Tiris al-Gharbiyya

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Western Tiris
تيرس الغربية
Tīris al-Ġarbiyya
Province of Mauritania
Flag of Spain 1945 1977.svg
1975–1979 Flag of Morocco.svg
Flag of Mauritania (1959-2017).svg
Flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.svg
Flag of Mauritania (1959-2017).svg Coat of arms of Mauritania.svg
Flag Seal
Location of Western Tiris Tiris al-Gharbiyya Location-en.png
Location of Western Tiris
The striped blue and green is Western Tiris.
Capital Dakhla
23°43′N15°57′W / 23.717°N 15.950°W / 23.717; -15.950 Coordinates: 23°43′N15°57′W / 23.717°N 15.950°W / 23.717; -15.950
Government Province
   Madrid Accords November 14, 1975
   Mauritanian invasion of Spanish Sahara November 27, 1975
  Partition of Spanish SaharaApril 14, 1976
  Mauritania evacuates Western TirisAugust 5, 1979
  Annexation of Western Tiris by MoroccoAugust 11, 1979
  197788,000 km2(33,977 sq mi)
Density 0.1 /km2  (0.4 /sq mi)

Tiris al-Gharbiyya (Arabic : تيرس الغربيةTīris al-Ġarbiyya, "Western Tiris") was the name for the area of Western Sahara under Mauritanian control between 1975 and 1979.

Western Sahara Disputed Territory

Western Sahara is a disputed territory on the northwest coast and in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa, partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially occupied by neighboring Morocco. Its surface area amounts to 266,000 square kilometres (103,000 sq mi). It is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands. The population is estimated at just over 500,000, of which nearly 40% live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara.

Mauritania Islamic republic in Northwest Africa

Mauritania is a country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest.



Mauritania annexed the southern third of the former Spanish colony of Spanish Sahara in 1975 after the Madrid Accords, with Morocco taking the northern two-thirds (Saguia el-Hamra and the northern half of Río de Oro) as its Southern Provinces. Both countries claimed historical rights over the area, while the United Nations demanded that the indigenous population (Sahrawis) had a right to self-determination, and should be allowed to decide through a referendum whether the territory should join either of the neighbouring states, or be established as an independent country.

Spanish Empire world empire from the 16th to the 19th century

The Spanish Empire, historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy and as the Catholic Monarchy, was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World and the Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies". It also included territories in Europe, Africa and Oceania. The Spanish Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Portuguese Empire. It was the world's most powerful empire during the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, reaching its maximum extension in the 18th century. The Spanish Empire was the first empire to be called "the empire on which the sun never sets".

Spanish Sahara Former Spanish territory of Western Sahara

Spanish Sahara, officially the Overseas Province of the Spanish Sahara, was the name used for the modern territory of Western Sahara when it was occupied and ruled by Spain between 1884 and 1975. It had been one of the most recent acquisitions of the Spanish Empire as well as one of its last remaining holdings, which had once extended from the Americas to the Philippines and East Asia.

Madrid Accords

The Madrid Accords, also called Madrid Agreement or Madrid Pact, was a treaty between Spain, Morocco, and Mauritania to end the Spanish presence in the territory of Spanish Sahara, which was until the Madrid Accords' inception a Spanish province and former colony. It was signed in Madrid on November 14, 1975, although it was never published on the Boletin Oficial del Estado. This agreement was in conflict with the Law on decolonization of Sahara, ratified by the Spanish Parliament (Cortes) on November 18. In cause of the Madrid agreement, the territory would then be divided between Morocco and Mauritania.

The latter was the preferred option of the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi organization which turned its guerrilla forces against both countries, having until then fought Spain. Its attacks against Mauritania proved highly effective. Polisario strikes against the iron mines at Zouerate, as well as the costs of the war effort, soon brought the country to the brink of economic collapse, and produced increasing tensions in the army and government apparatus.

Polisario Front military and political organisation in Western Sahara

The Polisario Front, Frente Polisario, FRELISARIO or simply POLISARIO, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y o de Oro, is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement aiming to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara. It is an observer member of the Socialist International. The United Nations considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people and maintains that the Sahrawis have a right to self-determination. The Polisario Front is outlawed in the parts of Western Sahara under Moroccan control, and it is illegal to raise its party flag there.

Guerrilla warfare form of irregular warfare

Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which a small group of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military. Guerrilla groups are a type of violent non-state actor.

Western Sahara War conflict

The Western Sahara War was an armed struggle between the Sahrawi indigenous Polisario Front and Morocco between 1975 and 1991, being the most significant phase of the Western Sahara conflict. The conflict erupted after the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the Madrid Accords, by which it transferred administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, but not the sovereignty. In late 1975, the Moroccan government organized the Green March of some 350,000 Moroccan citizens, escorted by around 20,000 troops, who entered Western Sahara, trying to establish a Moroccan presence. While at first met with just minor resistance by the POLISARIO, Morocco later engaged a long period of guerrilla warfare with the Sahrawi nationalists. During the late 1970s, the Polisario Front, desiring to establish an independent state in the territory, attempted to fight both Mauritania and Morocco. In 1979, Mauritania withdrew from the conflict after signing a peace treaty with the POLISARIO. The war continued in low intensity throughout the 1980s, though Morocco made several attempts to take the upper hand in 1989–1991. A cease-fire agreement was finally reached between the Polisario Front and Morocco in September 1991. Some sources put the final death toll between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

In 1978, the one-party government of Moktar Ould Daddah was severely compromised by the failing war effort, and fell to a coup by disgruntled army officers. Mauritania then disengaged from the conflict, surrendering its claims to any part of Western Sahara, and pulling out its troops. The areas occupied by Mauritania were entered by Morocco, which has since claimed ownership over the entire territory, despite continued opposition by Polisario, and its main backer, Algeria. Mauritanian president Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla in 1984 proceeded to recognize the Polisario-backed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as the legitimate sovereign of the area. After his toppling in yet another military coup d'état later the same year, this position was increasingly downplayed – though never explicitly overturned – in order to appease Morocco.

