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The tragic story you may have never heard of

March 6th, 2013
10:51 AM ET

Morocco's untold story

Actor Javier Bardem discusses his documentary about the Sahrawi people.


Morocco responds to documentary

Morocco's Ambassador to the U.N. responds to a documentary about the country's treatment of the Sahrawi people.

By Ken Olshansky, CNN

In the remote desert land on the northwest side of Africa, a nomadic people see their homes taken from them by an imperial power. Hundreds of thousands are driven away and forced to live as refugees.

It sounds like a story—but it’s real. This happened in the Western Sahara, a colony of Spain, one of the last colonies in Africa. In 1975 the Moroccans moved in, saying they were reclaiming a territory that had always been theirs. It is an important story that almost no one pays attention to or has even ever heard of.

The people who live there, known as the Sahrawis, were displaced. They now live under Moroccan rule in Western Sahara or in refugee camps in neighboring Algeria.

For years, they've said they're prisoners of a Moroccan occupation, living in dire poverty, sometimes thrown in jail, even tortured in their own country.

To break the stalemate over who controls the Western Sahara, the international community has called for a referendum, a chance for the Sahrawi to vote on independence. And even though Morocco agreed, more than 20 years later, the vote still hasn't happened. This terrible standoff also hasn't received much international attention.

But finally a spotlight is shining on this situation: Oscar-winning Spanish actor Javier Bardem has made a documentary film called "Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony."

In the video above, Bardem tells’ CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that as a Spaniard he feels an obligation to set right the humanitarian crisis that his country left behind. Bardem was not able to get Moroccan officials to participate in the film, but in the second video above this story, Christiane speaks with Morocco’s Ambassador to the U.N.

CNN’s Meredith Milstein produced this piece for television.

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Morocco