Bashir Lahsan Ahmada, 20 years old

Bashir Lahsan Ahmada, 20 jaar oudBashir lives in the Sahrawi refugee camp of Boujdour with his four brothers and two sisters. He was born in the neighbouring refugee camp of Laâyoune. He went to school in the camps, and had the chance to travel to Spain thanks to a programme that allows Sahrawi children aged between seven and 12 to spend the summer with a host family in Europe.

"I come from a conservative family, who prepared me to defend our cause. My father is a soldier and my mother a housewife. When I was a child, I got in trouble a lot; I fought with all the local children. My mother used to tell me off a lot, and I was blamed whenever local mischief occurred.

However, as the years went by I got much better, mainly because my mother said that if I didn't start getting better marks, she wouldn't let me visit my grandparents or go away with the other children [editor - on a programme that allows Sahrawi children aged between seven and 12 to spend the summer with a host family in Europe].

Another world is possible

When I was finally did go to Spain for the first time, I dreamt about being able to stay with my Spanish host family and continue my studies there. The generation that had the opportunity to go on holiday abroad became aware that, elsewhere, another world is possible. That encourages us even more, reinforcing our convictions. But it wasn't possible for me to stay in Spain.

I completed my studies (primary and secondary school) in the camps. After that, I stopped studying for a year and did my year of military service. Today, my day-to-day life is busy thanks to my job as a trainer and teacher.

The energy of youth

When I go back home, I visit my friends and we discuss various different subjects, such as politics and the changes taking place in our society. For all the people who have only ever known life in a refugee camp, it's painful to anticipate having to stay there for years to come. 40 years in this desert environment has weakened our resistance.

But the 40 years we have been here show that our young people, even though they have never known their homeland, still have reserves of energy to draw on. Every day, we live in hope that this situation can come to an end as quickly as possible. In April every year, negotiations restart in New York with a new hope of finding a solution that will enable us to gain our independence. But if we can't find the solution through negotiations, we will have no other choice but to resort to war.

Keeping their hopes up

And if that happens, I must go too. I want my generation to keep its hopes up, because at the moment, people my age no longer really have any hope for 'life'. What will that be for the next generation? For the moment, I have no plans for the future. I’ll see where the wind takes me.

This photo project that I'm posing for here is a good, important project. What matters today is to shine a light on a situation that is not mentioned enough in the media, by depicting an image of what life is like here. I can imagine that, from the point of view of foreigners, that may make them want to help."