Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Exploring Young Refugees’ Potential for an Alternative to Non-Violent Political Resistance in Western Sahara

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Mary Hope Schwoebel

Second Advisor

Elena P. Bastidas

Third Advisor

Ismael Muvingi


colonialism, nonviolence, refugees, Sahrawi, terrorism, Western Sahara


A case-study research was conducted to explore and understand the attitudes of the young Sahrawis regarding the nonviolent strategy followed by the Polisario Frente in quest for independence from Morocco following its illegal occupation of Western Sahara in 1975. A mixed-methods study using a parallel convergent design was performed in a refugee camp, located in southwest Algeria, to examine the likelihood of the youth’s eventual recourse to violent political means to advance the decolonization process stalemated since 1991. The instruments used in the quantitative strand included the Post-Migration Living Difficulty Questionnaire, the Activism and Radicalism Indented Scales, and the Feeling Thermometer. The qualitative part of this investigation involved ethnographic observations, individual interviews, and a focus group. The results showed that, notwithstanding the poor living conditions, destitution, and increasing discontent, Western Saharans, regardless of age and gender, were not disposed to renounce nonviolence to advance their cause. It also revealed that, despite the spread of terrorism and criminal activities in the Sahara-Sahel, the refugees do not present a security threat for the region. Recommendations to conflict specialists and policymakers were provided for the resolution of this protracted conflict.

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