The Saharawi Mirabal: The Khaya Sisters.
July 23, 2021

Photo: Sultana and Waara Khaya

The Khaya, one of the world’s bravest activists, has been facing heart-wrenching atrocities of the Moroccan government, who laid siege on their house for the last seven months in Boujdour, Western Sahara. As a result, Sultana is home detained, and her mother, aged 84, and her sister ‘Waara Khaya,’ where none of the other family members, friends, and human rights workers are allowed to meet her.



Sultana Khaya has been under de facto house arrest since November 19, 2020. The Moroccan forces could be seen outside Khaya’s house, preventing anyone from visiting her, besides limiting her movements to the outside world. In addition, the Moroccan forces were filmed by activists while torturing Sultana Khaya and her mother. Nevertheless, she often comes to the windows of her house waving the Sahrawi flag and chanting independence slogans.



On February 13, 2021, Sultana recorded the police outside her house; one of them hit her face with a rock. A week later, on February 21, a security person in civilian clothes snatched Khaya’s phone while she was trying to film the security personnel who were preventing an activist from visiting her.


Khaya was back in her hometown, Boujdour, after visiting Spain on November 19, 2020, and the Moroccan security forces on the same day raided her house and hit her 84-year-old mother on the head. Since then, the security personnel in civilian clothes and police constantly remain there to siege her house.

Moroccan agents beating Sultana Khaya on Eid July 21, 2021

During this intensive surveillance, the occupying Moroccan forces assaulted and tortured Khaya, sexually and physically. She often manages films or goes live on Facebook, but the forces, whereas the personnel react badly and behave cruelly. In late December, she told the Human Rights Watch (HRW) that she is occupied by a group of security personnel when she dares to walk about 150 meters away from her house without the Moroccan agent’s abuse. “I feel threatened and fear for my life, so I walk back home,” she told HRW.

On January 18, 2021, police agents prevented a cousin of Khayas from entering the house. They also brutally pushed Khaya, who was standing outside, back through her front door, she told Human Rights Watch.

 The forces often try to hurt her by various means. For example, on January 18, the troops brutally pushed her back to the house while standing at the front door watching her cousin, who was trying to visit her.

On May 10, 2021, several Moroccan civilian-clothed security agents raided Khaya’s home and physically assaulted her. The security agents also detained human rights defender Babuizid Mohamed Saaed Labhi, and two student activists were in the house. Then, on May 12, 2021, several masked Moroccan security agents raided the home and sexually assaulted her and her sister.


 According to the Front-Line Defenders, the Moroccan security personnel physically and sexually assaulted Sultana Khaya and her sister during the raid. Sultana Khaya was sodomized with a stick and assaulted through several kicks, which caused harm to her private parts; her sister was sexually assaulted with a stick by the security agents. Moreover, their brother was also physically abused, causing him to lose consciousness.

The security agents brutally treat her family members. For example, they physically assaulted her mother, beating her in the face, and threatened her that both her daughters would be killed if they did not quit activism and human rights work.


 Sultana Khaya is one of the most influential human rights activists of Western Sahara. It would not be an exaggeration to call her the biggest promoter of the right of self-determination for the Sahrawi people. She participates in very peaceful yet very effective demonstrations for human rights, especially women’s rights, through protesting in the streets, sometimes solo and sometimes with others, waving Sahrawi flags, and chanting independence slogans in front of the Moroccan security force members.

Sultana Khaya

The bravest part of her activism is her ‘in-your-face style,’ as she dares to protest in front of the occupying Moroccan authorities and chant slogans of the Sahrawi self-determination on their face.

 She has participated in several international events for human rights to promote the self-determination of the Sahrawi people and denounce the violence against them. She has been a part of the UN Human Rights Council twice.

 In her hometown, she has been a symbol of courage and motivation for other Sahrawi activists and common people to stand against Moroccan barbarism. During the last seven months of siege, she has never missed a single chance of activism. She often comes on the roof, sometimes to the windows and sometimes outside the house, waves the Sahrawi flag, chants pro-independence slogans, and films the security agents in the streets.

sultana's mother and uncle

Following Sultana Khaya’s unbreakable courage, other Sahrawi activists are also inspired to continue their self-determination and human rights struggle.

khaya's house

Sultana Khaya and her family are still under the surveillance and house arrest of Moroccan security forces in Boujdour. The siege was imposed without a court order or any legal basis, while none could visit her house or meet her in person. Forces vehicles are continuously blocking the entrance and other ways to enter her house. They strictly stop Khaya from moving outside her house and often physically assault her if she tries to come outside and wave the Sahrawi flag or film the forces treating others brutally.

Moroccan_AgentThe Moroccan forces have increased harassment, physical and sexual assault, brutality, and excessive force against other Sahrawi human rights activists over the last few months. In addition, the occupying forces impose surveillance on the human rights defenders to weaken their demonstrations and peaceful protests.

(Photo: Moroccan torturer and responsible for all violence against Sultana Khaya and her family.)

Karama Sahara is deeply concerned regarding the barbaric tactics of Moroccan authorities against the Sahrawi people and peaceful activists. Karama Sahara seeks the attention of the world leaders and human rights organizations to strongly reject the illegal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. The international community must hold the Moroccan government responsible for all the abuse the Saharawis endure, especially; the Khaya family.


Reported by: Karama Sahara

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