For this year’s nomination for the Sakharov Prize, we want to raise awareness about a forgotten conflict where women are on the frontline.

Systematic human rights abuses, police brutality, violations of international law and fundamental rights, the Sahrawi people of Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara, have endured decades of repression at the hands of Moroccan occupying forces. Since replacing Spain as coloniser, Morocco has attempted to control a territory about the size of the UK, using military force to suppress free speech and pro-independence protests. Europe has largely stood by watching a tragedy unfold on its doorstep.

While the 1975 annexation and the resulting conflict forced tens of thousands of Sahrawi people into refugee camps in the desert, European countries and Morocco have remained fixed on exploiting the occupied territory’s resources, such as fertile fishing grounds off the coast. Finally, in 1991, the Moroccans and the Polisario Front independence movement signed a ceasefire. The two parties agreed to hold a referendum on national self-determination for the Sahrawi people. However, Morocco has persistently worked to defer the referendum, which has still not taken place.

Moroccan authorities continued to block journalists and human-rights organisations from entering the territory and investigating abuses.

Therefore we decided to nominate for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the human rights defender Sultana Khaya. The Left seeks to show solidarity with the Sahrawi people, to make visible the situation experienced by so many Sahrawi women and activists who break the silence about the situation of occupation.

Enough of looking the other way when it comes to human rights violations of people advocating for their self-determination. This Parliament can send a clear message against the impunity of the Moroccan regime.

Let’s stop the complicity with this illegal occupation and plunder.

We demand freedom for Sultana, freedom for Western Sahara and freedom for the Sahrawi people.

Watch here our full interview with Sultana Khaya :


About Sultana Khaya 

Sultana Khaya has been under de facto house arrest without a warrant since 19 November 2020, with Moroccan security forces maintaining a heavy presence outside her house, during which time she has been subjected several times to physical, verbal and sexual assaults.

On 22 August 2021, the latest in a long line of assaults occurred when Moroccan security  agents raided the house of Sultana Khaya and physically assaulted her, her sister Laura Khaya and other members of her family. The security agents destroyed the furniture in Sultana Khaya’s house, and Sultana and her sister were also subjected to sexual harassment.

The situation has recently worsened because the Saharawi activist has now fallen ill with covid-19 and her symptoms are worsening without being allowed to be treated in a medical facility.

Since 2005, Sultana Khaya has suffered physical attacks, death threats, torture and sexual assaults perpetrated by the Moroccan authorities.

Over the last year, the Moroccan authorities have intensified repression against Saharawi activists and journalists, who are subjected to ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and harassment in order to silence or punish them for their non-violent actions against the occupation of Western Sahara.

On 1 July 2021, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor, condemned the reprisals against Sultana Khaya and ‘expressed particular concern about the apparent use of violence and the threat of violence to prevent and obstruct women human rights defenders in their peaceful human rights activities in Western Sahara.

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