Thinking Aloud: Western Sahara

Thinking Aloud: Western Sahara

Not What You Might Think

June 28, 2014 by Darius 

In the last several weeks, since the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visited refugee camps there last month, a number of international groups have been focusing attention on a region/conflict that rarely makes the news: Western Sahara.  Western Sahara is the region that comprises the northwest edge of the Sahara Desert – hence the name.  On maps, it’s often that jagged bit along the Atlantic in the same color as Morocco but with a diagonal line through it.  (See map below.)

Western Sahara

Why is Western Sahara in the news?  The short answer is its complicated and unfinished history.

After the (shameful) 1884 Berlin Conference that carved Africa up among the various European powers, Western Sahara ended up a colony of Spain.  It was then, as it is now, a thinly populated territory of Berbers and Arabs.  In the 1950s, when other parts of…

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