On the day the Barack Obama received his Nobel Prize in Oslo, one of the runner-up Peace Prize nominees, Western Sahara independence activist Aminatou Haidar, was on the 25th day of a hunger-strike at an airport in Lanzarote, Spain. On Dec. 10, leaders from around the world received a hand-signed letter from Haidar, asking for their urgent support. In the letter, Haidar, who is protesting her unlawful deportation to Spain after she refused to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara says, “my spirit remains strong but I feel my physical strength is fading fast.” She is now unable to stand and a doctor who examined her this week listed her symptoms as anemia, muscular atrophy and gastric hemorrhaging.
Haidar, 43, demands to return to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, without having to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over the territory. At an airport press conference on Human Rights Day, she charged that the Spanish government is holding her “illegally” and “has not done enough” to unblock a diplomatic impasse with Morocco over her case.
“My demand is to return to Western Sahara, to hug my children and to live with them and my mother, but in dignity,” Haidar said in a statement read by a supporter at the start of the press conference, which was nationally televised in Spain. Haidar, seated in a wheelchair, then told reporters that she wants to return to Western Sahara, “with or without a passport, alive or dead.”
She arrived at the airport on Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, on Nov. 14, shortly after Moroccan authorities took her passport and refused her entry at El Aaiun airport in Western Sahara. She began her hunger strike two days later. Since then, Madrid has offered her Spanish citizenship or political asylum, but she declined.
In the letter, Haider makes it clear that she is asking support not just for herself but for all the Saharawi people who, for the past 34 years have been forced to live either under an illegal occupation in Western Sahara or desolate refugee camps in the Algerian desert. (Afrik.com, CNN, Dec. 10)