“Sahrawi Gandhi” announced 2019 Right Livelihood Laureate

Press releases 25.09.2019

The Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Aminatou Haidar from Western Sahara is one of the 2019 Laureates, the Right Livelihood Foundation announced today in Stockholm, Sweden. Over 30 years of peaceful campaigning for the independence of her homeland have earned Haidar the byname “Sahrawi Gandhi”.

The outstanding nonviolent activist and human rights defender Aminatou Haidar is recognised by the international jury “for her steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara”.
It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Western Sahara.

Upon receiving the news, Aminatou Haidar commented:”I feel very honored to receive the renowned Right Livelihood Award. This is a recognition of my non-violent struggle and the just cause of the Sahrawi people. Despite military occupation and violations of fundamental human rights, they continue their peaceful struggle. They deserve to be supported by all so that, one day, Sahrawi will achieve independence and freedom.”

The 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureates were announced during a press conference at the International Press Centre at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The jury has selected four Laureates who will each receive 1 million SEK (94,000 EUR). The prize money is designated to support the Laureates’ work, it is not for personal use.

The other Laureates are lawyer Guo Jianmei (China), climate activist Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa who jointly receives the award with the Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil). The international jury considered 142 nominations from 59 countries, after an open nomination process.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation, commented: “The Sahrawi people have been suffering under Moroccan occupation for more than 40 years and any opposition is brutally punished. Aminatou Haidar’s courage and determination to organise nonviolent resistance and speak up internationally is an inspiration for everyone who believes in justice.”

Aminatou Haidar is one of the most respected leaders among the Sahrawis. She started her activism as a teenager and is one of the founders of the Sahrawi human rights movement. She has organised demonstrations, documented cases of torture and carried out several hunger strikes to raise awareness about the violations suffered by her people. Haidar is the co-founder and President of the human rights organisation Collective of Sahrawi Rights Defenders (CODESA). She plays a crucial role in drawing international attention to the unresolved Western Sahara issue, which for long has been neglected by the UN, the EU and the media.

Spain, the former colonial power, abandoned the disputed territory in 1975, and Morocco immediately annexed it. The indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis, have repeatedly been promised the right to self-determination by the UN, Spain and Morocco. But more than 40 years have passed without a referendum being held, with the international community indifferent or even complicit in the occupation.

Since the first days of its occupation, Moroccan authorities have suppressed Sahrawis demanding the right to self-determination and respect of fundamental human rights. Like many other Sahrawi activists, Aminatou Haidar has been beaten, tortured and detained without charges or trial. She spent four years in a secret prison, isolated from the outside world.

Despite death threats and harassment, directed at herself and her two children, Aminatou Haidar tirelessly campaigns for a political solution to one of the world’s longest frozen conflicts and tries to instil the merits of non-violent action in the next generation of Sahrawis.

Aminatou Haidar will receive her prize at the 2019 Right Livelihood Award Celebration in Stockholm on 4 December. As the Award celebrates 40 years, the public is for the first time ever invited to participate in its presentation. Edward Snowden, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, will join the celebration via link from Moscow and the artists José González and Ane Brun will perform at the event. Tickets for the Award Celebration are available via Cirkus.se.

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Sydney Nelson

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