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Activist Successfully Leaves Home After 18 Months

Sahrawi woman activist Sultana Khaya managed to leave her house in Boujdour, Western Sahara, on 30 May and travel to Spain for medical care. Under arbitrary house arrest since November 2020, the restrictions placed on her have yet to be officially removed and it remains unclear whether she would be able to return to the country. To date, there has been no investigation into the security forces’ incidents of torture and ill-treatment against her and her family.


After more than 18 months under arbitrary house arrest, Sahrawi woman activist Sultana Khaya finally managed to leave her house on 30 May, to seek medical treatment for the psychological and physical injuries she sustained as a result of police assaults.

Sultana Khaya left with her sister Luaara Khaya and two American volunteers, who spent more than two months with her to protect her from further police violence. Security officers followed the group from her home in Boujdour, Western Sahara, and surrounded the house where they stayed in the city of Laayoune for two days. However, they did not attempt to physically prevent Sultana Khaya or the volunteers from leaving the country. On 1 June the group successfully travelled to the Canary Islands and arrived in mainland Spain on 3 June.

While it is a relief that Sultana Khaya was able to safely leave the country, there are no guarantees that she will be allowed re-entry to Western Sahara.

Sultana Khaya was put under arbitrary house arrest by the Moroccan authorities on 19 November 2020. Security force members has been stationed outside her house since then. The authorities have never presented Sultana Khaya with an arrest warrant or a court order or informed her of the reason for her arrest.

It is believed that global mobilisation helped raise awareness of Sultana Khaya's situation and the grave human rights violations committed by the Moroccan authorities against her and her family. The visibility that the Urgent Action has brought to Sultana Khaya's case contributed in mounting pressure to ease the house arrest.

Sultana Khaya and her family are grateful to everyone who sent letters to the Moroccan Head of Government. She reminds us that the house arrest has still not officially been removed and that the authorities have yet to launch an official investigation into the violence committed against her and her family. Amnesty International continues to monitor the situation and will respond as appropriate to how circumstances unfold.


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