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December 2009

Independence activist

Independence activist returns home to Western Sahara

Aminatou Haidar had been on a hunger strike for 32 days, but was eventually sent home after Morocco admitted her to Western Sahara.

HIGHLIGHTS OF HISTORY

  • Aminatou Haidar finally returns home after 32 days of hunger strike in Spain
  • Morocco allowed her to return home to Western Sahara
  • Haidar was hospitalized the day before after complaining of abdominal pain
  • Haidar still refuses to recognize Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara

Madrid, Spain (CNN) – An award-winning independence activist returned home to Western Sahara early Friday from Spain.

She ended a 32-day hunger strike when Morocco admitted her to disputed territory following multinational negotiations over her case.

A Spanish government plane carrying activist Aminatou Haidar, 43, left Lanzarote airport in the Canary Islands at around 10:30 p.m. local time on Thursday for El Aaiun airport in Western Sahara. CNN’s partner channel CNN + reported.

On his arrival, the Moroccan authorities returned his passport to him. They had taken the passport last month when they refused entry to her at the same airport when she refused to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, Lamine Baali of the separatist Polisario Front told CNN.

“This is a victory for international law and human rights and for the cause of Western Sahara,” Haidar said in Lanzarote before boarding the plane.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement, saying: “I was delighted to learn of the Moroccan government’s decision to readmit Aminatou Haidar on humanitarian grounds after her month-long hunger strike in Spain.

“This humanitarian gesture reflects the true spirit and generosity of the Moroccan government and people, and underlines the urgency of finding a permanent solution to the conflict in Western Sahara,” Clinton added.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, who met Clinton in Washington last Monday, said in Brussels on Friday that Spain had “made no concessions”.

“We have had broad negotiations with the Moroccan authorities. And we have worked in a coordinated manner with the United States and France” to find a solution, said Moratinos.

It is a victory for international law and human rights and for the cause of Western Sahara
–Aminatou Haidar

On Thursday evening, Haidar left a hospital in Lanzarote, where she had visited a few hours earlier complaining of abdominal pain, and returned to the airport, where she had conducted most of her hunger strike from 32 days. She then took the plane to her home.

The plane took off moments after the Spanish prime minister’s office issued a statement claiming that Spain “shares the concern of the international community” over the status of the disputed territory of Western Sahara, but that pending a agreement negotiated by the United Nations, Spain “confirms that Morocco’s law applies to the territory of Western Sahara.

Haidar had demanded that she be able to return to Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, without having to recognize Moroccan sovereignty over it.

Baali said Morocco this time did not ask Haidar to fill out a disembarkation card upon arrival, which was a flashpoint last month, when she wrote on a disembarkation card that her nationality was Sahrawi and not Moroccan, Baali said.

Haidar arrived at the airport on the island of Lanzarote – just off the west coast of Morocco – on November 14, shortly after the Moroccan woman refused entry at El Aaiun airport.

She began her hunger strike on November 16, but it ended shortly after she returned home on Friday in the Hay Hazari neighborhood of El Aaiun, about a 30-minute drive from the airport. Baali said, as supporters allegedly cheered her on.

Haidar was initially taking fluids to regain strength, Baali said, and was with her two children and other family members.

Earlier Thursday, the European Parliament abruptly stopped before voting on the Haidar affair when German lawmaker Martin Schulz told parliament it appeared “there would be a solution today”.

“We can help Mrs Haidar more by remaining silent rather than passing a resolution,” Schulz said, according to the parliament’s press office.

During her hunger strike, Madrid offered her Spanish nationality or political asylum, but she refused.

In an emailed statement to reporters, Haidar thanked Spain but said: “I have no intention of applying for Spanish, American or Italian citizenship. I live under Moroccan occupation and I defend, like the rest of the Saharawi people, for ourselves. -determination. “

Spain officially withdrew as a decades-long colonial power in Western Sahara in early 1976, shortly after the Moroccan king led a “green march” with 350,000 Moroccan civilians in the territory to claim it. .

A guerrilla war with the Polisario Front – a group made up mainly of Sahrawis, which promotes the independence of Western Sahara – ensued and was finally halted, after more than a decade, in 1991, thanks to a ceasefire. fire brokered by the United Nations, according to the CIA World Factbook.

A referendum organized by the UN on the final status of the territory has been postponed several times. Morocco presented an autonomy plan to the United Nations, but the Polisario responded with an independence plan for the 405,000 inhabitants of the territory, Muslims of Arab or Berber origin.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, DC, awarded Haidar a Human Rights Fellow last year.

Haidar was recently in New York City to receive another award, the Train Foundation Civil Courage Award for 2009, just before flying to Western Sahara and being denied entry in November, a spokesperson for the foundation, Barbara Becker.

A senior Moroccan government official, Khalihenna Ould Errachid, told CNN + earlier in December in an interview that Haidar “has always been Moroccan”.

“She was never part of the former Spanish Sahara”, added the Moroccan official, “and I say that Aminatou Haidar must regain her Moroccan nationality and say it clearly, and tomorrow she will be able to return, without problem” .


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