Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Australian journalists weren't detained by Polisario, sort of

It seems like Koalagate is at last over for the Polisario Front. Still, it's not exactly clear what happened. I'll try and explain what is known.

Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw, Australians working on The Wall of Shame, a documentary about the Western Sahara and the refugee camps, were filming in Tindouf. Then, things got weird.

According to a statement Fallshaw and Ayala released through Wall's producer Zom Zubrycki in this article about the possible detainments, Polisario officials were angry that they were filming about race issues in the camps:

"The Polisario began to believe we were straying from the focus of our film, that of family separation and giving too much attention to Fetim's (a key protagonist) black extended family and friends"

After that, Polisario held them for a few hours and only released them after negotiations in front of MINURSO. Presuming that this is all true, Polisario should apologize for hassling people who seem to be pro-self-determination.

And about the earlier report that the film Ayala and Fallshaw are working on is about slavery:
"That's a real distortion," [Tom Zubrycki] said. "There could be an element of slavery ... but that is part of a bigger film but not part of the main story." (Emphasis mine)
What? If there is slavery in the camps, let's hear about it whether or not it's the documentary's focus. What is Zubrycki being so cagey about?

As for how this story got distorted by the media, One Hump commenters have some ideas. One anonymous commenter suggests that Moroccan security forces are working inside the camps, and it was them who harassed Ayala and Fallshaw. That seems about as likely as Morocco's child slavery in Cuba slavery. Instead of blaming Morocco for all of Polisario's bad press, let's hold them accountable so that someday the Front will deserve its claim to represent Sahrawis.

Also worth checking out: another anonymous commenter who claims to know Ayala complains about her behavior with Polisario. Translation nicely done by Justin Anthony Knapp.

With luck, things will become clearer as Wall of Shame's release date nears. I'm glad the journalists weren't held for long in Tindouf, if they were held at all, both for their sakes and the public relations disaster SADR avoided. I still want to know what the deal is with slavery.


  1. Anonymous1:42 AM

    I am the head of an Italian NGO, we have been working in the refugee camps of Tindouf for more than 10 years. At this moment I am in Rabuni. I have met Violeta and Daniel briefly.
    I must say I admire their courage, they are the only people that I am aware are taking responsibility. On my time here(3 years) we have been working on the liberation of 500 people. Most of the black population are slaves in the camps.
    The Polisario authorities brought them to Rabuni, when they were detained. Violeta was clearly upset.
    One issue is the independence of Western Sahara and another the slavery status of the black minority.
    I hope this issue will start the ball rolling and we will do something to help the black minority of the camps.

  2. Anonymous1:47 AM

    Saltana no quiere ser esclava
    Una niña mauritana acogida en Cartagena denuncia que ha vivido como esclava en el Sáhara. La madre biológica reclama su regreso
    TONO CALLEJA - Cartagena

    Dos familias, una española y otra mauritana, se disputan a Saltana, una niña de raza negra que tiene 14 años y vive desde hace casi cinco en Cartagena.


  3. Anonymous1:51 AM

    *Have a look at this link with the full article!!!
    Saltana no quiere ser esclava
    lunes, 12 marzo 2007

  4. Anonymous1:53 AM

    El juez quiere escuchar el testimonio de la menor, que declarará en presencia del ministerio fiscal.Saltana, de origen mauritano, vino a España como si fuera hija de otra mujer, Gueiwarra El Bardi, de procedencia saharaui. Asegura que trabajaba para ella en los campamentos de refugiados."Si veían que no me levantaba por la mañana me despertaban con agua fría", relata Saltana, que no quiere oír hablar de volver a Mauritania, y mucho menos a Tinduf.

    Pero la versión de la Asociación de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui de Cartagena es diametralmente opuesta: "La madre biológica de la niña lleva cuatro años reclamándola. Ha intentando llegar a España en muchas ocasiones. Lo logró hace ocho meses, pero hasta ahora se le ha impedido incluso mantener relación alguna con su hija".

  5. To the head of the Italian NGO: Can you contact me over email? It's wfs8 //at/// (it's also in the sidebar if my anti-spam measures are too arcane). I understand if you want to remain anonymous, but these charges are to serious and, if they're true, the situation is too urgent to just leave it at this.

