W Sahara rights campaigner promotes culture of the oppressed

29 September 2011 - 10:57am
Press release


Thursday, 29 September 2011
Members of European parliament vote on legal challenge to Moroccan exploitation of fishing rights in occupied Western Sahara

Saturday, 1 October 2011
Western Sahara human rights activist helps launch drive to preserve oppressed culture

A human rights activist from Western Sahara visits Britain this week to help preserve her people’s culture under military occupation by Morocco. Her visit comes as the European Parliament considers whether to query the legality of a European granting fishing rights deal with Morocco.

The Western Sahara Campaign UK and charity War on Want are calling on MEPs to support a resolution today in the European parliament that would refer to the European Court of Justice the agreement which allows Britain and other EU states to fish in Western Saharan waters. Campaigners argue that international law prohibits using an occupation to extract a country’s natural resources.

Rabab AmidaneAnd on Saturday (1 October) human rights activist Rabab Amidane, who has survived torture, will promote desert runs for the charity Sandblast that will raise money for refugees from Western Sahara to develop their music. The move follows a UN call on Morocco to halt its suppression of Western Saharan heritage. The Sandblast launch will also come just weeks after campaigners and former senior British diplomat Carne Ross delivered a letter to Downing Street, calling on Britain to use its role within the UN security council to help enforce the terms of a 20-year ceasefire agreement and hold a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.

Greg Muttitt, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: “We call on MEPs to back a resolution that would not let Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara off the hook over EU fishing rights. Moreover, we hope people outraged by Moroccan suppression of Western Saharan culture will support the desert runs.”

Sandblast’s project, Studio-Live, aims to equip refugees with the skills and means to record, produce and showcase their music and help draw attention to the little-known plight of the indigenous Saharawis. The initiative also involves another charity, FairTunes, which uses the power of music to enhance people’s lives in developing nations. It is supported by War on Want as a further model of cultural solidarity with occupied people, after the anti-poverty charity’s recent collaboration with musicians on the single Freedom for Palestine.

Long distance races will take place next February in the Algerian Sahara, where many people displaced from Western Sahara live in large camps. Since 2009 more than 50 people from the UK have run for Sandblast, raising £35,000 for its arts projects. Last year Run the Sahara attracted more than 400 participants from over 22 countries, with almost the same number of Saharawis among the competitors. Participants can sign up to run five or ten kilometres, or a half or full marathon, and are hosted by a refugee family during their week’s stay.

Amidane will address the run launch event on Saturday at London’s Riverside Studios, where the audience will see a prizewinning film about Western Sahara. Saharawi activists took huge risks to speak out against Moroccan tyranny in the film, El Problema, whose co-director, Pablo Vidal, will also talk at the launch. In addition, the event will include selected readings of Saharawi writings by the acclaimed playwright and poet Inua Ellams and a preview of the forthcoming documentary The Runner. This documentary, endorsed by leading film makers Ken Loach and John Pilger, features champion athlete Salah Ameidan, who has become a national liberation movement symbol through his willingness to put his life in jeopardy to run for a country that does not exist.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The event will take place from 3.00-5.00 pm on Saturday at the Riverside Studios cinema in Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9RL. People can buy tickets (price £8.50, £7.50 concessions) by calling 020 8237 1111, online at www.riversidestudios.co.uk or at the box office. Further details on Run the Sahara 2012 are available at www.sandblast-arts.org  or run-the-sahara@sandblast-arts.org

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

Image credit www.vest-sahara.no


Cultural Resistance

Culture can speak truth to power, and create and maintain hope where previously it had been extinguished.

We believe that culture has a crucial role to play in the struggle for a better, socially just world

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