Aminatou Haidar

One might expect Aminatou Haidar to stop fighting. She has been arrested, beaten, and tortured, all for peacefully speaking truth to power. In 1987, she and 70 demonstrators whom she led in a peaceful protest against Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara were disappeared. For four years, she was held in a secret prison without charge or trial, where she had chemical-soaked cloths forced into her mouth and received electrical shocks throughout her entire body.

But the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award laureate is undeterred in her fight for justice. She knows firsthand the human rights violations and brutal tactics used by the Moroccan regime; in 2005, she was beaten by riot police to the point that she had to be hospitalized, and she was then arrested at the hospital and detained for seven months. Even then she was undeterred, hunger striking with 37 other prisoners for more than a month to protest the conditions and use of torture in the prison. In 2009, upon attempting to return to her country after a trip to the United States, her passport was revoked and she was sent into exile. Rather than give up her work, she again went on a hunger strike until she was able to return.

No matter the conditions to which she is subjected, Haidar fiercely fights for the freedom of speech, association, and self-determination of all Western Saharans. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights helps Haidar bring her voice to Washington, Brussels, and the United Nations to shed light on this too-often forgotten human rights crisis. Her courage and commitment to nonviolence have made her a beacon of hope for the Sahrawi people.