Biology Knows Nothing of Politics: Aminatou Haidar’s Hunger Strike

Aman450Brian Eno and Stefan Simanowitz in New Internationalist:

Anyone who has seen Hunger, Alexander McQueen’s harrowingly visceral film about the Maze prison hunger strike will have some idea of just how horrific it is to die by starvation. Bobby Sands, a fit 27-year-old man, survived 66 days without food. Aminatou Haidar, a delicate 42-year-old mother of two is now on the 29th day of her hunger strike, but with a perforated ulcer and a constitution weakened by years of imprisonment and torture, there are fears that she will not survive much longer. Suffering dizziness and loss of vision she is now too weak to stand and Lanzarote Hospital director, Domingo de Guzmán, has warned that Ms Aminatou's life expectancy is now ‘hours or days rather than weeks’. Listing her symptoms as hypotension, nausea, anaemia, muscular-skeletal atrophy and gastric haemorrhaging, Dr Guzman believes she is nearing an irreversible deterioration which could result in her death even if she were to abandon the hunger strike. But abandoning her strike is not something Aminatou Haidar, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated human rights activist, will countenance unless her single demand – to be allowed to return to her country – is met.

Known as the ‘African Gandhi’, Aminatou Haidar has been on hunger strike in Lanzarote airport since being deported there from her home in Western Sahara on 15 November. On 13 November Haidar had flown back to Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, from New York where she had picked up the Train Foundation’s Civil Courage human rights award. On her arrival in Laayoune she wrote her address on her landing card as being in ‘Western Sahara’ rather than ‘Morocco’. As a Saharawi she has never recognized Moroccan sovereignty over her native land, which has been occupied by Morocco in breach of international law for over 34 years.