Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Globalisation of Hunger Strikes?

When I first saw this I thought it was quite bizarre. The Irish Hunger Strike Commemorative Web Project addressing their 'comrades' in Bahrain :

[...] -- the struggle is united, the struggle is connected, and we can draw inspiration from Mr Abdul-Hadi and his comrades as easily as they draw inspiration from the actions of Bobby Sands:

"...it would be an honor for us to see our prisoners next to your freedom fighters like Bobby Sands, who is known in this part of the region as hero who was determined to give his life for the freedom of his people. They have sat example for us for our struggle for freedom and dignified life... Once again, thanks for the site and long live the memory of hunger strikers in Ireland."

Bobby Sands being every prison officers nightmare, died after a 66-day hunger strike in 1980. His is actually a rather sad story. I don't think they had intravenous force feeding back then. However, back to the point, how did Bobby Sands become the inspiration of Bahrainis? and then to see the Irish standing in solidarity with a Bahraini?!! And then to see a Bahraini reciprocate this solidarity?! What a combination, how did they come together. I mean its fascinating how fast human rights activists get on a case. It took like two days after Khawaja's arrest to get a petition signed by over 150 human rights organisation demanding his release!! All you need to do is put "Abdul Hadi Khawaja" on Google to see the reverberations of his arrest online. These activists are unstoppable and have to be some of the most passionate people around. Most of the time its all voluntary work so no money. Yet they have managed to create one of the strongest global networks today. Their link to the media cannot be undermined and the pressure they put on government policy to guarentee the rights of its citizens are one of the few global forces of good that exist.

I believe that it was this kind of campaigning, especially from the UN Sub-Commision on Human Rights, that put pressure on the Government to stop its 25 year track record of human rights violation and release the hundreds of political prisoners in Bahrain in 2001 with the imminent visit of a delegation of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention a few months later. Although the government had managed to postpone this visit for over 3 years, the UN threatened to take action against Bahrain for its failure to ratify the Convention Against Torture, but funnily enough when they did finally arrive, the prisons were squeeky clean and not a single prisoner of conscience in sight :) I mean you have to tidy your house up before you let any unwanted visitors in, right? So I do feel a sense of gratitude to all the campaigners who petitioned the UN to take this action, as I had many members of my family tortured and in prison at the time.

May the spirit of Bobby Sands live on!

Posted by BB @ 11/23/2004 09:25:00 PM