WASHINGTON, D.C./Boujdour, Western Sahara, May 26, 2022 — Three US women heading to visit their friends in Boujdour, Western Sahara, were forcibly turned back on May 23rd when they landed at Laayoune Airport. Twelve men and six women Moroccan agents physically overpowered them and placed them against their will on a plane back to Casablanca. During the scuffle, one of the women’s shirts and bra were pulled up to expose her breasts. In the cultural context of the passengers on the plane, this was a serious form of harassment and violence against women.
Wynd Kaufmyn said of her treatment by the Moroccan forces, “We refused to cooperate with their illegal actions. I repeatedly shouted out on the departing airplane that I wanted to go to Boujdour to visit Sultana Khaya, who has endured torture and rape at the hands of Moroccan agents.
Adrienne Kinne said, “We were not told the legal basis for our detention or deportation though we asked repeatedly. I believe this was due to our detention and deportation being a violation of international human rights law.”
Kinne further expressed dismay, “I am sorry that the female officers were put in a position by their male superiors to restrain us. This is another example of pitting women against women to serve the egos of men in power.
Lacksana Peters said, “I have never been to Morocco or Western Sahara before. This kind of treatment leads me to think that we should boycott Morocco and double down on efforts to visit Western Sahara. The Moroccans must be hiding something.”
Meanwhile, the siege of the Khaya Sisters by the Moroccan forces continues despite the presence of additional Americans visiting the home. Although forced entry and attacks in the house have stopped, many visitors to the Khaya home have been tortured and beaten in the last few weeks.
The delegation is heading home and will go immediately to the White House and State Department to demand that the US stop enabling the Moroccan government in these human rights abuses. They invite all who care about human rights to join their voices and speak up for Saharawi rights and against violence against women. Wynd Kaufmyn said, “I hope all who can join us to stop the siege of the Khaya family home, the rapes and beatings of Saharawi women, and call for an independent investigation into the human rights situation in Western Sahara.”