Sunday, 25 July 2010

Sandblast's New Voices

On July 10th, Sandblast Team celebrated with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, the V&A Museum of Childhood and the Praxis Community project the New Voices Festival in Bethnal Green. From I Love Migrants and Amnesty International to community gardening projects and dance clubs - everyone was there.

When we didn't simply enjoy the great array of performances and entertainment on the main stage, we experienced a great interest from visitors and passer-bys in 2011 Running the Sahara, Tiris' album "Sandtracks", and project-in-planning, Studio-Live.

As an extra treat, rap duo Poetic Pilgrimage got our heads bopping and hips swivel. Two women  wearing hijabs mesmerized the audience by performing a number of songs from their very progressive and uplifting hip hop mixtape. Charity director was intrigued and went to purchase their CD only to find out that Poetry Pilgrimage got together with Saharawi singer, Aziza Brahim, for one of the songs on the CD: Regresso.

Learn more about Poetic Pilgrimage by checking out their blog at

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Cabaret Fundraiser for Saharawi Youth Theatre Project

You are warmly invited to the Charity Cabaret Extravaganza of Olive Branch Theatre and Sandblast
The evening present London's finest performers in music, theatre, comedy and the spoken word on the Thames to raise funds for a youth theatre project in the refugee camps
Places are limited, so get your name on the guest list now by donating £20 on JustGiving.
Find out more >>>

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Benefit Concert & Launch for Western Sahara

Sandblast warmly invites you to 
this very special fundraiser 
at London Aquarium. 

This multimedia benefit will feature live music, screenings of short films, interactive seminars, art installations, photography exhibitions and a raffle.  

Caravanserai Production and Acting Studio, Sandbast and YLSR (Youth Leadership and Social Responsibility) launch Sahara Arts Oasis and raise funds for the Saharawi Actor and Director Programme. 

Sandblast will also promote its Studio-Live project and Running the Sahara 2011 campaign

Find out more >>>


Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sandblast at New Voices Festival

Sandblast warmly invites you 
to celebrate with us the cultural richness of East London's community 
- a community with many roots.

On Saturday, July 10th, we will all come together to mark our differences as well as our sameness. Our origins may be in Poland, Turkey, Brazil or Ghana, but we have all come together in London to form a new community, to discover NEW VOICES.

With music, arts, theatre, and entertainment, Praxis Community Projects, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Museum of Childhood celebrate these new communities and what they bring to the table to make East London the melting pot of culture and identity that it is known for.

"SARAVAH SOUL explodes out of the cross-cultural melting-pot of London’s music scene with their own special blend of Afro-Brazilian funk. Female Hip Hop and poetic duo POETIC PILGRIMAGE fuse African roots with London beats.
Live Klezmer music fusing wild, soulful eastern European melodies, alongside intense Burundi drummers, street dancers, choirs, carnival troupes and music from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe.
Children’s area with crafts and activities led by the Museum of Childhood. Theatre performances by arts group Kazzum and Chilean theatre group Los Comediantes."*
The Sandblast team will have a stall of information and Saharawi artefacts, like jewellery and tea pots, and we will be available for a chat about our newest project, Studio-Live, as well as the 2011 campaign of our annual fundraiser Running the Sahara.

Why don't you come and say hello?
We will have a stall at the Museum Gardens and Museum of Childhood on Cambridge Heath Road (London E2 9PA).

If you are not sure how to get there, but you don't want to miss us, give us a call at 0783 8463310.

*Extract from press release submitted to organisations exhibiting on the day.

Monday, 14 June 2010

PRESS RELEASE: Brits prepare for Running the Sahara 2011

For immediate release: June 2009

Brits Prepare for Running the Sahara in 2011 in support of
Saharawi Refugees

Arts and human rights charity Sandblast launches its UK-wide Running the Sahara campaign for 2011 to raise funds and awareness for the plight of the indigenous Saharawi people of Western Sahara.

