Former Palestinian prisoner Etaf Alayan launches hunger strike to demand the release of Khader Adnan’s body and the detained martyrs’ bodies

Former Palestinian prisoner and long-term hunger striker Etaf Alayan launched a hunger strike on Sunday, 7 May, outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Al-Bireh, occupied Palestine, to demand the release of the body of Khader Adnan and his fellow detained martyrs in the occupation’s morgues.

“I will not stop my strike until his body is handed over and buried next to his father, according to his will,” Alayan said. Khader Adnan, the Palestinian prisoner whose life was taken due to medical neglect and the policy of “slow killing” after 86 days of hunger strike inside the occupation prisons on 2 May, carried out six hunger strikes inside the occupation prisons, winning his liberation from administrative detention without charge or trial on four occasions.

His body, like hundreds of Palestinian martyrs, including prisoners who have died inside the occupation prisons, is currently being detained by the Israeli occupation, which refuses to return him to his family for burial. The International Campaign to Liberate the Bodies of Detained Martyrs highlights and demands an end to this ongoing policy of collective punishment against Palestinian families and the Palestinian people as a whole.

Alayan, 61, previously spent 14 years in Israeli occupation prisons. Prior to Khader Adnan’s 2011-2012 66-day hunger strike, she carried out the longest individual strike against administrative detention by a Palestinian prisoner, striking for 44 days in 1997 to win her freedom.

She brought a mattress, blankets and her bags with her, emphasizing that she intended to continue the strike until Adnan’s body is released. Alayan said that she chose to carry out her strike in front of the ICRC building to demand that it and fellow international institutions be responsible towards Palestinian martyrs and prisoners. “The occupation thought that it silenced Khader Adnan’s voice by assassinating him, but it will learn that he has moved the hearts of all free people,” Alayan said.

Randa Musa, the widow of Khader Adnan, called for support for Alayan’s strike: “I send a message to all the free people of the world, to follow in the footsteps of the freed prisoner, sister Etaf Alayan, in pressuring human rights and international institutions to implement Sheikh Khader Adnan’s will.”

Etaf Alayan is a Palestinian refugee who was born in Bethlehem on 20 October 1962, with a family originally from Khaldeh near al-Ramleh. Palestine Today has written more extensively about her distinguished life in struggle for Palestinian liberation.

In her youth, she joined the Palestinian revolutionary movement, seeking military training in Beirut from the Fateh movement in 1980 at the age of 17. She was inspired to join the Palestinian revolution from an early age, having witnessed the training camps of the fedayeen as a 7-year-old girl visiting family in Amman, Jordan; as a student, she aimed to join the resistance herself. However, her communication with Fateh and the revolution in Lebanon was cut off shortly after the Zionist invasion of Beirut in 1982. In 1984, she and a group of her comrades, acting as an early group of the Brigades of the Islamic Jihad in Palestine, planned to carry out a resistance operation at the headquarters of the Zionist prime minister.

She was arrested in August 1987, before the operation was planned to take place, and underwent harsh interrogation and torture at the Moskobiya interrogation center in Jerusalem, where she launched her first hunger strike, in which she refused to eat, speak and even drink for 12 days to demand an end to the interrogation and torture. She never confessed and brought her interrogation to an end through her strike. She was sentenced to five years in prison, to which an additional 10 years was added on charges of participating in confronting a Zionist warden in Ramla prison. She went on hunger strike again to demand her transfer from Abu Kabir prison and was transferred to Ramla prison. For four years, she was held in isolation and solitary confinement, during which her belongings were confiscated and she was denied family visits.

After her release in 1997 with all of the women prisoners, she was re-arrested by occupation forces only four months later in October 1997 and transferred to administrative detention, where she carried out a 44-day hunger strike, then the longest individual hunger strike by a Palestinian detainee confronting imprisonment without charge or trial, and won her release.

In 2002, she was arrested and imprisoned for nine months related to her work with the Al-Naqaa Charity Association, and she was imprisoned again for three years between 2005 and 2008 for opening a center that provided daily surgical and health services for Palestinians who were “wanted” and in hiding, pursued by the Israeli occupation forces. In 2006, she went on hunger strike to end her separation from her infant daughter, Aisha. Aisha entered the prison with her mother for a year and a half, until Etaf and Aisha’s release in 2008.

Since her first arrest, she has been subjected to a travel ban, and her home has been raided more than once. From 1997 to 2020, she headed an Islamic Women’s Association, which operated a kindergarten and a school, and is a member of the Women Prisoners’ League for Freedom and the Jerusalem Center for Literature. She regularly visits the families of martyrs and prisoners. She is married to Walid Hodali, a novelist, member of the Palestinian Writers’ Union and the Jerusalem Center for Literature, who himself previously spent 15 years in Israeli occupation prisons.

Palestine Today reports, “Alayan adopts Islamic thought, and believes in the importance of building a national relationship with all who strive for Palestinian liberation, regardless of ideological differences. She rejects the Oslo accord and sees that the path of ‘negotiations’ has proven its failure, and believes that the Palestinian factions suffer from internal weakness and a lack of a strong vision for confronting the occupier, especially after Oslo. She supports the resistance in all forms and believes in the necessity of a real Palestinian alliance that seeks to bring the occupation to an end…She believes in the liberation of historic Palestine and the return of Palestinian refugees to the homes from which they were expelled, and affirms that the liberation of Palestine is an inevitable divine promise no matter how long it takes.”

Alayan has written part of her experience, which was published by Beitunia municipality in 2021.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses our strongest support and solidarity with Etaf Alayan, continuing her lifelong legacy of struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine, with her action for the liberation of Khader Adnan’s body and the liberation of the bodies of the martyrs. We urge all supporters of Palestine to escalate pressure on the ICRC and similar bodies to take meaningful action and uphold their responsibilities to the prisoners, martyrs and entire people of Palestine.