In Africa one in two women suffer from gender violence. In Western Sahara, in northwest Africa the indigenous people suffer constant human right abuses at the hands of Morocco's occupying forces.
This series of portraits were taken in the city of Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara in November 2013. The country, a former Spanish colony under Moroccan occupation is one of the longest unresolved conflicts in the world.
Western Sahara has long been in conflict with Moroccan forces and the Algerian backed Polisario forces. Reports from NGOs with for example War OnWant, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have denounced the abuse, torture, and discrimination that people suffered in the Western Sahara. The perpetrators have so far escaped scrutiny from the international community.
These stories are testimonies of women who have survived the conflict in occupied Western Sahara. They have been tortured in spite of them not belonging to any radical or activist families. Torture was carried out in secret Moroccan prisons. Between 1975-1991 more than 500 Saharawi people disappeared and 48 died in the secret prisons of Agdez and Kalaat Magouna in Morocco; 14 of these were children and 11 women.
When this former Spanish colony gained independence it found itself thrown into a 16 years war between Morocco and Polisario (the Western Sahara liberation movement) that left the nation and its people divided. The majority of the Saharawi people struggle to survive in the inhospitable refugee camps in Tindouf, in the southwestern corner of Algeria. Meanwhile, life in Western Sahara has become extremely difficult for the indigenous people. Ethnic cleansing is taking place slowly and silently by the Moroccan forces.
The detention and torture of Saharawi activists has not diminished their strength and determination. They continue to fight for their rights and the release of political prisoners.