My name is Mulayahmed Mohamed Nafaa. I am 11 years old, some Saharawis start to drop out of school when they reach high school, because they don’t see graduated students getting jobs that they study for. But despite the odds, I want to finish college and be a doctor to help treat people.
Message to the world: In our situation we aren’t able to use our knowledge and work in jobs as do others in free countries. I hope that when I graduate my country will be independent.
I’m Hamdi Haiba. I’m 22 years old and was born a refugee in one of five camps located in southwest Algeria. I’m Saharawi and have lived 16 years in Barcelona, Spain
I went to college for some time, but I haven’t finished my studies and now I work in Spain. I do hope to finish my studies in the future.
Growing up in the refugee camps is, of course, a very unfortunate experience. Our fathers and mothers have suffered a lot—especially compared to the young generation. But for me, it did teach me to be content. I wish I could have stayed there, but it was meant for me to leave my family in search of the rights that have been taken from our people.
For me, and for any Saharawi around the world, our duty is to continue striving for the independence of our people, to achieve our goal and to return to our homeland. It is difficult for those of us who leave behind our origins, our families, but we know that it will benefit our own future as well as the future of our nation.
My name is Muna alisalem, I am 11 years old. When i grow up I want to be a teacher. In summer there is a program for Saharawi kids called “Summer in Peace.” As part of that program I had the chance to go to France. I liked the weather there because in the Saharawi refugee camps it so hot during summer. I felt jealous of the French kids because they have a country and they don’t have to suffer from the unbearable heat of summer like we do.
My role model is Saharawi human rights activist Aminatou Haider because she struggle for her peoples’ rights and freedom.
My message to the world is this; we are deprived from our country and we need your help to gain our freedom.
My name is Mariem Hassan. I have been active as a singer/songwriter since I was 20 years old. My career in music started in an unusual place, as I and my people have lived as refugees since the late 1970’s. In the camps, I began singing as a hobby, reading poetry and putting music to words that famously described my people and culture. But over time, I developed and refined my voice and started singing at the professional level. I found myself spending more and more time with other musicians and Saharawi poets. Sometimes we would spend weeks together, practicing and preparing for national festivals and other important cultural events.
In the late 90’s, a Spanish production company, called Nubenegra Productions, chose a group of Saharawi performers to tour internationally, and, after the tour was over I remained with the company to further my music career.
I have performed in many international festivals, earning awards alongside many other prominent artists and vocalists.
In total, I have produced four albums, each serving to convey various aspects of my Saharawi culture, history and most distinctively, our national struggle for independence. My first album was entitled, Wishes, followed by Throne, then El Aiun and most recently Dance, Sahara, Dance. Throughout my career as an artist and advocate for my nation I have received many threats and was even physically attacked on one occasion by Moroccans who attempted to silence the message I was conveying through my music. They were unsuccessful, as I have continued to press on in spite of such aggression.
It’s my hope that I have succeeded to give my listeners and fans a glimpse into the rich culture of the Saharawi people.
My name is Khalihena Saadbuh. I’m 22 years old and, unlike most Saharawi’s I am an only child. My father owns a small store that carries kitchen and household supplies, and sometimes I help run the store in the evenings or on the weekends, but my day job is working as an English teacher in a local middle school.
I graduated from Essalam English School in May of 2014. I was very motivated to learn English because it’s the language of the world and it will be very useful in my future. I really enjoy writing too, about anything, really, but mostly about things that relate to the struggle my people have endured and our hope to be independent one day.
I enjoy working with my students. I feel satisfied with my work, as I believe I am helping the youth by giving them something that will enhance their futures. It’s not easy. Many students do not show the desire or motivation necessary to learn a second language, but others do.
It’s too difficult to write about your experiences that you have had in exile because the realities we face somewhat obligate you to ignore some aspect of life…to shut it out or become hardened by it.
We have passed through indescribable experiences here in the refugee camps, but in spite of what we have suffered from we have learned a lot–more than what you could ever learn in school. We have learned how we can be patient in despite being oppressed and displaced from our homeland. We’ve learned how to keep standing in the face of great challenges.
The future is always full of hope, but it’s true that it’s hard to talk about my hopes and dreams for the future because there is first the need for freedom. Freedom is the necessary foundation for anything else to be built upon. And so our people, for now, hope only in that; our right to our self-determination and to live once again in our unoccupied land.
Message to the world: We all must continue to educate ourselves and grow in the ability to change our situations for the better.
My name is Said Hassanna and I am 11 years-old. I live in the Smara refugee camp and study at Balla primary school. My dream job is to be a school principal. I like it because my mom is a principal and seeing her helping other kids to learn has made me want to do the same when I grow up.
We Saharawis have been deprived from our homeland for 40 years and I think we deserve more attention than Messi or soccer do.
My name is Haida Maarof and I’m 26 years old. I live in the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. I like to play and watch football (soccer). Other than the 6 years I spent away from the camps while in middle and high school, I have spent my entire life in exile along with my people.
I’m a member of a Saharawi group called “Gritos Contra El Muro Marroquí” (Cries against the Moroccan Wall). As a member of this group, I am actively engaged in denouncing the Moroccan-built wall that continues to impose their illegal occupation of our homeland and divide Saharawi families, including my own. Me and my friends continue to believe in the power to repel even the most repressive forces, by not allowing our voice to be silenced. We regularly plan demonstrations at the wall, bringing together diverse groups of Saharawi and many other supporters of human rights.
Message to the world: Of all of the significant walls built around the world, many have been built to suppress. Be sure to count the Moroccan wall among those which have a shameful history.