Photo Story: Sahrawi refugee camps
by Whitney Shefte, IWMF Western Sahara Reporting Fellow
Sahrawis and members of foreign delegations gather outside a refugee camp called Dakhla in western Algeria for a concert by traditional Sahrawi musicians on October 11, 2013. The event was held as part of the FiSahara Film Festival, or the Festival Internacional de Cine del Sahara, which brings a broad range of films to the remote camp every year. The festival is intended, in part, to bring international awareness to the Sahrawi refugee situation there, as well as to the ongoing dispute over Morocco’s occupation of the territory of Western Sahara.
People watch an outdoor film screening at the FiSahara Film Festival in the remote Dakhla refugee camp in western Algeria on October 9, 2013. The camp is part of a group of five total camps harboring Sahrawi refugees from Western Sahara. It is run by the Polisario Front, which is Western Sahara’s liberation movement. The film festival showed films ranging from the feature film “Life of Pi” to the documentary “5 Broken Cameras” to short films produced by activists.
Sahrawis reenact the Gdeim Izik protest camp that took place outside Laayoune, Western Sahara for about a month from October to November 2010. This reenactment occurred in the Dakhla refugee camp in western Algeria on October 10, 2013 during the FiSahara Film Festival. During Gdeim Izik, thousands of Sahrawis moved tents outside of the city of Laayoune, into the desert, in protest. Some protested Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, while others were protesting a lack of jobs and limited freedom of speech in the territory. The camp was violently dismantled when Moroccan police and protestors clashed on November 8, 2010.
A man herds goats on October 12, 2013, near the Sahrawi refugee camp of Rabouni, which is the camp where most leaders of the Polisario Front, including its president, live and work. The Polisario Front is the liberation movement representing people from Western Sahara who seek the right of self-determination for the territory. Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since 1975, when a war broke out between Morocco and the Polisario Front. Thousands of Sahrawis, including representatives of the Polisario Front, fled to Algeria during this conflict, where they have remained for almost 40 years.
Larisa Epatko, left, and Edythe McNamee ride through the Sahara Desert in the Polisario-run refugee camps in western Algeria on Oct., 8, 2013. The group was traveling in a Polisario-escorted caravan from the camp Boujdour to the camp Dakhla, where the FiSahara film festival was held. Epatko is a journalist at PBS NewsHour and McNamee is a video journalist for CNN.com. They were there on reporting fellowships with the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Larisa Eptako, a journalist who works for PBS NewsHour, waits during a break while a caravan of delegations headed to the Dakhla refugee camp stops in the Sahara Desert in western Algeria on Oct., 8, 2013. She was headed to Dakhla to see the FiSahara Film Festival and report on conditions in the refugee camps as part of a fellowship with the International Women’s Media Foundation.
A woman stands outside of a haima, or tent, in the Rabouni camp in western Algeria on October 12, 2013. Haimas are often used by Sahrawis as homes and meeting places. Sahrawis are traditionally nomadic Bedouins that once traveled from place to place. Now, many of them live in these refugee camps, hopeful to eventually gain the right to self-determination in Western Sahara.
Portia Walker, a journalist working for the BBC in London and a freelance writer, works during a ride through the Sahara Desert, from Dakhla camp to Rabouni camp to meet with Polisario Front officials, on October 12, 2013. Walker was part of a delegation traveling with the International Women’s Media Foundation doing a reporting fellowship. She and the other journalists also traveled to Western Sahara with the IWMF to report on the territory.
Fifth-grade students work in their math class in Dakhla camp in western Algeria on October 12, 2013.
A woman sits outside a makeshift film school in Boujdor camp in western Algeria after praying on October 12, 2013.
“It is fascinating to be granted access to an under-reported place” | Interview with Reporting Fellow Edythe McNamee
“It can be difficult to convey just how sensitive a topic this issue is in Morocco” | Interview with Reporting Fellow Portia Walker