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Aminatou Haidar : The shame of Spain

By Owei Lakemfa

AMINATOU Haidar is the mother of two sons. She was living with her family in Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony occupied by Morocco.

That was until November 14 when a conspiracy  between the democratic Zapatero government in Spain and the feudal regime in Morocco transformed her into a stateless person.

Both governments changed the status of the famous “Sahrawi Ghandi” from a  mother with a loving family at home, into  a stateless person whose home is the airport in Lanzarote on the Spanish occupied Canary Islands of Africa.

Haidar  who is president of the Collective Of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) was awarded the 2006 Juan Maria Bandres Human Rights Award (Spain) the 2007 Silver Rose Award (Austria) the 2008 Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award (United States) and nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, has understandably been a torn in the flesh of imperial Morocco for her unrelenting but peaceful campaign for the right of the Sahrawi people to self determination in accordance with the United Nations (UN) Resolution 1514 of 1960.

The  UN had reiterated this  on December 20, 1965 and the African Union had in 1984 admitted the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a full member. But the insistence of monarchical Morocco to hold on to Western Sahara and deny Sahrawis  their right to statehood while violating the peoples fundamental human rights, made Haidar’s campaigns inevitable.

It had been assumed that only colonial-minded Morocco would feel threatened by her  pro democracy campaigns. It was therefore a shock to realise that democratic Spain which had in the first place caused the Western Sahara crises by handing over the colony to Morocco and Mauritania, would still act in the fascist manner of  the  inglorious General Francisco Franco dictatorship.

Haidar’s  immediate problems started in October 2009 when she came visiting Nigeria. I had the privilege of meeting  and discussing with her. She was received in audience at the Presidential Villa, Abuja by the First Lady, Mrs. Turai  Yar’Adua on Tuesday October 6, 2009. The First Lady wrote the next day to formally accept the invitation to be the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Solidarity Movement With Western Sahara, an organisation that was launched at the Labour House,  Abuja on October 8, 2009.

She travelled to Kaduna State where she was received on behalf of Governor Mohammed Sambo by the Deputy Governor, Patrick Ibrahim. She met some Committees of the National Assembly, the Women Affairs Minister and her Labour Ministry counterpart, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode.

Haidar hopped to the Ahmadu Bello University meeting students who formed solidarity clubs with the people of Western Sahara.

She had audiences with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and met with leaders of the Civil society movement in the country including Mr. Femi Falana, president of the West Africa Bar association. Falana flew last month to the Canary Islands to solidarise with Haidar at her forced airport abode.

Her crowded tour of Nigeria, the high calibre of people she met, the declaration of support for the right of the Sahrawi people to complete independence, the formal launching of the Nigerian Solidarity Movement with Western Sahara and the wide publicity given to her tour, understandably worried imperial Morocco.

When she left Nigeria, Haidar headed for the United States for another set of activities. On return home through Morocco, she was bound to have problems with the authorities, but it was better to face these problems than stay in exile.

As her place of residence, she filled ‘Western Sahara’ on the border control form. She was immediately arrested. Her interrogation was mainly about her visit to Nigeria; how did she meet the Nigerian First Lady and what did they discuss? What did she discuss with other high ranking Nigerian government  officials? What were her activities in America like?

Realising that detaining her would cause an international uproar, and allowing her back home would heighten the struggle for independence, Morocco seized her passport and deported her to the Spanish – held territory of  Canary Islands.

Ordinarily, no sovereign nation would allow another country dump a person without travelling documents including a passport on it. But Spain, obviously collaborating with feudal Morocco, allowed Haidar to be brought into its territory. But Haidar insisted on returning to her family only for the Spaniards to say she cannot because she has no passport.

A country which despite her protests, allowed a lady with no travel documents into its territory, turns round to stop her leaving because she has no passport!

As expected, Spain offered Haidar  political asylum which she rejected insisting on her right to return to the land of her ancestors and be with her teenage children. Since  Spain refused to allow her leave, she camped at the airport and went on hunger strike.

An international grand swell of opposition to the Spanish “inquisition” against Haidar has seen British parliamentarians, Spanish international figures, Europeans from all works of life, African legislators including South African Senator Mahlangu, Nigerians including NLC Vice President Mrs. Ladi Iliya  demand that she be allowed to return home.

An embarrassed Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos telephoned her at the airport expressing admiration for her and promising  that her situation will soon be resolved.

Courageous Haidar, in a video message I watched at the 35th European Conference of Coordination And Support To The Sahrawi People (EUCOCO) in Barcelonia said “ My situation is yet another example of the will of the Sahara people to continue the struggle until we achieve our goal…My fight is not just for my two sons; it is a fight for all Saharawi children  so that they can live free and in happiness.

My hunger strike is a clear reflection of the will of the Saharawi people especially the women who have played a leading role since 1970. Yes I am weak physically but  not morally.”


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