Zemla Intifada

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Zemla Intifada
Part of Western Sahara conflict
Date 17 June 1970
Location El Aaiun, Spanish Sahara
Goals Independence of the territory
Parties to the civil conflict
2-11 civilian killed, hundreds wounded or detained
Several injured

The Zemla Intifada (or the Zemla Uprising) is the name used to refer to disturbances of June 17, 1970, which culminated in a massacre by Spanish Legion forces in the Zemla district of El Aaiun, Spanish Sahara (nowadays Western Sahara).[citation needed]

Leaders of the hitherto secret organization Harakat Tahrir, among them its founder Muhammad Bassiri, called a demonstration to hand a petition calling for independence and fair treatment for Sahrawis to the Spanish governor-general of the colony, General José María Pérez de Lema y Tejero. They were allowed to read out the petition, but as the demonstration was dispersing, police moved in to arrest its leaders. Demonstrators responded by pushing the policemen away and when the police charged with batons, stone-throwing erupted. The Spanish authorities called in the Spanish Foreign Legion who opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least eleven and wounding scores. Hundreds of people were arrested.[citation needed]

In the days following the incident, Harakat Tahrir activists, Bassiri among them, were hunted down by Spanish security forces. Bassiri disappeared in jail.[1]

The suppression of the Zemla demonstration pushed the Western Saharan anti-colonial movement into embracing armed struggle. The militant nationalist organization Polisario Front was formed three years later.[1]

June 17 is now commemorated by Polisario supporters in Tindouf, Algeria, and has been used as a reference day for protests in Western Sahara.[citation needed]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Camacho, Ana (2008-04-11). "Terrorism and War in the Sahara". GEES. Retrieved 2008-08-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>