Along the Tropic of Cancer
Simon Reeve travels along the Tropic of Cancer in a BBC series. He certainly gets off the beaten track. In this evening's programme he started in Western Sahara and travelled by various transport eastwards across Africa, almost to Egypt.
Tropic of Cancer is not just a travel show because it includes human rights and environmental questions. In Western Sahara there is a long-running conflict between the Moroccan government and the independence movement, the Polisario. There is a long sand wall with troops guarding it that splits Western Sahara in two and separates many families. Simon Reeve met a small group of activists who reported that they could not openly campaign for independence and who alleged beatings by the police. After a long detour because of the wall he also visited a Polisario military base and later went into Algeria to a camp where many refugees from Western Sahara live, afraid to return to their homeland.
There is a Western Sahara Campaign UK. Currently on their main web page (also reported by the BBC) is the worrying news that Rachid Sghir who was interviewed in the programme was arrested along with six other human rights defenders on 8 Oct. 2009. They await a military tribunal on a charge of treason.
The Western Sahara Campaign UK is asking the United Nations to include the monitoring of human rights in its mission in Western Sahara.
Further eastwards on the Tropic of Cancer Simon Reeve will reach south-east Asia and if the BBC was allowed into Burma he could tell some stories that the Burmese government does not want told. In fact he did somehow manage to get into Burma so watch this space.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.