Tuesday, 8 December 2009

NEWS: "Spanish Government Seeks to Force-Feed..."

Despite all efforts, nothing that we write and try to expresscan be as intimate and true as a comment of someone who has spent these crucial days with Haidar. Spotted on Democracy Now!, I personally find this article or report (in reverse chronological order) very interesting.
"Spanish Government Seeks to Force-Feed Western Sahara Human Rights Activist Aminatou Haidar
Updated on Tuesday, [December 8, 2009] at 3:19 a.m.

Last week Democracy Now! covered the story of thje Western Saharan human rights activist Aminatou Haidar. She has been on a hunger strike for three weeks since being deported against her will by Moroccan authorities occupying her homeland. Haidar, known as the “Sahrawi Gandhi,” was at the airport on the Canary Islands up until Friday.

María Carrión, a Madrid-based journalist and human rights activist, has been sending Democracy Now! updates about what is happening with Aminatou Haidar.

Tuesday at 3:19 a.m. EST
After Morocco threatened over the weekend to end its collaboration with Spain in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal immigration, the Spanish government has backed down on the diplomatic confrontation it has held with Rabat over the deportation of Sahrawi human rights activist Aminatu Haidar to the Canary Islands. Instead, it has begun a different confrontation, this time with Haidar herself.

A judge, accompanied by a team of doctors and several armed police, charged into the Lanzarote airport terminal Saturday evening where she has been protesting peacefully and demanded to physically examine her in order to determine whether she needs to be force-fed.

Haidar, who today enters her 23rd day of hunger strike with her life hanging on a thread, accused the Spanish government of engaging in “Moroccan tactics” and assured the judge that she did not want medical treatment. “My beliefs are not for sale,” she said. “I will continue with this protest until I am allowed to return home.” Spain has force-fed hunger strikers in the past but only those in custody, and there is no legal precedent here to force-feeding non-prisoners against their will. After pushing Haidar´s supporters out of the room where she now spends most of her time and conducting a brief check-up, the team left the airport.

Haidar also decided to forgo regular medical check-ups by her personal doctor after the judge ordered him to turn over confidential medical reports.

In a plea to Spanish authorities and the international community, Haidar asked for international protection for her family, who remains under siege in the occupied Western Sahara. Haidar´s mother is at the family home, while her two teenage children are at the home of another renowned human rights activist. Both houses are surrounded by police, who prevent anyone from entering.

“Police harassment of Aminatu´s family reflects the increasing aggression being directed by Morocco against her,” said Spanish actor Willie Toledo, who remains at Haidar´s side in Lanzarote airport.

The Spanish government has withdrawn the request it made Friday to Rabat to fly Haidar to the Western Sahara on a government airplane. Hundreds of people protested yesterday outside the Spanish Foreign Ministry. They asked the Spanish government to put Haidar on a commercial plane to Layounne, her hometown, and to begin diplomatic efforts to resolve the 35-year military occupation by Morocco of the Western Sahara.

But the Spanish government does not want a face-off with Morocco, which they consider of strategic interest both politically and commercially. “Morocco is not hundreds of kilometers away, but only 14,” stated a government official.

Moroccan representative are due to meet today with EU officials over the terms of the preferred commercial status Morocco has been granted by Europe. Haidar´s supporters have asked for the meeting to be suspended until Morocco allows her to return. Efforts also continue at the United Nations to find a solution. In the United States, Senators Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold, as well as several other members of Congress, have demanded Morocco allow Haidar back home and have asked the Obama administration to help resolve the crisis.

Sunday at 4:41 a.m. EST
Aminatu Haidar, the Sahrawi human rights activist entering her 21st day of hunger strike, may not have more than a few more days—or even hours—to live, according to the doctor who is monitoring her health, Lanzarote Hospital director Domingo de Guzmán Pérez Hernández. Her blood pressure is fluctuating dangerously, and she suffers from a number of other life-threatening ailments due to her hunger strike and the sequels of abuse and torture in a Moroccan prison. Hernandez said today that Haidar´s health is uncertain, and that she could require hospitalization at any time. But Haidar, who has vowed to persist “to the end” if Morocco does not allow her to return home, has asked doctors not to medicate her or revive her should she need intravenous fluids or hospitalization.

