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Western Sahara activist ends hunger strike, returns home

In a stare-down between a starving lady and a king, the long odds won.

The Kingdom of Morocco agreed to return the passport of human rights activist Aminatou Haidar, after she staged a month-long hunger strike to protest her expulsion. She arrived home late Thursday.

Morocco deported Haidar, 42, on Nov. 13 upon her return from collecting a human rights award in New York City. She ran into trouble with authorities while filling out airport entry paperwork in Layounne, the main city in the disputed Western Sahara territory. Haidar gave her address as being in “Western Sahara,” an entity Morocco has refused to recognize since it annexed the region in 1975.

Haidar — who has been jailed several times for her advocacy of Western Sahara independence — says Moroccan authorities then confiscated her passport and ordered her expelled.

Morocco insisted she voluntarily renounced her citizenship.

It’s still unclear what precisely broke the impasse, but an official in Morocco’s foreign ministry said Friday Haidar agreed to forgo any mention of Western Sahara in her entry documents.

Morocco had also been under increasing pressure from Spain, France and the United States to resolve the matter.

Morocco’s often-secretive Interior Ministry acknowledged as much in a rare statement issued via the state-run wire service, saying, “Haidar's return followed repeated calls made, particularly by friendly countries, to find, from a humanitarian perspective, a solution to the situation."