RFK Laureate on hunger strike

By Monika Kalra Varma

Our 2008 RFK Human Rights Laureate, Aminatou Haidar, began a hunger strike on November 16th after being forcibly removed from her homeland of Western Sahara. And we need your help to support an investigation of her removal.

Last Friday, Aminatou was returning to Western Sahara from a visit to the United States and Spain. While in the U.S., she briefed Congressional staff on the human rights situation in Western Sahara, met with United Nations member states, and received the Civil Courage Prize from the Train Foundation for her bold defense of the rights and liberties of the Saharawi people.

Upon her arrival at the Laayoune airport in Western Sahara, Aminatou declared her homeland as Western Sahara — not Morocco — on her immigration entry form. Although this has been her practice in the past, this time Moroccan authorities held Aminatou at the airport. They interrogated her overnight and confiscated her passport. Moroccan officials claim that Aminatou signed a form renouncing her citizenship. Then they put her on a plane to the Canary Islands against her wishes.

Spanish authorities will not allow Aminatou to leave the Canary Islands without a passport or travel documents. She has begun a hunger strike to protest her removal. The situation is all the more urgent as Aminatou suffers from serious health problems.

The RFK Center has begun to reach out to international leaders on Aminatou’s behalf. We need your help to speak with a louder voice.

Join us today and call on United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay to immediately conduct an investigation into the circumstances of Aminatou’s forced removal from Western Sahara. RFK Center and Aminatou have repeatedly called for a U.N. human rights monitoring mechanism to ensure the Saharawi people’s rights are protected. Aminatou’s current situation further highlights this urgent need.

Click here to send your message to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Monika Kalra Varma is the Director, Center for Human Rights
RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights

Dec. 18 2009 update:

After a 32-day hunger strike, 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Laureate Aminatou Haidar finally left the Canary Islands and returned to her home and family in Western Sahara today.
The RFK Center had been advocating for Aminatou’s right to return to her homeland since November 14 when she was expelled from Western Sahara by Morocco. We called upon leaders in Morocco, Spain, France, the United States, and the United Nations to intervene to help bring her back to Western Sahara. The RFK Center had staff on the ground in the Canary Islands at Aminatou’s side throughout the hunger strike.

Your actions on Aminatou’s behalf also made a real difference. Hundreds of you called on U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay to speak out, and she responded, issuing a statement on December 8 calling on Morocco to recognize Aminatou’s right to return. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon also took up Aminatou’s cause.
Aminatou’s return is a victory for human rights defenders all over the world.  Thank you for all your support.  

Monika Kalra Varma
Director, Center for Human Rights

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