In the territory of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara (Spanish Sahara), during the Western Sahara War in 1976, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (DARS) was proclaimed as a sovereign state. It is located in the northwest of Africa and borders Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Atlantic Ocean. Until now, only some countries, mostly African ones, have recognized DARS, and the entire area is managed almost exclusively by the Moroccan occupation authorities. Polisario, the government in exile, has its headquarters in Algeria. According to international law, the future of that area, which the United Nations has declared a non-independent territory, depends on a referendum on the holding of which it has not yet been possible to reach an agreement.
As a country beginning with W according to Countryaah, Western Sahara lies in the north of Africa, in the area of the Western Sahara.
The Western Sahara is divided into the northern third of the Saguia el Hamra and the southern part of the Rio de Oro. It is a hot, dry desert area, and rocky and gravelly over sandy desert prevails. The flat province is only slightly hilly in the south and northeast. The desert climate prevails, rain is very rare, and fog is frequent near the coast. Vegetation can only be found in oases. Only animals adapted to a dry environment can be found, such as the desert shrew.
The larger cities are (according to the population census on September 9, 2004):
- El Aaiun: 183,691 inhabitants
- Dakhla: 58,104 inhabitants
- Smara: 40,347 inhabitants
- Cabo Bojador: 36,843 inhabitants
- El Marsa: 10,229 inhabitants
The country has 267,405 inhabitants (as of 2004), who are mostly Arabs and Berbers. The indigenous population are mainly Arab nomads, and meanwhile a large number live as refugees in Algeria or have moved to Morocco. They were partly replaced by immigrants from Morocco, attracted by the great privileges of the Moroccan state. Moroccan Arabic is spoken mainly, along with Hassaniya, a regional form of Arabic. Almost 100% of the population are Muslims.
Phoenician settlements left almost no trace, and the area became known only after the introduction of camels as a caravan route. After the penetration of Islam, groups were formed in the area of the Western Sahara, which later ruled most of North Africa and southern Spain as the Almoravids.
In 1884, the Spanish declared a protectorate over the area from Cap Bojador to Cap Blanc. The previously separate districts of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro were merged in 1958 and declared the overseas Spanish Sahara. After the appearance of the POLISARIO front and Franco’s death, the Spanish left the area. In 1975, about 300,000 people entered the so-called green march from all over Morocco to that former colony.
On February 27, 1976, POLISARIO proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which was not recognized by Morocco.
Morocco annexed two-thirds of Western Sahara in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979 when Mauritania withdrew from the area. In an attack by the Moroccan army at the beginning of 1976, about 25,000 Saharawis died from phosphorous and napalm bombs.
The final status of the area is still unclear, as the decision on it is postponed from year to year. The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic continues to exist as the Polisario Liberation Movement led by the government-in-exile. The republic is recognized by 46 UN members – including South Ossetia (recognized by a total of 84 UN members, including SFR Yugoslavia in 1984, recognition was canceled or suspended by 38 UN members, including Serbia and Montenegro in 2004)
In 1992, a peace treaty was concluded between Morocco and the Polisario, but still around 100,000 people live in a refugee camp in the Algerian Sahara.
Even today, the Moroccan side is blocking the planned holding of the referendum on the independence of that area.
Large parts of the country are economically completely underdeveloped. There is almost no road network. Significant economic branches are fishing, the exploitation of mineral resources (especially phosphate, the reserves are one of the largest in the world) and the cultivation of dates, which is possible only in oases. The overall economy is strongly subsidized by Moroccan tax funds, and a lot is being built as part of the Moroccan settlement project.