Andrew McConnell



Ihaka Sidahmad Embark

Age: 34
Wall Jumper, pictured in 27th of February refugee camp, Algeria.


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I was born in El Aaiún in 1975. I remember when my mother had to find food for us because the Moroccans catch my father. I was just six. We didn't know if he was alive or dead, they held him from 1981 to '91. I remember he went out and said he would be back very soon and I did not see him for ten years. He was arrested because he used to talk about independence and was a Polisario artist.

I was in a music group, 'Stars of the Saguia el Hamra.' After a while a lot of Saharawis liked us. We had some songs talking about the Saharawi cause, with messages for the Saharawi people, but in a subtle way. But some Saharawi people working with the Moroccan government told them about the songs and then the group couldn't live there and play anymore, the Moroccans were going to arrest us. Two guys from the group left on a small boat to the Canary Islands. It was in December 2000. I was living in a house and couldn't go outside, a member of my family said he could take me to the wall. There were two friends who were going to cross with me. We knew it was like going towards fire but after the fire there would be water and anyway living there [in El Aaiún] was fire.

We drove to outside of Smara and walked for one day. At night we could see the Moroccan soldiers on the wall. The wall is really four small walls, if you have no information about the wall you cannot cross it. We crossed the first wall on a hill and found ourselves in a trench, we crossed this then the second wall, we heard dogs and knew the base was near. We found ourselves at the last wall and didn't realise we had crossed the third wall. We heard dogs on each side so knew the bases where there so we couldn't go any other way. We came across a base in the hills one hundred metres away. We stopped, we couldn't speak or smoke. We watched and saw no soldiers so we knew they were sleeping, we started walking very slowly, then we saw the wall.

It was about two metres high and made of bricks and we saw lookout points that where empty. One friend went first, then I climbed over the wall and fell on the other side, I was stopped by barbed wire and injured myself. I made a lot of noise and the Moroccan soldiers woke up and started shouting. The last friend had the same accident as me and rolled into me and my leg was caught in barbed wire. Because it was dark the Moroccans couldn't see us so couldn't shoot at us. I couldn't walk and my friend helped me. We were in the minefield, we followed a riverbed because we knew the water would have washed away the mines. We looked back and could see lights and a lot of activity on the wall. We could not stop we walked all night and found tyre tracks in the ground. We slept for one hour and started following the tracks. We saw a car and waved but he did not see us. We had very little water. The Polisario soldiers found our footprints and followed them to us. We were so happy we threw the last of the water up in the air. They welcomed us and took us to the base.

I crossed the wall to continue my revolution because there I couldn't do anything. I have friends here now and I have a new music group with the same name and we write songs about the Saharawi revolution. Life is very difficult, nothing here is easy, nothing is natural. I found my second half here, my grandmother, grandfather and uncles are here so half of me was already here. But now my father is there [in the occupied territory]. If I have children then their grandfather will be there so life repeats itself, this is Saharawi life, half here and half there.

We only think about independence but the question is how can we take the independence, the only way is to back to war. We have the peace plan with the UN, the UN is the world and the big countries and they are not doing anything. The ceasefire is just to delete the Saharawi people. The big countries will not help the Saharawi people because we have nothing to give them, of course they send humanitarian help but in the end they only help themselves. The Saharawi people are here doing nothing, just waiting for war. The message the world is sending us is that we must go back to war, then the world will say, 'ah Western Sahara we must do something for them!'