Release Or Death: Stories From Families Of Palestinian Hunger Strikers

The international community is turning a blind eye to the daily abuses committed by the Israeli occupation forces in Palestine. Though the Palestinians received huge support from all over the world in the latest Intifada, it was not enough to pressure Israel to halt its provocative policy in the occupied territories. The number of Palestinian prisoners is increasing day by day. An administrative detention system is a tool used by the occupied forces to detain innocent Palestinians without any legal justifications. Hence, given the power imbalances, the Palestinians have no other option but to resist. The hunger strike is one of the forms of Palestinian resistance in such an asymmetric conflict.

Core Middle East conducted an interview with the families of the Palestinian hunger strikers: Alaa Al Raj, Miqdad Al Qawasmeh, and Kayed Al Fasfous on October 1, 2021.

Part A: Interview with Alaa Al Raj’s wife

What is the latest update on Alaa?

The lawyer informed us that Alaa is expected to have a court session on October 6, 2021. He got arrested and released multiple times without any legal justifications. In the past five years, we couldn’t unite as one family.

When did you last meet him? Are family visits being allowed right now?

We haven’t met him for so long. Family visits are restricted, if not banned, in administrative prisons. His lawyer keeps informing us of Alaa’s health condition, but the information we have is very limited.

Which prison is holding him currently?

The Israeli authorities have been transferring him between multiple prisons because of his health condition. Now, he is held in Ramleh prison, where he is treated inhumanely.

When was he arrested? Did they charge him?

As I told you, he got arrested multiple times during the past 5 years. He was released for a very short period of less than 1 year.

No, he is not charged with anything. In the administrative prisons, the Israeli authorities keep detaining innocent people without any legal justifications.

How long has it been since he has been on a hunger strike?

It has been more than 55 days. Could you imagine that his son can no longer identify him?. I told you that they haven’t met for so long. Alaa made his decision to start a hunger strike because of his son. I wish we could live a normal life one day.

What is the current health condition of the prisoner?

He is not well. I was informed that his health is deteriorating, but the Israeli authorities won’t do anything unless he is about to die. Now, he is almost paralyzed. He can’t walk, so he uses a motorized electric wheelchair.

I was informed that he got hospitalized multiple times because of his blood pressure and sugar level. He is currently suffering from Urinary incontinence, the state of peeing without control, though it’s embarrassing to say that. The prison he is held in is too bad.

Has the Red Cross taken any action?

No, they are not giving enough attention to the issue. I asked them to help me, but they could not do anything. They are not cooperative at all. We need some help from the Ministry of Detainees. It’s the only official body that has the right to legally pressure Israel to halt its provocative policy.

What did the lawyer say?

The lawyer has very limited access to Alaa. He could not get enough information. The administrative prisons do not allow for family visits as well as lawyer visits unless they want to.

Tell us a little bit about Alaa.

He is a very smart and ambitious person. He graduated first in his class with distinction. He was even described as a smart cookie.

Did you speak to the media before?

No. I rely on social media platforms.

What are you planning to do next?

I am waiting for him. I have hope that he will return one day so we can live together. I need someone to help me. I need to get in contact with any official organization that has enough power to pressure the Israeli authorities to let my husband out.

At the end of the day, he was in control of everything. I used to work as an engineer but I lost my job. Our family is trying to offer help, but I need my husband back. Is it too much to ask for?

Do you have anything to say out loud?

I want my husband back. As I told you, I need to get in contact with any official organization that has enough power to pressure the Israeli authorities to let my husband out. No one understands or feels what we are getting through.

PART B: Interview with Kayed’s wife

What is the latest update on Kayed? When did you last meet him?

Kayed is currently held in the hospital of the Ramlah prison. He had a court session last week, but nothing has changed on the ground. We are still waiting.

We haven’t met him for so long. Family visits are not allowed at all. We have to contact his lawyer to inform us of his latest updates.

Which prison is holding him currently?

As I told you, he is currently held in the hospital of the Ramlah prison, where he is treated inhumanely. I heard that he got tortured when he started the hunger strike.

When was he arrested? Did they charge him?

He got arrested in 2008 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison. They arrested him again in 2019 and released him after a period of time. Then in 2020, they arrested him for the third time. No, they haven’t charged him with anything.

For how many days he has been on a hunger strike? What is the current health condition of the prisoner? What did the lawyer say?

80 days (as of this writing).

His health is deteriorating. Earlier this month, his heart stopped beating for seconds, but thank god he is still alive. He had lost a lot of weight. Now he is 55 Kg. Months ago, he was 95 kg.

The lawyer has very limited access to Kayed. He could not get enough information. The administrative prisons do not allow for family visits as well as lawyer visits unless they want to.

Has ICRC done anything?

No, they are not giving enough attention to the issue. I asked them to help me, but they could not do anything. They are not cooperative at all.

I am waiting for him. I have hope that he will return one day so we can live like a normal family. I need someone to help me. We have no plans to leave the occupied territories.

He was in control of everything. But we are not asking for financial help. I need my husband back.

If you had the platform to speak, what would you say to the international community?

Freedom for all Palestinian prisoners. I need real and effective cooperation from the international community. They say we care about human rights, democracy, and rule of law, but they haven’t done anything. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is not doing its job as well. His daughter keeps asking about her father. Please keep sharing our stories. I believe in the power of social media.

PART C: Interview with Miqdad’s mother and sister

What is the latest update on Miqdad? Did they charge him?

Miqdad is currently held in a military hospital, where he is treated inhumanely. They keep transforming him from one hospital to another, but they do not want to let him out. He is not charged with anything. In administrative prisons, the Israeli authorities have the right to arrest any Palestinian without any legal reasons.

When did you meet him last?

No, family visits are not allowed. We haven’t met him yet. The lawyer keeps informing us of Miqdad’s update, but the information he has is very limited.

When was he arrested?

In the last four years, they have arrested and released him multiple times. He got arrested last May.

How many days till now since he is on hunger strike? What is the current health condition of the prisoner?

72 days (as of this writing).

His health is deteriorating. Now, he is almost paralyzed. He can’t walk, so he uses a motorized electric wheelchair. If you speak to him, he can not understand what you are trying to say. I can not imagine that my son, who loves all types of food, has been on a hunger strike for over 7o days.

Have you received assistance from any organization?

The Red Cross is not doing what is expected from them. They are not cooperative at all. Other than the Red Cross, no one is following Miqdad’s condition.

What did the lawyer say?

The lawyer has very limited access to Miqdad.

He could not get enough information. The administrative prisons do not allow for family visits as well as lawyer visits unless they want to.

Tell us a little bit about Miqdad.

Miqdad, 24, is known for his generosity. He is smart and ambitious. He has dreams of becoming a successful man one day.

Were you approached by the media before?

Yes, a British newspaper contacted me today. Yet, we need more international coverage of our issue. I want my son back.

How are you managing right now?

We are exhausted both mentally and financially.

Do you have any message for the international community?

Please end the administrative prison system. It’s unlawful. I have no idea why my son is being arrested. This system is unjust. They keep detaining our children under the guise of preserving national security. But, what did my son do? We are all born free. We will keep resisting until they let him out. Every day I join a small protest in the West Bank to call for the release of my son and other prisoners. Please share our stories. We believe in the role of social media. Help us end this humiliating system.

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