Friday, February 16, 2007

Enter the Tindouf Challenge and prove me wrong

There's been talk lately that the Sahrawis in Tindouf aren't so much refugees as they are hostages. The thinking goes that Polisario bandits hold the Sahrawis against their will so they can rule the refugee camps and skim off international aid. It's well-substantiated in Moroccan media.

The only problem I see with this is that, outside of Morocco, no one talks about it. At a time when interest in humanitarianism is so prevalent, how could roughly 100,000 people be held without anyone outside of the region noticing?

The answer is, I think, that they're not actually hostages at all. They're just what Polisario says they are--indigenous people from the Western Sahara who don't want to live under Moroccan rule. Judging from recent comments, though, some of you think I'm wrong. That's why I'm introducing...The Tindouf Challenge!

In order to win the Tindouf Challenge, you have to provide me with non-Moroccan evidence that the Sahrawis in Tindouf are held against their will. Books, magazine articles, newspaper reports...anything goes in the Tindouf Challenge. You don't even have to convince me. All you have to do is show that a non-Moroccan source actually said that the refugees in Tindouf were held against their will.

The prize is extravagant, even for this blog. If I'm proven wrong, I'll put the sign below in my dorm window for 3 weeks. It'll be a great embarassment for me and my staunchly anti-self-determination dorm hall, but the pursuit of truth has its costs. Also pictured is my roommate, another staunch advocate of the free exchange of ideas who nevertheless looks unhappy about being associated with the sign.
I've been told to make this unGoogleable, so H3nry can still get a job. CORCAS = resume slayer.

My dorm window is prime autonomy-promoting real estate, because it's across from a classroom. Every day, bored students will look out the window and be intrigued by CORCAS.

I hope you have Lexis-Nexis on your favorites and your library's research assistant on speed dial, because the contest ends in two weeks. Send entries to wfs8 /at/ georgetown dot edu.

Here are the other rules/loopholes.
  • The source can't be from Moroccan media or a Moroccan-associated think tank like the Moroccan-American Center for Policy.
  • The Washington Times is out because they crossed Polisario long ago.
  • Since a lot of stuff about the Western Sahara is unavailable in English, Spanish or French is OK, too. I hope some people who read the site know those languages and can help out. Arabic will probably be fine, too.
I'm looking forward to a deluge of entries.


  1. Come on, this is too easy. There are plenty of goofs out there who have been approached by Moroccan diplomats on this issue (well, what other issues are there for Moroccan diplomats) and are parroting that.

    I thus proudly present, set up by some bunch of Christian Evangelicals who've been taken on a tour of Morocco's southern provinces... As one would expect with such an earth-shattering event, it was all over the Moroccan state news when the page went up.

    Now, having won the contest, I hereby request that you burn that abomination of a sign. Even in my most pro-Moroccan moments, that CORCAS humbug is the one thing I can find no sympathy for.

    More seriously, Polisario's hands aren't as clean as they pretend. If also not one-tenth as dirty as the Moroccan government pretends (or as the government's own hands, for that matter). They were rather harsh with people during the war years, as the brutal treatment of Moroccan POWs attest to. Now they're more responsible, but I'd still say much reform is needed in the SADR before I'd willingly live there. (Now, the forced exile, 32-year war, and military organization model thing doesn't exactly promote good governance, and that isn't by Sahrawi choice -- but still.)

    As for the camp populations being hostages, I think the fact that about 25,000 of the Sahrawi refugees are now registered by the UN as living in Mauritania speaks against that. But people in the camps are most certainly desperate to get a visa to go anywhere else, because those camps, with and without Polisario's inefficient and unfortunately also corrupt and occasionally quite authoritarian management -- they really, truly *suck* to live in.

  2. I'm sure the camps aren't good places to live, and given the choice between a nicer place to stay (as long as it wasn't under Moroccan control) the Sahrawis would move. I've never criticized SADR/Polisario for general corruption, but only because I haven't seen hard proof of it.

    You're right that the POWs were treated poorly. It was a serious mistake on Polisario's part. It's made all the worse because, in general, their actions are far less reprehensible than those of other liberation movements.

    Unfortunately, I'm sad to say you haven't won the Tindouf Challenge. The Moroccan-American Center for Policy is associated with I should know. I attended one of their luncheons in Houston and came out disgruntled with the level of fabrication supposedly Christian people were willing to propagate (and, for some of them, swallow themselves).

    The Tindouf Challenge hasn't been won. The CORCAS sign remains untouched, neither in a window or a dustbin.

