Maher Al-Akhras has been on a hunger strike for 102 days in protest against the administrative detention Israeli occupation forces (IOF) imposed on him. Administrative detention is a tool IOF use to arrest and detain Palestinians without charge and trial. Al-Akhras is not the first Palestinian to abstain from eating in protest against administrative detention. Hunger Strikes, Dignity Strikes or ‘the Battle of Empty Stomachs’ are names for a method of resistance many Palestinian detainees adopt. Of particular significance is the one implemented in 2012 by Samer Al-Issawi who won ‘the Battle of Empty Stomachs’ after 266 of fasting.
Al-Akhras, 49-year-old man and father of six children, was arrested by IOF in late July without any charge. Before and after pictures of Al-Akhras demonstrate the effect his ‘Dignity Strike’ has had on his health. Although Al-Akhras’s health salutation had dramatically deteriorated and hence he was admitted to hospital, the IOF has refused to set him free in spite of the heart-wrenching videos of Al-Akhras and his family.
A recent video shows Al-Akhras’s little daughter weeping in a hospital pleading to see her father after 90 days of his detention. Her cries found no ears. The man who was guarding her father’s door did not pay the slightest heed to the girl’s pleas or to those of her mother’s. His attitude does not only represent him, but the very dogmas of the state. The most recent one, which was released on the 1st of November, shows Al-Akhras on his hospital bed shaking from what seems an intolerable pain.
There are several reports of Al-Akhras’s deteriorating health condition. In addition to the convulsions Al-Akhras is suffering from, he is on the brink of losing his sight, hearing and ability to speak. It is worth noting, however, that the detention of Al-Akhras does not only pose a threat to his health, but to the life and well-being of his wife and six children. Unfortunately, this is not an individual case since there are hundreds of administrative detainees in Israeli prisons, including children. Moreover, concerns over Al-Akhras’s health and other Palestinian detainees increase in the midst of the current Covid-19 crisis. According to OHCHR, thousands of Palestinian prisoners “remain dangerously vulnerable in the context of the current pandemic”.
In spite of the grim reality, there are several measures people can do to support Al-Akhras and other detainees. Such measures include forming solidarity groups consisting of lawyers, journalists and activists to raise awareness regarding the inhuman consequences of administrative detention. Regardless of their occupation, all people can participate in supporting Maher Al-Akhras through their social media platforms, through urging more people in the West to boycott Israeli products and those that support the Israeli occupation army.
The irony in the freedom fighter’s name cannot be missed. Al-Akhras is an Arabic word meaning a person who lacks the ability to speak. In fact, Al-AKhras has been speaking and his voice is loud and clear, but the world is deaf.
Featured image via Middle East Monitor.