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.
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.
United Nations is doing many things since 1991. UN resolutions are mentioning a self-determination process. You can’t make it on one point of view basis. Self-determination doesn’t mean exclusively referendum for independence. It also means autonomy or integration. As a referendum for independence is a blocking issue because of a lack of ID lists consensus, Morocco proposed a very open solution based on autonomy made in many developed country to solve separatism issues. Morocco proposed a negoctiable version of his autonomy initiative. All western countries states this courageous initiative is credible and serious that can be a good basis for successful negotiations. Regarding the opportunist Aminatou Haidar, she was definitely consenting when she withdrawed her Moroccan nationality. She accepted to get ride of her Moroccan passport and ID. In such case, the international aviation laws stipulate that anyone getting to a country or a custom service need to have a valid passport and visa when expected otherwise he should return back to the country of origin. Aminatou Haidar was not forced, she was accompanied by her family and SHE WAS AWARE of what she was doing. Actually Western Sahara is a region administrated by the kingdom of Morocco, all western citizens coming to Laayoune or Dakhla for business or vacation fill a police card to enter in the region. There is no other way. Aminatou Haidar made it sensational to make the buzz on internet. I am really disappointed to read in some places on the Web the comparison between the opportunist Aminatou Haidar and the great M. Ghandi. It’s a real shame. Ghandi never took a penny from the moroccan authorities as a compensation for his years of struggle. M. Ghandi never looked to be a star. His struggle was respectable and not comemrcial. He was a great spirit with great ideas. So please stop this intellectual misery.
Madame Haider est en droit de renier sa nationalité marocaine, même si elle et quelques uns de ceux qui s’autoproclame activistes des droits de l’homme, viennent d’une région non contestée.
Mais elle doit être égale à elle même et accepter les retombées légales de ses actes, au lieu de faire cette comédie sur ce qui n’est pas un déportation mais une simple application de la loi. Elle n’est pas marocaine, alors pourquoi voulez-vous que l’Etat marocain continue à lui fournir un passeport marocain. En Espagne au moins elle dispose d’un titre de séjour.
As an Irishman whos country has struggled for independance from british occupation over many centuries. I would like to empathise with Aminatou’s effords to highlight the injustice that has been inflicted on her Country
Well, Western Sahara has never been a country or a colony. During the colonization phase of Morocco (1912 to 1975), Spain considered the Western Sahara region as a protectorate among the kingdom of Morocco. Please read the decolonization process of Morocco here :
The inhabitants of Western Sahara before the sale to Morocco and Mauritania had Spanish Identification Papers (written in Spanish and Arabic) and had Saharauis Diputies in the Spanish Parlaments during the Franco Regime. The legal convertion of the colony in a Spanish province was promoted by the Spanish Prime Minister Carrero Blanco in 1958 in order to avoid the process of descolonization requested by the UNO. With the Canary Islands, Spain use the same method saying that we are “an autonomy region”. In 1961 issued the law “the basis on which should be based the juridic ordenance of the Province of the Sahara so that equalized to the rest of the spanish territory”. This law never was cancelled. The Madrid treatment of 1975 which sale the Sahara to Morocco and Mauritania scarcelly cover a paper in DIN4. Honour to Aminatou Haidar
The inhabitants of the north of Morocco had exactly the same papers as those in the south (Western Sahara region). There were customs in the area of Ksar Al Kabir to cross the line to the french protectorate same as in Sidi Ifni and the area of Tarfaya. There were customs to/from the French protectorate in the center and the Spanish protectorate in the south of Morocco (Western Sahara region). In 1956, Morocco recovered the areas under the French protectorate in one shot while Morocco recovered the areas under the Spanish protectorate from 1956 till 1975.
Regarding Aminatou Haidar, I believe there are many other western sahraouis who merit to be on the top. There are many western sahraouis who are participating to the development of the Western Sahara region. While focusing on few separatists without any local influence? How do you explain the fact that there were no solidarity demonstration to Aminatou in the Western Sahara region? Western sahraouis simply don’t care to her personal fight. They know her. They know her past and her present and they know she is desserving foreign interests in the region.
Today an update and discussion on “Democracy Now!”:
In Third Week of Hunger Strike, Ailing Western Saharan Human Rights Activist Aminatou Haidar Demands Moroccan Authorities Allow Her Return to Occupied Homeland
The Moroccan authorities asked Aminatou to go to the Moroccan consulat to get her moroccan passport BUT she refused! Minister Moratinos said that Aminatou is not well adviced by her supporting group. I believe he is right.
This is a sad story really. I’m a Moroccan and I can tell you that the government propaganda in Morocco has made it virtually impossible to have a reasonable discussion on this matter with fellow countrymen. There is a consensus throughout the political spectrum to deny the very existence of a separatist movement in Western Sahara. That has untightened the hands of a repressive authority. Activists are being unlawfully arrested and tortured. As much as I support a large autonomy for the territory under a federal, democratic Moroccan sovereignty, I believe Saharawees have the right to decide for themselves. Ms. Aminatou Haidar should have the right to express herself freely and should definitely not have been prevented from returning home.
I hope this tragedy will end well.
This reminds me of a different story.
In Puerto Rico (a territory of the United States won from Spain in the Spanish-American war) the pro-independence leader and lawyer Juan Mari Bras flew to Venezuela, renounced his U.S. citizenship, and flew back to Puerto Rico in order to demonstrate (as a legal argument) that there was such a thing as an enduring Puerto Rican nationhood/citizenship.