chapter
18 Pages

Introduction

ByHannah Bradby, Gillian Lewando Hundt

This chapter presents a brief history of the conflict over the Western Sahara, and outlines the Sahrawi refugee camps themselves. It highlights the extent to which Sahrawi officials and refugee youth proclaim the absence of violence against women in the camps as a way of demonstrating the uniqueness of the Sahrawi camps. The chapter argues that violence against women has been highly politicised by Sahrawi representatives and their Western observers in a number of ways. It examines why certain forms of violence are silenced and categorised as private by the Polisario Front, while others are publicly highlighted in the international arena. The chapter argues that different categories of violence against women serve particular political purposes and are invoked by the Polisario. It examines that the concealment of violence against women in the camps is designed to validate the Polisarios claims of the Sahrawi's uniqueness, whilst simultaneously being clearly detrimental to the well-being and safety of Sahrawi women in the camps.