Her Truth & Its Consequences
Haidar is called the “Sahrawi Gandhi” for her nonviolent resistance to government violence, but she has been repeatedly tortured and imprisoned by Moroccan authorities. At age 20, in 1987, she was “disappeared,” held in captivity for four years—blindfolded—after she helped plan a peaceful protest denouncing the human rights abuses committed by Moroccan forces. (Morocco invaded Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975.) She and other protesters were subjected to electric shocks, chemicals and threats of rape. In 2005, after police beat and arrested her for protesting, she was sentenced to seven months in prison.
While she was returning from a trip in November 2009, Moroccan officials seized her passport and deported her for listing Western Sahara instead of Morocco as her home. After being flown to a Canary Islands airport, she staged a 32-day hunger strike (her second for the cause). The U.S. State Department and the European Parliament intervened with the Moroccan government, which allowed her to go home and retrieve her passport—but her neighborhood was put under police lockdown. In January of this year, she left to seek medical treatment (for stomach problems related to her hunger strikes) in Spain and to begin another international lobbying tour. “Women are oppressed, jailed, raped,” she says. “I feel a responsibility to work for our freedom. I always dream the women and children of my country will one day live in peace.”
Her Dangerous Thoughts
“Morocco considers anyone who does not support its party line to be an enemy and a traitor. But we human rights activists have raised awareness of the crimes committed against the Saharan population. We have broken the wall of silence.”