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    20 July 2019   -   12:44

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What’s UPES?

The Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union (UPES) is a Saharawi non governmental organisation gathering a number of intellectuals, journalists and human rights activists who are based in the Saharawi refugee camps. It has also members in the occupied zones of Western Sahara and abroad who work for the defence of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and independence.

Despite the lack of means and the hard conditions of work in the Saharawi refugee camps, UPES is very active in the Saharawi community and, together with other organizations operating in the area, it tries to assist the Saharawi refugees and citizens in the occupied zones of Western Sahara in the following ways:

Raising awareness: UPES created a website (www.upes.org) on August 15, 2005. It provides the Saharawi people with a space to publish their ideas, poetry, articles, studies, short stories, etc, not only to Western Saharan readers but also to the rest of the world. There is a page in English on the website (www.upes.org/default_eng.asp) where writers, human rights activists, prisoners of conscience, researchers and anyone else with an interest in the issues related to the Saharawis are able to publish their own articles or read about other people’s experiences. Since 2006 UPES started campaigning abroad with a first visit and activities in South Africa. The Secretary General of UPES paid a visit to Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durbin and Cape Town. He also worked for about 20 days with the Saharawi prominent human rights defender, Ms. Aminatou Haidar, in a visit she paid to South Africa the same year. The following year (2007), UPES participated in the World Social Forum in Nairobi, toured Australia and New Zealand for two months (July and August 2007), speaking in universities, strategic centres of research and public meetings. In October and November 2007 UPES strongly participated in the preparation and animation of the cultural festival SANDBLAST in the UK, a Festival organised by Sandblast organisation that showcased the Saharawi culture, music, history, and political and human right’s situation.

Human rights activities: In conjunction with local and international human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, UPES helps to promote human rights by assisting in the coverage of these organisations’ activities, publishing their press releases and reports, etc. UPES also launches campaigns of support to prisoners of conscience and coordinate actions with other human rights organisations. It also participates to programmes and activities of promotion of human rights in the Saharawi refugee camps in collaboration with local organisations especially with the Saharawi Association of the Families of Prisoners and Disappeareds (AFAPREDESA).

Cultural activities: UPES regularly participates in cultural festivals. In 2007 the Union participated in Sandblast’s cultural event in London, in December 2008 it collaborated with the Saharawi Ministry of Culture to participate in the International Festival for Saharawi Popular Culture in Ausserd camp and chaired the International Seminar on Cultural Heritage, UPES participate to all editions of the Festival of the Cinema (FISAHARA), and in July 2009 participated to the African Festival of Culture that took place in Algiers and toured Denmark with the Saharawi famous musical group, TIRIS in August 2009. UPES actively participated to the activities of the World Social Forum in Kenya and in many other past cultural activities in the camps.

Volunteer work: UPES members are very active in the refugee camps, engaging with local youth volunteer organizations to promote environmental and hygienic campaigns and to provide assistance to refugees. In March 2009 UPES organised a national seminar on voluntary work in collaboration with Saharawi youth organisations. The Union participates in encouraging, media covering, collaborating and participating in all voluntary activities organised in the camps. It also collaborates with Saharawi and international organisations that organise activities in favour of the Saharawi people.

Cooperation with researchers, foreign journalists and students: From 2005 to the beginning of 2009, UPES assisted more than 400 foreign journalists, researchers and students. In the UK we have worked with Sandblast, War on Want, UK Western Sahara Campaign, Free Western Sahara Network and many UK students and researchers. UPES closely works with many organisations and groups of support of the Saharawi people, especially in Australia (AWSA), Norway (WSRW) and the US.

UPES also:

1-      Organises conferences, lectures, round tables, workshops for the refugees, participates in organising seminars, such as the Seminar for Religions’ Dialogue with the Saharawi Youth organisation and the US Christ the Rock Church, and cultural events with local and foreign individuals and organisations.

 2-      Provides journalists and intellectuals with a space to learn, interact with others and meet people from other countries.

3-      Hosts researchers. We worked with many researchers from the UK, US, Canada, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Algeria, Ireland, Brazil, Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, Italy, France etc. Researchers are hosted at refugees’ families.

4-      Provides Saharawis and a large audience from all over the world with news, articles, researches and Saharawi literature via the website of the Union.

5-      Issues a periodical magazine, which is published in two languages, Arabic and English.




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