Western Sahara campaigner still blocked from returning home by Moroccan authorities; on twentieth day of hunger strike

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Aminatou Haidar
Image: Zuccherinodolce.

Moroccan authorities have for the second time refused to allow Western Sahara campaigner Aminatou Haidar, who is on the twentieth day of her hunger strike in Spain, to return home until she apologises for refusing to state her nationality as Moroccan upon receiving a prize.

According to the Moroccan authorities, she voluntarily handed over her passport and would receive a new passport and be pardoned for what senior official Abderraham Leibek called "an act of treason against her homeland" on the condition that she apologises. Foreign Minister Taieb Fassi Fihri added that she had "disowned her identity and her nationality" and "must accept, on her own, the legal and moral consequences which result from this behaviour."

The campaigner for the independence of the disputed territory, which was annexed by Morocco in 1975, attempted to enter the Western Sahara on November 13. Authorities allegedly confiscated her passport before forcing her to return to Lanzarote, where she started her hunger strike three days later.

The Spanish government offered either refugee status or citizenship to Haidar and to house her, but she refused as she did not wish to be "a foreigner in her own home." She says that she does not want to remain in Spain, but "go home to my children and my mother, in Laayoune."

She accused the Spanish authorities of collusion with Morocco by allowing her into the country, and criticised them for not being able to resolve the situation. She said in a statement issued by her lawyer "I say once again that Spain is Morocco's accomplice, and both governments want to push me to death. Spain is directly responsible for the consequences of the hunger strike that I have been keeping for 20 days."

Since the annexation of the Western Sahara, Morocco has rejected calls for independence by the Polisario Front movement. Whilst there has been no fighting since 1991 in the region, United Nations-sponsored talks have stalled.

Haidar is a well-known activist for the disputed territory, having won amongst other awards the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2008.