Aminatou Haidar is a prominent human rights activist from Western Sahara. The former colonial power of Spain left the controversial territory in 1975, and immediately after it was annexed by Morocco. For over three decades, Haidar has been campaigning peacefully for the independence of her homeland. This has earned her the nickname "Gandhi of Western Sahara". Haidar's integrity and perseverance have made her one of the Sahrawi's most respected representatives.
The indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Sahrawi, have repeatedly been promised the right of self-determination by the United Nations, Spain and Morocco, yet no referendum has been held in over 40 years. The international community still tolerates the occupation or even actively supports it.
Aminatou Haidar became an activist as a teenager and is one of the founders of the Sahrawi human rights movement. She organized demonstrations, documented torture, and went on hunger strike several times to raise awareness of human rights violations against her people. Haidar is co-founder and president of the human rights organization Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). It has a crucial role in drawing international attention to the unresolved Western Sahara issue, a topic that has been neglected by the United Nations, the EU and the media to this day.
Since the beginning of the occupation, Moroccan authorities have been cracking down on Sahrawis calling for the right to self-determination and respect for fundamental human rights. Like many other Sahrawi activists, Aminatou Haidar has been imprisoned, beaten and tortured without charge or trial. She spent four years in a secret prison, isolated from the outside world.
Despite the death threats, attacks and harassment of her and her children, Aminatou Haidar works tirelessly for a political solution to one of the longest unexplained conflicts in the world. At the same time, Haidar conveys to the younger generation of Sahrauis the value of non-violent resistance.
Ole von Uexküll comments: "The Sahrawi people have been suffering from the Moroccan occupation for more than four decades and every opposition is being brutally punished. With the award to Aminatou Haidar, we want to show that nonviolent resistance works, and give courage to all who stand up for a just resolution of the conflict. "
Text provided by The Right Livelihood Foundation