Non-violent activist of Western Sahara.
The non-violent activist of the Western Sahara, Aminatou Haider, otherwise known as the 'Sahrawi Gandhi' by many, is a charismatic mother of two who has spent years in Moroccan prisons.
A 16-year war with the Sahrawi nationalist Polisario Front ensued, ending with a ceasefire and an agreement to hold a UN-sponsored referendum on independence. In her Sahrawi struggle, demanding self-determination and independence for Western Sahara, she publically declares she harbours no ill will towards Moroccans. Since she was first imprisoned in 1987 after leading a women-led non-violent protest against the Moroccan occupation, Aminatou has developed close relations with international media and human rights organisations.
Helped by an international solidarity movement that united around her cause, Aminatou was released and has become a local and international icon.
She was expelled from Morocco by the authorities in November 2009, for 'improperly' filling in a customs form in her return from the US. She had refused to fill in the blank for nationality. Aminatou went on hunger strike at Lanzarote airport. In Lanzarote she rejected the offer of Spanish citizenship or political asylum. After 32 days and following intense negotiations between Rabat, Madrid, Paris and Washington, the hunger striker was allowed home.
Nominated for the prestigious Sakharvov prize by the European Parliament in 2008, Aminatou also won the Juan Brandeis award given by the Spanish Association for Refugees and Human Rights. She was nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.
Aminatou Haidar was born in Akka Centre, Province of Tata, in Morocco.
Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan