News today that hunger striking Nobel Peace Prize nominee Amainatou Haidar is in a critical condition has drawn concern from around the world including from actor Javier Bardem, film director Pedro Almodovar and Nobel Literature Laureate Jose Salamango. Dr Alberto Guzman, director of Lanzorote provincial health service who examined her today stated that her condition is now “critical”.
Aminatou Haidar is unable to walk and her state of health has been exacerbated by a perforated ulcer and damage caused by a 45 day hunger strike she carried out some years ago.
Known as the “Saharawi Gandhi”, Haidar was deported from her home in occupied Western Sahara to Lanzarote by the Moroccan authorities on 14th November and has been on hunger strike in the airport terminal ever since. Haidar has declined an offer by Spain to grant her refugee status and is demanding a return of her passport, confiscated by the Moroccan authorites before her explusion. She has accused Spain of complicity in her deportation, pointing out that she should not have been allowed to travel without a passport.
Her deportation has been condemned by human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as her friends and supporters around the world including Jose Saramago, Pedro Almodovar and Javier Bardem who expressed regret that he could not be with her in Lanzarote. She has also had a number of high profile visitors, including Spanish actor Guilliamo Toledo who has slept beside her on the airport floor for the past nine days.
A delegation from the Robert Kennedy Foundation in the US, from whom Haidar was awarded the 2008 human rights prize, will arrive on Saturday. Meanwhile in occupied Western Sahara over 200 women have been on hunger strike in solidarity with Haidar since Saturday.
Sounding weak but defiant, Haidar today vowed to continue her hunger strike and stated 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.”
Stefan Simanowitz, Chair of the Free Western Sahara Network, said today:
“Aminatou Haidar is an inspirational figure who has devoted over two decades of her life fighting for a peaceful end to Morocco’s 34 year unlawful occupation of Western Sahara. We call on the Moroccan government to listen to the demands from around the world, return her passport and allow Aminatou Haidar to travel home to her country and to her two young children before it is too late.”