed college graduates attempted a sit-in to demand jobs. The authorities forcibly disbursed the demonstrators. In September the court of appeal in Layounne confirmed the prison sentences of five of six unemployed Sahrawi university graduates who were arrested in the course of a peaceful demonstration at Smara in April 2000.
In May two other activists claimed that Moroccan authorities had tortured them for going to a mosque in memory of the death in London of Polisario official Fadel Ismail.
A number of other Sahrawis remained imprisoned for peaceful protests supporting Saharan independence. Youths released in previous years reported that the Moroccan police continued to monitor them closely.
Political rights for the residents of Western Sahara were circumscribed. Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association remained very restricted. In June a Sahrawi activist claimed that the Sahwaris were unable to form political associations or politically oriented NGOs.
Freedom of movement within the Western Sahara was limited in militarily sensitive areas, both within the area controlled by the Government of Morocco and the area controlled by the Polisario. Both Moroccan and Polisario security forces at times subjected travelers to arbitrary questioning. The Polisario reportedly restricted freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and movement in its camps near Tindouf. In June members of two NGOs representing Sahrawis who had left the Polisario camps met in Laayoune with foreign diplomats and provided photographs of victims of torture and booklets alleging that abuses took place near Tindouf.
The civilian population living in the Western Sahara under Moroccan administration was subject to Moroccan law. UN observers and foreign human rights groups maintained that Sahrawis had difficulty obtaining Moroccan passports, that the Moroccan Government monitored the political views of Sahrawis more closely than those of Moroccan citizens, and that the police and paramilitary authorities reacted especially harshly against those suspected of supporting independence and the Polisario. The Moroccan Government limited access to the territory. International human rights organizations and impartial journalists sometimes experienced difficulty in securing admission, although an AI delegation conducted a research mission in June and July, which included the Western Sahara, focused primarily on the issue of the "disappeared."
The Government of Morocco failed to conduct a public inquiry or to explain how and why those released spent up to 16 years of incommunicado detention without charge or trial. The former Sahrawi detainees formed an informal association whose principal objective was to seek redress and compensation from the Government for their detention. A delegation of this association continued to meet with various government officials, human rights organizations, members of the press, and diplomatic representatives in both Rabat and Laayoune during the year. They claimed that the Government made little progress during the year in recognizing their grievances. In 2000 through the Arbitration Commission of the Royal Advisory Council on Human Rights (CCDH), the Government began distributing preliminary compensation payments to affected Sahrawis, and announced that more compensation could be distributed pending the results of a review of petitions by Sahrawi claimants. However, numerous cases remained pending at year's end. Despite reforms to the CCDH structure, many still viewed the process as biased and flawed administratively
The UN settlement plan called for the release of all POWs after the voter identification process was completed. MINURSO completed the voter identification process in 1999. In January the Polisario released 115 Moroccan POWs and in June released 101 additional POWs. By year's end, the Polisario held 1,260 POWs, of whom 817 had been prisoners for over 20 years. In June an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation visited the Moroccan POWs, and reported that their physical and psychological health remained extremely poor. There also were credible reports from Moroccan NGOs that the Polisario authority used the POWs for forced labor.
The Polisario claimed that the Moroccan Government continued to hold several hundred Sahrawis as political prisoners and approximately 300 former combatants as POWs. The Government of Morocco formally denied that any Sahrawi former combatants remained in detention. Representatives of the ICRC have stated that Morocco has released all Polisario former combatants.
The Government of Morocco claimed that the Polisario detained 30,000 Sahrawi refugees against their will in camps near Tindouf in southwestern Algeria. The Polisario denied this charge. According to credible reports, the number of persons in the camps in Tindouf far exceeded 30,000, but the assertion that they wished to leave remained unsubstantiated. The Polisario reportedly have not allowed the UNHCR and WFP to conduct a census of the camps in the Tindouf area.
In 1975 the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion on the status of the Western Sahara. The Court held that while some of the region's tribes had historical ties to Morocco, the ties were insufficient to establish "any tie of territorial sovereignty" between the Western Sahara and Morocco. The Court added that it had not found "legal ties" that might affect the applicable UN General Assembly resolution regarding the decolonization of the territory, and, in particular, the principle of self-determination for its people. Sahrawis (as the persons native to the territory are called) lived in the area controlled by Morocco, as refugees in Algeria near the border with Morocco, and to a lesser extent, in Mauritania. A Moroccan-constructed berm or sand wall encloses most of the territory.
As in past years, there were no new cases of disappearance in that part of the Western Sahara under Moroccan administration. The forced disappearance of individuals who opposed the Government of Morocco and its policies occurred over several decades; however, the Government in 1998 pledged to ensure that such activities would not recur, and to disclose as much information as possible on past cases. Those who disappeared were Sahrawis or Moroccans who challenged the Moroccan Government's claim to the Western Sahara or other government policies. Many of those who disappeared were held in secret detention camps. Although in 1991 the Moroccan Government released more than 300 such detainees, hundreds of Sahrawi and Moroccan families did not have any information regarding their missing relatives, many of whom disappeared over 20 years ago, at year's end.
Moroccan laws apply in the part of the Western Sahara controlled by Morocco. As in Morocco itself, women were subjected to various forms of legal and cultural discrimination. Female illiteracy was very high, especially in rural areas.
Regulations on the minimum age of employment were the same as in Morocco. Child labor appeared to be less common than in Morocco, primarily because of the absence of industries most likely to employ children, such as rug-knotting and other traditional handicrafts. A government work program for adults, the Promotion Nationale, provided families with sufficient income so that the hired child maids were not common. Children in the few remaining nomadic groups presumably worked as shepherds with other group members.
Internet research assisted by Joshua Daguman