Society - North Africa - Morocco - Spain - Western Sahara - Human rights
Spain-Western Sahara: Hunger-striking Nobel Prize nominee sends message of hope to her children
Stefan Simanowitz reports from Barcelona
Aminatou Haidar, the Western Saharan Nobel Prize nominee who has been on hunger strike for six days, has used a live telephone link-up during an international conference in Barcelona to send a message to her children.

Haidar, who was deported to the island of Lanzarote by the Moroccan authorities on Saturday had been expected to speak at the EUCOCO conference but instead was contacted in the airport terminal in the Canary Islands by telephone during the opening plenary.

Sounding weak but defiant, Haidar vowed to continue her hunger strike and told the conference that her action should not be seen as an isolated act of defiance of a single indiviudal but part of the struggle of the entire Saharawi people.

“It is true that this hunger strike is about the individual right of one person to return to her home and her family but it also about the collective right denied to the Saharawi people to live freely in their native land.”

The Spanish government has indicated that Haidar will not be allowed to leave Spanish territory until she has some travel papers, however she has accused Spain of complicity in her deportation pointing out that she should not have been allowed to travel without a passport.

Concerns for Haidar’s health are growing. Although the 42 year-old mother-of-two is no stranger to suffering, having been in prisoned and tortured several times over the past two decades, sources who have seen her at the airport say she is she exhausted as a result of lack of food and of a twenty four hour interrogation by Moroccan police.

She is also in discomfort due to a stomach ulcer which has become inflamed.

“I would like to take this opportunity to send a warm message to my children, Hayat and Mohammed. Today is the International Day of the Rights of the Child and the two of you and all the children of Western Sahara are in my thoughts.”

The response to the telephone message from the 500 strong audience from 36 countries was an emotional ovation complete with ululating from the Saharawi contingent in the crowd.

Listening to the four minute telephone message, Ana Arenas, a delegate attending from London, was very moved. “It is not usual for a keynote speaker who has failed to turn up to a conference to get such an incredibly powerful reception,” she said “But nothing about the circumstances of Amaintou Haidar’s situation are usual.”


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