  3. Damned. I may try again, but first I have to shake off the moron-fatigue that hit me when skimming that site.

    "in general, [Polisario's] actions are far less reprehensible than those of other liberation movements. "

    Yes. Very true, and to my mind, also very important, even if I think the legal case of self-determination is completely separate from the actions of Polisario. It was never based on their existence or actions in the first place. But still, even the ANC comes off as brutish monsters compared to Polisario, and they're everyone's little angels nowadays. "Necklacing", anyone?

  4. It would be "read the site," my young journalist friend.

  5. Yves Arnoldy from the ICRC believes they're detained - but he was speaking to 2M. Not likely they'd put any dissenting opinion on.

  6. Anonymous6:37 AM

    Hi all,
    Alle, I am not angry u mentioned speakforsahrawis. org before me and win the contest LOL. I hope Will and urself won't find some kind of family, cultural, intellectual or whatsoever link between christian evangelicals and Morocco. If u do then the whole world would be in a conspiracy mindset against both of u and ur friends. Beyond the debate on refugees/abducted, there's good literature about the very existence of the polisario and SADR.I'd refer you (once again) to Khaled Nezzar's 2003 interview (this guy i s DEFINITELY NOT pro-Moroccan). I find it very interesting knowing that the guy was, in his time, THE policymaker in Algeria. Would be interesting also to check an article (French,Nov. 2006) by Laurence Ammour in Research Paper, NATO Defense College, Rome. Pages 5 and 6 are very interesting.
    One necessary reminder on the referendum: it is unfair to accuse Morocco of refusing the referendum and omit, voluntarily, to mention that Morocco was the first to propose the holding of a referendum in Nairobi back in the early 1980s. Obviously, nobody would enter a referendum where the polisario constantly cheated on and falsified voters' data.
    Have a good WE,
    El Tiburon

  7. Hi el Tiburon,

    Just a note on cheating and falsifying voter data for the referendum. There is a wealth of information around by ex-MINURSO officials, NGOs, journalists, etc. on the voter registration process for the referendum that Morocco finally canceled. Human Rights Watch has a good report; the New York Times' Chris Hedges has gone into it extensively; MINURSO official Frank Ruddy has a good overview at
    The overwhelming consensus is that it was Morocco that did almost all of the cheating, intimidation, and falsifying. Ruddy states that Morocco virtually took over the registration process. Your argument against a referendum -- that "the polisario constantly cheated on and falsified voters' data," is I feel a cop out. Besides under the Baker II Plan, for the referendum Moroccan settlers would outnumber Sahrawis indigenous to the territory by some two or three to one. I am once again left with the question, "in opposing the referendum what are you so afraid of?" Polisario cheating? I don't think so.

  8. Anonymous4:53 PM

    @chasli: and what would you say about an algerian-Polisario cheating if the referendum you're talking about could take place? We all know that Tindouf's capital is Algiers and Polisario's brain somewhere in the Moradia.

    @Will, the Moradia, is Algeria's oval office!

    Moroccan sahrawi

  9. Regarding Lioslaith's comment (Yves Arnoldy from the ICRC believes they're detained - but he was speaking to 2M. Not likely they'd put any dissenting opinion on), Arnoldy was talking about the Moroccan POWs then being held by Polisario, not the refugees. ICRC doesn't deal with refugee issues, that's the purvue of UNHCR.

    The way Arabic News frames it (with very selective quotations) makes it misleading, but if you know the context then it makes more sense why the ICRC would say that.


    Liberation of detained in Tindouf is a priority for ICRC, Algeria-Morocco, Politics, 8/18/2003

    The liberation of people detained in Tindouf, southwestern Algeria, "is a priority for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)," an ICRC official said.

    These prisoners should have been liberated in September 1991 upon the proclamation of the ceasefire, ICRC's general delegate to the Middle-East and North Africa, Yves Arnoldy, told the Moroccan TV channel "2M" Friday.

    "ICRC continuously and clearly expresses its position each time it has the opportunity to visit Tindouf camps," he said, adding "there is an urgent need to release these detainees and guarantee their return to their families in Morocco, he went on.

    Arnoldy noted that ICRC particularly hopes that the organization's speech be met with utter comprehension and respect especially since this issue "dates back to more than 20 years."

  10. Liosliath9:12 AM

    Oops, sorry, I saw a smaller snippet of that same article - it was definitely misleading!

  11. Thanks for your entries, everyone. I'm evaluating the various sites to decide if there's a winner. Judging from a mystery entry I received today, though, it seems my dorm will soon be advocating CORCAS. Alas!