Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Red Cross closes Ramallah office to "pressure" hunger strikers

By John Space - February 19, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [International Committee of Red Cross] [Hunger Strike] [Khader Adnan] [Samer Issawi ]

The International Committee of the Red Cross has taken a disappointing role in the struggle to free Samer Issawi and all Palestinian political prisoners, by failing to internationalize the prisoners' cause on every level. 

Issawi was released as part of the prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas in October 2011, but was promptly rearrested in violation of the terms of the prisoner swap. He is being held in administrative detention with no formal charges and has carried on a partial hunger strike for over 200 days. So far, three other prisoners have joined Issawi's hunger strike. 

On February 11, Sheikh Khader Adnan, who was on hunger strike for 66 days in Israeli jail last year before being released, began a sit-in hunger strike at the Al-Bireh offices of the ICRC. Over the last week, several others have joined Adnan's hunger strike in the ICRC office.

The ICRC responded by shutting the offices, forcing people in need of its services (including family members of prisoners seeking permission to visit their jailed relatives) to go to Jericho, where it has relocated. Only the waiting area where the hunger strike is taking place remains open.

Nasser Hamamreh, who joined Adnan's hunger strike on Feb. 18, said the ICRC closed their offices in an attempt to force the hunger strikers to give up their struggle.

We're not planning to move anywhere, and we invite the employees of the Red Cross to come back and do their duty


"This is a kind of pressure the Red Cross uses. They make people, the families of the prisoners, go to Jericho to make a conflict between people who are staying here and the families of the prisoners," he said. "But they didn't succeed in it. Because people know what's going on and they know our agenda is to support our brothers, that's it." 

The ICRC claimed the hunger strikers were preventing them from working, Hamamreh said. The hunger strikers, however, made no attempt to interfere with ICRC business and stayed confined to a waiting room outside the main offices.

"They say that they can't do their duty at the same time people here are on hunger strike and staying in their offices. But as you see, it's not true. This room is a waiting room, so the employees can use the other sides, normal, and people can come and do their activities and duty without any problem with the people here," Hamamreh said.

Another hunger striker, Nael Halabi, said by closing its offices, the ICRC is showing support for the injustices and human rights abuses committed by Israel.

"All the people here condemn what the Red Cross did when they closed their offices. Even the families of the prisoners, they also condemned this policy, because with this closure the Red Cross transferred their duty to the Jericho office," he said. "So it took the decision to be against the people who are supporting the prisoners and it took the side of the occupation against the prisoners." 

The hunger strikers say they will not bow to the pressure and will continue their hunger strike in the ICRC offices.

"We're not planning to move anywhere, and we invite the employees of the Red Cross to come back and do their duty," Halabi said. 

Roughly a dozen students from Birzeit University came to the ICRC offices on Monday to show their solidarity with the hunger strikers. Student Hamdi Abdeen said they came to the ICRC to support the cause of freedom for all Palestinians. 

"We are people and we want to live," he said. "We want to also be people like all the people in the world. We can't have an airport in our country, we can't go any time we want, we can't go any time we want, we can't do what we want." 

Hamamreh said he joined the hunger strike because of the connection he feels with the prisoners and all Palestinians denied freedom by the occupation.

"I've been one of those Palestinian prisoners who've been in jail for several years and I've been on hunger strike. I've been in this kind of experience, and I feel how much they are suffering now," he said. "So I wanted to be with them in the same suffering, because we share the same suffering and the same hope."

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