- United Kingdom - Western Sahara
- Human rights
UK delegation has audience with hunger-striking Nobel Prize nominee, Haidar
A delegation from Britain has met with Nobel Peace prize nominee, Aminatou Haidar, who has been on hunger strike in the Lanzarote airport for eighteen days.
Stefan Simanowitz reports from Lanzarote airport
Ms Haidar, protesting against her deportation from her native Western Sahara by Moroccan authorities, was too weak to read the messages of support read that were delivered and instead had them read out to her in English and Spanish.
As well as individual messages there was a letter of support signed by dozens of British MP’s, trade union leaders and luminaries including Baroness Helena Kennedy, film director Ken Loach, music producer Brian Eno, and actors Terry Jones and Juliet Stevenson. Ms Haidar was informed that the signatures had been collected in just 24 hours - a surprisingly short amount of time.
The letter expressed solidarity with her brave and principled stand and admiration for the action she has taken to try end the injustice suffered by her people.
"Over the past two decades" the letter read, "you have shown by example how the strength and courage of a single individual can expose the iniquity of a powerful state. Indeed, your hunger strike has drawn international attention to one of the world’s longest running and least remembered conflicts. It is now up to all of us to make sure that your hunger strike is not in vain and we pledge to do all we can to support you and the people of Western Sahara."
In a separate message to Aminatou, film director Ken Loach expressed his frustration that he could not be with he at the airport and wrote: “The International community must put pressure on Morocco to allow your return and allow a fair and free democratic referendum in Western Sahara. We send our solidarity to you. You are a remarkable woman who, despite being ‘disappeared’ for 4 years and tortured by the Moroccan authorities still has the courage to resist”.
In another personal message Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, sent a message which said:
“Aminatou, you are an iconic campaigner for the rights and justice of your people. People throughout the world have been shocked at your treatment at the hands of the Moroccan authorities. Indeed, in Britain this week a motion tabled in the House of Commons expressed dismay at your deportation and received signatories from all major political parties and I am confident is reflective of intelligent opinion in Britain. I remain hopeful that by your actions you will help to bring justice and freedom for all the people of Western Sahara.”
Haidar was barely able to sit up but was clearly heartened by the messages of support. She thanked the delegation and poignantly gave the members a photograph from happier days of her with her two children, Mohamed and Hayat. She then lay back down to rest as she does for the majority of each day.
The UK delegates are due to stay until Sunay and according to organisers, the purpose of the delegation is two-fold. Firstly to pass on a message of support from Ms Haidar´s supporters in Britain, and secondly, to take a message back to the British government.
Indeed, on 10th December - international human rights day - a high level delegation will go to Downing Street to deliver a letter from Ms Haidar to the British Prime Minister. It is expected that the letter will call on Gordon Brown to bring pressure to bear on Morocco to allow Ms Haidar to return home and ensure that the Saharawi people are finally given the opportunity to hold long awaited referendum of self-determination.