The Western Sahara (Arab. الصحرة الغربية , al-Ṣaḥrā’ al-Gharbīyya, esp. Sáhara Occidental) is a disputed, non-self-governing region in northwest Africa, formerly a Spanish colony. Its border neighbors are Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, and Mauritania to the east and south. To the west is the Atlantic Ocean. The largest city is El Aaiún(Laayoune), where most of the region’s population lives. Western Sahara is one of the least populated regions in the world; on average, only one inhabitant lives in the area for every square kilometer. According to COUNTRYAAH, Western Sahara is a country that starts with letter W.
The status of Western Sahara is controversial. Morocco controls a large part of the region and has declared the entire region to be part of Morocco. This is not generally recognized. Polisario has declared the region independent under the name Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.
The legal status and sovereignty of the area are still disputed. The area is contested by Morocco and the Polisario. The United Nations considers the region a non-self-governing territory.
Morocco is a constitutional monarchy with an elected bicameral parliament. The king of Morocco has extensive powers, he can, among other things, dissolve the parliament. The parts of Western Sahara controlled by Morocco are divided into several provinces, which Morocco considers integral parts of the kingdom. The Moroccan government heavily subsidizes these provinces with, among other things, cheaper fuel to satisfy nationalists and attract migrants – or settlers – from pro-government Sahrawis as well as actual Moroccans.
The government-in-exile of Western Sahara is a parliamentary one-party system, but according to the form of government, it will change to a multi-party system if the region gains independence. The government’s main base is in southwestern Algeria, in the refugee camps of Tindouf province, which it controls. It also says it controls the eastern part of the Western Sahara wall. The area in question is more or less deserted and the Moroccan government considers it a no-man’s land patrolled by UN forces.
Development of freedoms
According to Freedom House ‘s assessment, Western Sahara is not free. Morocco has claimed control of Western Sahara since 1975, but the UN considers it a “non-self-governing territory”. Morocco controls the most populous area of the Atlantic coast, more than three-quarters of the area. This region, which Rabat calls the “Southern Provinces”, is represented in the country’s parliament. The Polisario Front controls the country in the eastern and southern parts of Western Sahara. Rabat regularly offers autonomy, but the Polisario demands an independence referendum. The long-promised referendum on the status of Western Sahara has never been held. In 1991, the ceasefire brokered by the UN weakened in 2020. Civil libertieshas been severely restricted in the Moroccan-controlled area, especially in terms of independence activism; civil liberties are also restricted in Polisario-controlled territory.
Geography and nature
In terms of surface formation, Western Sahara is a rising plateau towards the east. The highest point (823 meters) is in the northeast near the Atlas Mountains. The area has the second largest phosphate reserves in Africa (Bou Craa deposit). Other minerals are oil, copper, potassium salts, mercury, manganese and uranium.
The hot and dry climate is softened in the Coastal region by the influence of the ocean. The average monthly temperature varies between 17–20 and 25–30 degrees. Little rain (50–200 millimeters per year) comes in October-November and March-May. There are no permanent rivers. The vegetation mainly consists of bushes and grasses growing in the rocky and sandy desert. In the few oases and in the lower reaches of Hamran Wadi, acacias, tujis, palms and fig trees grow. The fauna includes wild boars, mouflons, antelopes as well as lizards and snakes, predators include cheetahs, jackals andhyenas.
Western Sahara’s only significant natural resources are phosphate and iron ore reserves and fish stocks. Phosphate is the most important export product. The country’s rainfall is too low for proper farming.
Fruits and vegetables are grown in a few oases. Nomads raise camels, goats and sheep. Fishing is also practiced.
As of July 2003, the region of Western Sahara was home to approximately 489,000 people, the majority of whom held the citizenship of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. They speak Hassaniyya, a dialect of Arabic, and Spanish. The main religion is Islam.
Culture and media
The Moroccan radio and television station RTM operates in the area. The National Radio of the SADR, a radio channel supporting the Polisario, has been operating since the 1970s, and broadcasts programs in Arabic and Spanish on shortwave.
Watching camel races is a popular pastime. The culture also includes drinking tea; the guest is often offered three cups of tea in a ceremonial style. Fish in its many forms is the core of food culture.