London, June 14, 2010 – “The sun rains down its unforgiving rays, everything tastes of sand and our feet are as sore as they’ve ever been”, says Weisi Guo, participant in the 2010 race, “but we have all left a piece of our heart in the Sahara dunes.”
Guo was one of the 32 people who joined charity director Danielle Smith on this adventure to the refugee camps on last February for the 10th Saharamarathon, the largest ever UK contingent to participate in the event.

As the official UK facilitator, the charity Sandblast’s annual fundraising project Running the Sahara connects the British people to the reality of close to 200,000 Saharawi refugees through the international sporting event known as the Saharamarathon.

Not to be confused with the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, the Saharamarathon takes place every year in the Algerian Sahara in the Saharawi refugee camps near Tindouf. Organized by the refugees themselves and volunteers from around the world, the solidarity sports competition has been growing from year to year. In its 10th edition in 2010, it attracted more than 400 participants from over 22 countries with an almost equal number of Saharawi refugees participating in it, including Saharawi triple gold medallist Salah Amaidan who won the 10km.

In 2010, the UK contingent raised more than £20,000 for Sandblast’s Saharawi Artist Fund, which finances activities in the camps to empower the refugees to tell their own story, promote their own culture and earn an income through the arts.

Sandblast’s founding director, Danielle Smith, explains, “protracted refugee situations like the Saharawi one suffer from oblivion, donor fatigue and trends that threaten their culture and identity. We focus on the arts because it is a medium with the greatest potential of harnessing global attention and recognition for the Saharawi plight and culture in a positive and inspiring way.”

In the next two years, Sandblast will aim to empower the Saharawis to present their culture and earn an income through their music in the form of the Studio-Live project. Danielle affirms, “there is huge talent in the camps. Saharawi music at this juncture most powerfully expresses their identity and struggle in a way that can reach global audiences and connect with musicians from all over the world.”

Information and details on the Running the Sahara campaign and how to sign up are available on the charity website at or get in touch with the Campaign Coordinator at

-- ends --

To find out more please visit the Sandblast website at  

Press contact:

Cathrin Lemoine
Digital Communications Manager
T: 0044 7825916191   E:

Notes to Editor:

  • On Sandblast: Sandblast is an arts and human rights charity working with the indigenous people from Western Sahara, the Saharawis. Their identity and culture is threatened by the impact of protracted exile and Morocco's integrationist policies.  It is our mission to empower the Saharawis to tell their own story, promote their own culture and earn a living through the arts.
  • On Western Sahara: In a barren corner of the Algerian Sahara, close to 200,000 Saharawis have been living as refugees since the 1975 Moroccan invasion of their country, Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony in NW Africa. Despite the extreme hardships of their exile, the Saharawi refugee community has managed to build a vibrant, democratically run nation-in-exile, where women play a prominent role in all sectors of life, defying many Western preconceptions about Arab-Muslim societies. The Saharawis seek their independence in Western Sahara and have been waiting for the UN to implement the long promised referendum for their self-determination, originally scheduled for early 1992.
  • On the Saharamarathon: This international sporting event evolved as a way to show solidarity with the Saharawi people and raise money for projects to improve the lives of the refugees. Organized by representatives of the Saharawi government and volunteers from all over the world, the first Saharamarathon was held in 2001. The event is also child-friendly. There is a race for children which takes place in one of the camps and many Saharawi children, 10 years and older, join in. AIMS (Association for International Marathons and Distance Runs) has sponsored this race over the past few years. Many of you will think it insane to run in the Sahara and fear baking to death. Don’t worry February is a mild month and the event is very well organised. Participants will be transported to the start of each race. The courses are marked with flags and stones, the terrain is mostly packed sand and is largely flat. There will be all the usual forms of support like regularly spaced water stations, four-wheel drives to provide assistance and medical assistance is provided by the International Red Crescent. The event has been growing each year and broadening its base of International participation. In 2010, nearly 1000 people ran in the Saharamarathon races from all over the world. For more info check:
  • On Running the Sahara: Sandblast officially promotes the Saharamarathon in the UK with their campaign Running the Sahara. It facilitates participation in the event as well as raises awareness and funds for its arts ands cultural projects in the camps. 2011 Running the Sahara will be Sandblast’s third fundraising campaign in a row.
  • On Salah Amaidan: His remarkable career began under the Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara and his life story is currently being made into a documentary by UK production company Tourist with a Typewriter. He dreams of participating in the 2012 London Olympics.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

