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I s l a s C a n a r ias

M O R O C C O

LAÂYOUNE

A T L A N T I C

Es Semara

O C E A N

Ad Dakhla

Boujdour

W E S T E R N SAHARA

Galtat Zemmour nor th

100 km

100 miles

S A H A R A

WESTERN SAHARA

Awserd

A F R I C A

Tichla

M A U R I T A N I A

Salek Labieb Basher, 23, pictured in the desert near Tifariti, in Polisario-controlled Western Sahara. Basher was born in Smara. As a teenager, he took part in a raid to rescue a large herd of Sahrawi camels that had been captured by Moroccan forces. ‘Many of us went to see them and I felt bad when I saw women crying because the Moroccans were not giving [the camels] water or food, and every day one was dying,’he says. ‘The camel is very important in our culture and is a friend of the Sahrawi since long ago. The Moroccans did this to hurt the Sahrawi people. After three months, the camels were like skeletons, so me and three friends decided to liberate them to stop this tragedy.’ In order to avoid capture, Basher’s group spent a week studying the Moroccans’ routine, before jumping over the wall into the enclosure in which the camels were being held. ‘We led the biggest camel out and the rest of the camels followed,’ he says. Together, they encouraged the herd through a gap in the socalled Moroccan Wall before hiding from search vehicles. The 2,700-kilometre wall of sand was built by the Moroccans during the 1980s to cordon off the land it controlled. It’s protected with barbed wire, guards and mines. The day after they liberated the camels, Basher and his friends clambered through the wire and over the wall to reach the Polisario area.‘When we arrived [back] in the [refugee] camps, everybody knew the story, and we were like heroes. We met the president and had a meal at his home. In the occupied territory, all the news was about the children who had freed the camels. I was only 17 at the time. Seventy camels made it across. The Moroccans sentenced us to ten years in jail [in our absence]’

26 www.geog raphical.co.uk JANUARY 2011

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