Harakat Tahrir

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The Movement for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro, sometimes referred to as the Movement for the Liberation of the Sahara or simply the Liberation Movement (Harakat Tahrir in Arabic) was created in 1969 by Muhammad Bassiri, a Smara-based Sahrawi quranic teacher, to work for the independence of Western Sahara.

The aim of the Harakat Tahrir was the peaceful overturning of Spanish colonial rule and achievement of then-Spanish Sahara's self determination. It initially organized and operated in secret, but revealed its existence in a demonstration in El-Aaiun against Spanish rule on June 17, 1970, when it attempted to hand over a petition to the Spanish colonial rulers calling for better treatment and Western Sahara's independence.

The protest was suppressed by the Spanish forces. The disturbances and deaths of several demonstraors have been named the Zemla Intifada, or uprising, after the place the demonstration was held. A nation-wide hunt for members of the movement followed: Bassiri himself was arrested and "disappeared" in Spanish custody. He is assumed to have been killed by his jailers, and is counted by the present-day Sahrawi nationalist movement as its first modern-day martyr. (Morocco, which claims Western Sahara as its own province, has also similarly attempted to appropriate his legacy, arguing that the Harakat Tahrir was primarily interested in ejecting Spain, not in achieving independence as a nation separate from Morocco.)

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