New Website Tells the Saharawi Story through the Arts

“Arts and human rights charity Sandblast launches new website on its
5th anniversary to highlight mission with the Saharawi people.”

London, May 25th - To celebrate its 5th anniversary, arts and human rights charity Sandblast today announces the official launch of its new website The website was re-designed to complement the charity's vast multi-media resources on Saharawi life and culture and promote digital engagement with community members, artists, scholars and activists with the Saharawis.

Following several months of research on the uses of websites for small charities, the new design was developed with stakeholders, designers and creatives with the aim of creating a space that is easy to access and experience Saharawi art and culture, get information on the situation in Western Sahara and learn of Sandblast's work with the Saharawi refugees.

Cathrin Lemoine, Digital Communications Manager, Sandblast says:

"The new website is now optimized to make information on Saharawi culture and society easily and dynamically accessible to the public to raise awareness for the situation in Western Sahara. Sandblast facilitates art and capacity-building workshops in the refugee camps each year which just could not be showcased very well on the old website.” 

"Now we can engage and connect with artists from all over the world. Members of the public who want updates on ongoing projects will not only encounter facts and figures in endless reports, but also images and stories from those running the workshops and the Saharawis benefiting from them," enthuses Sandblast Director, Danielle Smith.

Through this virtual space, the charity hopes to encourage collaborations to develop ideas and projects with or in aid of the Saharawi people."

New features on the website include:
  • access to a vast array of multimedia art by and about Saharawis;
  • updates and high-quality material on ongoing projects in the refugee camps;
  • archive of multi-media resources on the situation in Western Sahara.
The launch of the website represents a crucial phase in the charity's online presence as the primary UK hub of information on Saharawi culture and its mission to build an active community of collaborators working in different ways to promote the visibility and support of the Saharawi plight through the arts and other educational means. 

You can view the new Sandblast website at To win a Tiris Sandtracks mp3, the sound of the Saharawis, send your feedback to

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sandblast at the Arts4HumanRights Festival "DisPLACEment"

Charity director Danielle Smith spoke at the first Arts4HumanRights festival "DisPLACEment" in Southwark last week (May 13). Partnered with social worker Ioannis Athanasiou on the topic of Displaced Peoples and Creative Practices, Danielle spoke about the indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Saharawis, whose identity and culture has been threatened by the twin impact of protracted exile and Morocco's integrationist policies since their invasion in 1975

Addressing the audience at Art's Bar for the first time, Danielle read a Saharawi poem from the bilingual poetry book, 31 treinta y uno, a collaboration project between Sandblast and the editors Pablo San Martin and Ben Bollig at Leeds University (published in 2007).

Danielle's warm and sensual voice carries the poem line for line through the room, reaching not only the ears but the hearts of the audience. She has read them many times, to herself and to others. She knows the poem word for word, but more than that, she knows its meaning, its origin, the poet and his story behind the words. It touches the audience, draws them in and doesn't let them go.

