Ahmad Zahran enters 112th day of hunger strike: Freedom now!

Ahmad Zahran’s wife, Karima, at a demonstration urging freedom for Ahmad Zahran, Ramallah. Photo: Wattan News

Palestinian prisoner Ahmad Zahran, jailed without charge or trial under Israeli administrative detention since March 2019, has been on hunger strike for 112 days. He is demanding freedom from administrative detention and launched his strike after his detention was renewed by an Israeli military order. He previously launched a 39-day hunger strike, which ended with a promise for his release that the Israeli military ignored, renewing his detention order without charges.

Zahran, 42 and the father of four from the village of Deir Abu Mishaal near Ramallah, has lost over 35 kilograms (77 pounds) of weight during his hunger strike. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Affairs Commission reports that he is unable to walk and suffers pain throughout his body. Nevertheless, he is repeatedly being transferred between Kaplan civilian hospital and the Ramleh prison clinic, despite the fact that these transfers are very draining for the already-frail hunger striker. His family characterized the ongoing transfers as another form of pressure imposed upon him in an attempt to break his strike. Palestinian prisoners brought to Israeli civilian hospitals are routinely shackled to their hospital beds, even if they are severely ill or unconscious.

Further, they noted that he had not received visits from either his lawyer or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for one week because these transfers were taking place so frequently. On 7 January, the Ofer military court rejected his appeal against his administrative detention after weeks of delay and instead called on him to end his strike.

Within the prisons, fellow Palestinians are continuing to support Zahran. Jamil Ankoush, a fellow prisoner jailed nearly 20 years, has been engaged in a 16-day solidarity hunger strike demanding the implementation of Zahran’s demand for freedom. In the past, Zahran was jailed for almost 15 years through multiple arrests.

Palestinian scouts in Gaza support Ahmad Zahran. Photo: Hadf News

In Gaza City, progressive scouting groups had a youth day in support of Ahmad Zahran on 11 January, supporting his hunger strike against administrative detention. Palestinian children learned about Zahran’s case, his hunger strike and the history of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, including hunger strikes. They also presented about Zahran and their work as youth groups in Gaza to an Italian delegation in solidarity with Palestine visiting the Strip.

Palestinian scouts in Gaza support Ahmad Zahran. Photo: Hadf News

Zahran declared in a statement released by his family, “I will not submit to the occupier. I will not remain silent in the face of crimes. I will raise my voice loudly. If it is muted, I will speak with my eyes and with my heart. If I confront it with my empty stomach and my slim bod, this is a cry of my conscience to the conscience of all of the people in the world who love freedom. I know that I, my four children, my wife, my close and extended family are not alone. By our side are all of the freedom-loving people of the world, and therefore, this struggle will continue until victory.”

Zahran’s wife, Karima, said that their four children, ranging in age from seven to 15 are eagerly awaiting news about his situation. She told Hadf News that they have had to live for many years without their father, due to repeated arrests by Israeli occupation forces, but they suffer from his absence. “Their celebrations are not happy, their days are not days, and even their joy is not true joy. They wake up and ask every day: is there anything new about our father? May we hear his voice on a call? Is there a decision to let us see him? Why are we banned from seeing him anyway?”

Prisoners’ associations have highlighted that there is a deliberate attempt on the part of Israeli occupation authorities, particularly the intelligence services, to block any agreement that would lead to his release. The Shin Bet demanded Zahran stop his hunger strike so that they could interrogate him, which he refused. Despite not interrogating him since his arrest, they also urged the Ofer military court to delay any action on the case so that he could be interrogated and potentially brought up on charges before the military courts.

Political and social associations in Ramallah and al-Bireh called for action to support the prisoners. On Tuesday, 14 January, they called for participation in a protest at 1:00 pm at Al-Manara Square in Ramallah in support of Ahmad Zahran and fellow Palestinian prisoners. The protest will also emphasize the need for mobilization to defend the homes of prisoners targeted for demolition by the Israeli occupation forces in Bir Zeit, al-Tira and elsewhere.

Zahran is one of approximately 450 Palestinians held in administrative detention, of around 5,000 total Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails. These detention orders, introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate and then adopted by the Zionist project, are issued for up to six months at a time but are indefinitely renewable on the basis of “secret evidence.” Palestinians may be jailed for years at a time due to indefinitely renewable detention orders.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network reiterates our full and unconditional solidarity with Ahmad Zahran and all Palestinian prisoners struggling for freedom. We urge all supporters of justice around the world to take a stand with Ahmad Zahran, whose life is on the line as he struggles to bring an end to administrative detention. International solidarity can be important to show Palestinian prisoners like Ahmad Zahran that they are not forgotten and to put pressure on the Israeli state – and the governments that support it – to support Zahran in achieving victory for justice and freedom.

Join the call to action: https://samidoun.net/2019/12/ahmad-zahran-heads-toward-100-days-of-hunger-strike-demand-his-freedom/