Sunday, March 3, 2013


They told their stories to the documentary team, but once the Polisario (representing Morocco) found out, the victims retracted and denied.
Can this be anything but fear?  

Western Sahara
Culture - Arts | Society

Sahrawi refugee to court: "I'm not a slave"

Sahrawi refugee Fetim Salam Hamdi has been portrayed as a slave in a poorly translated documentary film. But Ms Hamdi insists she is a free woman and now goes to court to stop the film's screaning.

The Australian documentary film "Stolen", shot in the Algeria-based refugee camps housing over 100,000 Sahrawi refugees last year, portrays the Ms Hamdi as a slave. Ms Hamdi herself claims to have been shocked as she first saw the result of the filming, alleging massive manipulation in scenes and translations.

This week, "Stolen" will be screened at the Norwegian Short Film Festival unless Ms Hamdi and her lawyer, Andreas Galtung, are not successful in getting a court order to stop the screening. They claim the screening is "an offence of her dignity."

"It is an offence to Fetim to be presented as a slave. The proofs clearly document that there is clear manipulation in the film material, and it is sad that the Short Film Festival does not show consideration for her by stopping today's screening", stated Mr Galtung today.

Ms Hamdi is the mother of four children, and a kindergarten teacher in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria. In "Stolen", however, she is said to have been kidnapped by her present "slave owner" and put to hard forced work. Several statements from Ms Hamdi, the "slave owner" and her family members are presented as "proof" she is held as slave.

But all these statements in Arabic turn out to be wrongly translated. When the film had its premiere in Australia last year, also translators from 'Al Jazeera', working for Australian TV, reacted to the totally wrong English subtitles of the Arabic dialect used in the refugee camps. A certified translator that the filmmakers claim to have used, has himself heavily criticised the subtitles, and has stated that his corrections had not been used in the film.

In one of the central scenes, Ms Hamdi's own sister and mother said "It is not true" and "she [Fetim] was not kidnapped", to the questions from the filmmaker whether the main character was stolen as a child. But in the subtitles from the same scene, the women are quoted that Ms Hamdi was kidnapped and is controlled by the woman portrayed as a slave owner. None of the interviews in the movie support the claims from the filmmakers that Ms Hamdi had been "stolen".

According to Ms Hamdi's supporters, almost all the scenes in which the main character is shown, "have been deliberately subtitled erroneously." On two occasions in the film, the audience is given the impression that Ms Hamdi is ordered to carry out work, "but in both cases the subtitles are pure fantasy," her supporters say.

"The worst thing is that the lies do not only affect Fetim and her family, but also stigmatising the entire people. The Sahrawi people have gone through extreme ordeals, and it is sad that when they finally get some attention, it is based on a scam. The short film festival has an ethical responsibility, and it is a scandal that they knowingly accept giving legitimacy to a propaganda movie", comments Jørn Sund-Henriksen of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.

Not only Ms Hamdi is portrayed in a "disrespectful" way, the Committee holds. "The movie makers have also abused the rest of her family, such as her 15 year old daughter. The toughest treatment, was perhaps given to the claimed slave owner, who with use of consistently erroneous subtitles, and the moviemakers' narration, is accused of kidnapping. No proof is given," it adds.

The Sahrawi people of Western Sahara traditionally kept slaves, but during Spanish colonial rule, this tradition was mostly done away with. The Polisario government ruling in the refugee camps claims to have rooted out the last remnants of this slaveholding tradition among the Sahrawis. 

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