When Danielle goes on to speak about the Saharawis and the major obstacles they face in fighting for their right for self-determination, her voice is not warm any more. Her voice is passionate instead. Unadulterated passion for the cause, for the promotion of the rich Saharawi culture, for making the Saharawi voices heard:

The indigenous people of Western Sahara were forcibly displaced when the Moroccan army invaded their homeland in 1975 claiming its sovereignty. When a 16-year long war enraged between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front, thousands of Saharawis escaped the war-ridden territory to seek refuge in Algeria. They have lived in temporary refugee camps since then. Having been denied their Heimat, the Saharawi refugees embraced creative practices, such as poetry, performance art and music as a way of expressing their culture. As a way of keeping their distinct identity alive, the refugees use the arts to actively defy the uprising bitterness of not being heard by the international community, of not being able to work and earn a living, of seeing a people's hope and aspirations drained by protracted exile.

When the talk comes to a close, the audience felt enlightened and thankful to being able to learn about the Saharawi refugees and Sandblast's work. A raging success in 2010, we are all looking forward to next year's Arts 4 Human Rights festival and hope for many more events to come in the next few months.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Franco prosecutor Garzón on trial?

The Observer reported last weekend that the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzón it to be put on trial for abusing his power over the investigations he opened in 2008 into Francoist crimes against humanity that terrorised Spain during and after the civil war.

Garzón had made a name of himself by ordering the arrest of Chilean director Pinochet in London in 1998 and investigations into Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi as well as offering judicial advice on how to capture Osama Bin Laden. He is widely understood as the driving force behind a new understanding of human rights law. It is not surprising, thus, that some call for him to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and that others want him behind bars.

Allegations against Garzón cause great outrage amongst Spaniards who were affected by Franco's crimes as much as among advocates of international law and human rigths law. The Observer reports:
"Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on the supreme court to throw out the case. "Garzón sought justice for victims of human rights abuses abroad and now he's being punished for trying to do the same at home. The decision leaves Spain and Europe open to the charge of double standards," said Lotte Leicht, EU advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of a criminal complaint against Judge Baltasar Garzón for investigating crimes under international law committed in the past, Spain should, irrespective of the date of their commission, bring perpetrators to justice," said Amnesty's senior director Widney Brown." (Source: G. Tremlett, "Charismatic judge who pursued Spain's fascist assassins finds himself on trial" on 25th April 2010)
Why does it matter to Sandblast?
Garzón started investigations into genocide allegations against Morocco with regard to their occupation of the Western Sahara territory:
"As Morocco’s government and military have been exploiting the Saharan resources, like fishery, phosphor and oil, and abusing basic human rights of the Saharawis to being “free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1), to a Heimat  (Article 12) or “one’s native land” (Euripides 431 B.C.), as well as systematically persecuting those of Sahrawi origin and others of pro-Saharawi ideology with torture (Article 5) and “arbitrary arrests” (Article 9), investigations have been opened by the Spanish prosecutor and judge Baltasar Garzón Real into genocide allegations against the Moroccan government under King Mohammed VI (Marraco 2007, Anon 2007a, 2007b)." (Source: C. Lemoine)
The Argentinian court will rule next month on whether it accepts the case. 

Without having too much insights into what form of abuse Garzón is accused of, it is a great injustice that he is punished for speaking up for the victims of viscious crimes and to take up the fight for their essential human rights  with the world's leading criminals against humanity.

Monday, 8 March 2010

WOMEN: International Women's Day in Saharawi Refugee Camps

There may be debate about whether the the International Women's Day is an anachronism and defies everything that the feminist movement has achieved to date; or if this day is a reminder of said achievement and should therefore be celebrated on a sunny spring day. Whatever side you are leaning to, the International Women's Day certainly gives me the opportunity to contextualise this blog post on the Saharawi women in an internationally relevant way.

The International Women's Day is associated in Western societies with the empowerment of women through the industrialisation of the workforce and the heightened visibility of women through the permeability of domesticity; with the achievements of women for women in terms of political engagement, inclusion, emancipation and "cracking the glass ceiling". However, pay gaps, absence of women in leading positions, gender inequality in schools, courts, media, and throughout society ought to be on our minds while marching the streets and celebrating womanhood.

