Western Sahara ( Arab. السحراء الغربية As-Sahrá’ al-garbíja) is a sparsely populated territory in North Africa corresponding to the territory of the former Spanish Sahara. The area of the territory is 266,000 km², in 2009 there were 513,000 inhabitants in the entire territory. The official language in the entire territory is Arabic, a dialect of Hasaniya. Check Countryaah for other countries beginning with W.
Since the cease-fire in 1991, the territory is de facto divided into the territory occupied by Morocco (about 2/3 of the territory by the sea) and the territory of the independent Western Sahara, officially called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (abbr. SADR; the rest of the territory), which it declared in 1976 at the beginning of the Moroccan occupation of the Polisario Front. Morocco is supported by France, the Polisario Front by neighboring Algeria, where refugee camps for local residents have also been located since the 1970s. Between the territory of Morocco and the territory of SADR there is a 2,200 km long earth embankment ( berm ) with minefields.
The de jure territory (according to the UN) on the one hand still belongs to Spain (as a non-self-governing territory ), which, however, has not claimed it since 1975, and on the other hand, the territory as a whole is claimed by both Morocco and on the one hand, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is recognized by around 45 countries of the world, the Arab League organization supports Moroccan claims, other countries (including USA, Canada, Russia, EU countries ) remain officially neutral.
The territory has been a Spanish colony since 1885. In 1934, the colony was named the Spanish Sahara. In 1965, the UN mandated Spain to organize a referendum on the future of the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the right to self-determination and decolonization. Spain did not organize this referendum, and in 1975 it succumbed to the pressure of Morocco and Mauritania, when at the end of the year it signed the so-called The Madrid Agreement, by which the territory was ceded to Morocco and Mauritania at the end of February 1976. The validity of the Madrid Agreements is highly disputed in terms of Spanish law, and the UN considers them invalid in terms of international law.
After the departure of the Spanish in 1976, the territory was occupied by Morocco and Mauritania, and the Polisario Front declared the independence of the territory under the name of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Algeria, where it is still based. In 1979, Mauritania gave up its claims and the war continued only between Morocco and the Polisario Front. Since the cease-fire in 1991, the current situation described above applies.
Population and cities
The inhabitants are mainly nomadic Arabs and Berbers. The capital is El-Aaiún with a population of 184,000 (data for 2004 ). The second largest seat is the port city of Dachla (58,000 inhabitants, year 2004).
It is an economically backward area, oriented mainly to mineral extraction and agricultural production. Phosphates, uranium and iron ore are mined. Sheep, goats and camels are raised on local pastures. Plant production is here only in oases (cultivation of dates and figs).