Action Item

Shaker Alikt emails (which I am sharing with her permission):
Aminatou Haidar, labelled the "Gandhi of Sahara", is entering the 30th day of her hunger strike after being forcibly removed from her own country? She has been all over the newspapers here in Spain for a few weeks, but I'm not sure how aware the international community is of her situation. I really think her case (and her cause) call for some major Shaker teaspoon-wielding.

Here's a brief summary of her story.

And here's the online petition at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights website (she is the RFK Center's 2008 Human Rights Laureate -- incidentally, she was returning home to Western Sahara from the US when she was detained by Moroccan authorities and expelled to the Spanish airport which had been her last stopover).

The text of the petition explains her situation very clearly. I should note, however, that the assertion that "Ms. Haidar ... cannot leave as Spanish authorities have prevented her from leaving without a passport or travel documents" is not entirely accurate: the Spanish foreign minister has offered her polical asylum, Spanish citizenship and a Spanish passport, but she has refused. She is demanding her original passport back, and vows "to return to the Western Sahara, with or without a passport, dead or alive." Progressive representatives in the Spanish Congress have demanded the Government stops offering Haidar asylum and instead starts putting diplomatic pressure on Morocco to return her passport and allow her to go home.

A petition addressed to the Spanish foreign minister and to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can be found here. It demands the Spanish Government (and, I guess, the US) put pressure on Morocco to allow Haidar to return safely, and to provide her with medical care after her prolonged hunger strike. It also urges them to express clearly the economic and diplomatic consequences that may derive from Morocco's continued refusal to respect and protect the human rights of the Saharawi people. (These are the basic ideas but I can provide a literal translation of the text if required.) This petition could have a more immediate effect than the first one I linked to, which was addressed at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, so I would recommend signing both.

In 2007, Haidar was imprisoned (and probably tortured) for seven months, and she was released thanks, in part, to the power of teaspoons. I really hope you can call the Shakers' attention to this diplomatic and human rights mess, and we can ensure Haidar survives to continue fighting against the human rights violations in Western Sahara. As Literature Nobel Laureate José Saramago said a few days ago, "we shall all be morally poorer if Haidar dies."

The RFK Foundation is following this case very closely, and updates on Haidar's struggle for justice can be found at their website.

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