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Author from Dorset backs desert tribesmen
4:31pm Sunday 10th February 2013 in Latest
A DORSET author has spoken out in support of African tribesmen involved in a bloody conflict.
Sarah Challis based two novels on the Tuareg (corr) tribe of Mali after travelling with them across the Sahara Desert several years ago.
The writer said she is 'fearful' of what might happen to the tribe in the war-torn area.
She said: “I travelled with six camel men and we became great friends.
“They were young men from the north of the country - what has become of them?”
Tuareg men are believed to be among those who have joined an al-Qaeda-led rebel force against the Malian army.
But Sarah, who lives in Stourton Caundle, said the men she travelled with do not hold extreme beliefs and joined the rebels to fight for independence.
She said: “They were once the lords of the desert and now they live on the margins of civilisation and barely scratch a living.
“No one seems to be speaking out for them and they are lumped in with the invaders.”
She believes the Malian government's refusal to listen to Tuareg demands for independence were exploited by al-Qaeda and said the picture painted by world media of the tribe is different to the people she got to know.
Sarah said: “We were two women travelling with six men, and they could not have been more chivalrous.
“They really looked after us with the utmost respect.
“Life in the desert is so delicately balanced, and they live according to the rules of that, so there's no waste and they have great respect for the environment and their animals.”
She added: “The women we met were truly welcoming and fascinated by the differences between us.
“They are very liberated - the girls choose their own husbands - and they have such a sensible outlook on life.”
Sarah first wrote about the tribe in her 2006 novel Footprints in the Sand, based on her experiences of travelling in Mali.
The sequel, The Lonely Desert, was published last year.
Both novels are set partly in Mali and partly in Dorset.