Spain has reapplied for flight and landing permits from Moroccan authorities to fly Haidar home to Layounne, a city in the Western Sahara occupied by Morocco since 1975. On Friday night, a Spanish medicalized airplane carrying Haidar and high-ranking government officials, was refused entry into the Western Sahara when it was preparing for take-off from the Canary Islands. Spanish officials and Haidur´s supporters fear that Morocco could protract the crisis until it is too late to save Haidar´s life.

Haidar is very frail but upbeat, flashing signs of victory to her friends and supporters who are camping out with her at the Lanzarote airport.

Saturday at 2:30 a.m. EST
Aminatu Haidar today enters her twentieth day of hunger strike, frustrated but determined. After Morocco last night backpedalled on an agreement to let a Spanish airplane carrying her and Spanish government officials to land in Layounne, in the occupied Western Sahara, the human rights activist was transported on a gurney back to the airport terminal in Lanzarote (Canary Islands), where her disappointed supporters awaited her.

The Moroccan government has not officially explained why it decided to rescind on the landing permission, which was granted at 6pm local time. At first, authorities said that Spain had not given a 24-hour notice on its landing request, which was sent through diplomatic channels rather than directly to airport authorities. But many speculate that the real reason was that the Moroccan King, Mohammed I, was angered at what appeared to be a victory for Haidar and the Sahrawi pro-independence movement.

Haidar has told supporters that she will not give up her hunger strike until she sets foot in her homeland. Yesterday, UN top officials, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay had been involved in the negotiations with Morocco and Spain to return Haidar to Layounne, and will continue to do so over the weekend.

Haidar’s health is rapidly deteriorating. She now slides in and out of consciousness and is too weak to stand, or often to sit up. After three weeks of hunger strike, the body begins to mine vital organs, as well as bone marrow. Haidar’s health was already fragile due to years of torture and mistreatment in Moroccan jails, and a prior hunger strike that lasted 40 days.

Supporters are asking people to take action by sending urgent action appeals. One, directed to the UN, is available at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights). Amnesty International USA is asking people to send letters to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Templates can be found here

Friday at 4:33 p.m. EST
The government of Morocco is apparently saying that Spain did not give enough notice about the flight. Spain denies this and says that it advised Morocco about the flight earlier today. Spain will re-submit flight and landing requests, but the outcome is uncertain. As she boarded the plane to cheers from her supporters, Aminatu stated that “I may be going home, or I may be going to jail. But I thank the Spanish government for finally flying me home.” Aminatu’s supporters were shocked to learn minutes later that the airplane would not be leaving Lanzarote. The situation has produced a grave diplomatic crisis between Spain and Morocco.

Friday at 3:08 p.m. EST
Morocco will not let the Spanish government plane that Aminatu Haidar is on land in Layounne. She will thus not abandon her hunger strike. She is on the plane but it looks like she will have to return to the airport in Lanzarote.

Friday at 2:59 p.m. EST
After 19 days on a hunger strike to protest her deportation from the Western Sahara by Morocco to the Spanish Canary Islands, renowned human rights activist Aminatu Haidar was flown Friday evening to Layounne, her hometown, on a Spanish government airplane. Moroccan authorities confiscated Haidar’s passport and deported her as she returned from New York City after stating on an entry form that she was a citizen of the Western Sahara, a territory that Morocco has occupied since 1975. Thousands of Spaniards, including Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem and director Pedro Almodovar, mobilized to pressure Spain to allow Haidar to return. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and other members of the US Congress also urged the Obama administration to intervene in the case. Haidar was accompanied on the plane by a doctor and a Spanish government official."

(Source: Democracy Now! on December 8, 2009)

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