Western Sahara: Aminatou Haidar Deported

Photo of Aminatou Haidar by saharauiak

Photo of Aminatou Haidar by saharauiak

Aminatou Haidar is a leading activist for independence of the Western Sahara (from Morocco).  Born in 1967, she was “disappeared” by Moroccan authorities for her activism at age twenty, only to reemerge three years later.  In 2005, Haidar was arrested for her participation in a protest and sentenced to seven months in prison for “inciting violent protest activities.”  Amnesty International deemed her a prisoner of conscience, questioning the fairness of her trial and those of 6 others.  Since her release, she has been honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and most recently awarded the Civil Courage Prize in New York, all for her work defending human rights in the Western Sahara.

Regardless of the accolades given to her, Haidar lived – until recently – in Morocco with great fear of being arrested; that is until Friday, November 13 when, upon returning to Laayoune (a city in the Western Sahara region), she was arrested and subsequently deported.  According to the Christian Science Monitor, authorities took issue with her writing “Western Sahara” on her customs forms.  According to Moroccan officials, Haidar renounced and “willingly signed away” her Moroccan citizenship.  She was then sent to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and later granted Spanish residency on humanitarian grounds, according to Spanish news organization ABC.

Pro-independence blog Sandblast reminds readers that Haidar is not the only dissident persecuted for her cause, stating:

Since October 6, fifteen well-known human rights defenders from Western Sahara have been arrested, detained and interrogated. Seven of them, known as the Casablanca 7 are being tried in a military court for acts of treason after visiting their relatives in the Saharawi refugee camps in SW Algeria. These Saharawis have been targeted for speaking out against the repression of the Moroccan occupation in their homeland and advocating their self-determination rights as recognized by the UN charter and over a 100 UN resolutions. In August, the Moroccan authorities prevented six Saharawi youths from traveling to the UK to participate in the Oxford-based programme Talk Together, which promote dialogue between youth in areas of conflict.

Spanish blogger Bilbaobilonia, referencing a recent speech in which Moroccan King Mohammed VI stated that anyone supporting the Sahara's independence is a traitor, expressed support [es] of Haidar:

Ya lo dijo el rey Mohamed VI en su discurso conmemorativo de la Marcha Verde: en Marruecos sólo se puede ser patriota o traidor.  Claro que, si alguien se toma la molestia de examinar las raquíticas libertades que promueve la dinastía alauí o la persecución a la que somete a la disidencia saharaui , es fácil llegar a la conclusión de que en Marruecos, la traición es la forma más noble de patriotismo.

As King Mohammed VI already said in his speech commemorating the Green March: A Moroccan can only be a patriot or a traitor. Of course, if someone takes the trouble to examine the stunted freedoms the Alawite dynasty promotes or the persecution to which it submits Saharawi dissidents, it is easy to conclude that in Morocco, treason is the noblest form of patriotism.

Blogger One Hump or Two expresses surprise at the fact that Moroccan authorities would go after someone so well-connected:

This shows Moroccan police will go after any Sahrawi who supports a referendum, even those with international connections and support. Haidar's awards (most recently the Civil Courage Prize) weresupposed to place her outside these dangers by showing the Moroccan government the world is watching them.

Sahara Occidental continues to post media roundups on Aminatou Haidar's case.


  • Laroussi

    Now why on earth do you call Western Sahara for “the Western Sahara” and make it part of Morocco?

  • Laroussi

    1. “Aminatou Haidar is a leading activist for independence of the Western Sahara (from Morocco).”

    Mrs Haidar is a prominent Saharawi activist. She is fighting for independence for Western Sahara, not “the Western Sahara”. The Western Sahara can be anything from south of Morocco, west of Algeria, Western Sahara to Mauritania or even Mali.

    2. “Regardless of the accolades given to her, Haidar lived – until recently – in Morocco with great fear of being arrested”

    …in Morocco??? No. Mrs Haidar lives in El-Ayoune (Laayoune is the French transcription), in Western Sahara which is not part of Morocco.

    3. “She was then sent to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, and later granted Spanish residency on humanitarian grounds, according to Spanish news organization ABC.”

    Aminatou Haidar was not granted Spanish residency this weekend after being expelled from Western Sahara. She already had Spanish residency since long before.

    The Spanish authorities declared that they had done “nada más y nada menos que lo que le corresponde hacer a un país donde esta ciudadana tiene la tarjeta de residencia legal” according to the Spanish newspaper ABC. End of second paragraph at the page that you link to.

    Aminatou Haidar was expelled from Western Sahara to the Canary Islands by the Moroccan authorities after having been removed of her passport and id-card. She declines having renounced her Moroccan citizenship, according to Christian Science Monitor. (The article is fairly accurate although CSM also writes that Mrs Haidar “returned to Morocco” and that Western Sahara is a “disputed Moroccan territory”. Please! Why can’t you get the facts right?)