    Spanish article people or person: Once again, I tried my pyrite Spanish and came up empty. Saltana is a slave in the camps, is that it?

  6. Anonymous5:12 AM

    According to the article, Saltana is a little Mauritanian girl that was bought by a Saharawi white family.
    The full article is quite intense.
    I would like to talk to Violeta and Daniel to get the full story.
    Their media release has a lot of gaps. Maybe they are afraid to talk in order to protect the black people?

  7. If it's about black slavery, I'm sure that can occur. It still does in Mauritania, among Moors (with the former or present slaves known as Haratin), and I don't see why there couldn't be some vestige of it left among Sahrawis in Western Sahara (under both Polisario's and Morocco's control) and Tindouf. It was common right through the colonial days, but Polisario banned it explicitly from 1973, along with tribal exploitation. Still, traditional social structures don't just go away like that after 500 years, and I don't know how diligent they've been in fighting it after that. If it exists, I'd bet it's somewhat like in Mauritania, pretty informally and covered by "tradition": certain families being dependent on others without anyone ever recognizing formally that they're being exploited, even if they are. I've heard about that, but never seen solid evidence. I find it hard to think it's on the scale of Mauritania, anyway.

    (Plus, to commenter no.1, there must be far more than 500 black people in the camps. Either you're talking about just a few of the black Sahrawis/Haratin, and not most of them, or your numbers are oddly wrong.)

  8. Anonymous10:16 AM

    Alle, are you pro-slavery ?

  9. Anonymous10:32 AM

    Well, it seems that the Moroccan propaganda has infiltrated blogs especially the ones that are Pro- sahara independence. Will, these so-called: anonymouslaunch a a bunch of comments insisiting on the existence of Salevery. I have never heard of such thing in the cmaps as we are all slaves of the noble cause. That is the only slavery i know of. Sahrawid are far from being racists. Foreigners and film makers have visited the camps many times during all years. My question now is": why talk about sloavery now and not in the past. To your knowledge, the polisario has never monitored anyone. and any visitor can visit any family in any camp without any control or restriction. I am with the conspiracy theory in this case. If this commentators would like to identify themselves for credibiltiyt, then we should initiate an investigation. Till then, i would refrain from any further comment !

  10. Anonymous10:44 AM

    To the latest anonymous, regardless of this slavery story, if you want to launch an investigationm you need an open country with democratic institutions and independent justice system. These requirements don't exist in the camps, because first, they are located in Algeria (have a look at State Department report on human rights to know about democracy and justice in Algeria), second, Polisario is the ALL-ruler in the camps (they can't be judge and party at the same time), third, refugees know only polisario, since they were born, they hear day and night that Polisario is their unique and only legitimate representative and therefore should shut up. U must be very naive to think that an investigation for whatever reason can work in the camps.

  11. Mohamed Brahim11:00 AM

    It seesm your blog has become a fertile field for moroccan propaganda through the many anonymous commentators. I would love to see them reveal their true identity.To my knowledge, the issue os slavery was never raised in the camps as it does not exist. Why now? the answer is simple. Propaganda and the intent to direst the intention away from the failure of the morroccan regime regarding autonomy. alos the rising support and solidarity from the world's civil societies is scaring Mororcco.So why not set a trap for sahrawis in their own field, and creat a huge propaganda with the help of some misled and bribed agents. Sure enough, i support the conspiracy theory here.Foreigners and filmmakers have been visiting the camps since the emergence of the conflict, and nobobdy ever talked about or pointed at the existence of slavery. Sahrawis are definitely not racists. I would love to see these so-called: anonymous commentators reveal their own names and who they work for. also., this might all be a free advertising for the filmmakers ! Everything is possible.
    Mohamed Brahim

  12. Anonymous11:06 AM

    Mohamed Brahim, sahrawis are not racist. And who do you work for yourself ? are u a Polisario agent ?

  13. Anonymous11:43 AM

    I have had Saharawi children in my house on the "Vacaciones de Paz" program, I live in Sevilla.

