Transnational Abductions and Transnational Responsibilities? The Politics of ‘protecting’ Female Muslim Refugees Abducted from Spain


Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena. 2014. “Transnational Abductions and Transnational Responsibilities? The Politics of ‘protecting’ Female Muslim Refugees Abducted from Spain.” Gender, Place & Culture 21 (2): 174–94.

Author: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh


This article examines evolving gendered protection narratives surrounding four ‘abduction’ cases in which Sahrawi refugee girls and young women living in Spain were ‘abducted’ by their birth-families and forcibly returned to the Algerian-based Sahrawi refugee camps between 2002 and 2009. By exploring Spanish state and civil society responses to these girls' ‘abductions’, I argue that there has been a major shift in the ways in which legitimate responsibility and authority over Sahrawi refugee women as Muslim female forced migrants have been conceptualised and invoked by Spanish actors. I therefore assess the gendered nature of competing claims of responsibility to ‘protect’ Sahrawi refugee women both within and outside of the Algerian-based Sahrawi refugee camps, exploring the motivations and implications of different actors' in/actions towards these girls and women. With Polisario claiming to represent and act as a liberal ‘state’ committed to protecting the rights of its ‘refugee-citizens’ in some instances, while denying politico-legal responsibility in others, the question of ‘who’ or ‘what’ claims the legitimate authority to ‘protect’ Sahrawi refugee women and girls is thus accentuated by such cases. By exploring shifts in Spanish public and political discourses of responsibility over the past decade on the one hand, and the accentuation of competing discourses as presented by Spanish, Polisario and Algerian actors on the other, this article highlights the complex nature and implications of the ‘intimate’ Spanish civil society networks that ensure the physical and political survival of the Sahrawi refugee camps. Ultimately, I argue that Sahrawi girls and women have become hypervisible in Spain, being conceptualised as women who ‘belong’ to the Spanish nation that in turn has a responsibility to ‘protect’ ‘our’ Sahrawi women from ‘their’ culture.

Keywords: abduction, contested sovereignty, orientalism, protection scenarios, refugee women, Sahrawi refugees

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Religion Regions: Africa, MENA, North Africa, Europe, Southern Europe Countries: Algeria, Spain

Year: 2014

© 2024 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at