Orphans of the Sahara

Orphans of the Sahara is a Al-Jazeera produced documentary series which tells the story of the Tuareg people, a large Berber ethnic confederation of the Sahara desert.

It follows the Tuaregs who fought for Muammar Gaddafi in Libya as they return home to crushing poverty in Mali and Niger, their fight to launch and sustain a rebellion for an independent country in the Sahara, and finally: their hopes and dreams crushed by al-Qaeda followed by French military intervention.

Episode 1: Return

Episode 1: Return

Episode one documents the Tuareg workers and fighters who returned home to Niger and Mali in late 2011. Many of them were mercenaries for slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Having lost access to the country that was their only source of livelihood, they find little more than crushing poverty, hunger and drought back home.

Barely able to feed their children amidst total state neglect, the men launch a rebellion to found their own country.

Episode 2: Rebellion

Episode 2: Rebellion

Early in 2012, as the massive Tuareg rebellion sweeps northern Mali, defeated Mali Army officers stage a coup d’etat in the south leading to the total collapse of government in the country.

Tuareg rebels declare an independent state in the north called “Azawad”, but al-Qaeda emerges from the Sahara to take over historic Timbuktu, and compete with the secular rebels for control of northern Mali.

Isolated, illiterate and imploding from extreme poverty, Tuaregs provide the foot soldiers of both separatism and jihad.

Episode 3: Exile

Episode 3: Exile

The final episode of this three-part series explores the wealth that lies beneath the Tuareg’s ancestral land.

The French uranium mining zone in Niger is the most deprived nation on earth. Eighty percent of Niger’s people are illiterate and 90 percent have no electricity.

Yet under Tuareg land in the north of the country lies a massive and lucrative reserve of uranium which a French state-owned corporation has been mining – with fees to the Niger government – for over 40 years.

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Orphans of the Sahara
  • Info
  • Release date2014
  • Full runtime3 episodes, 47 minutes each
  • Production and DistributorAl Jazeera