Podcast: The “revolution inside Israeli prisons” continues, says hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak

Mahmoud Sarsak was released from Israeli prison in July, following more than 90 days of hunger strike.

Annibale Greco ZUMA Press

“I am calling on the local and international community … to move beyond solidarity, to have real actions that can make change.”
- Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian football star and former hunger striker, in an exclusive interview with The Electronic Intifada

This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:


Rush transcript - Mahmoud Sarsak and Shahd Abusalama, EI Podcast, 21 September 2012

The Electronic Intifada: So can you talk about where you are right now, and your thoughts on the ongoing hunger strikes that are still happening in Israeli prisons?

Shahd Abusalama: I’m sitting now with Mahmoud Sarsak, the released prisoner who was released on the 10th of July this year, after hunger striking for 94 days, and he freed himself with his empty stomach and his determination to fight injustice. And now he’s free and enjoying our beach trip with the Samouni family. The Samouni family had such a terribly tragic story during the three-week Israeli attacks on Gaza in January 2009.

Israel forced 100 members of the family into a house and dropped missiles on them and left them between dead and injured … and at that time, 29 of their beloved people were dead, and many of the kids we have here are orphans. We’re trying to support them morally and make them feel better with having some fun on the beach, that’s why we did this beach trip and Mahmoud was very happy to join us here, and he played today on the beach with them in a football match. It was so much fun to watch them.

Now he’s sitting here and he’s so happy to be released, but at the same time his happiness is incomplete because there is a wave of hunger strikers inside Israeli prisons, who are continuing their revolution inside Israeli prisons against administrative detention, which is a very unjust system that allows Israel to hold detainees with no trial and no charge.

EI: Shahd, if you could ask Mahmoud for us about his feelings about what Samer al-Barq is going through right now, Samer has been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, it’s unclear if and when he’s going to be released, there are talks as we mentioned about his being forcibly transferred to Egypt out of Palestine, but can you ask Mahmoud about how the body reacts to being on hunger strike for so long, based on his experience of being on hunger strike for 94 days?

Mahmoud Sarsak (translated by Shahd Abusalama): I am here and my happiness is incomplete because of the hunger strikers who are still on strike. Their health conditions are very grave. All the hunger strikers in general are hunger striking because it’s their only way to make their voice heard and defend themselves and call for their rights that are being daily violated by the Israeli prison service.

There are conflicting news about the release of Samer al-Barq or the ending of his hunger strike, but most of the news are saying that he’s still on hunger strike for more than 120 days. He’s in a grave condition. We’re calling on the international community to work and make campaigns to push Israel to meet their demands — because their demands are legal and their causes are just.

They’re fighting for justice and freedom and dignity. They don’t love to starve themselves but they are dignified and they want to restore their rights back by any possible way. And most of the hunger strikers are suffering a process of slow death. They’re in the slaughterhouse of Ramleh Prison Hospital. There is no media coverage about their situation. We’re calling the world to stand by their side and to call for their freedom because they’re held without any reason, without charge or trial. There is no justice.

EI: How does it feel to be out, to play on the beach with children — especially these children who have been through so much trauma, the Samouni family. How do you spend your time, and what are your priorities right now?

MS: I am very happy to be here, I can’t describe my happiness to be free, to be sitting now on Gaza Strip, and to see the beauty of the beach with the Samouni kids. The family who lost tens of their loved ones, and most of them are orphans. I am here to give moral support to the family and to let them hear that they’re not alone. I’m calling the community, locally and internationally, to support the families of martyrs, of the injured, and of the detainees, and stand by their side and make them feel that they’re not alone. We don’t want only solidarity, we want them to move beyond solidarity, to have real actions that can make change for the Palestinian cause.

This initiative of the beach trip was done by some international activists and some Palestinian activists, and I encourage such initiatives and I wish for more. I think it is important to support these kids and to make them feel that they’re not alone.

No one here in Gaza is living a dignified life because of the ongoing occupation and the ongoing blockade on Gaza for the 6th year. However we’re trying to live and to use the simplest ways to have real happiness and feel really happy, and these kids, the orphans of the Samouni family, have no fault from the destiny they have. That’s why we should support each other and make them feel that they didn’t lose anything, and there is real solidarity, sincere solidarity with them despite everything — despite their loss.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).