I am an Associate Professor of anthropology at the University of Western Ontario, I have been conducting research in the Sahrawi camps since 2002. My research involved several visits to the camps during which time I lived with Sahrawi families. The last time I was there was May and June 2009.
As some of you might know, anthropological research involves participating in the daily life and activities of ordinary people. I have done that many times and have lived with numerous families: I slept in their tents, ate their food, helped in cleaning, shopping, etc. I joined members of the family when they visited other families, or travelled to other camps. We talked and discussed life in general, political issues, social and cultural life, past and present, and of course personal matters. In other words, families were hospitable and adopted me as one of them for the period I was there.
Surely, if there was any form of slavery, I would have observed that by now, that is seven years of work among the Sahrawis. I have talked to and interviewed so many Sahrawis, young and old, men and women of all backgrounds, would it not be almost impossible for anyone, let alone an observant anthropologist to note there was "slavery"?
I have written several articles on Western Sahara refugees, mostly about the success of the Polisario in acting as a catalyst in building a new society, based on popular participation and democratic principles. In fact, a central principle in the Polisario's Program of National Action was the prohibition of slavery, or any forms of exploitation and oppression (see the Sahrawi Constitution, ch. 26/27, since the early seventies). It also played a significant role in advancing and supporting Sahrawi women's struggle for equality.
Anyone who knows even a little about the Sahrawi struggle for independence, is sure to realize that "Stolen" is a cheap piece of propaganda and baseless allegations. Indeed, it has nothing to do with the realities on the ground. It is appalling that the film-makers, like vultures, have instrumentalized and abused the suffering of the Sahrawis, and worse their hospitality to produce falsehoods. I am certain, however, that the facts will be exposed and the film will be forgotten as an unsuccessful attempt at distorting the Sahrawi history and reality.
University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario, Canada