Today we rallied at 6.30 am. Trying to get 300 people to do the same thing at the same time is unbelievably difficult. Its always the same people who are late. As the convoy pulled out at 8.15 some people were still in bed. The Algerian police held us up for nearly two hours so that they could catch up. Trying to fuel 120 vehicles is another time sapping logistical nightmare. We've driven through the Atlas Mountains where despite the sun the air is freezing. This is a beautiful country and the people have given us an extraordinary welcome. However the police and military presence is overwhelming. We have met women tortured by the French during the was me liberation and heard the stories of the brutal suppression of the Islamic movement. We may not like aspects of Islamic regimes but when faced with supposedly secular pro western goverments who spend up to 2 thirds of their GNP on security you can see why the people want goverments with morals.
In Algeria the Islamists won and elected an islamist party but the government, with American backing refused to accept the result leading to a virtual civil war where many have lost their lives. It is countries like Morocco and Algeria where the Bush regime were sending suspected terrorists to be tortured under their policy of "extraordinary rendition", a phrase beyond even the imagination of George Orwell. We've had armoured cars, the works overseeing us through but inconsistently. Gun turrets pop up like cruet sets at the entrance to work sites, quarries and intersections, but still the people come to wave and want their children photographed with us. Such beautiful children but we know, looking at their parents, that they will grow old before their time. This evening John did a live satellite broadcast, thanks to Press TV, from a frozen mountain to UTV. I spoke to BBC Wales and will try to do something similar. Richard Gott is helping with contacts in Wales, but please, if you can pull strings, do it.
Meanwhile i've been writing some poetry trying to capture this experience for the convoy, describe characters, places and their stories. If I get near a computer with internet connection I'll zap then to the blog. We will cross the border to Tunisia tomorrow. What awaits us is as ever uncertain but we are getting better at taking the blows. That is with the exception of John who kicked the truck and threw a fit when we lost ignition at a service station. A mechanic had it fixed in two mintues flat leaving John exhausted and me exhausted with John. All a bit embarrassing as the mechanic and his mates thought we were clearly mad especially when John hugged him in relief! Until tomorrow, goodnight and good luck. X