Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Aminatou Haidar

The story of Aminatou Haidar just recently come to our attention. We hope you will take a moment and see what is happening with her right now. This message came from Sairica Rose who we are working with on our upcoming series about girls around the world.

Aminatou Haidar is a peaceful non-violent activist known as the Saharawi people's Gandhi. She is a former political prisoner, human rights defender and recipient of the 2009 Civil Courage Prize, for championing non-violent resistance and the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Today, November 24th, 2009 marks Aminatou’s 10th day on hunger strike, confined to Lanzarote Airport in Spain’s Canary Islands after Morocco forcefully expelled her from her home in the Western Sahara Occupied Territories on November 14th.

She is in a wheelchair and doctors fear for her health as she suffers a stomach ulcer. Aminatou will not abandon her demonstration until the Moroccan and Spanish Governments allow her to return to her home in El Aaiun, the capital of the Saharawi Territories.

The Western Sahara was the last Spanish colony, under Franco. It was abandoned by Spain in 1975, as the dictator lay dying and simultaneously invaded by Morocco, violating United Nations resolutions and international law.

From that day to this, The Saharawi people have been waiting for a referendum on self-determination. They’ve been waiting for 24 years.

Aminatou has tirelessly, peacefully demonstrated for the return of this land to her people via referendum and the creation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Since 1975, the Saharawi people have lived with terror, torture and kidnappings in the occupied territories. In the 2000’s, secret prisons and torture houses and mass graves were discovered in the occupied territories, including El Aaiun. Hundreds more Saharawis have simply “disappeared.”

When Morocco invaded, Algeria allowed the Saharawis that fled into Tindouf. The Refugee Camp that stands there now is home to 150,000 refugees, separated from their family members by The Moroccan Wall.

This monstrous 2700km structure is the world’s longest wall after the Great Wall of China. It is heavily guarded by Moroccan troops and mines and has divided the Saharawi population for over 30 years. They live in two separate territories, in equally horrific conditions, united by their cause.

So how come we’ve never heard about all this?

Because nobody talks about it.

The Moroccan government is “sensitive” about letting journalists in; The UN has had a “ceasefire”, in effect (ineffectively) since 1991. Not surprisingly there’s been a strategic reluctance from France or Spain to ruffle Morocco’s feathers.

All Amanitou wants to do is go home and continue passively demonstrating for what she believes in. Please help her, and help us to help her by raising awareness and persuading the Spanish and Moroccan governments to let her go home to her family, her people and her cause.

“I am very grateful to all the kindness and affection signs. I am receiving calls and messages from all over the world. I believe firmly that the Saharawi peaceful struggle is a fair cause and, as Gandhi did. I have absolute faith in non-violence for a better world and for a real peace.”
–Aminatou Haidar November 22nd, 2009.