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Shame on us

Sahrawi refugees are systematically being denied Spanish citizenship. Now, one woman is doing something about it

Don’t skip a word I am about to say because this is important. Zahra Abdallahi Lefdil is 31 and she is a Sahrawi. As a child, she was run over by a truck at a camp for refugees from the disputed former Spanish colony of Western Sahara and she has had a limp since then.

Later, in 1995, she came to Spain to spend the summer here.

“A generous Spanish family took me in, like so many others,” she says.

She underwent several operations in Spain and her leg got better. So far, so good.

Now, Zahra is a nurse who works at a Madrid hospital. But even though she has been living in Spain for 18 years and her parents have Spanish passports, she herself has been denied the citizenship that she is entitled to through family ties and the length of her residence here.

Meanwhile, we go and offer citizenship to Sephardic Jews – an added discrimination”

All Sahrawis suffer the same unfair fate.

“Why do people like myself, simple immigrants who work and pay their taxes, have to suffer these reprisals?” she wonders.

The thing is, Sahrawis are requested to produce a birth certificate from “a recognized country,” or at least one that is recognized by Spain. And all documents issued by Sahrawi authorities, though stamped with a seal from the Algerian foreign ministry and from the Spanish consulate in Algiers, are turned down here.

The strategy involves wearing down the Sahrawis with never-ending replies of “we’re working on it,” and decades’ worth of standing in line, paying fees and filling out useless forms.

Meanwhile, we go and offer citizenship to Sephardic Jews: that’s great, but it is also an added discrimination.

One day, sick and tired of all the bureaucracy and “indignant at the intentional freeze on all citizenship requests by Sahrawis,” Zahra sued the heads of the Central Civil Registrar’s Office. Her suit has been rejected, but she has appealed.

Besides betraying, selling out and abandoning the Sahrawis to their fate, now we persecute them through our government agencies, fail to observe the law and behave like dirty, rotten scoundrels. Let’s turn this case into a scandal.

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