Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Minatou Haidar nominated for a Nobel Prize

AFSC Nominates West Saharan Woman for the Nobel Peace Prize

PHILADELPHIA (February 20, 2008) - The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker humanitarian service organization, has nominated Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent leadership in the Sahrawi people’s struggle for self-determination. AFSC received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 in recognition of Quakers’ humanitarian service during and after the two world wars and as a past laureate is entitled to nominate others for the prize.

Western Sahara is often known as “Africa’s last colony.” Despite international recognition of their right to self-determination, the Sahrawi people have lived under Moroccan occupation since 1976. Haidar has dedicated her life to achieving self-determination for its citizens. In 1987, during a peaceful demonstration in Morocco, Haidar was arrested and detained in secret for four years. During her detention, she was tortured, beaten, and endured physical abuse that caused irreversible health problems. Haidar never received an explanation for her arrest and detention. She has been jailed twice since then.

Haidar is a divorced mother of two and lives in the town of El Aaiun in Western Sahara. In between her two prison sentences, Haidar earned a degree in modern literature.

“We have few models of those who can turn from their own suffering to forgive their oppressors and work for a state of reconciliation and equality,” says AFSC’s General Secretary, Mary Ellen McNish. “Aminatou Haidar is a model of how ordinary working mothers and fathers can rise above their circumstances in their devotion to a cause greater than their own survival.”

Haidar has been nominated for and won various awards for her fight for social justice. In 2005, she was nominated for the Sakharov Prize and in 2006 won the Juan Maria Bandres Prize given by the Spanish Association for Refugees and Human Rights. Last year Haidar won the Silver Rose Award in Sweden for her achievements in work for social justice.

AFSC is a Quaker organization working for peace, justice, and human dignity. With national headquarters in Philadelphia and offices in 22 countries and 42 U.S. locations, AFSC conducts economic development, peace building, and human rights programs that touch tens of thousands of lives each year.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

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