Student groups at the University of Manchester in England and Edinburgh University in Scotland have launched solidarity hunger strikes in support of the Palestinian prisoners’ strike for freedom and dignity that have now extended for days of action in support of the prisoners’ struggle. Their campaign is now spreading across Europe, with activists in Madrid, Turin, Brussels, London and elsewhere joining growing solidarity strikes that highlight the prisoners’ demands and their urgent calls for support.
After 1500 Palestinian prisoners launched their hunger strike on 17 April for a series of demands, including an end to the denial of family visits, the right to access distance higher education, appropriate medical care and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, protests across Palestine and around the world have demanded freedom for Palestinian prisoners and urged the immediate implementation of their demands. Now in their 17th day without food, strikers are facing harsh repression – including denial of legal visits, frequent transfers, and isolation of strike leaders – inside Israeli prisons.
In Palestine, a number of solidarity hunger strikes and fasts have been organized to support the prisoners, including a large one-day strike in Gaza, a five-day strike by Lina Khattab and fellow Bir Zeit University students who are themselves former prisoners, and ongoing open-ended solidarity strikes in the protest tents in Qalqilya, Jenin, Nablus and elsewhere. A call has been issued from Palestine for a day-long solidarity strike by artists and other cultural workers on 3-4 May, linking with ongoing art actions by Decolonize this Place in support of the strikers.
Internationally, there have been several solidarity fasts in support of the hunger strikers, including a one-day hunger strike organized by lawyers, legal workers and law students with the National Lawyers Guild. Students have taken the lead in organizing these international solidarity strikes, with groups at the University of Manchester and Edinburgh University organizing ongoing, sustained strikes in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners.
On 27 April, five students who work with the BDS Campaign at the University of Manchester launched a hunger strike; the campaign has been subject to campus repression and silencing of activities, including university administrators’ attempts to shut down Israeli Apartheid Week.
“Decades ago, university students were key in demanding the end of apartheid of South Africa. University students have paid a key role in many anti-racist struggles, including Black Lives Matter. The struggle for justice for the Palestinians is no different, they have 70 years of unremitting mistreatment, including thousands of deaths, systemic expulsions, institutional racism and apartheid. We stand in solidarity with them,” wrote the strikers.
“The pain, solidarity and hunger will keep us in solidarity with the Palestinian hunger strikers as they continue their struggle,” said Huda Ammori, one of the organizing students. The students have been chronicling their experiences on hunger strike in a series of videos (below) published by the Middle East Monitor.
Next, students affiliated with the Edinburgh University Communist Society launched a hunger strike on campus to build support for Palestinian political prisoners. Like the Manchester students, they linked their own campaign as part of local and global justice movements – and their Israeli Apartheid Week event was also repressed by university administration.
“As committed Irish republicans, we often look to the socialist martyrs of 1981, and the sacrifice they made. We know, that occupying a building, or holding a strike will only achieve so much- but by putting our bodies through the potential dangers of a hunger strike, we are hoping people will realise just how committed we are to Palestine,” wrote the students, who called on the university to boycott and divest from apartheid Israel.
Now, the strike is growing as fellow student and community groups across Europe have launched a call for hunger strikes starting 3 May. Confirmed participants are coming from Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Ireland. “As European citizens, we feel a responsibility to support the Palestinian cause for an end of the occupation, apartheid and settler colonialism. It is not only our right, but also our responsibility to end this injustice…We hope everyone who stands with Palestine, including MPs, will show their support. Through our actions, we hope to raise awareness of the Palestinian cause in our respective towns and cities across Europe,” write the organizers in their call to action.
Students with Progetto Palestina in Turin, Italy are launching their hunger strike on 4 May, even as they organize a campus event in support of the strikers on 3 May, with more cities planning to join in, including activists in Madrid, Brussels, Bologna, Rome and elsewhere.
In London, Ayssar Shamallakh, a British-Palestinian activist who has been organizing in support of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike with the 17 April Group, announced on 2 May that he is launching an open hunger strike in London, with a gathering at Parliament Square, next to the statue of Nelson Mandela.
Numerous events and actions are being organized in the coming days in support of Palestinian political prisoners, with demonstrations and gatherings in Turin, Cardiff, Charleroi, Coventry, Paris, Johannesburg, Brussels and Dearborn on 3 May, and in Chicago, Middletown, London, Oslo, Belfast, Dublin, Newbridge and Galway on 4 May, with ongoing events stretching into the future in New York, Brussels, Berlin and elsewhere.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all supporters of justice in Palestine to join these solidarity hunger strike campaigns, participate in announced protests, or organize events, demonstrations and actions in your own city to support the hunger strikers and build solidarity for their actions.
Join the Europe hunger strike action: https://www.facebook.com/events/165331540662107/
Send your events and actions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook, or use the form to tell us about your actions. We will be regularly updating our international list of events and actions to support the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
Videos from the Manchester strikers