Complicating EU-Morocco relations, a hunger striker in a Spanish airport is a political blackmailer from Morocco’s point of view, and a freedom fighter for others. Rabat says Aminatou Haidar is not a human rights defender, but is pushing a political agenda, as a member of the Western Saharan Polisario Front. She has survived almost three weeks on sugared water in Lanzarote airport on the Canary Islands.
Haidar was sent back there after being refused entry into her native Western Sahara by Moroccan authorities. Morocco annexed the territory in 1975. EU-Morocco association talks have been taking place in Brussels. According to Rabat, Haidar’s hunger strike is holding up UN-assisted negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front. Haidar’s supporters said her Moroccan passport was confiscated because she refused to say that Moroccan was her nationality. The Polisario Front has demanded independence for the Western Sahara since Spain relinquished colonial claims there in 1975. Morocco proposes broad self-government for the still disputed region. Since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire in 1991, most of the territory has been controlled by the Kingdom of Morocco, with whom the EU emphasises close cooperation on democratic reform.