"Sahrawi Gandhi" on hunger strike at Spanish airport

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Nairobi, Nov 19(ANI): Sahrawi human rights-defender and political activist Aminatou Haidar, considered by her supporters as the ''Sahrawi Gandhi'', has gone on a hunger strike at a Spanish airport after being expelled over her refusal to accept Moroccan nationality.

Haidar was detained at the airport in Western Sahara's administrative capital, Laayoune, on her return from the US, where she was awarded the Train Foundation's Civil Courage prize of 50,000 dollars for her struggle for the Sahrawis' right to self-determination.

After refusing to declare her nationality as Moroccan on arrival, the police confiscated her passport and she was flown to the nearby Canary Islands.

Earlier on November 14, the Moroccan authorities had deported Haidar to Lanzarote from the disputed territory of Western Sahara. Morocco has occupied the former Spanish colony since 1975, refusing to give the indigenous Sahrawi population a say on matters related to independence.

"I will carry on my hunger strike until the Spanish Government allows me to return to my homeland where my children live or I die," The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Haidar, as saying.

"Prison in Western Sahara was preferable to detention in Spain," she added.

Meanwhile, the Spanish Foreign Ministry has said it could not allow Haidar to return to Laayoune, as she had no passport.

The Moroccan Government, which considers Western Sahara to be its southern provinces, even though this has no foundation in international law or formal recognition from any other country, has denied any wrongdoing. Instead, it has accused Haidar of treason and of being an agent of the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi nationalist movement that fought a 16-year desert war against Morocco.The conflict ended in 1991, with both parties agreeing to an UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people. But Morocco has consistently blocked the vote, and the Polisario remains in exile in Algeria. (ANI)

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