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Stories from Western Sahara

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About a year ago we interviewed Malainin Lakhal, a Sahrawi Journalist and Activist, concerning Western Sahara’s decades of struggle against colonization, and how despite several efforts to end the Moroccon occupation, the Sahrawi people continue to live in unjust conditions. One year later, the conditions remain ambiguous. Yet undeterred, the Sahrawi people continue to courageously fight, leading an ongoing resolute campaign to lift the nation closer to freedom.

Hamza Lakhal is a poet from the occupied El-Aqiun city, capital of Western Sahara. “Poetry has Triumphed” is the first interview from “Stories from Western Sahara” series, a project of Nushatta Foundation.

Influenced by some of the greatest poets like Mahmoud Darwish as well as poets in the Abbasid dynasty, drawn by “the charm and power in their words,” Lakhal realized how “words enable the poet to express himself or herself”. In need of a language or “some magic”, poetry, he said, offered what he needed: to release the feelings inside.

Having realized the importance of the spoken word and deeply Influenced by its power at a tender age, finding his voice in poetry became a turning point in Lakhal’s life. It instilled in him a love of poetry.

“Witnessing brutality, arrests, breaking down homes and much suffering at the hands of the Moroccon police, it left a special and horrific impact on my heart and life,” Lakhal said. “Words offered a shelter”. In addition to documenting truth and memory and examining his individual experiences, his work often responds to matters like injustice.

In 2002, after holding peaceful demonstrations to demand the Moroccan state to setup a university in Western Sahara, Lakhal was banned by the government of Morocco from
pursuing formal education. “This motivated me to keep using my words,” Lakhal said.

Through poetry, Lakhal tries to relate to the sufferings and persecutions of his people. In a most evocative way, he attempts to awaken human consciousness to important issues with powerful stanzas like:

“Are you still requesting the end of darkness?
While your shadow is
Still running
Behind the tents…?

In an elliptical lyrical style delivered with clear messages, he expresses what is possible but not yet realized.

“It is especially important for the Sahrawi people and working towards it to keep upholding to the dream of its national case,” Lakhal said.

Through poetry’s extensive capacity to pronounce a shared humanity, hope is offered, Lakhal believes. Poetry “gives dreams possibilities, it motivates and gives people strength” to build a better world. “It nurtures resistance in the souls and hearts of human beings”.

Beyond mere words, for Lakhal, his poetry, conveyed in easily digested meanings, is a summary of stories from Western Sahara – accounts of the suffering endured at the hands of the occupying government. More than for its poetic virtue, his work depicts the strength and resilience of the Sahrawi people “thrown by exhile’s hand”. It stands out for demanding social justice as well as stitch and redeem each “beautiful, wounded and barred voice”.

Despite being banned and prohibited from practicing and participating in cultural activities including poetry reading, Lakhal has triumphed – he recently released a book of poetry published by a publisher based in the Sahrawi refugee campus. Against all odds, “Poetry has Triumphed”.

By: Amira Ali