Australia: Damage on many fronts in false charge of slavery in Western Sahara

Image removed.
Fetim Sallem.

A documentary on Western Sahara refugees marks a low point, Kamal Fadel writes.

July 1, 2009 -- Last month in Sydney, the notion of democracy took a pounding. The launch of the documentary Stolen at the Sydney Film Festival marked a low point in local film culture, and signified the tenuous grip on truth we now have in contemporary society. That such a film should be financed with about A$350,000 of public money –- through Screen Australia -– and accepted by the prestigious festival raises questions about the nature of reality and on how it is depicted in mainstream media, such as through the medium of the film documentary.

The film purports, in a sensationalistic way, to reveal widespread evidence of racially based slavery in the Saharawi refugee camps on the Western Sahara-Algeria border. Central to the apparent scoop is an interview with Fetim Sallem, a 36-year-old mother of four. She was in Australia to explain her story, which is significantly at odds with the film's take on it (so much so that Fetim requested unsuccessfully to have her interviews removed from the film).

Rather than verifying shaky claims of slavery and then seeking out the source of this possible ill (say in the repressive environment the Saharawi people have endured since the illegal invasion by Moroccan forces in 1975, an event that sent many into the camps that still exist today), the filmmakers of Stolen chose to conflate a few ill-gotten and misunderstood accusations into a tabloid expose. The approach of the film-makers challenges the very basis of the documentary genre and undermines its value as a means of serious scrutiny. In an age when reality TV is nothing of the sort and when celebrity gossip is considered hard news, this is perhaps not surprising. But it is disappointing and very distressing for those who, like Fetim, are vilified in the process.

There are fundamental flaws in the film-makers' storyboard. Fetim is not a slave and widespread slavery simply does not exist in the Saharawi refugee camps. This fact has been confirmed by numerous visits by independent journalists and human rights reporters over the years.

A member of a delegation sent by Human Rights Watch to investigate the film-makers' claims said the delegation ‘‘did not find evidence of forced labour, certainly not of slavery of the kind’’ in 19th century America.

The Saharawi live under great strain and considerable duress, brought about by decades of foreign occupation. A generation has grown up in a refugee environment. Our society is not perfect, our situation not Utopian. None is.

But, slavery is something Polisario abhors and is on the record as opposing. The practice is an unacceptable cultural anachronism and we have outlawed it completely since the inception of our independence movement in 1973.

Polisario has worked hard to address whatever human rights issues we find in our midst and we continue to undermine all forms of abuse and restrictions on liberty. This year, Polisario openly lobbied hard for the United Nations mandate to include a human rights monitoring process in its mission in Western Sahara. This was quashed by France, an erstwhile supporter of the Moroccan occupiers in Western Sahara, using its veto power in the Security Council.

The biggest threat to human rights in Western Sahara is the illegal Moroccan occupation and the failure of the international system –- epitomised by France's blocking actions. These weaknesses ensure the Saharawi remain trapped in a nightmare of Realpolitik, driven to some extent by Morocco's vast propaganda machine. The simple desire, backed by UN resolutions, to allow the Saharawi the right to decide their fate (independence or autonomy under Moroccan administration) in a free and fair referendum remains, inexplicably, unrealised.

Reality is clearly a fungible commodity in the eyes of the makers of this film, for its backers and for the festival organisers. They are reflective of a wider crisis in the ability to discern truth from fiction. They are not alone. There has been a negative impact on the life of Fetim Sallem by the actions of the film-makers and also on the cause of independence in Western Sahara. That’s a reality no one can challenge.

[Kamal Fadel is the Australian representative of Polisario, the Western Sahara independence movement. This arricle first appeared in the Canberra Times and has been post at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Kamal Fadel's permission.]

Fetim Sellami: ‘I am not a slave’

By Tony Iltis

June 21, 2009 -- Saharawi refugee and preschool teacher Fetim Sellami is a central character in the Australian-made documentary Stolen, a film set in the refugee camps in south-west Algeria that have been home to 165,000 Saharawi refugees since their country, Western Sahara, was invaded by Morocco in 1975.

