The closure of the Algerian border with Morocco continues to divide families

  • By:karen-millen



Many families have been divided by a border that Algeria closed in 1994 after Morocco accused her neighbor of being involved in an jihadist attack against a Marrakech hotel in which two tourists died.The border has been sealed since then and there are few prospects for open to open, since tensions increase again between Rabat and Algiers.

Un cortejo fúnebre 'desde la distancia'

Near the Moroccan city of Oujda, Fatima Chaaoufi looks through the Moroccan border sealed towards an Algerian village on the other side, where members of his family who have not seen for years."We are so close and so far," she sighs.

The people of Chaaoufi, Oulad Bouarfa, east of Oujda, are one step away from Boussfar, the Algerian people where his brother died a month ago.Chaaoufi had not been able to see him since 1994, when the border was closed after a diplomatic crisis among the North African rivals.

"When I learned that I had died, I couldn't control myself," he said, with tears in my eyes."I ran to the fence. They tried to retain but (my pain) was stronger than me."

The 75 -year -old woman, sitting in the patio of her family's modest farm with a hijab in her head and apron around her waist, said she had been forced to see the funeral courtship from a distance, "impotent and withtears".

In August, after months of growing friction by the Western Sahara and the normalization of the ties of Morocco with Israel, Algeria cut diplomatic relations with his neighbor, claiming "hostile actions."Morocco, on the other hand, rejected the accusations.

El cierre de la frontera argelina con Marruecos sigue dividiendo a las familias

Last week, things got worse when Algeria accused Morocco of killing three Algerian civilians on a desert road that crosses an area of the Western Sahara controlled by the Independence Movement Front Polisario, supported by Algeria.

Un futuro difícil

But despite the bitter rivalry among their governments, Algerians and Moroccans have deep cultural and family ties.

"It is very sad to see two sister towns separated by political decisions," says Bachir Chaouch, who was born in 1951 on the other side of the border, in the Amria, but who moved to Morocco before Algeria became independent of France in 1962.

He has lost all contact with his uncles, aunts and cousins who stayed in Algeria."Until 1994, it was different. We used to see our families, business were going well. We never thought we would get to this point," she said.

Despite being officially closed, the border was still relatively porous, since the smugglers carried out a prosperous trade of gasoline and cheap manufactured products, as well as more illicit items.

But in 2013 the Algerian authorities launched what they said it was an offensive against drug trafficking, intensifying patrols and cavando trenches along the border, which led Rabat to erect border fences.

Technically, Algerians and Moroccans can fly between the two countries, but for the agricultural communities of the border, isolated from what could be a key export market, that is not a great comfort.

Many inhabitants of Oulad Bouarfa miss their years of smuggling."It was a good time. We worked on both sides of the border, bringing Algeria fuel and selling clothes there," said resident Mohamed Haddouri."Today we manage by raising animals, but it is not enough to feed my children. Our future seems difficult."

Un 'golpe amargo'

Haddouri said practically all the inhabitants of this part of Morocco have family in Algeria.

The two zones have historical ties, and the late Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika was born in Oujda when both countries were under French domain.

Meriem Hamouii, a town neighbor with Henna drawings in their hands, agreed.The closing of the border was "a bitter blow to us. My four children are unemployed," she said.

Oualid Kebir, an Algerian who has lived in Oujda for ten years, says that practically everyone in the city has a family on the other side of the border."The same happens on the other side," adds the businessman."It is a big mistake to maintain these divisions."

Kebir, a political activist who regularly publishes on YouTube, said he was "a psychological ordeal" to be far from his family."I still believe in better relations between the two countries," he said.

The closure of the Algerian border with Morocco continues to divide families
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