IN SEVILLA WITH SOLTANA
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I met Soltana Khaya on a windy and tense Saturday afternoon, one like any winter afternoons in Laayoune, Western Sahara. When from the town guarded by Moroccan soldiers you point to the beach and the dunes rolling into the sea, but before facing the waves you have to cross the check-points, to answer always the same questions ("What is your job? Do you have any contact with local families? What are you doing here in the Moroccan Sahara?"), to feel nervous and uneasy because here everything can happen.
Soltana is a Saharawi girl who was studying at the Marrakech university, in 2007. One day she participated in a peaceful rally for the rights of the Saharawi minority in Morocco. In the confusion of tear gas fired to disperse the crowd, a policeman sticked her in her eye. At the hospital, doctors and nurses left her lying for hours in an isolated room, while the police questioned her as an enemy of the state and she was only thinking about pushing his eye in the orbit with a dirty cloth.
Soltana lost her eye. Thanks to a Swedish NGO, now she has a prosthesis well done but still. And her look is mutilated forever.
She was crying in front of me that afternoon in Laayoune, in a shack by the sea. She looked like a child who still felt a sharp pain he had ever felt in his life, with the torture of anxiety that had gripped her for a full day at the hospital of Marrakech. But then, when she finished telling me the story, like all Sahrawi women I have listened to she smiled slightly and lifted his head, slowly setting to prepare tea. That slow and hypnotic rite that can stop time, enchanting you with the game of hot water and mixed glasses. That rite that’s finally able to reconcile you with anything.
In this moment Soltana is next to me, lying down on an orange carpet and speaking at her mobile. We're both in Seville, at the University Pablo de Olavide, which organized a festival and a conference on Saharawi women. Those women who in the Algerian desert can grow gardens, and in occupied Western Sahara continue to believe in a too long promised independence.
In the square of the university they have set up a haima, the traditional tent of the desert people, where we had cous cous for lunch and now we allow ourselves a little siesta.
Soltana is in Spain to tell her story, to report the other violences she suffered after the worst one, to explain the audience the daily life in one of the last colonies left in the world.
I’ve been invited to talk about the documentary project I'm working on with Simona Ghizzoni, JUST TO LET YOU KNOW THAT I'M ALIVE. A journey through the tears and smiles of Saharawi women, who in our narrative become mirrors of the women victims of violence all over the world, and of all the civilians who passed through an incomprehensible war and now try to collect the pieces of their souls.
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