However, when she and her husband, Baba Hocine Mahfoud, attended its June 11 premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, they did not receive red carpet treatment, despite the long distance they had travelled.

Stolen alleges that slavery is widespread in the camps and that Sellami and her family are slaves. She came to Australia to expose the film as a fraud. “The film-makers were surprised, but not happy, to see me because they knew I’d tell the truth”, she told Green Left Weekly.

She said she felt personally betrayed. “I believed the film-makers’ good intentions and I treated them well … I opened my house and my heart to them … I felt very bad [that] my dignity was attacked with baseless allegations.”

Moreover, she was concerned the film undermined the cause of the Saharawi people’s struggle against the Moroccan occupation. “Morocco has taken advantage of the film’s allegations [which are] the first time ever allegations of slavery in the camps have been made.”

She said that the film’s co-directors, Violetta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw, had led her to believe they were making “a documentary on family separation, a film about the story of my [UN-facilitated] reunion with my mother, which would help the cause of Western Sahara, highlighting the suffering caused by the Moroccan occupation”.

However, “on their second visit I began to realise they’d changed course. They started asking questions about slavery … I’m not sure whether they came up with the idea themselves or had external influence”.

She sent a signed statement to the film-makers, withdrawing her consent to be featured in the documentary. The film-makers ignored her wishes, claiming she was being manipulated by the Saharawi independence movement, Polisario, which runs the camps. She then sent a video statement to Screen Australia, which funded the film a A$300,000 public grant. But again her statement was ignored.

The true story of Sellami’s separation from her mother is typical of the Saharawi experience. She was three years old and at a neighbour’s house when the brutal Moroccan invasion occurred. Her mother was out of town and the neighbour, a woman called Deido, took Sellami with her when she fled the invaders, effectively becoming her foster mother.

Deido left behind her own three-year-old daughter who happened to be with Deido’s mother at the time of the invasion.

However, in a synopsis posted on the Documentary Australia Foundation’s website in September 2008, Ayala and Fallshaw claimed “it wasn’t the territorial conflict that separated Fetim from her mother. Fetim was born a slave.”

They claimed black Saharawi are held as slaves by their lighter-skinned compatriots who “made the decision to flee to the refugee camps in Algeria taking their slaves with them, separating the black families once again”.

Ayala and Fallshaw’s cinematographer, Carlos Gonzalez disputed the allegations. “During the three weeks I spent there with them I saw absolutely no indication of slavery”, he told the 7.30 Report on June 15.

He returned to the camps by himself and spoke to members of Sellami’s family who said they had been misquoted and mistranslated. Some black Saharawi men said the film-makers had paid them to say they were slaves on camera.

“No, we didn’t pay them any money”, Ayala told the 7.30 Report, but then conceded: “Like, we gave them money when they came to Mauritania, we gave them money to go back to the camps.”

She gave no explanation as to why slaves would want money to return to their cruel masters. She also denied dialogue in the film had been mistranslated.

However, the 7.30 Report had sequences of the film translated by Al Jazeera television. In one scene, in which the film-makers’ subtitles show Sellami’s mother and sister confirming that she is a slave, the Al Jazeera translation shows that they were in fact discussing the film-makers’ misconceptions on the issue.

How involved the Moroccan dictatorship was in making the film is unclear. However, Ayala and Fallshaw admit that some of the footage was transported in Moroccan diplomatic bags. The film’s co-directors, and producer Tom Zubrycki, accused the film’s critics — including Sellami, Mahfoud and Gonzalez — of being manipulated by Polisario. They imply Polisario is complicit in slavery.

GLW journalist Margarita Windisch visited the camps in 2008 as part of a delegation to the congress of the Saharawi trade union confederation, UGTSARIO. She told GLW: “I certainly saw no evidence of slavery. If they wanted to make a film about slavery perhaps they should have investigated conditions of phosphate workers in the Moroccan-occupied zone. Australian companies are involved in this.”

