I remember the sweetest days in our childhood were the days of Ramadan, as we used to fast for 17 hours (in summer) and endure the suffering everyday. However, you cant imagine the joy we had when we celebrate at the end of everyday around a table that includes every single member of the family waiting for the call prayers to break the fast. It is the utmost joy and the sweetest meal you might ever have, SPECIALLY as you starts breaking the fast by cold drink in a hot long summer day and you feel the cold juice as if running through your whole body quenching the thirsty body and you are relieved. It is not only the drink and the food … it is the family joy and gathering every single day waiting “hungrily” for the ready meal.
As young as 8 years old we start fasting, and even sometimes as young as six. It is no religious obligation by then, but we loved to do that, and we were encouraged to get used to fasting. As kids, we were advised to break the fast if we are hungry, and to fast just for half a day. However, later in life we learned that it is allowed to break your fast when you feel sick and afraid of the side effects on your body, specially in the hot days of summer, and it is almost always hot here.
However, Hunger strike is not fasting … hunger strike is a lasting fasting; you can start it but you cant decide its ends; you will get out either victorious or dead.
Healthy human body can endure up to 8 weeks without food, but cant endure more than 10 days without water. Sick or weak bodies cant endure that long, and it depends on the body situation … some might die in just 5 days like Abdle-Qader Abul-fahm, the first Palestinian to pass martyr because of hunger strike, others might endure three or four weeks according to the general health situation. In the Palestinian prisoners hunger strike, the sick and elders people are exempted from sharing, advised not to share and even pressured to stay away, however, some stubborn sick prisoners insist to share. But, what happens during the hunger strike “process”?
In late 1989, I was in the zionist jails, and I had the honor to share a “tactical” hunger strike which ended soon and lasted just for 5 days. From my own experience I cant judge, but other Palestinians like Khadr Adnan (66 days), Muhammad al-qiq (90 days) and some others have launched an individual hunger strike and passed it all to tell their stories.
In the first few days the body experiences pangs in stomach and head that you and you suffer insomnia beachwear of that . To protect the stomach from rotting and to keep feeding the body with fluids the Palestinian hunger strikers drink water and salt all the time, and that is the only thing that is allowed in the hung\er strike (the zionist jailers repeatedly confiscated the salt from the cells) and the prisoners are left only with water).
The stomach and head pains might last for 2 or 3 days, but after that the body get used to it and starts working in other way; instead of pressuring the stomach and blood for more nutrients, the body starts to make up for the loss from the living organs like the muscles, the liver and other organs.
At the beginning of the strike, I remember we were advised to keep lying in beds and when to get up we got to move slowly and walk step by step, however, we didnt reach that stage.
After 2-3 weeks the real effect on the human body starts; it can no longer move freely but with great difficulty and with no good coordination from the body parts. also uncontrolled actions and sever dizziness starts with general weakness and low heart rate. In this stage, some vital nutrients are no longer available in the body and some severe neurological problems start like cognitive instability and difficulty in vision and physical movement.
The real danger on life starts after 4 weeks, where most of the body vital organs starts to face difficulty in operating; hearing and vision can no longer be effective, breathing starts to be difficult and needs energy to do that, hair starts to fall and skin starts peeling. After a month the body is no longer the same and permanent effects start to appear that even if you break the strike some side effects will stay. After all these days, breaking the strike should be controlled otherwise it can be killing on the human body.
After 6 weeks the body starts to die inside that vital organs like heart, blood cycle, respiratory system might collapse and stops to act. complete loss of vision and hearing might happen as well as mental disorder.
The human body is likely to die after 8 weeks or actually it starts a slow death.
When breaking the strike, SPEEDILY after 4 weeks, it should be slow and monitored by a medical team, this explains why the zionist jailers refuse to release the prisoners immediately and keep them for some another 4-6 weeks for recovering under control.
However, the physical effects on the body doesnt end by ending the strike, some actually starts by that. I remember as kids in 1989 we were told that hunger strike reveals the weak points of your body …, as soon as you start the hunger strike, your “troubled body organs” will suffer the most pain, lets assume that you have a kidney problems, then hunger strike will “strike” that organ and you start to feel the pain. After strike you can no longer restore the lost hair, and you might suffer depression and lack of good appetite, and of course you can never restore your pre-strike strength and vitality .. you will always keep feeling week to the bones.
On the other hand, if you do believe in your just cause for which you jeopardized your life, then nothing will be felt lost, and in the Palestinian case, the public and international solidarity with the hunger strike makes you always feel proud that you are not only fighting for your own freedom, but for the freedom of your people and all the oppressed people round the world.
I dont know why I remember the masterpiece novella of “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad. At the beginning of the story, Kirtz, the main character was subject to physical tests before he leaves out to the jungles of Africa , probably to test him when he comes back later (that if he comes out). The test included checking his heath and measuring his skull. However, he never came back- and as the doctor says, they dont come back, but this could be a smart hint from the author that changes do happen on the European invaders of Africa, and they turn finally into beasts eating human flesh, as it happened to Kirtz.
I am sure that zionist teams of doctors, nurses and paramedics are recruited to “test” the health of the Palestinian prisoners and probably deliver a daily report to be used later against the Palestinian prisoners. These “medical teams” might be used later for force feeding. In this case the Palestinian hunger strikers will be just labratory-rats for the zionist “medical testing”which might be resulted in researches that might be applied on other occupied nations the very same way the zionists used the “Palestinian chair” to torture Iraqis during the American invasion
Sami, the bedouin