5 Jordanian Hunger Strikers in Israeli Jails “Hungry for Freedom”
So Samer Issawi, a Palestinian prisoner, is to be free. He will return valiantly to the place he belongs after an extensive hunger strike that lasted 277 days. His house destroyed and neighborhood demolished, its roots pulled out, not even a room has survived. Yet, he will live in Jerusalem where, I hope, he will be allowed to just be. Samer is not the first hunger striker nor will he be the last.
23 Hunger Strikers
Prisoners’ Club reports that 23 detainees are currently on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. As of May, Abdullah Al-Barghouti is striking with four other Palestinians holding Jordanian citizenship. Having been detained since March 5th, 2003, he is suffering from many health problems including “potassium deficiency and several wounds in his feet and hands due to shackles”. His lawyer Hanan Al-Khatib says that since launching their strike, Al-Barghouti and other hunger strikers have been isolated in several jails.
Amani Srahani, spokesperson for the Prisoners’ Club, informed me that two weeks ago “Al-Barghouthi was transferred from Al Ramleh prison hospital to Afola, an isolated prison hospital. This is indeed a sign of his critical condition.” The prisoners are refusing food and are not taking any supplements, depending only on salt and water. When a hunger strike commences, the Israeli Prison Service starts randomly storming the hunger strikers’ cells. They use attack dogs to scare them and intimidate them into halting their strikes. They also grill food and eat it in front of them.
They Deserve Freedom
It is worth mentioning that this strike is not the first for the Jordanian prisoner. In April, 17th, 2012, all the prisoners strike asking for family visit and the end of solitary confinement. Once the Israeli prison forces agree on their demands, they end their strike. Yet, the deal hasn’t been applied to the Jordanian prisoners. They are still prohibited from many rights including family visits.
Adding to the first point, Ayman Hamdan and Emad Al-Batran are protesting their administrative detention. Ayman Al-Tabeesh has been on hunger strike since May 23 when a 4-month administrative detention order was issued against him following his arrest on May 9th. Adel Hareebat has been on hunger strike for 26 days when a 6-month administrative detention renewal was issued for him. He has spent 10 years altogether in occupation prisons, including 3 years in administrative detention. Israel’s random use of administrative detention violates the strict standards allowed an occupying power and as such is odious in the extreme.
According to Shereen Nafe, spokesperson of the media team supporting the Jordanian prisoners (Fedaa), “As a result of the miserable situations prisoners have to face, no prisoner in Israeli jails escapes from being afflicted by some kinds of illness. Most of the hunger strikers already have health problems prior to the commencement of their strikes.” She adds that the Jordanian hunger strikers are the worst off among the total of 23 hunger strikers. Many have been placed in solitary confinement including Ayman Hamdan who is afflicted with skin diseases caused by his cell being only a few meters away from a trash dump. Some have lost the ability to walk and are in wheelchairs; like Mohammad Rimawi who is suffering from high blood pressure, fatigue, fever, and inflammation. He also has stomach ache, abdominal pain and heart disorder. Sometimes his heart beat is 125 and sometimes it drops to 50 beats per minute. Each of the Jordanian prisoners has lost at least 18 kilograms.
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association’s lawyer Faris Ziyad reports that the demands of the Jordanian hunger strikers are: “First, to be released from Israeli prisons so they can serve their sentences in Jordanian prisons according to the Wadi Araba Agreement between Jordan and Israel. This agreement was previously applied to the case of prisoner Sultan Al-Ajouli, who was transferred to Jordanian custody in accordance with the agreement. Second, the Occupation must disclose the whereabouts of missing Jordanian prisoners, of which there are 20. Third, the Occupation removes martyrs from the ‘numbered graves’, where prisoners who died in custody are currently kept in nameless graves.”
A Final Word
I have spoken to three of the Jordanian prisoners’ families. They affirm the prisoners all have unbelievably strong wills and determination. Every day, they demonstrate in different places in the sun. They speak up for justice sharing one hope, “Hunger strikers will not stop until their demands are met.”