Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sandblast Press release London 16th October

LONDON. Yesterday Friday October 16, Sandblast organized a reception to
honour gold medalist runner Salah Eddine, visiting the UK for the first time, in
collaboration with Caravanserai Theatre at their Acting studios in west London.
This date coincided with the 34th anniversary of the ICJ ruling in favour of
Saharawi self-determination over the Moroccan and Mauritanian sovereignty
claims to Western Sahara.
Around 20 Moroccans showed up before the start of the evening with the intent to
disrupt the occasion. Many amongst them did not have the decency to respond to
the greetings offered by their hosts. The members of this group appeared to be
organized and others who appeared under the influence of alchohol unfurled two
large banners with Arabic writing. According to sources who could translate the
banners claimed that Western Sahara is Moroccan. Amongst the Moroccan guests
were two journalists from the Moroccan Press Agency (MAP) and an imam from the
local mosque.
Unfortunately the two MAP journalists left before the evenings events began along
with most of the others who left when asked to put away their banners. Their
departure was marked by a hostile reaction and verbal abuses.
During the evening the documentary, Western Sahara: A forgotten war, originally
broadcast on the Correspondent programme, in 1998, was screened. This BBC 2
film is one of the rare films that present the perspective of all parties to the conflict
to expose why the self determination referendum has not taken place. In it the
inhabitants of the refugee camps and mostly Moroccan politicians express their
views on the question of independence in Western Sahara. Following the film
Salah presented his story of growing up under the Moroccan occupation and
becoming the sole Saharawi athlete to compete for the Moroccan national team and
win 3 gold medals for cross country.
All the young present and the sports, human rights, humanitarian organizations
present were moved by Salah’s testimony and were very interested in the film.
Many questions were asked about how best to provide support for Salah’s athletic
projects for the Saharawi youth.

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