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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

A hunger for independence

December 11th, 2009
01:52 PM ET

The activist Aminatou Haidar has now been on hunger strike for 26 days.

Haidar – known to her supporters as the Sahrawi Gandhi – is protesting about her expulsion from her homeland: the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara – a former Spanish colony – in 1975. But the action has been contested ever since by the Polisario Front – the territory’s independence movement. There has been a U.N. sponsored ceasefire in the region since 1991.

In November, Haidar flew into Laayoune – Western Sahara’s administrative capital – from the U.S. where she had collected a prize commending her long fight for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

On arrival at the airport of Western Sahara's administrative capital Laayoune, Haidar refused to declare her nationality as Moroccan, leading to the confiscation of her passport by Moroccan authorities. She was subsequently deported to the Spanish island of Lanzarote where she has remained ever since.

Since November 16, Haidar has consumed only sugared water and as she grows weaker pressure mounts on both the Moroccan and Spanish governments to resolve the situation.

Demonstrations have taken place in Spain and Haidar’s protest has attracted the attentions of actor Javier Bardem and film director Pedro Almodovar.

On Friday, Reuters reported that U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon had called the Spanish foreign minister in an attempt to resolve the situation.

And in the last few days, Spanish authorities have openly debated whether to force feed the activist.

On Thursday, Haidar restated her desire to return to her homeland. “I will return to Layounne – dead or alive – but I will go home,” she told assembled reporters at Lanzarote airport.

Time is running out. What do you think should happen? Should they grant Haidar her wish and allow her to return to Western Sahara or should they force feed her, as Spanish officials are debating doing. At the moment, the alternative is to watch a weakening woman stave to death for her beliefs? Send us your comments.


Filed under:  General