Name: Aminatou Haidar
Where: Western Sahara
What she does: Operates at great personal risk to campaign for human rights and for justice for the people of Western Sahara.
Impact: Has raised awareness of the Western Sahara people’s fight for independence, including through a 32 day hunger strike at Lanzarote Airport which attracted international attention.
Nominated by: Natalie Sharples
Aminatou Haidar is the face of resistance to the 36 year Moroccan occupation ofWestern Sahara, bringing attention to this often overlooked issue. Known locally as the Ghandi of Western Sahara, as Chair of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) Aminatou has risked her life and safety to campaign for human rights and for justice for the people ofWestern Sahara.
In 1987, Aged 20, she “disappeared” and was tortured by the Moroccan secret police for four years for advocating for Western Sahara’s independence fromMorocco. In 2005 she was beaten by a Moroccan policeman and jailed for seven months after a pro-independence demonstration. In 2009 Aminatou almost lost her life when she staged a 32 day hunger strike after being deported by the Moroccan authorities for declaring her place of birth asWestern Saharaon a customs form. Her very public hunger strike at Lanzarote airport, during which medics feared she would die, attracted international attention to the little known issue and eventually forced the Moroccan authorities to allow her to entry.
Aminatou operates at great personal risk. Yet she continues to inspire the longstanding Saharawi struggle against human rights abuses and for independence and justice for the people ofWestern Sahara.