Hayat Rguibi

Non-violent protest against occupation
Western Sahara
Equipe Média

She’s a Sahrawi activist who works towards breaking down the informational blockade that surrounds the conflict in the Western Sahara. She was born in Smara and grew up in the most important city of the occupied territories, Al-Aaiun. In 2005, as a teenager, she participated in the creation of a youth organization that fights against the occupation, within the framework of the protests that took place in Al-Aaiun and other localities.

Years later, in 2009, She got involved in a new project, Equipe Media, to which she continues to dedicate her efforts. The goal of Equipe Media is to break the forced silence and to denounce the human rights violations that happen in the occupied territories of the Western Sahara. Last March, Equipe Media’s work was acknowledged with the XII Julio Anguita Parrado International Journalism Prize; the jury valued “its collective efforts to do high-quality journalism in four languages, which provides information to journalists worldwide and strives to focus on a conflict forgotten by the media.”

In addition to Equipe Media, Rguibi is part of the Future Forum of Sahrawi Women, also founded a decade ago. This collective represents women’s involvement in the fight against Moroccan occupation and the rights of the Sahrawi people. According to Rguibi, many of the women who are part of the Forum were political prisoners and have difficult pasts.

Rguibi herself has suffered serious tortures and was imprisoned. In 2010, when she was 20 years old, she was detained at Al-Aaiun airport. Accused of having participated in the GdeimIzik camp protest, the activist spent 6 months in prison. Currently, she is free, and since 2013, temporarily resides in Spain. First, in the Basque Country, and now in Lanzarote.

Interview with Hayat Rguibi

How is it to be a journalist for the occupied territories of Western Sahara?

If you are a journalist, you know you can be imprisoned, abused or murdered at any moment, because Morocco does not want foreign states to know what is happening under their occupation. Being a journalist is really dangerous.
The case of our colleague Mohamed Mayara illustrates this well. He was always reporting and translating content into English, German, and French. Mayara was a teacher, but now they no longer let him work, not even in other jobs. Both he and his family are under a lot of pressure. His wife, who is not an activist, is also deprived of a job.

You have also suffered repression.

Many things happen in the Sahara; almost every day there are new things. For example, the day before yesterday* I was in Al-Aaiun, recording on the street. The police came and tried to steal my phone; they told me I had no right to record, that I didn’t have a press card and that what I was doing was illegal. I replied that, if anything was illegal, it was their presence in our country. It was serious because they told me I had to go to the police station to sign a document in which I recognized that I had no right to record, and I refused. I said that they would have to take me by force, because I would not go there in their car or by taxi.

The situation is gradually getting worse. And no foreign journalist can enter. In April, two friends from the Basque Country came to my house. They spent a day interviewing activists and members of Sahara associations. But then the police appeared. They hit my brothers and said they had to go to Agadir. It was an unbelievable night.

What are your expectations for the future of the Western Sahara?

We want to keep our land, but we do not want war, we do not want to spill more blood. I don’t have an analysis of our future, but it seems that other states are only concerned about their interests and about harnessing the resources of impoverished countries. Nonetheless, we still have the strength to fight against the occupation, against the suffering of our people.

On several occasions, you expressed your concern about Sahrawi youths.

Morocco has a strategy against youth. For example, I’m very concerned that there are children of 11 or 12 years that take drugs. We live in a 100% military State that, instead of fighting drugs, fights against people who are protesting the occupation. There are also many young people in prison, who cannot finish their studies.

At the beginning of the year, a new fishing agreement was signed between Morocco and the EU that includes the waters of Western Sahara. What do these types of agreements mean for the Sahrawi people?

The EU and the European states know that these agreements are illegal, they know they are stained with our blood. When they sign, they sign against Peace and against peoples who suffer occupation daily. They are more interested in our resources, and it is obvious that they are supporting the occupation and acting against democracy, peace, and dignity.

*This interview was carried out on the 21st June 2019, when Rguibi returned from a visit in Western Sahara.

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