This is different for Saharawi women.The Saharawi refugee camps are managed by the democratic and representative government-in-exile, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) since 1975. Promoting education as a means to self-determination and gender equality as a foundational principle, Saharawi women have been known as the powerful pillars of Saharawi life in exile.

According to an old Saharawi saying, "a tent is raised on two poles: a man and a woman", understanding both partners in a relationship as equal leaders. However, during the violent war between the Moroccan occupiers and the liberation movement from 1975 to 1992, male and female Saharawi soldiers were absent, injured or killed. In a time of instability and chaos amongst the hundreds of thousands Saharawi refugees that escaped the war-ridden occupied Western Sahara, Saharawi women took the initiative to secure shelter, provide supplies and protection and physically as well as socially construct those refugee camps that in the 35 years of exile have become home for so many Saharawis.

As so often in societies so violently disrupted by war (think Germany, UK and France during and after World War I), women experienced a new scale of responsibility in their homes and more and more often outside of their homes. Unlike their fellow females from the post-war Europe (by no means diminishing their achievements), Saharawi women remained in charge for the administration of the camps, education and medical care for their people: over half of all medical staff is female (nurses, doctors, surgeons); one third of all parliamentarians are women; one third of the Saharawi representatives in the African parliament are female; local administration units, the Dairas, are predominatenly headed by women.

Today, we are celebrating the women of the world. The Global North and the Global South have made significant, though radically different, accomplishment in legal, political, cultural and personal terms to achieve equal rights and equal opportunities.

Listen to Radio 4's Woman's Hour on Saharawi women (by Danielle Smith & Beatrice Newbery).

UNIFEM United Nations Development Fund for Women. Gender Profile on the Conflict in Western Sahara.
For more information, also see:

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Hacking rude!

Two weeks ago, our website was hacked and has since been down. While our Web Team has managed to delete all "bad code", the problem could not be resolved to this day. Be assured, that they are on it.

Online censorship has been an issue since the world wide web has become more easily available for the public. National governments, multilateral corporations, hate groups and others have been trying to take control and thereby censor what and to what extent content is available online. To a degree, they have been successful, if you consider the restrictions on Google in China, Yahoo in France as well as the political economy of search engines on how users access the Internet. New phenomena, such as cyberterrorism, cyberbullying and trolling, have manifested and need to be addressed in a serious and informed manner.
While there is no evidence who attacked the Sandblast website and for what reasons, they succeeded in leaving us offline for at least two weeks (and counting). Being a British organisation, the UK government has not imposed (yet) any restrictions on our Internet presence. Being a transnational medium of communication, however, information and communication technology, just like the world wide web and social media (e.g. facebook), are subject to abuse and censorship that we may disagree with and contest as much as we can, but are still vulnerable to.

Attacks against organisations such as Sandblast, social movements (in Iran and Egypt), journalists (in Morocco and Tunisia)  and individuals with an opinion (in China) are manifold these days and we would like to draw your attention to organisations that highlight, monitor, and contest these problems:

    •    Global Voices Advocacy: Defending Free Speech Online
    •    Threatened Voices

And those providing a vast amount of information on why it is important for freedom of online speech to be protected:

    •    Net Freedom
    •    Save the Internet [American]
    •    Internet.Artizans

We will keep you posted about the development with the hacked website. Please get in touch with us with any queries and questions via email to, skype to sandblastarts, facebook, twitter...

Monday, 15 February 2010

SNEAK PREVIEW: the Saharamarathon T-shirts

For all of you going out into the camps on Friday and can't wait any longer. And for all of you who aren't and are eager to feel a pinch of envy.

These are the wonderful marathon t-shirts that the Saharamarathon runners are going to receive. To run in them, to sweat in them, to celebrate their Saharawi hosts in them. 

Simple in the front, graphic design in the back. A big thank you to Emily Fraser, the web designer of the soon-to-be-launched website.

