Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Hunger Strike

Hunger strikes are not new. They are a means of manifestation, especially during political conflicts. Sometimes it is the only method of protest available against unfair situations. Some experts have pointed out that this extreme fasting is a manner of showing power and moral supremacy over the enemy. 

Several protesters or political prisoners, like Mohamed Soltan, have gone on hunger strike as a way to call international attention to their urgent causes. Risking their lives for what they consider to be right, and hoping for justice, they begin to refuse food, hoping that their oppressors or others will feel pity or guilt. They have happened and happen all over the world. Here are two famous stories about hunger strikes.

1981 Irish Hunger Strike

In the late 1970s and early 80s, there was a lot of turmoil in Ireland. The Northern Irish were having political and nationalistic troubles. Those who wanted to leave the UK and join Ireland were called Irish nationalists, republicans, or Catholics. Those who wanted to stay part of the UK were called Protestants, Unionists, and Loyalists. This conflict of interest was called The Troubles.

Eventually, the British government decided to try and end protests and ended up arresting members of several paramilitary groups. These men were given special prisoner of war status. However, when this special status was eventually revoked, prisoners started a series of protests, called the dirty protest, and in 1980 began the first hunger strike, which lasted around 50 days.

The second hunger strike was in 1981 and was a direct power struggle between the prisoners and Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of the UK. A hunger strike was elected to British parliament during this time, and after ten prisoners starved to death, thousands attended their funerals.

Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi, considered one of the most influential men in history not only in his country but around the world, participated in diverse hunger strikes. His first hunger strike occurred in 1943 when was imprisoned by the United Kingdom. Over the years he repeatedly protested in the same way. 

Because he was a pacifist he used hunger strikes to pressure the British Government, both while he was imprisoned and also as a free man.

Mahatma Gandhi went on hunger strike a total of seventeen times. His hunger strikes normally lasted 7 to 24 days. His last protest was to encourage the union of Hindi and Muslims to rebuild the country after the United Kingdom abandoned it. He was murdered just 12 days after he finished his last strike. 

Hunger Strike: Dying for a Cause

Some protestors, like Mohamed Soltan and Gandhi were able to survive their strikes. But not all hunger strikers are so lucky, like the Irish republicans in prison. Many hunger strikes have ended in death. There are people in this world that are not afraid to die for their cause, or even suffer while in this life in order to prove that justice and peace will always be worth any and every sacrifice.