2013_UN_Nancy_UN_Speech_zoomed_in

United Nations Petition
October 8-10, 2013
His Excellency, Chairman of the IV Committee Mr. Carlos Garcia Gonzalez, distinguished members and guests. It is an honor to address you on matters concerning the decolonization of Western Sahara.

Today I will address the Polisario practice of separation of families.

It is no secret that since the formation of the Tindouf camps in 1975, the Polisario has separated Sahrawi families. In the beginning, the separation occurred by the creation of the Tindouf camps. One of the most prolific means of continued separation has been in the name of education. In 1999, I was told by a leading member of the Polisario, “We will not shed a drop of innocent blood for an uneducated society.” While that sounds like a wonderful mantra for the Polisario, it has proved to be a statement they were never willing to fulfill. At that time, instead of increasing the number of schools in the Tindouf camps, the Polisario was shipping thousands of young children to Cuba, Libya, Algeria and former Soviet countries for education. Instead of spending money on education and establishing local schools that would allow families to stay together, the number of schools in the camps were actually decreasing. Education was clearly not a Polisario priority. I have spoken with many adult Saharawi women who grew up in the Tindouf camps and who were illiterate, not having any opportunity to attend school.

The Polisario practice of taking children as young as seven-years-old away from their parents in order to educate them undermines the cultural and tribal structure of a family. And according to Cathy Schen in an article in the Harvard Review of Psychology, “The trauma, grief and disruptions caused by separation, migration and reunification of families have profound negative psychological effects on children and their parents.” Also, children separated from their families are less likely to do well in school. Why does the Polisario continue in this practice if the results are negative? They do so to “reeducate” select children so they conform to the leftist political ideology of the Polisario. Another reason is to make sure that the parents of the displaced children remain in the Tindouf camps awaiting the return of their children. The education of the children is only a by-product of Polisario efforts.

If the Polisario desires a new generation with loyalty to themselves, and they believe that “reeducation” is a viable way to accomplish that goal, they will find that they are growing a mutant generation that may well not fit anyplace in the world, for it is only when the family structure is maintained that healthy children can take their place in developing a strong civil society that will be a benefit to the Sahrawis and to the world as a whole.

In the beginning of the United States history our government, under the guise of education, placed tens of thousands of Native American children in boarding schools. This practice started in the mid 1600s and continued until the 1950s.The underlying purpose of the separation was not for education as much as it was to assimilate the children to American culture and for the children to abandon their Indian culture. According to Dr. Negiel Bigpond, an elder in the Euchee Native American tribe, the separation of children from their families created resentment that has not healed to this day. Many of the issues of suicide, alcoholism and loss of purpose resulted from those separations.

Only under the autonomy plan can families be reunited and an educational structure put in place that can be implemented easily and quickly for the greatest good of all the Sahrawis.
It has only been in the past forty years since the autonomy plan was implemented in the US under the Kennedy Administration, that the Native Americans have been able to prosper, develop their own educational system, health system, political system, and economic system that they have begun the healing process. For them, autonomy has been a very viable solution to a problem that plagued them for hundreds of years.

I ask you for the sake of the children and for their future come to make a ruling on the issue that would benefit the Sahrawi children and their families.

Thank you for allowing me to speak to you today on this matter.