Western Saharan activist Sultana has had her eye removed as she protests against the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. This is what Lena Thunberg, editor of Tidskriften Västsahara, writes in a guest column. Photo: Jan Strömdahl.

Guest chronicle

Human rights activist Sultana: "Western Sahara must be free"

Western Saharan human rights activist Sultana Khaya has been under house arrest for more than a year in Morocco-occupied Western Sahara. Her crime? She waves the flag of Western Sahara. This is what Lena Thunberg, editor of Tidskriften Västsahara, writes in a guest column.

 - Either they expel me or they kill me. But I will not stop. I do everything for independence. Western Sahara is my soul, says Sultana Khaya. She continues:

- Where is the UN? Where is the EU? What are these organizations doing? Would not they protect us? Western Saharans in occupied territory have only their votes, no weapons.

- No one is like Sultana! Such a strong woman. Now Boujdour is called the city of Sultana, says her cousin Sidi with admiration in her voice.

Since November 2020, Sultana Khaya's home in the Morocco-occupied part of Western Sahara has been surrounded by Moroccan police. She is not allowed to go out, no one is allowed to come and visit. Sultana now lives only with her sister and mother.

What is it that makes the Moroccan occupation authorities so furious?

Every day, Sultana goes up on the roof of the house and waves the flag of Western Sahara and shouts the slogan: "Free Western Sahara!"

Her protests against the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, which has been going on since 1975, have led to unparalleled persecution.

In 2007, when she was a student, she had her eye knocked out by a Moroccan policeman, was sentenced to prison herself but went to Spain, where she received treatment and an artificial eye.

She then returned to the occupied part of Western Sahara to continue peacefully protesting against the occupation. She took to the streets and squares with the Western Saharan flag and her voice.

Sultana is not charged with any crime, but she is still under house arrest. In addition, police broke into the home, abused and raped her, her sister and her mother.

Still, she does not stop protesting.

Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Swedish MPs have protested against the abuses and persecution of Sultana and other Western Saharan human rights defenders.

In Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, a UN-supervised decolonization and referendum on independence would have taken place in 1992. However, Morocco has been allowed to prevent it. The UN force MINURSE lacks MR mandate, namely right and obligation to report violations the human rights.

That is why Western Saharans like Sultana are scandalously completely unprotected.

This is a guest column. The writer is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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