Western Sahara (Arabic: الصحراء الغربية; Amazigh: Tanẓṛuft Tutrimt; Spanish: Sahara Occidental) is a territory in Africa. To the north is Morocco, to the east is Algeria, to the south is Mauritania, and to the west is the Atlantic Ocean. Its surface is 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world. Most of the territory is made of desert flatlands. The largest city is Laâyoune. More than half the population live there. The territory has a population estimated at just more than 500,000.
الصحراء الغربية (in Arabic)
Sahara Occidental (in Spanish)
|Capital||El Aaiún (Laâyoune)|
|Largest city||El Aaiún (Laâyoune)|
|Official languages||see respective claimants|
|Spoken languages||Berber and Hassaniya Arabic are locally spoken.|
Spanish and French are widely used.
• Relinquished by Spain
|14 November 1975|
|266,000 km2 (103,000 sq mi) (76th)|
• Water (%)
• 2009 estimate
|1.9/km2 (4.9/sq mi) (237th)|
|Currency||Moroccan Dirham (in the Morocco-controlled zone) Algerian Dinar with the Sahrawi Peseta being commemorative and not circulating (in the SADR-controlled zone) (MAD)|
|Calling code||+212 (Tied with Morocco)|
|ISO 3166 code||EH|
|Internet TLD||None. .eh reserved, not officially assigned.|
Western Sahara has been on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since the 1960s when it was a Spanish colony. The Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front independence movement, with its Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) government, both want control of the territory.
Since 1975, most of the territory has been controlled by Morocco. In 1973, the local people, the Sahrawis, said the Moroccans and Mauritanians were occupying their land and started a movement. The movement turned violent, and the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991. Many Sahrawis became refugees in Algeria. The rest of Western Sahara is controlled by the Polisario/SADR, backed by Algeria. Many important countries have pressed both parties to agree to a peaceful solution. Both Morocco and Polisario have tried to get recognition from other countries. Polisario has won formal recognition for SADR from 81 states, and was extended membership in the African Union, while Morocco has won recognition for its position from the Arab League. In both instances, recognitions have over the past two decades been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends.
Some countries say that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic should be the government in Western Sahara. Morocco says that they own it. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic was made by the "Polisario Front" a group of people who wanted Spain to leave, but now want Morocco to leave also.
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- Whitfield, Teresa. Friends Indeed?: The United Nations, Groups of Friends, and the Resolution of Conflict. 2007, page 191.
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- UN General Assembly Resolution 34/37 and UN General Assembly Resolution 35/19
Media related to Western Sahara at Wikimedia Commons