Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 08:50
An elite African athlete who has fought for his country's independence has given a talk to a group of Bath students during an event to highlight the work of Amnesty International.
Sixth-formers at the Royal High School held an 'Amnestea' fundraising tea party, at which staff and parents listened to a presentation on the human rights charity's campaigns across the world.
The special guest was 5,000-metre African champion Salah Hmatou Amaidane, who has campaigned for his homeland Western Sahara to be granted independence from Morocco.
The 26-year-old is the honorary figurehead for next year's Sahara Marathon, an event to raise money to help build an athletics team to represent the Saharawi people.
School International Baccalaureate co-ordinator Angharad Holloway thanked Amaidane for taking the time to talk about his experiences. She said: "Peace and conflict resolution is one of the core themes in the current IB programme.
"We were privileged to have Amaidane with us and everyone was very moved by the plight of his people and his passionate devotion to their freedom. It has really brought home to the students how fundamental human rights are to a decent and dignified existence."
Amaidane, born in Western Sahara, has represented Morocco at athletics competitions but has been arrested and imprisoned for taking part in peaceful protests for the self-determination of his people.
He was granted political asylum in France after showing a Saharawi flag during a race. The Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco since 1976 and around 165,000 Saharawis live in refugee camps in the Algerian desert.
Amnesty International estimates that more than 500 people have "disappeared" and is trying to draw the world's attention to the abuses of the Moroccan authorities.