26 April 2017 | Hawa Mayere | Cartoon: Carlos Latuf
The Palestinian fight for freedom from Israeli occupation has been a struggle that has seen many arrested, abused and even killed.
The 50 year history has been characterised by the detention of thousands of men, women and children, often under dubious judicial reasoning.
Under a system called ‘administrative detention’, Palestinians suspected of trying to fight for what is rightfully theirs can be detained without trial.
Children as young as ten years old are being detained and denied basic human rights. Currently over 6500 Palestinian political prisoners are being held and over 1500 have embarked on a hunger strike which began on Monday 17 April 2017.
The hunger strike has started gaining support worldwide and in South Africa the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has thrown its weight behind the campaign. On social networks the hashtag #DignityStrike has taken hold to highlight the simple right to dignity that is being called for.
Together with the Palestine Solidarity Alliance and the Embassy of the State of Palestine in South Africa, the AKF called on South Africans to mobilise themselves and take a stand against the oppression happening to the Palestinians.
Speaking at a media briefing held at the Constitutional Hill Women Prison in Johannesburg on Monday, 24 April 2017, former Robben Island political prisoner Mpho Masemola said, “A hunger strike is when political prisoners have exhausted all means for their cry to be heard , it is the last straw one resorts to because many of the prisoners are suffering from chronic diseases which is risky .”
He went on to explain the difficult situation faced by the Palestinian prisoners and how organisations, political parties, charities and human rights bodies in and around South Africa need to stand firmly together and support the prisoners and the Palestine struggle .
The main demands of the prisoners include simple human rights such as the ability to receive appropriate medical care, ending abusive and unhealthy conditions, allowing family visits and stopping the use of solitary confinement and administrative detention.