Muhammed, What Were You Thinking About When You Accepted the Reality of Your Death?

February 9, 2016

Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster.  Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images
Fayha Shalash, the wife of Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq, sits with her son at her home in the West Bank village of Dura on January 20, 2016. Al Qiq is seen in the poster. Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/APA images

Muhammed -What were you thinking about when you accepted the reality of your own death?

What thoughts and images went through your mind when you realized you were willing to risk permanent physical damage or even death to gain your freedom?

Were you thinking about the softness of your babies’ cheeks? How they smelled so fresh and their skin felt so soft after bath time?

Muhammed al Qiq, a Palestinian journalist and father of two small children, has been on hunger strike for over seventy-five days – refusing everything but water, to protest the torture and other ill-treatment to which he says he was subjected to in Israeli custody, and to demand his release from detention he believes is motivated by his work as a journalist. He was placed under administrative detention, unable to see the evidence against him and unable to challenge the ‘evidence’ or his accusers in a fair judicial setting.

Did you think of all the moments with your children, your babies, that you would miss?

Your children’s first day of school? Sending them off with their little backpacks or maybe how they would proudly walk up the aisle to receive their high school diplomas?

Maybe you imagined yourself dancing with your daughter at her wedding as your body started to shut down and you began to vomit blood.

Did you picture your wife’s face just as it was when you asked her to marry you as you were unable to resist the intravenous drip being inserted in your arm against your wishes?

Or maybe, when she told you she was pregnant, as your internal organs began to shut down?

Palestinians held as administrative detainees by Israel have a history of engaging in prolonged hunger strikes, seeing it as their only means of demanding their rights under international law.

Amnesty International issued a statement on Muhammed’s case January 22, 2016, Israel Must End Ill-Treatment of Hunger-Striking Detainee.

Perhaps you were thinking of how they tortured you, using stress positions and threats of sexual violence?

Were you scared when you went on hunger strike? Hopeful?

On February 4th, the Israeli High Court suspended the detention without trial against Muhammed, citing medical concerns, but Muhammad rejected the suspension. He said it was because the administrative detention order (imprisonment with no charge, no trial) was only being suspended, not cancelled.

Did you consider how this decision would affect your mother – the woman who gave you life – as you lay shackled by foot and hand to your bed; too weak to even try to move let alone escape – your mind the only thing free?

What were you thinking when you accepted the very real possibility of your death?

Muhammed’s concern was not misplaced. The Israeli authorities had just suspended the administrative detention order of Muhammad Allan August 2015, when doctors were able to demonstrate brain damage, only to re-arrest him as he was preparing to leave Barzilai Medical Centre. He was forced to serve out the rest of his detention before finally being released November 4, 2016. Matter of fact, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, the High Court has only ever annulled an administrative detention order in one case – back in 1990. It does appears to be a mere ploy to encourage Muhammed to end his hunger strike.

So, I wonder, knowing all this information, understanding his options – or non-options – what was Muhammed thinking when he realized that he may very well be leaving his wife and two, young children, his mother, his friends and profession at the hands of death as a last, desperate act to fight the unjust situation and on the small chance he would win his release?

What was he thinking when he chose – freedom?

Note: Amnesty International issued a statement at the time of the writing of this blog, Palestinian hunger-striking detainee close to death, in which they reported that the medical staff at the hospital said it was highly unusual for a hunger-striker to still be conscious and alive at this point of a hunger strike, and that even if he were treated, it may not save his life.

AI believes Israel should drop the detention order against Muhammed and release him immediately unless he is to be charged with an internationally recognizable criminal offense and tried in accordance with international fair standards.  They must also end the practice of administrative detention.

February 17, 2016: Amnesty International issued another statement today calling on Israel to immediately facilitate Muhammed al Qiq’s move to a hospital of his choice.