Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Prisoner Of Lanzarote....Aminatou Haidar

Two weeks ago the Moroccan government decided to expel Aminatou Haidar, a human rights activist from the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara. Haidar had just returned from a trip overseas and the official excuse that the Moroccan government gave for her expulsion was that she refused to put her nationality as Moroccan on her entry form as this would recognise the annexation of Western Sahara by that country. The Moroccan authorities seized her passport and put her on a plane to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. What happened next is quite strange, normally no Moroccan citizen can enter Spain without a passport but this requirement was waived in the case of Haidar. Inside Lanzarote airport Haidar then tried to buy a ticket to return to El Aaiun, the main city of Western Sahara, but was refused the right to travel on the grounds that she had no passport!

Leaked documents have since revealed the planning behind the Moroccan decision to expel her, several flight reservations were made in her name before she arrived back at El Aaiun. It's very difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Spanish government has effectively colluded with Morocco over Haidar's expulsion by admitting her into the country. Now the only solution they are offering is for Haidar to claim political asylum, something she does not want to do because it will effectively confirm her exile. So Haidar is still in Lanzarote airport and has been on hunger strike for almost two weeks in an attempt to be allowed to return home. She is no stranger to hardship, having spent time in prison in Morocco and been tortured for the "crime" of favouring self-determination for the Western Sahara.

The case is now becoming embarrassing for the Spanish government, as it should. So far their attempts to persuade Haidar to abandon her hunger strike have failed and there is a growing campaign in support of her. Spain has been weakening its stance on Western Sahara for years now, more or less accepting the annexation of that territory but without openly declaring a position. Spanish foreign minister Moratinos has issued a typically ambiguous statement saying that he does not want to be regarded a pro-Sahara or pro-Morocco. Haidar's hunger strike is now challenging the Spanish government for assisting the Moroccans in ridding themselves of opposition to their control of Western Sahara.

1 comment:

Xoán-Wahn said...

This is ridiculous and embarrassing! From what we can gather, the govt. knew that Morocco was going to expel her and decided to just let her on in. Now, the only thing it can think to do is make her a Spanish citizen with the unbelievably foolish excuse that Spanish citizens have no travel restrictions and she will be free to return to El Aaiun! Does anyone really think Morocco will just let her walk back in because she has a new passport?