And as always, let us know what you think. We take it both: the good and the bad.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

ACTION: February is all about action...

Independent human rights monitoring is a key tool in the fight against human rights abuses.

MINURSO, the UN mission in Western Sahara, is the only contemporary peacekeeping mission without a mandate to monitor human rights.

Human rights organisations, including Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch, and the POLISARIO have repeatedly called for human rights monitoring in the region. This has been blocked by the Moroccan authorities.

The renewal of MINURSO’s mandate in April provides a key opportunity to implement this.

Take Action!

1. Write to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:
• Thanking him for his action in the case of Aminatou Haidar and welcoming his comments on the need for a settlement on the issue.
• Emphasising the human rights abuses against those who peacefully oppose the Moroccan occupation - in particular the case of the 7 prisoners of conscience currently awaiting trial, who may face the death penalty.
• Stating that MINURSO is the only contemporary peacekeeping Mission without a mandate to monitor human rights.
• Calling on him to establish an independent mechanism for human rights monitoring
• Insisting that a referendum which includes the option of independence is implemented without delay.

2. Make sure your country supports human rights monitoring.
Contact your MP, ask them to write to your Foreign Office Minister:
• Explaining the human rights abuses against those who peacefully oppose the Moroccan occupation.
• Stating that MINURSO is the only contemporary peacekeeping Mission without a mandate to monitor human rights and;
• If your country is a member of the UN Security Council: calling on your country to insist on human rights monitoring whether through the extension of MINURSO’s mandate or through another independent monitoring mechanism.
• If your country is not a member of the Security Council: asking that your country makes a public statement calling for human rights monitoring.

If you are a UK citizen or resident please sign the Downing Street petition.

The UN Security Council
Permanent members of the UN Security Council are: China, France, Russian Federation, UK and US.
Non-permanent members: Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Japan, Lebanon Mexico Nigeria, Turkey and Uganda.

Address for Ban Ki Moon
The Honourable Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary General
760 United Nations Plaza
United Nations
New York, NY 10017

If possible please send any copies of letters and responses to

Other Actions
Amnesty International currently has 2 urgent actions on Western Sahara:

Friday, 29 January 2010

PRESS RELEASE: Britain's Got a "Western Sahara Moment" [UPDATED]

For immediate release

Britain’s Got a “Western Sahara Moment”:
Charity Sandblast urges UK action on Moroccan human rights abuses

London, February 1, 2010 - The increase of reports of violence and human rights abuses against Saharawis in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara has alarmed human rights organisations and activists all over the world. Gordon Brown’s “Western Sahara moment” during Prime Minister’s Questions session (January 13th) highlighted the general lack of awareness in Britain about the grave human rights problems afflicting the former Spanish colony. In protest, the UK charity Sandblast has launched an e-petition to 10 Downing Street seeking to mobilize British voices to call on Gordon Brown and his government to put more pressure on Morocco to respect universal human rights principles and stop its abuses against the Saharawi people.

In August 2009, a group of six young Saharawis were prevented by Moroccan authorities from boarding the plane in Agadir to attend to Talk Together at Oxford University, a programme  to generate dialogue between young members of communities in conflict. The "Oxford Six” subsequently experienced severe harassment, beatings and abductions.  Then in October, seven well known Saharawi human rights activists were abducted and arrested at Casablanca airport, upon their return from visiting relatives in the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. They are on trial for treason in a military court and face possible life sentences or even execution. Amnesty International reports that the authorities have been using repressive legislation to force statements, are abusing prisoners and deny adequate legal representation. In November, leading human rights activist Aminatou Haidar was expelled to Lanzarote from her homeland for rejecting to identify herself as a Moroccan national. Only after serious international pressure was she eventually allowed to return home 32 days later and has reportedly been under virtual house arrest ever since. 

The recently published 2009 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report states “Morocco’s backtracking on rights became apparent to all during 2009. Developments in 2010 will reveal whether authorities intend to reinforce this negative trend or put the country back on a path of progress on rights.”