    The girl who comes to our house is a black girl and I remember her mentioning about slavery. My wife was very surprised, we really didn't wanted to believe. I am keeping my anonymous status for protecting the girl.

    ...We as friends of the Saharawi people, who are we helping? We need to keep big eyes on the people. I would like to go to visit the girl. As soon as my wife heard about the journalists, she started crying...maybe we didn't want to hear our little Saharawi girl.

    1. Anonymous10:13 AM

      Hello,I´m a host family near Madrid I´m quite active working on the cause...I had three "White bereber" saharaui children and they have all told me about "slavery" and discrimination in the Tinduf Camps.You may be asking yourself how do you get to talk to a child about this Issues...Very naturally in my case we are an interracial family my husband is a black african,and I can tell you that all my saharaui children are teased and they laugh at them because they live with blacks(my family)one of my children ask me if my brothers black adopted child (of african origin)was bought in Mauritania...!!! This same child told me how somebody that he knows bought a young child from Mauritania to look after his goats and how the kid wasn´t going to school...My other boy told me that he had a black uncle,I was surprised because none of his parents are black so he said that his uncle mother "abadoned him" when he was litle and his grandfather took him with the family...At the time I was pleased And thought that it was a nice human action...!!!Know after seeing the movie stolen I'm starting to see things in a different way.I will like to get in contact somehow with families like yours maybe we can do something about it...!!!!

  14. Anonymous12:10 PM

    There is no Slavery in camps. May there are kind of “Racism” like in many parts of the world ( Morocco too ) and all people have to be against that of course

    Moroccans who are writing here.
    Moroccans who are “kissing” hands of the King and GENUFLECT t behind the King in the 21 century
    That is The Slavery

  15. Honestly, people. You can all be anonymous, but at least make up a fake name so its clear who's talking to who. Or a number.

    And then for this:

    Alle, are you pro-slavery ?

    Yes. And also pro-piracy, pro-cannibalism and pro-credit card fraud. Furthermore, I strongly support self-determination for Alcatraz Island and Sing-Sing.

  16. Larbi5:02 PM

    alle et al,
    All the anonymous (I should say most of them) are from the group that hosted Khalihenna Ould Rachid in a restaurant in Virginia. The video of KOR's speech is available online and he encouraged them to go to blogs are defend "Sahara Moroccanness". That's all this garbish is about. Of course there is no "legal" slavery in the camps nor in Morocco or mauritania, for that matter. But some cases, as you mentioned, could well happen.
    Who are but slaves the black men to handle Morocco's King's horses?
    The pictures are also on the internet. have you seen a "white" Moroccan holding the reins to the King's horse? Mostly are black men !!! Why? because they're slaves.

  17. Larbi, can you link to this video or show how to get to it? I guess it's in Arabic, though.

    Does the Moroccan king have slaves? That seems so unlikely.

  18. Anonymous6:43 PM

    Larbi, I see that Moroccan participation in the blog hurts you. More comments, Moroccans !

  19. Larbi9:05 PM

    Will, yes Moroccan king has slaves.
    In fact, Hassan II is the son of one of his dad's former slaves. A woman with the name of Abbla Laglaouia ('anonymous' bloggers know what i'm talking about).

    The video is located here:

  20. Laroussi5:46 AM

    Please make sure your spelling is correct when you transcribe Arabic names, and make a check at for example Google of the name before posting it.

    I find no person through Google with the name "Abbla Laglaouia".

  21. The spelling of her name could be wrong, but she's King Hassan II's mother. She was given as a concubine by the Pacha of Marrakesh, Laglawi (Glaoui), to Mohamed V.

  22. Anonymous5:49 AM

    No Moroccans have said yet that the actual film was about the devil himself as an agent for the Polisario. Any volunteer?
    Come on, enough is enough.

  23. Anonymous8:05 PM

    I must say this is an extremely well acted performance from the journalist to get publicity for a documentary that really most people could care less about, but throw in the intrigue of slavery in the 21st century then you have a story. The problem is that slavery is ubiquitous today in the world including USA. give us a brake and stick to the real story of the documentary which I believe is the story of how Morocco has displaced the Saharaouis people