Rabat – Benabdalayachi Yahfudu Heiba, a Sahrawi member of the South Atlantic Chamber of Maritime Fisheries has denounced at the United Nations “the slavery practices of another age” still common in the refugee camps of Tindouf.
Speaking on October 10 at the 4th Committee during the 72nd UN General Assembly, Heiba explained to the Commission that “these abject practices, banned by international law and the laws of all civilized nations, unfortunately remain a common practice in Polisario camps.” The Sahrawi citizen said that “children inherited the slavery situation from their parents, in accordance with an official law signed by Polisario.”
“In Tindouf, people of white skin do not even deign to greet dark-skinned people, and [they] refuse to sit with them under the same roof,” he explained.
Heiba recalled the tragic story of a 90-year-old slave in a family in the Tindouf camps, who died recently in atrocious conditions, in complete oblivion and solitude. “No one had been able to help except the journalist who had broken the silence.”
“This man spent his whole life serving this family, but when he had no strength to serve them anymore, they did not hesitate to get rid of him like an ‘obsolete object,’ letting him rot in a disused room used as a debarra where he recently passed away,” the petitioner continued.
“Therefore, I would like to say to the Polisario and to all those who support it that they should be ashamed when they talk about the slogans of human rights and equality within international fora,” Heiba concluded.
In a report published in 2014 entitled “Off the Radar,” Human Rights Watch revealed that “forms of slavery persist in the camps in a few isolated cases, […] despite the Polisario’s long-standing call for its eradication and enactment of a law criminalizing the practice.”
“The victims tend to be dark-skinned Sahrawis and the slavery takes the form mainly of non-voluntary housework, according to the Freedom and Progress association, an anti-slavery group formed by a group of camp residents,” the report added.
The report went on further to say that the organization “documented a case in which a brother and sister said another family, claiming that the children’s mother had been their slave, abducted and forced them to work in their household for up to 18 years. The Polisario secured their release in 2013.”