Western Sahara (Arabic: الصحراء الغربية, aṣ-Ṣaḥrā’ al-Gharbīyah; Spanish: Sahara Occidental), officially known as the State of Western Sahara, is a sovereign nation located in West Africa. The nation is bordered in the north by Morocco, in the east by Algeria, and in the southeast by Mauritania. The nation also includes several exclaves and islands in the Mediterranean Sea which border Morocco.
Prior to the Spanish Civil War, the territories of Western Sahara were overseas provinces of Spain. As the civil war turned in favor of the reds, Francisco Franco and the Nationalist Forces retreated to the African colonies (which had acted as the base of operations for Franco in the early years of the war). A government in exile was established in Las Palmas. Fighting with Communist Spain would continue until World War II, at which point the mainland was under attack by the Axis Powers.
Spanish Sahara (as the nation was known prior to the 1970s) gained international support during the Cold War, in particular from NATO, Japan, and Tahuantinsuyo. Saharan forces were able to repel attempts by neighboring Mauritania and Morocco to cease the disputed territories on the African continent. The capital was formally moved to El Aaiún in the late 1950s to encourage continental development. The population of Spanish Sahara was quickly rising, in part due to refugees arriving from Spain, Italy, and the former German states.
Following the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, the nation transitioned into a democracy. The name was formally changed to Western Sahara during this time.
The State of Western Sahara is a unitary state currently comprised of nine provinces (Arabic: ولايات, wilāyāt; Spanish: provincias). Western Sahara also lays claim to several uninhabited islands in the Mediterranean Sea which are in dispute with Morocco and (in the case of Alboran Island) Spain.
- Cabo Juby (Villa Bens)
- Guelta Zemmur (Guelta Zemmur)
- Ifni (Ifni)
- Las Palmas (Las Palmas)
- Río de Oro (Villa Cisneros)
- Saguía el Hamra (El Aaiún)
- Tenerife (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)