Solidarity activists turn to social media to raise awareness of hunger strikers

by: Dr Sarah Marusek | reposted fromThe Middle East Monitor

“After I stop eating, how many days does it take before the hunger pains go away? How long will I continue to suffer from thirst? And how many days can I go before I risk dying?”

freedom-for-alaa-hammadFortunately most of us will never have to ask these questions, let alone experience the horrific answers. Instead we have the privilege to learn online from Visualizing Palestine’s excellent infographic that it takes two or three days for our stomach cramps to disappear, 15 days before we lose our sensation of thirst, and 45 days before we put our heart at risk of failure.

However, Palestinian prisoners do not have the same privilege, and many of them have intimately come to know the answers to these questions after being unjustly detained in Israeli jails and held under inhumane conditions. Oppressed by Israeli’s apartheid system of injustice, and experiencing a kind of suffering that is invisible to the rest of the world, many of these prisoners have no other choice but to go on hunger strikes to demand justice.

For example, after being arrested in December 2011 and held without charge, Khader Adnan went on a full hunger strike for 66 days before Israel capitulated and agreed to his release. Shortly afterwards, around 1,500 Palestinian prisoners launched a mass hunger strike to protest against the Israeli practice of ‘administrative detention,’ a policy that allows the occupation authorities to indefinitely detain Palestinians based on ‘secret information’ and without any formal charges or due process. Most of these detainees are also denied visits with their families, as well as adequate medical attention.

Many other Palestinian prisoners have also used hunger strikes to demand freedom and justice in recent years, and today the Palestinian-Jordanian prisoner Alaa Hammad has been on a hunger strike since May, only drinking water and taking vitamins. According to his lawyer, Iyad Al-Dababseh, Hammad is currently in Soroka hospital due to his deteriorating health condition. All the while the occupation authorities have continued to shackle his hands and feet to the bed.

Hammad, who was born in Jerusalem, was arrested in 2006 and sentenced to 12 years in prison after confessing to several alleged crimes under torture, including planning to kidnap an Israeli soldier in order to make a prisoner exchange and contacting Syria, a country that Israel considers to be hostile. During the first six years of his sentence, Hammad underwent several hunger strikes just to be granted contact with his family so that his six children could better know that they still have a father who loves them.

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