Zemla Intifada

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,[1] which culminated in a massacre by Spanish Legion forces in the Zemla district of El Aaiun, Spanish Sahara (nowadays Western Sahara).[2]


Leaders of the previous secret organization Harakat Tahrir called for a demonstration to read out a petition of goals in response against the Spanish occupation of Western Sahara. On June 17, 1970, this petition was read to the Spanish governor-general of the colony, General José María Pérez de Lema y Tejero peacefully.[3]


After the demonstration was being dispersed by orders from Spain's governor-general, police moved in to arrest the Harakat Tahrir's leaders. Demonstrators responded to the police's actions by throwing stones at the police. The Spanish authorities called in the Spanish Foreign Legion who opened fire on the demonstrators, killing at least eleven people.[3]


In the days following the incident, the Harakat Tahrir's founder Muhammad Bassiri, and other Harakat Tahrir activists were hunted down by Spanish security forces. Bassiri disappeared in jail after being arrested in 1970.[4]

The Zemla demonstration led to the end of the Harakat Tahrir. Hundreds of their supporters were arrested, while other demonstrators were deported from Western Sahara.[3] 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.[4]


  1. "Western Sahara: 44th Anniversary of Zemla Uprising". allafrica.com. Retrieved 6 November 2016.(subscription required)
  2. Tarver, H. Michael; Slape, Emily. The Spanish Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia (Volume I ed.). p. 36. ISBN 9781440845703. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 Western Sahara A "Spy" Guide - Strategic Information and Developments (2013 ed.). IBP. Inc. p. 45. ISBN 0739786407. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
  4. 1 2 Camacho, Ana (11 April 2008). "Terrorism and War in the Sahara". GEES. Archived from the original on 7 August 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
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