Our Voices

Joint statement on new assault against Human Rights Defender Aminatou Haidar in Western Sahara

On Dec. 5, Sahrawi human rights defender Aminatou Haidar was physically assaulted by Moroccan police forces and paramilitary during a peaceful demonstration. She was protesting against the renewed attacks on her fellow colleague and human rights defender Sultana Khaya, who has been subjected to repeated violent physical and psychological aggression, including of a sexual nature. Police agents raided Khaya’s home on Dec. 5, injected her with an unknown substance for the second time, and infected her drinking water tank.

This is only the latest in a series of attacks that Khaya and her family have endured. They have been under a de facto house arrest since Nov. 2020, where they have been subjected to various attacks and assaults at the hands of Moroccan security forces and police agents. On Nov. 15, 2021, both Right Livelihood and RFK Human Rights denounced the Moroccan security forces’ looting of Khaya’s family home, the sexual assaults of her and her sister, and the death threats made against them.

As shown in a video taken on Dec. 5, Haidar and four other members of her organization, the Sahrawi Organ against the Moroccan Occupation (ISACOM), were peacefully protesting in solidarity with Khaya, when a dozen Moroccan agents immediately surrounded them and started beating and mistreating the activists. As a consequence of this brutal repression, Haidar has suffered serious injuries to her knee. Agents also violently stripped activist Mina Baali of her traditional Sahrawi dress.

This repression and targeting against Sahrawi rights defenders and activists must no longer be tolerated. We reiterate our call to the Moroccan authorities to immediately put an end to the systematic and serious human rights violations of the Sahrawi people and to allow Aminatou Haidar, Sultana Khaya, and all human rights defenders to carry out their peaceful work without retaliation.

Lastly, we urge the international community to act to put an end to the illegal military occupation of Western Sahara and ensure that the Sahrawi people can exercise their inalienable right to self-determination. The international community must make sure that Sahrawis can freely enjoy their fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of movement.

Aminatou Haidar is the 2008 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate and a 2019 Right Livelihood Laureate.