On the day the Barack Obama picked up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, one of the unsuccessful Peace Prize nominees, Aminatou Haidar, was on the on the 25th day of a hunger-strike at an airport in Lanzarote. Today, leaders from around the world received a hand-signed letter from Ms Haidar, asking for their urgent support. In some countries such as Britain, the letter was delivered by a high profile delegation including Kelvin Hopkins MP, and celebrity figures including actor, Lenny Henry. Other world leader, such as South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, received his letter through diplomatic channels via the High Commissioner to London. Translated versions of the letter were sent to Chancellor Merkel in Germany and President Sarkozy in France.
In the hand-signed letters Aminatou Haidar, who is protesting her unlawful deportation to Lanzarote after she refused to acknowledge Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara says, “my spirit remains strong but I feel my physical strength is fading fast”. Indeed, she is now unable to stand and the doctor who examined her this week listed her symptoms as hypotension, nausea, anaemia, muscular-skeletal atrophy and gastric haemorrhaging.
She also asks the leaders of the five plus one members of the UN Security Council and other world leaders to bring pressure to bear on Morocco not just to allow her to return home in accordance with her rights under Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but also to get them to accept a conflict solution that conforms with international law, namely: a referendum on self determination for Western Sahara; the cessation of the arrest and torture of human rights defenders; and the freeing of all prisoners of conscience most notably the seven prominent human rights activists awaiting sentence from a military tribunal in Rabat which could include the death penalty.
In the letter, Haider makes it clear that she is asking support not just for herself but for all the Saharawi people who, for the past 34 years, have been forced to live either under an unlawful and brutal occupation in Western Sahara or in desolate refugee camps in the Algerian desert.
In London a letter of support was also be delivered to Prime Minister Brown today, in which signatories – including MP’s from all three main political parties, MEP’s, ambassadors, trade union leaders, lawyers such as Baroness Kennedy QC and celebrities such as Brian Eno, Terry Jones, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Juliet Stevenson – call on the government to act. The letter states that the hunger strike “is not about the individual right of one person to return to her home but about the collective right denied to the Saharawi people to live freely in their native land” and they pledge to do all they can to support her and the people of Western Sahara.”
Aminatou Haidar remains resolute, but campaigners argue that she is being pushed to the brink of death and her condition is now critical. Her doctor, Dr Guzman, this week said: “We are talking about hours or days rather than weeks. Sadly, biology knows nothing of politics.”
Although there has been an outcry over Ms Haidars treatment at the hands of the Moroccan authorities, including statesments from Amnesty International, the US State Department and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Moroccan government insist that they will only allow Ms Haidar back to Western Sahara after she acknowledges their sovereignty over the territory and offers “an apology” for questioning that sovereignty. This she will never do.
“It is fitting that today, on International Human Rights Day, we are here outside No.10 Downing Street, to deliver this letter from Aminatou Haidar, an iconic campaigner for the rights and justice of her people.” said Jeremy Corbyn MP, Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, in London today.
Delegates and signatories to the letter include:
Jeremy Corbyn MP, David Drew MP, Peter Bottomley MP, Glenda Jackson MP, John Austin MP, John Grogan MP, Katy Clark MP, Paul Flynn MP, Mark Williams MP, Frank Cook MP, Martin Caton MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Lord Nigel Jones MP, Jill Evans MEP, Brian Eno (musician, composer, record producer), Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Mike Leigh (film director), Ken Loach (film director), Terry Jones (actor & former Monty Python), Juliet Stevenson (actor), Dave Prentis (General Secretary, UNISON), Matt Wrack (General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union), Mick Shaw (President Fire Brigades Union), Gerry Morrisey (General Secretary of BECTU), Paul Laverty (screen writer), Chrisopher Simpson (actor), John Pickard (actor), John Hilary (Executive Director, War on Want), Jonathan Heawood, (Director, English PEN), Stefan Simanowitz (Chair, Free Western Sahara Network), Mark Leutchford (President, Western Sahara Campaign UK), Y.Lamine Baali (Polisario Front chief UK representative), Danielle Smith (Director, Sandblast charity), Giles Foreman (Director, Caravanserai), John Gurr (Western Sahara Resource Watch), Dr. Zola Skweyiya (South African High Commissioner), Nicola Quilter (actress). More on Free Western Sahara Network.