'Saharawi Gandhi' expelled from her home

December 4, 2009

"Holiday-makers arriving in Lanzarote airport look on with curiosity at the frail woman lying in a nest of blankets on the airport terminal floor". campaigning British journalist Stefan Simonowitz wrote on November 28 on Afrik.com

"Few of them are aware that they are looking at the world-renowned human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Aminatou Haidar, now in the third week of a hunger strike."

Returning to her home town of El Aaiun on November 13 from the United States where she was awarded the 2009 Civil Courage Prize, Haidar was taken by Moroccan forces occupying Western Sahara for interrogation. Their pretext was the way she had filled out her re-entry paper stating Western Sahara as her country instead of Morocco.

Her Moroccan passport was confiscated and she was expelled.

Evidence has since come to light that air tickets had been already booked for her on at least two dates, suggesting the authorities had already intended to deport her.

This is entirely consistent with the crackdown since early October against Saharawi human rights activists working under the Moroccan occupation.

The Canary Islands airline, Top Fly have faced criticism for taking her back to the Canaries without a passport. The Spanish authorities have also been criticised for accepting her and refusing her permission to travel back without a passport.

Instead of putting pressure on Morocco to return her passport, Spain first offered her refugee status and then a Spanish passport, which she refused.

Haidar wishes to go home to El Aaiun and her children, and has continued her hunger strike.

The New York Bar Association (NYBA) said on November 26: "The Association is concerned that Ms. Haidar was detained, expelled, and denied return to Western Sahara for her human rights work in Western Sahara."

The NYBA questioned the legality of forced expulsion and said it contradicted international agreements signed by Morocco safeguarding a citizen's right to enter his or her own country.

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