Sunday, 14 June 2009

Press release: Top rebel athlete joins UK charity Sandblast at its "Running the Sahara 2010" launch on June 12th

The UK arts and human rights charity Sandblast is delighted to announce that Sahal Hmatou Amaidane will be a special guest at the launch of “Running the Sahara 2010”. Salah is a political refugee from Western Sahara in France. He has dedicated most of his sports career to running for the freedom of his people and homeland, occupied by Morocco since 1975. For his athletic and political aspirations, Salah has endured all kinds of physical and emotional hardships: most recently a brutal attack by two Moroccan men in the Pyrenees while he was training alongside Paula Radcliffe.  He will share his experiences at the launch evening.

26-year-old Sahal Hmatou grew up in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. His athletic life began at age 12 when he was recruited to Morocco’s junior running team. Early in his career he displayed an exceptional ability to run and win over a wide range of distances from 1500m to 10km. By 1999 he was the triple champion for Morocco for cross-country racing and the second champion of Africa (5000m). Despite his remarkable record, it did not protect Salah when he joined peaceful protests against the Moroccan occupation. His family home was repeatedly raided. He was blindfolded, taken to prison, interrogated, threatened and humiliated.

Sahal got political asylum in 2003 after he led an 8-km race in France and waved the Saharawi flag for the last remaining 200m. Alongside other exiled Saharawis, Salah has joined an UN-sponsored programme to reunite Saharawi families separated by the occupation and the 2,500km long land-mined Berm dividing the Western Sahara.

Not to be confused with the Marathon des Sables in Morocco-the launch will inform about the international solidarity race held in the Algerian desert, in February 2010, in aid of the Saharawi refugees and highlight the work of the Sandblast charity. The evening will also introduce the Saharawi struggle through the UK premiere of selected preview scenes from “The Other Side of the Wall”. This first British-Saharawi play is directed by, Giles Foreman. Also the founder of Caravanserai Acting Studios, his organization works in close partnership with Sandblast and is hosting the event.

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