Sandblast's e-petition calls on Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the UK government  to take action and pressure Morocco to respect universal human rights principles and stop its abuses against the Saharawi people. As a leading EU member, the charity urges Britain to ensure that negotiations, due to take place this coming April on the "advanced status" for Morocco in  the EU, are suspended until it meets vital human rights criteria. Founding director Danielle Smith believes Britain has a crucial role to play and that the voices of British civil society need to be heard loud and clear to ensure human rights and freedom for the Saharawis.

Sandblast hopes to collect thousands of signatures by February 27 on the occasion of the anniversary of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, which was proclaimed 34 years ago and is recognized by over 70 countries worldwide. Sign the petition at

About Sandblast:
Sandblast is an arts and human rights charity that aims to empower the displaced Saharawi refugees through the arts. Close to 200,000 Saharawis have been living as refugees since the 1975 Moroccan invasion of their country, Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony in NW Africa. Despite the extreme hardships of their exile, the Saharawi refugee community has managed to build a vibrant, democratically run nation-in-exile, where women play a prominent role in all sectors of life, defying many Western preconceptions about Arab-Muslim societies. The Saharawis seek their independence in Western Sahara and have been waiting for the UN to implement the long promised referendum for their self-determination, originally scheduled for early 1992.
To find out more please visit the Sandblast website:

Danielle Smith
Director of Sandblast
61 Minster Road
London NW2 3SH
t: 0783 8463310

Download press release from release_petition_Feb2010.pdf

Monday, 18 January 2010

URGENT ACTION: Victim of torture facing trial (Amnesty International)

Amnesty International released an Urgent Action appeal on Friday, January 15th, after having learned that Mr Haddi was due to face trial in Rabat.

Haddi was "disappeared" in late October of 2009 and is believed to be a victim of torture since then. He is now facing trial for a number of offences, including treason and drug-trafficking. Haddi has not have a lawyer or any legal representation and the trial is thought to be unjust, his treatment until then brutal and inhumane. Read more about his story and the charges held against him at and/or take action now.
"PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, French or your own language:
Expressing concern that Ahmed Mahmoud Haddi was subjected to an enforced disappearance from 28 October to 15 November, during which time he is believed to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated, and urging the Moroccan authorities to ensure  that he is protected from further torture or other ill-treatment, is granted any medical care he may require, and has regular access to his family and legal representation;
Urging the Moroccan authorities to investigate immediately allegations that Ahmed Mahmoud Haddi was tortured or otherwise ill-treated by members of the security forces, and to bring those responsible to justice in compliance to Morocco’s obligations under international law;
Urging them to ensure he receives a fair trial and that statements made under duress are not used as a basis to convict him.

Minister of Justice        
His Excellency Mohamed Naciri
Ministry of Justice
Place Mamounia, Rabat, Morocco
Fax: +212 537 72 37 10
+212 537 73 07 72
+212 537 73 47 25
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Interior       
His Excellency Taib Cherkaoui
Ministry of Interior
Quartier Administratif, Rabat, Morocco
Fax: +212 537762056
Salutation: Your Excellency

And copies to:
President of the Advisory Board of Human Rights        
Ahmed Herzenni, Place Ach-chouhada,
B.P. 1341, 10000 Rabat, Morocco
Fax: +212 537 726856
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 314/09.

Further information:"

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Amnesty International says "Morocco must adequately tackle legacy of human rights abuses"

"Moroccan authorities have failed to deliver on their promises to tackle the legacy of gross human rights violations committed in Morocco and Western Sahara between 1956 and 1999, Amnesty International said ahead of a report to be published on the issue.

The organization said Moroccan authorities have failed to provide justice to the many victims of the “years of lead”, decades in which hundreds of people were victims of enforced disappearances and thousands of others were arbitrarily detained or tortured.

