Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and the Palestinian Youth Organization in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps have come together to launch the Youth Campaign for Freedom for Bilal Kayed. The new campaign, coordinated by Samidoun organizer Mostafa Awad, is holding youth, children’s, and women’s workshops about Palestinian political prisoners; protests and demonstrations in support of Bilal Kayed and his fellow prisoners; and a wide range of public events and activities mobilizing Palestinian refugees in Lebanon around the prisoners’ struggle for liberation.
Following their participation in the rally in Beirut outside the French Ambassador’s residence on 14 July, for freedom for Georges Ibrahim Abdallah and Bilal Kayed, Samidoun and the PYO launched the Youth Campaign to mobilize the Palestinian refugee population around the issue of Palestinian prisoners. They began the campaign on Thursday, 21 July, distributing a joint statement on Bilal Kayed‘s hunger strike and the need for collective Palestinian support for the struggle of the prisoners for freedom.
Kayed, 34, has been on hunger strike since 15 June to demand his freedom from administrative detention without charge or trial. He was ordered to administrative detention upon the completion of his 14.5-year sentence in Israeli prison on 13 June 2016; his case is seen as threatening a precedent of indefinite imprisonment of Palestinian prisoners following the expiration of their sentences. He is currently shackled hand and foot to his hospital bed in Barzilai hospital, guarded at all times by three prison guards and under intense surveillance; he is unable to walk, has episodes of losing sight, experiences severe pain, and suffers dizziness and deep fatigue.
On 22 July, the Youth Campaign held an educational workshop for children in cooperation with the Palestinian Children’s Club of the Social Solidarity Center in Ain el-Helweh refugee camp, led by Samidoun’s Mostafa Awad. The workshop focused on educating children about the struggle of prisoners in occupied Palestine, the use of administrative detention, and the history and background of Bilal Kayed, currently on open hunger strike.
Following the workshop, the participating children lit candles in memory of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, shot on 22 July 1987, which would lead to his death one month later, on 29 August. Al-Ali is perhaps best known for the creation of the character Handala, a representation of a Palestinian refugee child viewing the injustice, exploitation, and oppression of the world. The participating children also lit candles for the freedom of Bilal Kayed and his fellow Palestinian prisoners.
The Youth Campaign also held a series of meetings between campaign organizers with Samidoun and the PYO and political forces and organizations in Ain el-Helweh refugee camp, including the Popular Committee in the camp. The delegation from the Youth Campaign presented about the struggle of Bilal Kayed and the prisoners, and the importance of the full involvement of the Palestinian diaspora and specifically Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, in all Palestinian national issues.
On Saturday, 23 July, the Youth Campaign organized a presentation on Kayed’s hunger strike and administrative detention in Israeli jails in the Arab Zubaid Social Association in Ain el-Helweh refugee camp. Mostafa Awad presented about the struggle of Bilal Kayed to the membership of the association, who urged the convening of more such workshops on emergent issues that impact all Palestinians, whether in exile and diaspora or inside occupied Palestine.
On 25 July, the Youth Campaign first presented on Kayed’s case and the prisoners’ struggle to the Popular Women’s Committees in Ain el-Helweh camp, screening a documentary film “Hunger Strike,” on the experiences and struggles of Palestinian prisoners over the years through hunger strikes and struggle within the prisons, followed by a Samidoun presentation on administrative detention and the life and struggle of Bilal Kayed.
The seminar was followed by a protest and demonstration in support of Bilal Kayed, organized as part of the World Student Day of Solidarity for Bilal Kayed and Palestinian Prisoners, in a central street of Ain el-Helweh camp, across from Human Call Hospital. Emergency medical workers at the hospital joined the protest as did other hospital staff, alongside Palestinian children of the camp, youth activists, and other Palestinian refugees in the camp, as a huge Palestinian flag fluttered from above.
Mostafa Awad of Samidoun appeared on Al-Quds TV to discuss the youth campaign and its work to free Bilal Kayed, as well as the importance of the prisoners’ struggle and organizing in the Palestinian diaspora. During the interview, he discussed his work with Raj’een dabkeh troupe in Belgium as well as organizing with Samidoun.
On 27 July, a Youth Campaign delegation met with Dr. Samah Idriss, editor of Al-Adab literary magazine and organizer of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon, working to build the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel in Lebanon and support the right of return for Palestinian refugees. They discussed and planned around work to build the BDS movement and the boycott of Israel in the Palestinian refugee camps, and the importance of Palestinian refugee leadership in organizing for the boycott of Israel of all types in Lebanon. The Campaign is currently organizing an ongoing effort to build the boycott of G4S, the massive security corporation that contracts with the Israel Prison Service to provide control rooms, equipment, and security systems for the imprisonment of Palestinians, among public, international, and business entities in Lebanon.
The Youth Campaign is continuing its series of actions, educational events, protests and workshops in the Palestinian refugee camps on the struggle of Palestinian prisoners and the case of Kayed in particular. Mostafa Awad will appear next week on Palestine Today TV, and a series of events are planned. The activities of the Youth Campaign can be followed at its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/freebilalkayid/