Palestinian prisoners are gearing up for a large hunger strike, scheduled to begin on 17 April, commemorated each year as Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. Prisoners from all political factions have indicated plans for the strike, to center on collective issues of struggle for the prisoners, especially the ongoing denial of family visits and cuts to the lifeline provided by family visitation by the constant “security” denials of the Israeli prison administration as well as the “budget cuts” pretext of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Fateh prisoners announced on Friday, 24 March their program of struggle for the strike, confirming that imprisoned Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi will represent Fateh prisoners in all negotiations or decisions concerning the open hunger strike.  In a statement, Barghouthi urged widespread actions and protests to support the prisoners’ demands.

The demands of the strike released so far by the Fateh prisoners include:

Family Visits – The return of the second monthly visit that was suspended by the ICRC; the end of prohibitions on family visits and denials of visitation for first- and second-degree relations. Extending the duration of visits from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours; allowing photography for each prisoner with their families every three months.

Women prisoners – Respond to the demands of women prisoners regarding private transportation (as opposed to the bosta system) and direct visits with family members, including children, without barriers between relatives.

Medical care – Ramleh prison hospital is unfit for treatment; prisoners must receive periodic examinations and surgery on a quick and responsive basis; allow the entry of private doctors who are specialists to examine sick prisoners; release ill prisoners with high-level medical needs and terminal illness; do not charge prisoners for their medical care.

Bosta (transportation van) – Humane treatment of prisoners during transport and transfer; return the prisoners promptly to prison from clinics and courts rather than holding them for lengthy periods at crossing points; humane treatment at the crossing points, including access to bathrooms and food.

Additional specific demands include:

  • Ending solitary confinement
  • Ending administrative detention
  • Allowing the entry of books, newspapers, clothing, food and other gifts from family members
  • Restoring the right to access education at the Hebrew Open University
  • Additional kitchens for prisons under the complete supervision of the prisoners
  • Formal provision of the general secondary school examinations (Tawjihi) for prisoners
  • Access to additional satellite channels
  • Installation of a public phone for prisoners to communicate with their families

Building international solidarity for the prisoners in their struggle will be critical. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges organizations and activists to prepare for the upcoming collective hunger strike and build events, actions and demonstrations to support their demands.