    Furthermore I am not sure that you can renounce your Moroccan citizenship even according to Moroccan law. I do not think so. Other Saharawi human rights activists have tried and Morocco tends to consider people as Moroccan even after they have recieved citizenship in another country like France for example. Once Moroccan citizen, always Moroccan…

    When the plane on which Haidar was travelling landed last weekend at Lanzarote’s airport she refused to leave the plane. According to Spanish and EU law non-Spanish/EU/Schengen citizens are not allowed to enter the country without a valid passport. However Haidar was forced out of the plane by the Spanish security force Guardia Civil.

    According to Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Aminatou Haidar was granted permission to enter Spain even though she lacked the necessary documents, “on humanitarian grounds”, since she already had permission of recidency in Spain.

    Aminatou Haidar did not want to leave Western Sahara. She was forced to. She did not want to enter Spain. She was forced to. It is preposterous to call the later a humanitarian act.

  • @Laroussi:
    Western Sahara is the term used internationally to call a territory that -as the Moroccan authorities themselves admit- remains contested. Otherwise, why has the Moroccan diplomacy called upon the UN to interfere.
    Whether the territory eventually separates from the country, or remains an integral part of Morocco, or even gains autonomy, in all cases you may still call it Western Sahara.
    Let’s not focus too much on semantics.
    Now on the subject itself, we might argue for hours about the legitimacy of the claims of either sides, but still there are people like Aminatou who genuinely struggle for a cause they deem worth fighting for, whether we agree or not. The Moroccan authorities have been heavy handed in dealing with pro-separatist protesters. Remaining blind to this, is a recipe for more repression and risk of transforming a smaller faction into a more radical, more influential movement.
    Every people have the right for self-determination, although I believe the people of the region are better off united.

  • free moroccan

    why do do you suppose has algeria payrolled polisario since 1975? if you can answer that question, then you’ll understand morocco’s position. BTW, if the king abandons the sahara, that would be the last thing he does


    free moroccan???? where do you live?????? ah in the ministry of interior..First you are not a citizen…..YOU ARE HIS MAJESTYS’ SUBJECT!!!! hahahahahhahahahha.

    freeeeeeeee western sahara nowwwwwwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sahara maghrebiya

    There is no such thing as “Western Sahara”. Polisario are just tools in the hands of Alegria’s Military regime and it is simply paid to be stop Morocco’s successful road to become the strongest and most prosperous nation in North Africa. Algeria is worried about the re-emergence of the BIG MAGHREB when Morocco controlled the whole north Africa and all the way down to Sudan. Aminatou Haidar is a puppet and if just a couple of years ago she was paid over $40000 as a compensation for her three years in imprisonment. She does not want to be Moroccan? fine! she can now go to Algeria and ask for an Algeria Passport! good luck with that! and let us know when she gets it!!

  • Ian Collie

    Havin met her and having been at the airport on Wed night I would dearly love to know of her where abouts now and is she still on hunger strike.

    • M.G.E.

      As far as I know, yes. I live in another of the Canary Islands and hear about her and see her on local TV stations and national Spanish television chanels, and there she is, for 10 days now on hunger strike. But she is not alone: there are a lot of people at the airport, sleeping with her, keeping her company, coming from many different places, from other islands, from mainland Spain, famous people, artists, writers, actors, singers, groups, bands, film directors, even Nobel Literature Prize winner Jose Saramago, who lives in Lanzarote, where she’s at the moment, sent her a personal letter of support. She’s our idol, our heroine, I do hope she achives her goal! Please do help her from wherever you are!

  • […] Beitrag erschien zuerst auf Global Voices. Die Übersetzung erfolgte durch Hans H. Knauf, Teil des “Project Lingua“. Die […]

  • Aminatou refused to fill properly the expected form to pass the customs in Laayoune after her flight from Canary Islands. She used to respect the procedure everytime she arrived to Laayoune airport. But lastly, she tried to make it sensational. She refused to fill moroccan nationality in the police card as her passport and ID are moroccans. In such case, she was asked respectfully if she wanted to give up her moroccan nationality and SHE VOLUNTARILY AGREED. According to international law, Aminatou was asked to return to the country/place of origin i.e. Spain/Canary Islands. That is the truth and that’s exactly what happened in Laayoune. Anything else would be the usual propaganda of Polisario leaders and their “blind in spite of themselves” supporters. FYI, I return from Laayoune last WE. Everything is OK and people are living their usual life and they don’t even pay attention to this opportunist lady.

    Ahmed Salem Amr Khaddad
    Unionist Western Sahraoui

    • M.G.E.

      Well, I think you have the right to be a unionist but please do not try to make us all so simplistic. According to your words, a state like Morocco accepts that a citizen, who has been made such by force, not by law (how about the UN Resolution on the Sahara?) refuses the nationality and decides to send her back to the point of origin withdrawing her documents, therefore, making her travel abroad without any sort of legal papers? How do you call that in international legar terms? Doesn’t Morocco know that action violates all international treaties? Whould their authorities be sent to college? Please, United Nations do something about it!!!

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