Sellami and Mahfoud’s real lives give credence to Polisario’s claim to have the best-run refugee camps in the world. Mahfoud studied electronic engineering in Cuba and now works in Madrid.

One of their four children has studied in Spain. The family spend their holidays together, either in Spain or in the camps. Their level of international travel should dispel any notion that they are slaves.

When Sellami and Mahfoud confronted Ayala and Fallshaw during the question-and-answer session at the premiere, they were jeered and heckled by the film-makers’ supporters.

“This film is the worst thing that’s ever been made on Western Sahara, a big lie”, Sellami told GLW. “If the film-makers wanted fame or money they should have tried in an honourable way.”

[This article first appeared in Green Left Weekly, issue #799, June 24, 2009.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 07/07/2009 - 15:11


Western Sahara and East Timor

What has really been stolen?

His Excellency, President Jose Ramos-Horta

speaks on the parallels between the two nations


Followed by a Q & A with

Kamal Fadel

Western Sahara Representative to

Australia & Ambassador to East Timor

Janelle Saffin

Federal Member for Page

& chaired by

Lyn Allison

President of the Australia Western

Sahara Association

A short documentary on Western Sahara will also be shown.

Thursday 23rd July

5.30 to 6.45pm

Kino Cinema 2

45 Collins Street, Melbourne

Tickets: $10

Advanced bookings:

(Collect tickets by 5pm and pay at the door)

Enquiries: (general and media)

Georgia Vlassopolous: 0425 702 975

  • Jose Ramos-Horta
  • July 22, 2009

As I visit Australia again, to attend this week's opening of the Melbourne International Film Festival, I have been confronted by the outcry over the film Stolen, which will screen at the festival and which represents, in microcosm, the importance of truth in the struggle for justice. The film, which makes claims of widespread slavery in the Western Saharan refugee camps, represents many of the ugly realities of this central dynamic. It is a scenario I know only too well.

I have followed closely the question of Western Sahara for decades. In our years of struggle for independence, strong friendship and solidarity grew between the Timorese and the Saharawis. I have met many Saharawis and visited the Saharawi refugee camps and liberated areas twice. I did not see any form of slavery in those camps. Rather, what I know of the Saharawis is that they are enlightened and committed to their cause of freedom.

The situation of Western Sahara is perhaps not well known to Australians. For East Timorese, there are ties which make a mutual understanding easier to find. Both East Timor and Western Sahara were colonised by Iberian powers - Portugal and Spain, respectively; both have been identified by the United Nations as being ready for decolonisation; both were invaded, post-European withdrawal, by regional powers in 1975; both peoples have been subjected to widespread human rights abuses; and both have been caught up in global political trends not of their making.

But East Timor and Western Sahara have also diverged. We achieved independence in 1999, and the Western Saharans have not. This is inexplicable: before our independence we actually had less formal international backing, were less regionally recognised and were more internally divided than the Saharawis.

The other important difference between our histories is that East Timor is predominantly Christian, while the Saharawis are Muslims. As a result of this, Western Sahara has been erroneously cast as a hotbed of Islamic terrorism and as a potential base for al-Qaeda. This form of knee-jerk racism has ensured that Western Sahara's illegal occupier, Morocco, has been able to play the security card and has gained enough traction to deconstruct the UN's formal decolonisation agendas which served us so well.

Stolen emerges as a stark example of the implications of this reality. It is easy to cast societies seen through the lens of bigotry as backward and to manufacture spurious storylines to suit a certain need when the politics of the moment encourage it.

In the situation that Western Sahara finds itself now, and in which East Timor faced before independence, is one which tilts in favour of those who represent the status quo. BothIndonesia and Morocco were or are able to manufacture a range of reasons to deny these peoples a free and fair act of self-determination.

Australia's role in freeing the East Timorese from the yoke of Indonesian rule was, and is, central. I know from my many dealings with many Australians that this country promotes the very highest standards in human rights and democracy. I have no reason to change that view.