An official commission established by King Mohammed VI six years ago to investigate human rights violations committed by the Moroccan security services between 1956 and 1999 has failed to fully deal with the legacy of the violations."

Read more here:

NEWS: Seen on BBC2's Daily Politics

The Daily Politics on BBC2 on January 13, 2010 at ca. 12.30pm

Dr. Andrew Murrison (conservative MP for Westbury) directs question at Prime Minister Gordon Brown: What is the Prime Minister's attitude to the current situation in the Western Sahara"

Brown: "Mister Speaker, I'm thinking of all the issues that he wishes me to talk about in relation to the Western Sahara [noise, laughter?]. The one thing that I have been worried about is the growth of ethnic violence in these areas; the one thing that we've been trying to do is to increase, indeed, double the aid in these areas; and the one thing that we have been worried about ...that we have been worried about is the growth of terrorist groups in these areas and that's why we are taking the action that is necessary to dissuade terrorism and take the action that is necessary. I've had numerous conversations with leaders in these areas - if he wishes [interruption] if he wishes to direct [noise] me to a specific point, I will take it up"

What do you think about Brown's attitude to the current situation in the Western Sahara? Could he have been any more unspecific?

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

ePETITION: petitioning vs. human rights abuses


We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to do all in his power to pressure the Moroccan government to respect universal human rights principles and stop its abuses of the Saharawi people under its occupation in Western Sahara.

Saharawi human rights defender Aminatou Haidar was expelled for refusing to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. Her 32 day long hunger strike has highlighted to the world the plight of her people.

We, the undersigned, request the British government takes the following actions: Through its bi-lateral relations and influence demand that Morocco frees all the prisoners of conscience held in its jails and particularly raises the issue of the 7 Saharawi activists in Sale/ Rabat, who face a military court trial with possible death sentence.

In its capacity as a leading member of the European Union, call for the suspension of negotiations on advanced status for Morocco unless it complies with required human rights standards. Through its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, ensure the self-determination rights of the Saharawi people be fulfilled through a referendum.

Sign. Verify. Circulate. Thanks.

Newsletter 1/2010: Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone:

We hope 2010 will be a great and successful year. In this first newsletter we are updating you on what has been and what is yet to come.

Since 2009
All eyes were on Aminatou Haidar when the decade came to an end. After staging a 32 day long hunger strike, the "African Gandhi" finally celebrated her victory and was allowed to return to her home in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. Since then, she has been reported to be under house arrest and is still very weak.  Her convictions generated unprecedented media coverage about the plight of the Saharawis. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who showed their support.

It is our responsibility now to use this momentum of rare international awareness on Western Saharato to take action.

Action Alert
While Aminatou’s battle is won, the wider battle of human rights still needs to be fought. Sandblast is running a PETITION addressed directly to the Prime Minister to pressure the UK government to play a more active role in finding a just solution to the conflict in Western Sahara. It is very important that this petition be signed by as many of us as possible to reflect our outrage about the ongoing human rights violations being perpetuated by the Moroccan regime.

Sign it and share it. Circulate it with your network via email, facebook, twitter and the good old word-of-mouth.

Coming up in 2010
For 2010, we hope that the Saharawi struggle for their self-determination can come closer to becoming reality.

February 19-27
Next month, 32 people go out to the refugee camps in the Algerian desert for the Saharamarathon. Charity director Danielle Smith joins the group of adventurous runners and plans to walk 42km in an effort to raise £ 20,000 for projects to give the Saharawi refugees a voice and income through the arts. Please support their fundraising efforts and learn about the personal stories of some of the participants on our JustGiving page

April 25-May 2
For this year’s FISAHARA, the annual international film festival in the Saharawi refugee camps, we hope to attract as many actors, filmmakers, film technicians and enthusiasts to experience this unique festival in the desert. Now in its 7th year, international stars like Penelope Cruz are expected to attend. More information will soon be released. for more details.

Contact us for any questions and comments,

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