Sarsak, a star Palestinian footballer, was arrested by Israeli occupation forces three years ago at Erez checkpoint as he traveled from his home in Gaza to a match in the West Bank’s Balata refugee camp. He has been held without charge or trial ever since.
Meanwhile, French solidarity activists today protested at the French Football Federation, demanding action on Sarsak’s behalf.
“When I see young men of his age passing by, I keep thinking Mahmoud could have been here. Can you imagine when you’re told your son is in Ramle prison, ill, he’s in hospital and you can’t reach him, or visit him, or see him,” Khaldiya Shalabi said in a brief video released by The Institute for Middle East Understanding.
He has been on hunger strike since 19 March. Several days ago, Sarsak and Akram Rikhawi fellow prisoner who is also on hunger strike issued an urgent distress call that they not be abandoned by the world and the Palestinian leadership.
“There is still enough time and the support that comes late is better than that which does not come at all. It is better that you receive us alive and victorious rather than as lifeless bodies in black bags,” the men said, appealing for people around the world to take action on their behalf.
Independent physicians and human rights groups have recently expressed grave concern over the imminent risk to the prisoners’ lives.
In the video, Sarsak’s mother pointed out that she has not seen her son since his arrest due to Israel’s ban on prison visits by residents of Gaza imposed in 2007 as a form of collective punishment after an Israeli occupation soldier was captured.
Sarsak’s mother pointed out that the Israeli occupation soldier was freed last year and “went back to his family, we hope the same for our children, to be happy here. Just like they have children, we have children.”
Aseel, Sarsak’s young niece appealed for his return, “We love uncle Mahmoud so much and hopefully he will get out.”
Despite his long struggle and desperate plight, there has been virtually no international media coverage of Sarsak’s case. An exception was an interview with his father last week on the BBC World Service’s program World Football.
World Football noted that the Israeli government ignored its requests for interviews about Sarsak’s situation.
Activists occupy French Football Federation headquarters
Meanwhile, French activists today occupied the headquarters of French Football Federation. According to an email received from Olivia Zémor, president of the group CAPJPO-EuroPalestine:
Since 11 am this Tuesday, activists have been occupying the headquarters of the French Football Federation in Paris.
They are asking their leaders to support Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian footballer, who has been on hunger strike for 78 days and who is about to die. He’s been in prison for 3 years in Israel without charge nor trial and is not allowed to appropriate medical care not to visits from independent doctors. PLEASE JOIN US AT THE ABOVE ADDRESS.The group also issued an action alert calling on people to contact the French Football Federation to demand that the organization speak out for Mahmoud Sarsak.