Scottish writer Paul Laverty and British director Ken Loach issued a joint statement on December 1st (commemorating the anniversary of Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her bus seat for a white passenger) in support of Western Saharan human rights activist Aminatou Haidar. Haidar is in the third week of a hunger strike after being deported against her will by Moroccan authorities occupying her homeland. You can watch Democracy Now!’s coverage of Haidar’s plight here.
Statement concerning Sahrawi human right’s activist Aminatou Haidar
Haidar’s boarding card and Rosa Parks’s seat
On the 1st December 1955, in Montgommery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver and give up her seat to a white passenger. On Friday the 13th of November 2009 Aminatou Haidar refused to fill out her boarding card as instructed by the authorities in Laayoun (where she lives) in Morocco controlled Western Sahara.
Now, with growing horror we watch the plight of Aminatou Haidar, mother of two small children, continue her hunger strike in Lanzarote airport. Haidar, a life long human rights activist for the Sahrawi people, was thrown out of Morocco controlled Western Sahara by the authorities because she filled out her boarding card, (on her return from picking up a human rights award in the US), with the words “Western Sahara” instead of Morocco. The Morrocan authorities said she had thereby waived her Morrocan citizenship, confiscatd her passport, and then dumped her on a flight without any papers to Lanzarote against her will, all of which breaks Article 12 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which states “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of right to enter his own country.”
At the heart of this dispute is Morocco’s refusal to allow the Sahrawi people the right to a referendum on self determination following Spain giving up its colony in 1975. The United Nations, and the International community, do not recognise de jure Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, but at the same time they keep silent while hundreds of thousands of Sahrawis still languish in desert refugee camps for now over 34 years. In recent weeks Moroccan oppression against human rights activists has increased following King Mohammed VI vulgar George Bush like speech when he said “…..either a person is a Moroccan or is not……..One is either a patriot or a traitor. There is no half way house……” Haidar, and her arrested colleagues inside Morocco controlled Western Sahara are supporters of a non violent solution to this long standing problem. It is about time the International community, and especially Spain, whose silence over the years has been shameful, put pressure on Morocco to allow a fair and free democratic referendum, or once again must we see how mineral rights (massive phosphate deposits) and economic interests take precedence over human rights. It is perhaps wishful thinking to imagine that Haidar’s boarding card could be the equivalent to Rosa Park not giving up her seat. But we live in hope and send our solidarity to this remarkable woman who, despite being “disappeared” for 4 years and tortured by the Moroccan authorities still has the courage to resist. But what a tragedy it would be for non violent resistance, and to the possibility of a peaceful solution, if she is left to die.
We urge the Spanish government to ensure the safe return of Aminatou to her homeland immediately.
Paul Laverty and Ken Loach