Andrew McConnell



Djimi Elghalia

Age: 48
Vice president of the Saharawi Association of Victims of

Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH), pictured near El Aaiun city, in Moroccan controlled Western Sahara.


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I was born in Agadir, Morocco in 1961. My family were among many who fled the climate and social conditions in Western Sahara to look for work in Morocco. A lot of Saharawis used to stay at our home and because of this my grandmother was arrested in 1984. She was sixty. We never saw her again. In 1986 I moved to El Aaiun for work after I graduated in agriculture. The next year I was arrested along with five hundred others for trying to organise a demonstration on independence before a big United Nations visit. They held eighty including nineteen women. They interrogated me and used physical and psychological torture. They would put chemicals in my hair which made me faint. I was electrocuted on the arms and back and was bitten by dogs. Later they would laugh and say that there are no dogs and I must be imagining things. It was the same thing you see in Iraq but here we have no media attention to show it.

I was released in 1991 along with three hundred and twenty four people, some of whom had been held since the invasion, seventy eight were women. It was because of pressure from international organisations like Amnesty International. From 1994-98 we, the victims, tried to engage in the field of human rights but we faced a lot of harassment. In 2005 we established the Saharawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH) . The Moroccan authorities prevent the association from working despite the court allowing us to work. We work from our homes using the internet and we host international visitors but still Morocco harass us and now foreigners are not allowed to visit us.

We have a conviction that we will achieve independence but it depends on international pressure, our case it very just and fair. It [pressure] will come from the allies of Morocco, like France, the US and Spain. We have no direct contact with Polisario but we share the same gaols. As a defender of human rights we are all about a peaceful solution. Whether the Polisario want to go back to war is up to them but as a civil society we are calling for a peaceful solution and this will come from international pressure.