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Alert: Over 250 days of silence - Protest BBC reporting blackout on Palestinian hunger strikers
25 March 2013
Ayman Sharawna finally free, but exiled
On Sunday 17th March long term Palestinian hunger striker Ayman Sharawna won his freedom after 8 months on hunger strike. On the verge of death after 261 days without food, Ayman was finally released but still not able to go home to his Hebron for another 10 years. In contravention of the Geneva Convention Israel placed conditions on Ayman's release of forcible deportation to the Gaza Strip for 10 years. Some have suggested its a hollow victory, in line with Israels policy of ethnic cleansing the West Bank of its Palestinians. Whilst this is true it does not diminish in any way Ayman's personal victory of winning his release after a record breaking hunger strike. It does however call in to question the effectiveness of the solidarity movement around the world.
Ayman gave us 8 months to highlight his illegal imprisonment by Israel following its breaking of the internationally brokered Shalit deal; 8 months without food so we could rally public opinion around his cause to force Israel to release him as it had done with Mahmoud Sarsak before him. But we failed.
One of the reasons for this failure is the reporting blackout by the corporate media on the plight of the hunger strikers and our failure to hold it to account. Until we launched our series of protests outside the BBC demanding they cover the story of the hunger strikers the BBC had completely ignored them - not one mention of Ayman Sharawna or Samer Issawi in its 21 million indexed articles spanning the 8 months of hunger strike. Its note worthy that since the protests began outside the BBC, the BBC has for the first time started to mention the hunger strikers: 4 mentions of Ayman Sharawna and Samer Issawi in February and 1 mention of Samer Issawi in March..
Ayman Sharawna is now free, but Samer Issawi has on principle rejected the deal of release with condition of forced deportation. He has said:
Samer Issawi defiantly resisting..
"Regarding the Israeli occupationís offer to deport me to Gaza, I affirm that Gaza is undeniably part of my homeland and its people are my people. However, I will visit Gaza whenever I want or feel like it, as it is within my homeland, Palestine, which I have the right to wander whenever I like, from the very north to the very south. I strongly refuse to be deported to Gaza as this practice will just bring back bitter flashbacks from the expulsion process to which our Palestinian people were subjected during 1948 and 1967.
We are fighting for the sake of the freedom of our land and the return of our refugees in Palestine and the diaspora, not to add more deportees to them. This systematic practice by Israel that aims to empty Palestine of Palestinians and bring strangers in their place is a crime. Therefore, I refuse being deported and I will only agree to be released to Jerusalem, as I know that the Israeli occupation aims to empty Jerusalem of its people and turn Arabs into a minority group of its population. The issue of deportation is no longer a personal decision, it is rather a national principle. If every detainee agrees to be deported outside Jerusalem under pressure, Jerusalem will eventually be emptied of its people.
I would prefer dying on my hospital bed to being deported from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is my soul and my life. If I was uprooted from there, my soul would be uprooted from my body. My life is meaningless away from Jerusalem. No land on earth will be able to embrace me other than Jerusalem. Therefore, my return will be only to Jerusalem and nowhere else. I advise all Palestinians to embrace their land and villages and never succumb to the Israeli occupationís wishes. I donít see this issue as a personal cause that is related to Samer Issawi. It is a national issue, a conviction and a principle that every Palestinian who loves his homelandís sacred soil should hold. Finally, I reaffirm for the thousandth time that I continue my hunger strike until either freedom and return to Jerusalem or martyrdom!"
The latest information we have is that after nearly 250 days on hunger strike Samer's heart is very weak, he is dying. It is imperative we focus the worlds attention on his struggle so that pressure is brought on Israel to release him without conditions. This means continuing the pressure on the BBC to cover his story. With this in mind we will again be protesting outside the BBC on Sunday 7th April 3pm, please join us.
Protest outside BBC Broadcasting House,
Portland Place, London W1A 1AA (Oxford Circus tube)
Sunday 7th April 3-5pm
Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/108244699369844
Live updates during protest
We will, inshAllah, be tweeting live from the protest with live photos being uploaded to our facebook page. So if you can't join us on the day, please help us by sharing the photos as they get uploaded.
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"[Deportation at the airport] We saw the injured [Turkish] men going through.. a lot had a leg cut out of their trousers or an arm cut out of their top. It had been cut out to treat their wounds.. they were covered in blood, blood that had been there for three days, and some of them had wounds that were still bleeding.. What upset me most was seeing the dozen men, one after another, hobbling across the terminal, with a bandaged foot. I couldn't ask them why so many of them had a bandaged foot, I couldn't ask them what had happened, because if they spoke or if any of us spoke to them the Israelis beat the injured person.. We later found out that they had these injuries on the tops of their feet from when the troops came down from the helicopter on the Mavi Marmara, and they came down firing - they had been shot from above. Some of the men that were killed were shot at close range - head and chest, but a dozen of the men who were shot, among 59 people who were shot, they were shot at the tops of their feet - the bullets were coming down.. They weren't given a wheelchair or a pair of crutches, and if any of the other passengers stood up and tried to offer [help].. that person was dragged away and smacked by these Israelis. The Israeli soldiers sat on the floor, laughed and sniggered and made every one of these Turkish men hobble and hop all the way across, some 200 metres, everyone of them, one by one, made to do that purely for the sick amusement of the Israeli soldiers."
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