Western Sahari activist Haidar flies home

Aminatu Haidar who has been on hunger strike in Spain since she was refused permission to board her flight from Morocco to Laayoune on her Sahari passport. On her return from a trip to the USA where she was presented an award for her activist work, Morroccan authorities seized her passport from and, against her will, put her on a plane to Lanzarote where, despite having no passport, Spanish authorities allowed her entry. On her arrival, Haider accused Spanish authorities of collaborating in what she said was an illegal kidnapping and said she did not wish to enter Spain and wanted to have her passport returned to her and to go home to Laayoune. She went on hunger strike as a protest and refused to leave the immigration building at Lanzarote airport, causing a diplomatic crisis between the Spanish and Moroccan governments, and a further embarrassment to the Socialist foreign ministry.

It has taken the Spanish government 32 days to finally get the Moroccan government to allow Haider to fly to Laayoune without concessions (the Morroccan authorities originally said they would only allow her to travel to her home if she accepted a Moroccan passport and apologised to the King, both of which Haider refused to do).

Laayoune, Haider’s home, is the main city in Western Sahara, which has been a source of tension ever since Morocco annexed the territory after the withdrawal of colonial power Spain in 1975, refusing to grant the Saharis independent status.

On leaving the hospital where she was tranferred to when her condition worsened three days ago, Haider said her return to Laayoune was a victory for international law and justice and for the Sahari cause. She said the first thing she would do on arriving home would be to hug her children and mother.