YEGA ELALEM’s drama
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by Selami Ahmed – According to the testimonies of several former Saharawi political detainees and the family of the former detainee
The Saharawi activist and former political prisoner Yega SIDAHMED ELALEM was born in 1964 in Auserd (Western Sahara). Yega was an intelligent student, she got her bilingual Baccalaureate C, but she was interested in pursuing trade between occupied Dakhla, the Canary Islands of Spain and the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou. In the 1980s Yega joined one of the Polisario Front’s clandestine cells to recruit activists, carry messages and distribute leaflets advocating freedom. These were the years of war and the military and media blockade by Morocco around the occupied territories of Western Sahara.
The young activist, who could enter and leave the country without arousing suspicion, was asked in November 1987 to smuggle Sahrawi flags and banners from Spain to El-Aaiún. The Saharawi activists were preparing a demonstration in front of an expected UN mission.
A week before the arrival of the UN mission, Yega arrived at El-Aaiún airport with the material hidden in her suitcases. The occupation authorities had been informed about the preparations for the demonstration. In order to prevent the Saharawi from claiming their right to self-determination, they resorted to a despicable manoeuvre by spreading the rumour among the Saharawi population that the UN mission had brought forward its arrival by one day. At the airport it was not the expected UN delegation that showed up, but members of the Moroccan security services. The Saharawi women and men who came to demonstrate fell into the trap set by the occupier.
More than seventy people were arrested for peacefully expressing their opinion, many of them young people, and taken to the PCCMI for interrogation. Like her fellow detainees, Yega was subjected to torture sessions, especially after her torturers learned that it was she who had brought the flags and banners for the demonstration.
On 19 June 1991, after three and a half years of enforced disappearance, she was released in a very critical state due to the types and techniques of psychological and physical torture she was subjected to in prison such as solitary confinement, cigarette burns on sensitive parts of her body, sexual abuse, rape and other Machiavellian torture. The intelligence services interrogated her under torture in order to obtain information about her relatives or people she was in contact with abroad. Her father died during her disappearance.
She came out of this hell with a skin disease and amnesia. Her mother died two years after her release. Her brother decided to keep her by his side and take care of her. The ignorance of international public opinion about the suffering of civilians in Western Sahara, especially activists like the former disappeared Yega Elalem, is due to the military and media blockade that Morocco maintains around the occupied territories. Since 1975, Morocco has practised a policy of repression and intimidation against Sahrawi activists, their families and all those with whom they have a relationship.
Yega Elalem’s health has deteriorated, especially in recent years, after the death of her brother and the lack of treatment for her illnesses and the health neglect to which she has been exposed. She is currently in a hospital in Morocco. She suffers from a malignant disease, has high blood sugar levels and suffers from shortness of breath. Yega needs help and support to be evacuated for treatment as her life is in danger.
It is time for the UN and international human rights organisations to urgently intervene to protect defenceless Saharawi civilians and activists from the continuing various forms of persecution by the Moroccan occupier.