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3 years ago

Western Sahara - from refusal to assertion Toby Shelley

Western Sahara - from refusal to assertion Toby Shelley

Western Sahara - from refusal to assertion Toby

Western Saharafrom refusal to assertion Toby Shelley Journalist and writer Hitchin, United Kingdom Firstly, my sincere thanks to the university and to the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation for giving me the opportunity to be here. I look forward to hearing the presentations of the other speakers, some of them old friends and colleagues, the others – I hope – to become new friends and colleagues. I have been asked to speak on the question, ‘Who are the Saharawi?’ There are many ways of approaching this. We could look at the how and why and when of the interaction of Arabs and Berbers and sub-Saharan Africans that formed the people who call themselves Saharawi. We could go into the jurisprudence and geometry and sheer nonsense that define the recognised geo-political limits of the Western Sahara. There may still be some whose pooled knowledge of oral history could be combined into a narrative history of the Saharawi tribes. But what I should like to do is touch a little on a number of aspects of Saharawi identity by looking at how the struggle the people who call themselves Saharawi have waged against imperial pretenders has moulded them, looking particularly at the transformation of their resistance from a Refusal – a defence of things as they were – to an Assertion – that is a demand for a future that is neither a return to the past nor an external imposition, but rather a collective act of self-determination. That transformation was rapid and apparently unexpected by Spain whose very process of colonisation had provided its conditions. The resilience and adaptability of the Saharawi has also been a shock to Morocco and, I suspect, those in the international community

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