I also know that truth is a highly traded commodity in the market of decolonisation politics. The prevailing state interests of the ruling power of the day - Indonesia then, Morocconow - will always bend truth to suit the political imperatives of the day. The uneven balance of resources, as well as the ability to obtain better access to geo-political power structures, further benefit the coloniser.

As we are learning in East Timor, freedom demands responsibility. The ability to use democracy's openness can never be an excuse for shoddy views or irresponsible behaviour. Being nominally free to commit acts of injustice, artistic or otherwise, is not a reason to do so.

As a friend of the Saharawis, I ask all Australians to take the time to understand the issues surrounding Western Sahara. I implore all to search for the truth with vigilance and commitment, lest lies become manifest and the vested interests of certain powers be allowed free reign in the marketplaces of ideas and power.

The world must support the independence of Western Sahara as a bridge between the Maghreb and the rest of Africa and as an enlightened Muslim nation bringing the Islamic world and the western democracies closer.

The Government and the people of Western Sahara deserve at least that much. As for East Timor, the worldwide support of the people, quite apart from governments and world organisations, has been, and remains significant. Those connections count and the value of ensuring truth and fiction remain separate is vital.

Jose Ramos-Horta is President of East Timor.


Also appeared in: The Sydney Morning Herald

News and Features - Opinion

Timor's link to a Saharan struggle

Jose Ramos-Horta

22 July 2009

Submitted by Sally (not verified) on Wed, 07/08/2009 - 14:54


The issue discussed her is the fraudulent act of the filmmakers and the mishandling of over AU $300.000 of Australian public money were used to make this film. The filmmakers have constructed a whole story that has no relation to reality.

For example:

-Wrong subtitles

-miused testimony of a UNHR official who has since distanced herself from the film and the filmmakers.

-No releases or consent were obtained from the subjects of the film! and those who asked to be excluded from it were just ignored.

-fabricated scenes and allegations

-Misuse of copyright material without permission.

The filmmakers have since decided to delete that material which belonged to Carlos Gonzales a US filmmaker. So the version of the film that is going to be shown in Melbourne is not the same that was screened in Sydney!

Who knows what else will be deleted from the film in the future? ...etc

Dear friends,

I think this aspect of the thread is exhausted. Readers can follow the links and judge for themselves the accuracy or otherwise of the subtitles, and I suppose the relationship of the goats to the principals. No more on this please.

Also, let's keep our focus on the political issues at stake and not personal assessments of the character and motives of each other.


The Moderator

Submitted by Tony (not verified) on Thu, 07/09/2009 - 15:41


Submitted by Yours truly (not verified) on Mon, 07/13/2009 - 16:41


For those Spanish speakers invited to listen to testimonies of slavery in the film, Stolen, please also listen to this evidence: And make up your own minds about what is the truth.

Janice, You are wrong and frankly your dishonest vendetta against the Western Saharan people's freedom struggle is getting very tedious.

1) The Human Rights Watch report you quoted from is also -- the majority of it -- is about Morocco's appalling human rights violations against the people of occupied Western Sahara. You choose to ignore  that. It like pointing fingers at Fretilin during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor but remaining silent about Jakarta's crimes, or like accusing the ANC of human rights violations in the 1980s while saying nothing about apartheid. As someone has just pointed out, Polisario SUPPORTS the HRW recommendation that its camps be monitored by human rights observers, but which has been blocked by Morocco's supporters.

2) The report you posted talks about vague claims of critics of Polisario being ``marginalised'' -- but not jailed, not prevented from making criticisms, not being prevented fom coming and going from the camps. This pales into insignificance compared to what HRW accuses the Moroccan occupation forces of doing (even though the pro-US HRW treats them with kid gloves).

3) It seems your definition, as applied to the filmmakers' plight, of ``marginalisation'' is that the film has been criticised as inaccurate, that participants were tricked and some paid for, that it is full of lies and distortions, its subtitles are fabrications and that it has been made with the assistance of those who are the worst human rights violators in Western Sahara, and who benefit by the slander against the freedom movement led by the Polisario Front. Sorry Janice, but for the truth about this film to be exposed is not a human rights violation, it is democracy. As all these are exposed, I hope the film Stolen is very much marginalised, as it deserves to be.

