Today marks the anniversary of the start of the 1981 Long Kesh hunger strike against the criminalisation of republican policical prisoners. On this day 32 years ago Bobby Sands first began to refuse food, and wrote, prophetically, that he was “standing on the threshold of another trembling world. May God have mercy on my soul.”
Another prisoner who has followed the same path is Samer Issawi, a 34 year old political activist and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who has been on hunger strike for over 200 days. He is now close to death. The following account is by éirígí.
Previously imprisoned by the Israeli regime as a result of his political activism, Issawi was released in 2011 as part of a prisoner exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He was then re-arrested in July 2012 when his licence was revoked by the Israeli military, something which will resonate with Irish republicans familiar with the continued plight of Marian Price.
Since then Issawi has been continuously held in custody without charge or trial. Israeli judges claim he breached the conditions of his release but insist that this is based on ‘secret information’ which cannot be made public and so no defence can be prepared. Issawi went on hunger strike almost immediately following his internment, demanding that he is either released or afforded a proper trial.
While in custody Issawi has repeatedly been denied access to visits from his family and meetings with his lawyer. There have been widespread reports of inadequate medical treatment for Palestinian prisoners and often minor medical complaints are left untreated until they become serious conditions.
Issawi’s family have faced persecution as a result of his protest - two of his siblings have been arrested, and another brother’s house has been demolished. The water supply to his parent’s home has also been cut off. The repression suffered by Issawi and his family shows clearly the plight of those who dare to take a stand against Israeli occupation.
Samer Issawi is close to death, his internal organs and his vision failing. He has lost so much weight he has become barely recognisable to his own family. Yet he continues to do exactly what he has done for his entire life; resist the Israeli persecution of the Palestinian people. Samer Issawi has shown the world the unyielding spirit of the Palestinian people; he will not succumb to Israel’s barbaric treatment.
Issawi has inspired resistance within the Occupied West Bank. Recently hundreds of Palestinians protested outside Ofer prison calling for his immediate release. Predictably these protests have been met with violence by the Israeli military who are terrified of collective Palestinian resistance. éirígí joins the growing international call for the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners and commends Samer Issawi for his brave resistance.
“My detention is unjust and illegal, just like the Palestinian occupation. My demands are legitimate and thus I will not withdraw from the battle for freedom, waiting for either victory and freedom-or martyrdom.”