søndag 30. august 2009

torsdag 27. august 2009

The journey continues...

The third group of volunteers will leave for the camps on September 15th.

You can follow us

onsdag 17. juni 2009

This is my desert story.

fredag 20. februar 2009

To see photos from the camps, use this link


The Western Sahara Resource Watch

No State has the right to promote or encourage investments that may constitute an obstacle to the liberation of a territory occupied by force”.
UN Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States 1974, article 16 (2).

Foreign companies and governments illegally search for and exploit natural resources (such as phosphates, fishing stocks and minerals) in the non-self governing territory of Western Sahara. Morocco’s occupation of the territory violates both human rights and international law. Furthermore, the Moroccan plundering of the natural resources against the wishes of the people who hold sovereignty over the land – the Saharawis – is unethical, illegal and in conflict with UN resolutions and the MINURSO mission. This is the case as, ironically, the exploitation of Saharawi resources is important in funding the prolonged occupation.
The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which has been formally recognized by more than 70 states, does not oppose foreign investment in the territory as such, but “…it has to be done with the people who have a right to deal in the territory, with Saharawis themselves, not with Morocco” said SADR representative to Australia, Kamal Fadel.
Nevertheless, the Moroccans continue to label products originating from the occupied area as ‘Moroccan’, and a market for these products continues to exist.

In 2005 the European Union signed a Fisheries Partnership Agreement with the Moroccan state, allowing European fishing vessels to fish offshore the occupied territory. Aside from going against international law, by purchasing fishing licences from an occupying power, the EU condones colonization, visibly legitimizes Morocco’s occupation and even helps to fund it.
The year before this agreement was passed, in 2004, the US government chose to explicitly exclude the Western Sahara from the US-Morrocan Free Trade Agreement. Still, the EU decided to ambiguously leave out any mention of the Western Sahara in the 2005 Fishing Agreement, even though its capital Laayoune holds the most important harbour for the Moroccan fishing industry. This omission was probably not unintentional. Inconsistently, also in 2005, the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting ‘the preservation of natural energy resources of Western Sahara as a non-autonomous territory’.

The Western Sahara Resource Watch is an NGO committed to naming and exposing corporations and governments that illegally plunder the resources of Western Sahara. Among other goals, the organisation aims to affirm the Saharawi sovereignty over the territory and break the link between the illegal exploitation of the resources and the funding of the occupation.
Examples of action taken by the NGO to prevent exploitation in the area include the ‘Fish Elsewhere’ committee formed of members from 21 countries, in protest against the EU-Moroccan Fisheries Agreement mentioned previously.

Wedding in my family

The wedding of one of the 19 year old twin girls in my family, came as a surprise to me when the headmaster at Olof Palme (the school where i teach), asked me if i was looking forward to the party. When i asked my family, they said that the exact date of the marriage was not yet set, so they didnt want me to get my hopes up. But then on the 9th of February, the father of the groome came to our house, and they set the date for the 11th and 12th of February. Here a wedding can last up till four whole days.

On tuesday there was chaos, people everywhere, bringing in food and drinks, and cookies of all sorts. The wedding would take place in a big tent put up in my family`s "backyard".

Fatima, the bride to be, was sent off to her uncle, to relax and prepare for the big day. Women decorated her hands and feet, with beautiful henna, and braded her hair.

On wednesday i went off to school as usual. Normal day for me until i came home and saw the area where my house is, just packed with people. It was everyone from my extended family, as well as any friend.

At 6 o´clock, the family of Mohamed (the groome) also started to show up, and by 7 o´clock, it was full. Everyone gattered in and around the tent, and the wedding party could begin. There was live music, and everyone that wanted could get up in the middle and dance.

The children were running around playing, the men sitting in groups smoking cigarettes or "maneisja" witch is the arabic tobacco, smoked in special pipes. The women in the tent, passing around perfumes, and making loud noise by rolling and vibrating their tounges. Even cars that drove by were hunking their horns, and blinking their lights. Nothing like the weddings at home, and this is what makes it so good.

After a couple of hours the people started to thin out. It was only close family and friends by 10 o´clock in the evening. We all separeted into the tent and house, boys and men in one and women and girls in the other. We stayed like this till maybe 4 o´clock in the morning, before people went home. The guests that came from other camps, were placed together with the family, cause a trip home would take hours in the pitch black night.

In the morning and afternoon of thursday, nothing much happened. People were gattered again, making tea in the tent, and food in the kitchen. The special lunch prepared for us, consisted of camelmeat and couscous. This dish is the most usual for weddings, and other special occasions, and was the only dish served throughout the four days of the wedding

At 4 o´clock a goat was killed, to be eaten on the day the newlyweds would move into their new house. I was not there to witness it, since this was a job for the men in the family.

I was taken to a small room in the house next door, where i found Fatima the bride, laying on the floor with a black melhefa covering her. Around her were all her closest friends. She got up to greet me as i entered the room, and proudly showed me her beautiful white melhefa and head garmin. She had only arrived from her uncle an hour before. Yes, you are probably wondering, the bride and groome do not take part in the festivities on the first day of the wedding.

At 8 o`clock, Mohamed the groome, had also arrived and was sitting in the tent surrounded by his friends. Fatima was brought in along with her friends, and sat down on the opposite side of the tent. After an hour, Mohamed and Fatima finally got together, and was seated next to eachother in the middle. The party, dancing, music kept going till after 1 o´clock and the newlyweds could after all these days apart, resign into their new house. It is tradition that the man moves to the womens family, so luckily for me, i did not loose my sister and roommate, she just moved 2 tents down the road.

On friday it was only my family, and some close friends of the newlyweds left, we all helped them putting together some furniture, and making their future home more inviting.

I feel lucky to be a part of this, especially since it was within my family. I think knowing the couple personally ment alot. It was a special experience i will always remember.

mandag 16. februar 2009

It never leaves you

I've been home in Norway for more than two months now, but I'm still thinking about my Saharawi family, my friends in the camps and all the other wonderful people I met there. I think about them every day.

I could be sitting in the library at the university reading French grammar when suddenly I'm back between the small sand houses walking to feed the goats with my Saharawi cousin, drinking tea with some friends under the Saharan starlit sky or making food on the gas stove with my mother wh
o is wearing the most colorful melhefa you could imagine. The memories keeps coming back, and I think back on the time I spent in the camps as more and more important. I didn't see it when I was there, but I think my stay has shaped me in more ways than I thought at that time. It's difficult to point out exactly how, but definitely in a positive way. I am sure of that.

Some days when the stress gets to me here in cold Oslo, i miss how life went slowly in the camps. I miss peoples friendliness, how everyone always had time to make tea and talk to you if you stopped by. I had never thought that I would miss the camps and life there. But I guess everything is possible when you get some perspective and distance from them. It's no secret that I had though days there, because life is not easy for anyone in the camps. But today, I mostly remember the good times. It's the good days that make the strongest memories, and those are the memories I'm left with after spending 3 months in El Aayoune.

This is one of those experiences that will never leave me, that will never stop to affect me. And I will never forget. I will never leave the Saharawi cause until they get what they have the right to. I will always care.

I guess many people would pity the Saharawis, but I don't. Mostly because I don't think they would want that. I think that they want the world to see them as proud and strong people. Because that is what they are! They are incredibly strong, beyond anyone I've ever met before. They have been strong enough to survive 33 years in the middle of the desert. And they will survive another 33 years if that is what it takes to get their freedom. They will never give up!