So yes you are very wrong.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Thu, 07/16/2009 - 20:03




Thursday 6 August 2009 @ 6 for 6.30 pm


Upstairs function room of the Toxteth Hotel, 345 Glebe Point Road, Glebe


Western Sahara: What has really been stolen?

Developments surrounding a locally-produced film Stolen have aroused interest in the people of Western Sahara and international politics which continue to deny them the right to self determination.

§         Why has the Moroccan-annexed colony been denied the agreed United Nations - process of self-determination?

§         Why do countries such as Australia continue to buy phosphate and other resources plundered from the occupied territory but with no returns to the Saharawi people?

§         How do film makers and other media represent issues such as these to Australian audiences?

Meredith Burgmann will be Participating Chair for this session

Fatima Mahfoud a representative of the National Union of Saharawi Women, and a strident advocate of women's rights in Western Sahara, Fatima will share her experiences of life in the refugee camps where her people have been living in unbearable conditions for 34 years whilst their families remain trapped in the territories occupied by Morocco where they suffer human rights abuses

Kamal Fadel Polisario representative to Australia and Ambassador to Timor Leste

Yvette Andrewsmaker of Western Sahara documentary It’s a long way to Tifariti

Lyn Allison former leader of the Australian Democrats, and current President of the Australia Western Sahara Association (TBC)


THAT!  has brought “pub talks”  back to Glebe and this event is raising funds for Australia Western Sahara Association (


Join us for dinner after for a “buy one get one free” meal deal



Donation:       $10/ $5 for Benefits recipients, full-time students, unwaged

Convenors:    Kate Barton,  Helen Randerson,  Annaliese Monaro


Inquiries:   or  Tel:    9518.5560

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Fri, 08/28/2009 - 11:17



Philippe Mora

Wednesday, 26th August 2009


Philippe Mora opens his diary


I was in Sydney’s Chinatown, enjoying delicious steamed lobster with ginger and attending the recent Film Festival, when I got a dramatic phone call. An old friend and cameraman for three of my films, Carlos Gonzalez, was calling from Los Angeles to say that a West Saharan woman, Fetim, from Tindouf refugee camp in Algeria, was flying in to Sydney to denounce a film portraying her as a slave. Carlos was a friend of Fetim, and he asked me would I meet her at the airport. He said the family was very distressed at the allegations and felt betrayed by the Australian film-makers who had lived with them on the pretext they were making a documentary about a family reunion.


Frankly, after decades of battles I have issue fatigue. But I knew Carlos had impeccable credentials on this issue, known as the Forgotten Conflict. He had risked his life in 2006 to go into occupied Western Sahara to film interviews with indigenous children who had been allegedly tortured by the Moroccan occupiers. (Morocco had invaded in 1975.) He was arrested and interrogated for eight hours on 3 June 2006 by Moroccan police and intelligence officers, including the notorious alleged torturer Mohammed El Hassouni, known as ‘Moustache’. He was then promptly deported and denounced in the Moroccan press, to our great amusement, but not to his, as being a spy for Hugo Chavez and Mossad. Since I knew he was neither but a director of children’s shows for Nickelodeon in Hollywood and a generally standup fellow, I agreed to help his incoming ‘slave’ friends.


Fetim and her husband Baba arrived chainless early in the morning and I greeted them with Kamal Fadel, the Australian representative of the Polisario, the political organisation that had flown them out. Charismatic, smart and open, I immediately liked Kamal and his two guests. Slaves with passports! They headed for friends in Glebe, where all slaves hang out when they’re in Sydney.


