Thursday, 29 September 2011

Press release: Jon Snow lends support to charity-run launch for refugees from Western Sahara

Jon Snow lends support to charity-run launch for refugees from Western Sahara

When: Saturday October 1st, 3pm –5:50pm. (3-4:40pm is the El Problema screening and talk)
Where: Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London W6 9RL
Contact: or call 07838463310

In a recent statement made to London-based Sandblast charity, journalist Jon Snow highlights the serious lack of media attention given to the conflict in Western Sahara and supports and supports the efforts of its “Run the Sahara 2012” campaign to raise awareness about the plight of a largely forgotten refugee community in the Sahara.

Launching on October 1st at Riverside Studios, Run the Sahara 2012 aims to get people involved in running in long distance races in the Algerian Sahara near Tindouf. Close to 200,000 Saharawis have been displaced there from Western Sahara for over 35 years and live in four large refugee camps. Funds raised through sponsorship will help support Sandblast's Studio-Live project, a music empowerment initiative being set up in the refugee camps to give artists opportunities to develop professionally and reach international audiences through music to express their culture and struggle more widely.

Jon Snow, whose first international story involved reporting on Western Sahara back in 1976, believes the situation must be better known to get the support it deserves.

"The plight of the people of the Western Sahara, whose land was illegally occupied after the Spanish colonisers left in 1975, is one of the most under-reported of our time….the struggle for self-determination has gone largely without word in the Western media. This is an issue we need to know about and to understand, if anything is to be done to bring relief to the Saharawi people."  Jon Snow, Channel 4

The launch will feature the screening of award-winning documentary El Problema followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Pablo Vidal and Rabab Amidane a young human rights activist from Western Sahara. The programme will also include selected readings of Saharawi writings by acclaimed playwright and poet Inua Ellams and a preview of the forthcoming documentary  “The Runner”, a film that has received endorsements from Ken Loach and John Pilger. Participants who have joined Run the Sahara, in previous years, will share their stories and experiences and give audiences a chance to find out more about the event, taking place next February.

Information and details on how to register to join Run the Sahara 2012 are available on the website. For any enquiries please contact



An arts and human rights charity working with the indigenous people from Western Sahara, the Saharawis, whose identity and culture is threatened by the impact of protracted exile and Morocco’s occupation. Sandblast’s mission is to empower the Saharawis to tell their own story.

Run The Sahara

Run the Sahara aka the Saharamarathon ( )-not to be confused with the Marathon des Sables in Morocco-is organized by the Saharawi refugees themselves with the help of volunteers from around the world. It has been growing from year to year and in its 10th edition in 2010, attracted more than 400 participants from over 22 countries with an almost equal number of Saharawi refugees running in it. Participants can sign up to run in 5km, 10km, half or full marathon races and are hosted by a refugee family during their week stay in the camps.  The race takes place a few days after arrival and for the rest of the week runners get a chance to learn about the life, culture and experiences of the refugees through a special programme of activities organized by Sandblast to ensure a rich and educational experience. 2012 represents Sandblast’s fourth year of promoting UK participation in the camp- based races. Since 2009 more than 50 people from the UK have run on behalf of Sandblast and helped raise over £35,000 for its art projects.

About Studio-Live

The music empowerment project aims to equip the refugee musicians with the skills and means to record, produce and showcase their music over the next three years to promote the development of the abundant music talent and help draw attention to their little-known plight of the indigenous Saharawis of Western Sahara.  Studio-Live also aims to help preserve their rich oral heritage threatened by more than 35 years of exile. The initiative has partnered with UK charity Fairtunes and the camp-based Ministry of Culture and is ongoing in its efforts to build a broad network of supporters and partners.

Background history

The majority of the Saharawis have been living as refugees since the 1975 Moroccan invasion of their homeland, 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. Thousands of more Saharawis also continue to live under Morocco’s occupation in Western Sahara where peaceful uprisings have been on the rise since 2005. The Saharawis have become very frustrated by the failure of  the UN to implement the long promised referendum for their self-determination, originally scheduled for early 1992.

El Problema

(53minutes, 2010) – A Spanish documentary, by Jordi Ferrer and Pablo Vidal, featuring testimonies and documents gathered over four and a half years in Western Sahara – clandestine images, given the Moroccan authorities’ prohibition of filming in the area. Using exceptional archival footage, the film brings to life the systematic human rights abuses perpetuated by Morocco's occupational regime in Western Sahara. Key Saharawi human rights activists take huge risks to participate in the film to highlight how all physical expressions of Saharawi identity are forbidden and even the use of the name Western Sahara or the word referendum is a “problem”, El Problema of the unheard Saharawis. El Problema is the winner of the Amnesty International Prize at the San Sebastian film festival in 2010, Human Rights Human Wrongs Film Festival in Oslo 2010, and the First Prize at FISAHARA 2010 International Sahara Film Festival. (trailer)

Rabab Amidane

A human rights peace activist born in 1985 in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. She studied English Language at university in Morocco as there are no universities in Western Sahara. In  2009 she received the Student's Peace Prize in Norway but after that was unable to return home in Western Sahara by the Moroccan authorities. While in Western Sahara she participated in many peaceful political demonstrations and acts of civil resistance and suffered discrimination, persecution and torture as a result of her activities. Her younger brother El Ouali Amidane is currently a political prisoner in Western Sahara.  She will be in London between Sept 30th and October 14th.

Inua Ellams
Born in Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria ‘1984, Inua Ellams is a Word and Graphic Artist, a writer with a style as influenced by Classic literature as it is by hip hop, by Keats as it is by MosDef. Rooted in a love for rhythm and language, he crosses 18th century romanticism & traditional story telling with contemporary diction, loose rhythm and rhyme. Has worked with The BBC’s Politics show // ‘Goats Milk & Mathematics’ – Chris Ofili, // ‘Night Knuckles and Not Writing’ & ‘Waterfront’ – Louis Vuiton // ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’ – Flipped Eye Ltd // ‘The 14th Tale’ – BAC, Apples & Snakes, London Word Festival // Untitled – Soho Theatre. // “The ScapeGallow’ – Tate Modern // Ife’ [Night] At The [British] Museum // ‘Untitled’ – Soho Theatre // ‘Knightwatch’ – Albany Theatre Deptford. //

The Runner

A film about endurance. It is the story of a champion long-distance runner from Western Sahara whose journey transformed him from an athlete into the symbol of a national liberation movement. Salah Ameidan is willing to risk his life, his career, his family and his nationality to run for a country that doesn't exist.

1 comment: