Morocco has claimed authority over Western Sahara since 1975, but the United Nations considers it a “non-self-governing territory.” Morocco controls the most populous area along the Atlantic coastline, more than three-quarters of the territory; this area, which the Moroccan government calls the “Southern Provinces,” is represented in that country’s parliament. The Polisario Front controls land in Western Sahara’s eastern and southern reaches. Rabat regularly offers autonomy; the Polisario demands an independence referendum. A long-promised referendum on Western Sahara’s status has never been held. A 1991 UN–brokered cease-fire deteriorated in 2020. Civil liberties are severely restricted in Moroccan-controlled territory, especially relating to independence activism; civil liberties are similarly curtailed in Polisario-controlled territory.
* Indicates a territory as opposed to an independent country.