As a young woman, Aminatou Haidar’s thirst to free her native Western Sahara from Moroccan rule saw her tortured during three years in prison. Four decades later, the occupying government still sees her as a dangerous separatist and agitator. But Haidar may be the strongest force preventing her fellow Sahrawis, some 170,000 of them in Algerian exile, from taking up arms. As younger leaders emerge, Haidar worries they won’t share her patience and will follow burgeoning regional militant movements toward violence.
What divides the generations? Haidar’s contemporaries know the cost of war, having lost family members, while for younger Sahrawis, armed struggle is a more abstract path to independence.