Western Sahara is one of the few cases left in the world of incomplete decolonization. Occupied by Morocco in 1975, since 1991 waiting for a referendum to vote its independence.
Today more than 150.000 Saharawis, the original inhabitants of Western Sahara, live in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in Western Sahara under Moroccan government suffer from violence and repression. Many Saharawi women have been imprisoned and tortured. According to Afapredesa NGO, 4.500 Saharawis were victims of enforced disappearances. 500 of them are still missing. Recently Morocco admitted 640 cases of enforced disappearance.
But still no justice.
Degja has been taken by force from home in 1980 by four policemen in civilian clothes. Thrown in the back of a Land Rover, moved from a prison to another, she spent 11 years with her eyes covered by a blindfold, in scary waiting for interrogation and torture. Her guilt? Her husband was a soldier in Polisario Front, the liberation movement of Western Sahara, which at that time was fighting a war against Morocco.
Soukhaina spent 10 years in a narrow prison cell. Soon after she was arrested in 1981, her youngest daughter starved since nobody could take care of her. She hadn’t yet turned one.
About prison, Mina remembers with horror the obsessive threats with rape and the nights she spent naked, standing in the cold.
Leila can not bury her brother Said’s corpse yet: since more than a year, her family has been asking Moroccan State the autopsy on the guy's body, who was killed by police in very unclear circumstances.
Enforced disappearances, tortures, secret prisons, mass graves, no trial. The history of Western Sahara, the land south of Morocco, is covered by a dark series of denied human and civil rights, and it’s still forgotten.
JUST TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I'M ALIVE is a multimedia 25 minutes documentary that for the first time collects Saharawi women’s stories and voices with a feminine sensibility, combining video footage clips, photographs, music and valuable stock material.
It’s a new chapter of our personal research, that since longtime pushes the both of us to report - through photography, video and writing - the different forms of violence against women in several places of the world.
This project presents a series of interviews with Saharawi women, both in Western Sahara and in Algerian refugee camps, who reveal their unbelievable experiences about jail, war, napalm bombs, forced exile. They are mothers who lost their children, daughters of men who are still missing, young girls who lost their hair or eyes because of the torture. But we also document how Saharawi refugees have succeeded in creating a developed State though among the tents in a hellish desert, thanks to their passion for democracy and an unexpected gender equality.
We decided to focus on Saharawi women because their issue is severely under reported. Spending time with them in their houses and tents in the desert, we were astonished by a rare peculiarity of these women: being able to speak about the terrible nightmares they have lived always preserving serenity in their eyes and a sincere hope in a better future. Tearing apart any temptation of hatred or revenge.
The project aims at raise awareness on this forgotten war through the eyes of civilians. These stories of women will highlight the fact that a war is not only a few minutes news, some economic data, a military briefing or a diplomatic issue. War is real and real and touchable is the pain of all people involved.
Also current political events about Western Sahara led us to investigate this issue: next October 24, twenty-three Saharawi political prisoners will appear before the Court Martial in Rabat, Morocco. They have been detained since November 8, 2010, when the Moroccan forces dismantled a peaceful demonstration near El Aaiun, Western Sahara, known as Gdeim Izik camp. It was a tent camp set by thousands of Saharawis as a form of mass denunciation of ongoing discrimination, poverty and human rights abuses perpetrated by Moroccan government against local citizens.
It has been suggested by Noam Chomsky that the month-long protest encampment constituted the real start of the Arab Spring.
SIMONA GHIZZONI (art direction, photographs):photographer, represented by Contrasto Agency, she focuses on social reportage with special attention to women’s condition. Her “Odd Days” about eating disorders won the third prize at World Press Photo 2008 in Portraits Category and the Photoespana Ojodepez Award for Human Values in 2009. Always in 2009, with a work about the victims of land mines in Cambodia (in collaboration with Emergency Italian NGO), she won the second prize at Pictures of The Year International (Magazine Features category). Her series of self-portraits “In Between” has been exhibited at Paris Photo in 2008. With the multimedia project “Lie in Wait” about Iraqi women refugee in Jordan, she won the NGO World Videos at Milano Film Festival 2011. In 2012, she won the third prize at World Press Photo, Contemporary Issues category, with a photo from the Gaza Strip.
EMANUELA ZUCCALA' (interviews, video, texts, video editing): journalist, since 2001 contributor for “Io Donna”, weekly magazine of Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”. In 2009 her reportage about war rapes in Democratic Republic of Congo won the “Enzo Baldoni” journalist award of Milano Province. With an article about Roma women’s forced sterilizations in Czech Republic, she was the Italian winner at Journalist Prize of the European Parliament in 2008. She also was national winner in 2007 at “For Diversity-Against Discrimination” journalist award of the European Commission. In 2011 she’s been finalist at Anna Lindh Foundation’s “Mediterranean Journalist Award” with an article on the youth in Gaza Strip. Author of books and video documentaries.
Her blog is emanuelazuccala.blogspot.com/
Music courtesy by AZIZA BRAHIM, a Saharawi singer and musician living in Spain: aziza-brahim.blogspot.com/
In partnership with ZONA(zona.org/), the RASD Ambassadorsin Italy (Arab and Democratic Saharawi Republic) and AFAPREDESA(the Saharawi NGO supporting the victims of enforced disappearances and their families).
Thanks to THE AFTERMATH PROJECT(theaftermathproject.org/) that covered our travel expenses with a special grant.
We have completed the shooting sessions in Western Sahara and Algeria and prepared a screenplay. Now we need the funds for a professional video editing, an audiomixing and sound design, some musics as an original soundtrack, a post-production. We count on your interest and help.
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