Then the whole thing blew up. Fetim’s dramatic denunciation of the film Stolen that night at the festival ended up on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald. The ABC’s 7.30 Report went after the flaws in the film. Stolen received a barrage of blistering criticism for mistranslations, re-enactments, lack of releases from leading participants, Mondo Cane-type sensationalism, blurring of facts, maps and history. One of the film-makers’ aunts vigorously defended the film on blogs. Meanwhile I had re-connected with old mate, wit, great writer and political connoisseur, Bob Ellis, and as an unlikely Poirot and Sherlock Holmes duo we made some inquiries. An angry UN interviewee cried foul at the film, as did a key translator. Ellis and I exchanged opinions on the film way too rude, if not obscene, for publication in this august magazine. The Morocco-Polisario conflict underlying the debate was not a left-right debate as the film-maker’s aunt tried to make out. In fact, James Baker, no pinko, had tried to help the Polisario with vigour in the Nineties.


Producer Tom Zubrycki announced people were trying to ‘do a job’ on the film. He backed out of an interview with me. We met tyro filmmakers Dan Fallshaw and Violeta Ayala in a bar and complained the problem was that people were jealous of them, that Ellis had fought with his wife (sic), that slavery is a state of mind, and other irrelevant inanities. Ellis, like a cultural Grim Reaper, said to Fallshaw, who blanched: ‘You are going to jail, son.’


The story continued last week when a revamped version, with piquant deletions, was shown at the Melbourne International Film Festival with a disclaimer belatedly added by co-financier Screen Australia. Questions about whether Polisario-haters in Morocco contributed funding to the film remain unanswered.


Other serious queries remain about this film, and as a sometime documentary film-maker I maintain that fakery and fraud, if that is what this is, hurts us all as film-makers, journalists and film-goers. It’s my opinion, for example, that it is either dishonesty, negligence or incompetence not to get releases from people one is portraying in a film making such grave allegations. I am no saint, but certain standards should be de rigueur. Perhaps there was acute First World arrogance in this situation. A few Australians pontificating about alleged slavery and really hurting people in the guise of helping them is a bit rich. An Italian NGO in the camp described Ayala as a ‘mythomaniac’.


By contrast, a recent positive highlight was vicariously going into orbit and repairing the Hubble telescope. My wife Pamela and I met six of the astronauts who fixed it in May at a special event at the Academy in Beverly Hills. The astronaut film-makers took up 30 cameras including an IMAX 3D camera that could only film for eight minutes. At a mission cost of US$1.1 billion to fix the Hubble, the eight-minute film element must be the most expensive movie ever made. The bemused astronauts, dressed in Jetsons-style retro blue overalls, mingled with us Hollywood types over drinks and snacks. We watched extraordinary footage of the mission with the jubilation of being in space popping out of the screen.


I am working on a 3D film about the life of Salvador Dali with producer Fred Bestall of Delux Films in Luxembourg, so I am immersed in notions of surrealism. I don’t think one needs to contrive surrealism because arguably life itself is often surreal. A Daliesque thought: perhaps molecules from the hands of refugees on my hand rubbed off on the Hubble mission astronaut’s hand? The Hubble is searching for the origin of the universe, the refugees search for justice and food for their children. Do these connections mean anything or are they random events? Is all this surreal? Dali himself said: ‘I don’t do drugs. I am drugs!’

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 11/17/2009 - 10:08

Permalink - November 16, 2009.

Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) — In the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's meeting with Moroccan King Mohammed VI last week, a prominent human rights activist was detained on her arrival in Western Sahara, which Morocco controls.

Aminatou Haidar was held overnight Friday and deported to Spain's Canary Islands, after stating on Moroccan entry forms that Western Sahara was her country of residency. Saharans have been locked in a struggle with Morocco since 1975, when former colonial ruler Spain precipitously withdrew under pressure from the Polisario Front independence movement. Morocco seized the phosphate-rich territory shortly afterwards.

Polisario suspended armed conflict against Moroccan control in 1991, and peace talks under United Nations auspices have dragged on ever since. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Ross, the Secretary General's special envoy, has been working to start a possible fifth round of negotiations.

When Haidar was detained, she was returning home after receiving the Civil Courage Prize from the Train Foundation in New York on October 21. She was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award last year, The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders website lists as among her other recognitions: the 2007 Silver Rose Award (Austria), the 2006 Juan Maria Bandres Human Rights Award (Spain), and nominations for the European Parliament Sakharov Prize in 2005, for the Amnesty International USA's Ginetta Sagan Fund Award, and for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.

