News December, 21st 2009 by

Protest in favour for Sahara

Hundreds of people rallied in Madrid Saturday in favour of a Western Sahara independence activist who returned to the contested Moroccan territory last week after month-long hunger strike in Spain.

Demonstrators brandished signs supporting Aminatou Haidar and her fight for independence for the Western Sahara, annexed by Morocco as Spain withdrew from the territory in 1975 in the dying days of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.

The rally was backed by Spain’s ruling Socialist Party as well as several other smaller left-wing parties and the nation’s main unions.

Morocco yielded to pleas from foreign governments on Friday and allowed the 42-year-old mother of two to fly back to Laayoune, the main town in Western Sahara, on a plane with medical equipment because of her fragile health.

Haidar launched her protest on November 16 at Lanzarote airport in Spain’s Canary Islands, after Morocco denied her entry to her native Western Sahara as she returned from accepting a human rights award in the United States.

Moroccan authorities confiscated her passport after she refused to declare herself as Moroccan on an official form, arguing that by doing so she had rejected her Moroccan nationality, and put her on a plane back to Lanzarote.

The affair stoked tensions between Madrid and Rabat but Morocco’s ambassador to Spain, told reporters Saturday that ties between the two nations had finally been “reinforced” by the case after some “tense, delicate and difficult moments”.

Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara sparked a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front movement.

The two sides agreed a ceasefire in 1991, but UN-sponsored talks on its future have since made no headway.

Morocco has pledged to grant the phosphate-rich territory widespread autonomy, but rules out independence. 

Simon Schönbeck

A serial entrepreneur and Founder of this very site.

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