Aminatou Haidar

Aminatou-Haidar-at-home-i-001

Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar ended her 32 day hunger strike after Morocco finally allowed her to return to the capital Laayoune. Aminatou returned to Western Sahara after a trip abroad and insisted on maintaining her nationality as Western Saharan and not Moroccan. The Western Sahara has been under occupation by Morocco for some 26 years is recognised by the AU, UN and Arab League – everyone except Morocco. There are thousands of Saharawi’s living in refugee camps in southern Algeria – one of the hottest and most inhabitable areas of the Sahara..

Morocco annexed and occupied Western Sahara after the colonial rulers Spain pulled out of the oil rich territory in 1975 despite a ruling by the World Court in favor of autonomy for the territory. The Polisario Front is the political movement for the independence of Western Sahara and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is the government in exile and is a member of the African Union, recognised by 75 countries and the UN. Following a 16 year war between Polisario Front and Morocco a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1991. To date nothing has been resolved for the 300,000 Saharawis living in occupied territory and a further 150,000 plus living in the refugee camps of southern Algeria in Tindouf for the past 30 years. The camps are organised democratically into 4 Wilaya (districts) each named after a town in Western Sahara — Laayoune, Smara, Dahla and Aousserd. Each district is then divided into a daira (village) and then hays (neighbourhoods). Representatives are elected from each village and district and women are represented at all levels. Saharawi women like Aminatou Haidarhave been at the forefront of the organisation and management of the camps taking responsibility for health, education and sanitation. Women continue today to be at the center of life in the camps.

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