Morocco 's invasion of Western Sahara forced refugees to flee to camps along the border in neighboring Algeria. Now numbering some 160,000, the refugees subsist partly on United Nations rations. A generation of children has grown up in the camps, but many have attended special programs in countries such as Spain and Norway, where activist NGOs have supported Polisario's calls for an independent referendum to determine the territory's future.

The African Union has accepted the Saharan-declared state as a full member, prompting Morocco to withdraw – making it the only nation on the African continent not belonging to the pan-African organization. Over 45 countries have also recognized the Saharan state.

The visit of Secretary Clinton to Morocco has stirred renewed controversy over U.S. policy, with the Moroccan American Center for Policy - a registered lobby group for the Moroccan government - hailing Clinton's remarks during a press conference as supporting Morocco's plan for "autonomy" for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty. In the past, while leaning towards Morocco as, first, a cold-war ally and, subsequently, an ally against terrorism, successive U.S. administrations have preserved a careful verbal neutrality.

Although Clinton said that U.S. policy has not changed, human rights groups are expressing concern at what they see as a lack of pressure to resolve the issue peacefully, particularly as Morocco has stepped up a publicity campaign in Europe and North America amid new crackdowns in the territory. The Robert F. Kennedy Foundation, which issued a statement calling for Haidar's release, says that h er arrest "follows a spate of recent arrests and confiscation of the travel documents of several Sahrawi activists by Moroccan authorities" and says seven Sahrawi activists who visited Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouff, Algeria in last month face charges before a military tribunal.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Tue, 07/13/2010 - 14:07





فارة الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية

دار السلام




 دار السلام


13 July 2010

Press Release


The Embassy of the Saharawi Republic to the United Republic of Tanzania welcomes the decision by Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF), to remove the so-called “Stolen” film from the program of its 13th Festival which is taking place in Zanzibar on 10-18 July 2010.

ZIFF’s Board decided not to screen “Stolen” during the Festival after close and thorough consideration of all the information and representations made by the Saharawis affected by the film including the family of Fetim Sellami a key figure in the film.

The Saharawi Ambassador to Tanzania, H.E. Mr. Brahim Salem Buseif said that “the Saharawi people are deeply grateful to the Board of the Festival for their wise and fair decision”. He added that “this film aims to create confusion and spread lies about a people who have suffered a great deal during the past 35 years. It also aims to hurt the Saharawi legitimate struggle for freedom and dignity.”

“Stolen” purports to have discovered modern-day slavery in the Saharawi refugee camps near Tindouf in Algeria. But authorities such as the United Nations have worked in the Saharawi camps for decades and have found no evidence of such unfounded allegations. Human rights organizations, NGOs, and thousands of journalists and foreign visitors to the Saharawi camps have never found evidence of slavery in the Saharawi refugee camps.

“Stolen” is full of misleading and deceptive allegations and there are many serious flaws in the film such as mistranslations, invented subtitles and fictitious scenes.

The Producer of the film Mr. Zubrycki admitted recently that there were some scenes of the film where re-enactments were shot in Australia, yet they weren’t stated on screen as being re-enactments. He also admitted that the film’s tapes were not buried in the desert as claimed in the film.  

Morocco invaded and illegally occupied most parts of Western Sahara (the SaharawiRepublic) in 1975 and continues to plunder its natural resources including phosphates and fisheries. Because of that occupation, almost every Saharawi family is separated with members on each side of the military wall which seals the occupied territories of Western Sahara from the outside world. Morocco continues to undertake horrendous human rights abuses and hamper United Nations efforts to organize a referendum of self-determination in the Territory in accordance with international legality.

The Saharawi Republic is a founding member of the African Union (AU) and enjoys close ties of friendship, cooperation and solidarity with the United Republic of Tanzania.


For further information regarding the film “Stolen” please check:


P.O. BOX 105119   DAR  ES  SALAAM

PHONE: +255 22 2780868  FAX: +255 22 2780296