Monday, 14 September 2009

Press release: Exiled top athlete becomes face of 2010 Sahara charity race

Saharawi gold medallist runner Salah Hmatou Amaidane becomes the honorary figurehead for “Running the Sahara 2010” (aka the Saharamarathon), officially facilitated by UK arts and human rights charity Sandblast. This international sporting event takes place in the Saharawi refugee camps in the Algerian desert next February. Amaidane will visit the UK from Oct 7th to 21st aiming to raise the profile of “Running the Sahara”, recruit participants and find sponsors to build a Saharawi athletic team in the refugee camps to compete internationally. 

He will be available for interviews and be key speaking amongst others at the following events:
•    Oct 8: “The Wall of Shame”: film and talk at Music Bar, Brighton
•    Oct 9: “The story of a Freedom Runner“ talk/ film @ The City Circle, London
•    Oct 11: Film and talk at Esporta Health club in Swiss Cottage, London
•    Oct 16: Film and talk at Caravanserai in Ladbroke Grove, London
•    Oct 18: Amaidane takes part in the Wimbledon 10k, London
•    Oct 19: Film and talk at InSpiral Lounge at Camden Lock, London
•    Oct 20: Testimony at meeting with All Party Parliament Group on WS

Biography: Salah Hmatou Amaidane
Amaidane 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, Amaidane has endured physical and emotional hardships: most recently a brutal attack by two Moroccan men in the Pyrenees while he was training alongside Paula Radcliffe.

26-year old Amaidane began his athletic career in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara 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 Amaidane 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.

Amaidane 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, Amaidane 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.

Running the Sahara will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2010. In 2009, 450 people came from all over the world, including 24 from the UK to participate in 5km, 10km, half marathon or full marathon races. Participants are hosted by a Saharawi refugee family during their stay in the camps near Tindouf in SW Algeria.
For the 2010, Sandblast, aims to recruit 100 people and hopes to raise enough funds to set up a professional mobile recording studio in the camps and train Saharawis to run it.

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