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Posted at 12:59 PM ET, 01/14/2010

Talking with 'Lost's' Jeff Fahey: part 2

By Jen Chaney

Jeff Fahey in a promo shot for 'Lost's' sixth season. (ABC)

Here at Celebritology, Liz and I take our star-gazing, movie fandom and "Lost"-watching very seriously. But even we know that, as the recent devastation in Haiti demonstrates, important international issues often (and should) take precedence over the latest gossipy whispers about Tiger Woods or the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien debacle.

Our recent interview with Jeff Fahey, the video portion of which we shared yesterday, was a reminder of that. In addition to starring in films like "Silverado" and "The Lawnmower Man" -- not to mention trying to figure out what lies in the shadow of the statue in his role on "Lost" -- Fahey has long devoted much of his time to assisting individuals and organizations in post-conflict areas, particularly Afghanistan. In more recent months, he has added another issue to his plate: the rights of Sahwari refugees forced to live for decades in camps in Algeria's Tindouf Province.

Fahey was in Washington this week, having just returned from a visit to Morocco to meet with aid workers and a few refugees who have escaped from the camps, which have existed since Spain withdrew from the Western Sahara in the mid-1970s. It's his fourth time visiting the region during the past six months.

"You look at the news every day and there's so much going on," Fahey says. "But these people have been in these [Algerian] camps for 35 years. Maybe it's time that they got a little more assistance."

Fahey and Lavinia Limon -- the president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, with whom Fahey has worked on this issue -- say that the individuals living in the camps do not have the option to leave, even though the Moroccan government is willing to take in the refugees and provide assistance that will allow them to live and work in more suitable conditions.

Fahey, who officially becomes a series regular on "Lost" in its upcoming sixth and final season, says he's particularly appreciative that the show's producers have allowed him to do all the traveling required to stay involved with what's happening in Algeria and continue his other humanitarian work. After being away from the set in Hawaii for a couple of weeks to take this most recent trip, Fahey was preparing to head back and resume shooting this Friday. (And no, he couldn't tell us what would happen in the episode he was about to dive into; he hadn't even seen the script yet.)

The Hollywood vet -- who also can be spotted in the upcoming "Machete," Robert Rodriguez's action flick, based on his tongue-in-cheek "Grindhouse" trailer, that stars Fahey, Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba and (not joking) Steven Seagal -- is aware of the fine line he walks as an actor supporting a cause. He doesn't want to come across as that famous guy forcing social consciousness on an unsuspecting public.

"I feel very fortunate to have the job I have, but that's not why I'm doing this," Fahey says. "I've been out in the world for many years. When someone speaks up on an issue like this, there's the possibility of people saying, 'Oh man, here comes another Hollywood cat' -- and God bless those cats, however they do it -- but we have to try to [advocate for our cause] in a way where it doesn't turn the audience off."

So, audience, assuming you're not turned off, what can you do about any of this? Limon says people can learn more about the issue by visiting her organization's Web site, www.refugees.org, and by urging their members of Congress, senators, Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama to take policy steps that will emancipate the Sahwarin refugees from the camps.

"I don't blame anyone for not knowing the story," Fahey says. "I didn't know the story until six or seven months ago. But once you do know the story, you have to do something."

By Jen Chaney  | January 14, 2010; 12:59 PM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Lost  
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Comments

Great article about Fahey's humanitarian work. I find it interesting that he has chosen this area of the world to focus upon. I have written a book about the conflict entitled "Allah's Garden: A True Story of a Forgotten War in the Sahara Desert of Morocco" It is on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0964142392

I hope that you and others interested in this conflict can read the book, which helps to answer a lot of questions in regard to the issue. It is told from the perspective of a Moroccan doctor who was held for nearly 25 years in Tindouf Algeria. Enjoy and please feel free to contact me with any more information. A recent press release that hits on the issue can also be found here: http://tinyurl.com/yjj853j

Very Best,
Thomas Hollowell

Posted by: tdhollowell | January 15, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate the concern that some celebrities show towards international conflicts and crises, especially ones that are generally ignored by the international community, such as the Western Saharan conflict.

However, I would challenge Mr. Fahey's assessment of the situation. I have lived and worked in the Saharawi refugee camps for several months, and I can guarantee that the Saharawis are not in need of "emancipation" from the camps. I regret that Mr. Fahey seems to only have been educated by the Moroccans and those few Saharawis who have left the camps and returned to Morocco (which, of course, means that the Saharawis are free to come and go as they please).

In my several months there, I saw many Saharawi friends leave the camps for Spain, northern Algeria, Mauritania, and other countries. They are free to come and go as they please, but they stay because of their undying desire to return to an independence Western Sahara.

Again, I appreciate that Mr. Fahey is attempting to disseminate more information about the conflict, but before speaking about a group of over 150,000 refugees, I would suggest he go visit the camps himself. They are extremely accessible, and the Saharawis are the most welcoming people I have ever met. Please make the journey!

Posted by: TayhaTim | January 16, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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