Moktar Ould Daddah Mauritanian politician

Moktar Ould Daddah was the President of Mauritania from 1960, when his country gained its independence from France, to 1978, when he was deposed in a military coup d'etat.

Algeria country in North Africa

Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the far north of the country on the Mediterranean coast. With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, and the largest in Africa. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the west by Morocco, to the southwest by the Western Saharan territory, Mauritania, and Mali, to the southeast by Niger, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is a semi-presidential republic consisting of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes (counties). It has the highest Human development index of all non-island African countries.

Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidalla Mauritanian military person

Ret. Col. Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah was the head of state of Mauritania from 4 January 1980 to 12 December 1984. He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2003 presidential election and the 2007 presidential election.

Borders and characteristics

Western Tiris was the lower half of Río de Oro, the southern province of the former Spanish Sahara, comprising 88,000 km² (33,977 sq mi) [1] with a population of 12,897. [2] It consisted mostly of barren desert terrain, scarcely populated except by some thousands of Sahrawi nomads, many of whom had fled towards the Algerian Tindouf Province in 1975. A few minor settlements dotted the coast, and the largest of these, Dakhla (formerly Villa Cisneros), was made the provincial capital.

Río de Oro territory of Western Sahara

Río de Oro was, with Saguia el-Hamra, one of the two territories that formed the Spanish province of Spanish Sahara after 1969; it had been taken as a Spanish colonial possession in the late 19th century. Its name seems to come from an east–west river which was supposed to have run through it. The river was thought to have largely dried out – a wadi, as the name indicates – or have disappeared underground.

Tindouf Province Province in Algeria

Tindouf, also written Tinduf, is the westernmost province of Algeria, having a population of 58,193 as of the 2008 census. Its population in reality could be as high as 160,000 because of the Sahrawi refugee camps. Despite the barren landscape, Tindouf is a resource-rich province, with important quantities of iron ore located in the Gara Djebilet area close to the border with Mauritania. Prior to Algerian independence, the area served as a strongpoint of several tribes of the nomadic Reguibat confederation.

Dakhla, Western Sahara Place in Kingdom of Morocco, Western Sahara

Dakhla is a city in Western Sahara, a disputed territory currently administered by Morocco. It is the capital of the Moroccan administrative region Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab. It has a population of 106,277 and is built on a narrow peninsula of the Atlantic Coast, the Río de Oro Peninsula, about 550 km south of Laayoune.

While some reports indicate the territory may hold important quantities of mineral resources such as iron – and there is speculation, but no proof of, off-shore oil – the war prevented any serious exploration efforts. It remains mostly unexplored and unexploited to this day. The exception is the rich Atlantic fishing waters. They were never put to use by Mauritania, but have since been fished by Morocco and foreign ships under Moroccan licenses.

The name "Tiris" refers to a desert plain of the Sahara. Mauritania's northernmost province (in its internationally recognized territory) is similarly called Tiris Zemmour, where "Zemmour" refers to a mountain range in central Western Sahara.

The Ould Daddah government's claims to the territory was based in the strong cultural and tribal ties between the Moorish inhabitants of Mauritania, and the tribes of Western Sahara. The government argued they were all part of the same people, and also put forth the notion of pre-colonial sovereigny by certain Mauritanian emirates (tribal fiefdoms) over some of these tribes. Before of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Mauritania claimed in 1975 that the entire Spanish Sahara had historically constituted part of "Bilad Chinguetti", which it argued had been an undeclared tribal and religious community. But it also recognized that there had never been a Mauritanian state to claim the territory, since Mauritania itself was a modern-day creation of French colonialism. The court recognized the importance of these cultural links, but announced that they had not constituted sovereignty over the territory or its inhabitants before colonialism, and could not by themselves justify sovereignty today. Instead, it recommended a standard self-determination process where Sahrawis were given the choice of merger with Mauritania and/or Morocco, or independence. [3]

Present Mauritanian position

In later years, the Mauritanian government has maintained a policy of strict neutrality between Polisario and Morocco, while retaining its recognition of the SADR. Minor parts of the Mauritanian political opposition will occasionally express interest in the area, although direct advocacy for retaking it is very rare. Other groups support either Polisario or Morocco. The official position of most parties is to support any final outcome acceptable to both remaining sides of the conflict, and that has also been the government's position since the late 1980s, even if it has varied in tune with relations with Morocco.

The territory is now effectively divided between Moroccan and Polisario forces along the length of the Moroccan Wall, and with a cease-fire in effect pending the outcome of the United Nations decolonization process.

See also

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  1. Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations: Africa, Fifth Edition, Worldmark Press, Ltd., John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,1976.
  2. International Demographic Data Center (U.S.), United States Bureau of the Census (1980). World Population 1979: Recent Demographic Estimates for the Countries and Regions of the World. The Bureau. p. 108.
  3. International Court of Justice – Western Sahara – Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975. Archived December 31, 2015, at the Wayback Machine