Imprisoned Palestinian journalist Muhammad Al-Qeq – who staged a months-long hunger strike in 2016 – was transferred to Ohalei Kedar prison today

Al-Qeq moved from hospital to prison

Image of Mohammed Al-Qeq [file photo]

Image of Mohammed Al-Qeq [file photo]

Imprisoned Palestinian journalist Muhammad Al-Qeq – who staged a months-long hunger strike in 2016 – was transferred to Ohalei Kedar prison today after having been held in the Ramla prison hospital since his latest hunger strike.

Al-Qeq suspended a 33-day hunger strike in early March after reaching an agreement with Israeli authorities to be released in mid-April.

March 8

    Al-Qeq was moved from an Israeli prison to hospital due to the serious deterioration of his health

However, Al-Qeq’s wife, Fayhaa Shalash, told Ma’an that Israeli authorities would soon hold a trial for him after he was transferred to prison following the improvement of his health.

Al-Qeq has staged two hunger strikes – the first one lasting a gruelling 94 days – to protest being held in administrative detention, Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial.

The 34-year-old journalist, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after his first hunger strike.

However, he was rearrested in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of the bodies of slain Palestinians which Israel was detaining.

Some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners today entered their third day of an open-ended hunger strike led by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi. The “Freedom and Dignity” strike is being undertaken in a collective move to denounce a number of abusive measures which violate international law but are used by Israeli prison authorities against Palestinian prisoners.

Journalists in Gaza come out in support of Al-Qeq

Al-Qeq began his hunger strike in protest against being held on administrative detention, without charge or trial.

Palestinian journalists in Gaza staged a protest in front of the Red Cross office in Gaza in solidarity with their colleague Mohamed Al-Qeq who has been on hunger strike for 17 consecutive days inside an Israeli jail.

Al-Qeq began his hunger strike in protest against being held on administrative detention, without charge or trial. He was rearrested earlier this month after being released in May last year.

Head of the Palestinian Journalist Club Imad Al-Efranji said: “We are currently protesting in solidarity with our colleague Al-Qeq and the other 27 Palestinian journalists who are suffering inside Israeli jails. We are going out for the sake of you and for the sake of the free word.”

Read: Al-Qeq held in ‘grave-like’ prison cell, lawyer says

“We will continue holding our pens and cameras to document the crimes of the Israeli occupation and this is our sole weapon.”

Meanwhile, the Director of Waed Association for Prisoners and Freed Prisoners Abdullah Qandeel said: “Al-Qeq has been on hunger strike in order highlight his suffering to the world and the suffering of all the Palestinian prisoners, including Nael Al-Barghouti, who has been held in Israeli jails for 37 years.”

Both Al-Efranji and Qandeel called for the international bodies, including the Journalist Syndicates and UN organisations to stand with Al-Qeq and put pressure on the Israeli occupation to release him and other journalists.

Read: Al-Qeq starts new hunger strike in Israeli jail

Israel arrested Al-Qeq on 21 November 2015 from his home and put him under administrative detention for six months. He immediately went on hunger strike for 94 consecutive days. During this time Israel committed to releasing him at the end of the six-month term.

Iran accused of manipulating the Palestinian cause while hiding its colonialism against Ahwazi Arabs

Image of Ahwazi children in Ahwaz, Iran [Ahwaz/Wikipedia]

Image of Ahwazi children in Ahwaz, Iran [Ahwaz/Wikipedia]

The Iranian regime often draws upon its “resistance” credentials, frequently condemning Israel’s forcible expropriation of Palestinian people’s lands  and homes as well as the expulsion of the people themselves, referring to these acts as crimes against humanity and systematic ethnic cleansing. Iran also makes regular and vociferous arguments that the international community should take punitive action against Israel by introducing sanctions.

However, the Tehran regime is conducting itself in a manner that bears a striking similarity to the Israeli government that it indicts for crimes against the Palestinian people. Iran does this by forcibly expropriating the lands, farms and homes of the Ahwazi Arab people of the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan, and “giving” them to Persian settlers who are offered generous financial incentives by the regime to move to the area.

News: The Iranian media’s interest in Palestine has declined

With Ahwazis denied basic rights, any compensation or any effective legal recourse against the regime’s decisions, the dispossessed Ahwazis are left destitute while ethnic Persian settlers seize their homes and lands in a manner not dissimilar from Israeli settlers in Palestine.

Anti-Arab racist policies

In the past few weeks, Iranian authorities have confiscated 20,000 more hectares of agricultural land from Ahwazi farmers in areas near the eponymous regional capital of Ahwaz. As always, the farmers and their families – who were given no notification or opportunity to raise legal objections to this abusive injustice – have been left with nothing. The land surrounding the village of Al-Tawil is set to be used for another massive sugar cane-growing and processing project, the eighth such initiative in the region, where the regime’s existing sugar cane-farming industry already operates at a loss.

Image of Ahwazi Arab farmers protesting in Ahwaz, Iran on 16 February 2015 [Yousef Azizi Benitorof/Facebook]

The regime confiscated the lands and dispossessed the indigenous Arab farmers, with those interviewed by MEMO anonymised to protect them from regime persecution. These Ahwazi farmers say that they have worked the land for generations, while Iran has acted with casual indifference to their suffering, threatening to penalise and imprison any who protest against regime abuse.

The Iranian government claims that, far from being Ahwazi property, the land was actually “state-owned” and had been reserved for the construction of new settlements for incoming Persian settlers to the area. Tehran has already announced that these new communities will be furnished with a road network, mains water and electricity supply as well as facilities which were unavailable to the people who had been driven out of their homes.

One of the women dispossessed from her family home, Maryam, said that the Persian-dominated Iranian regime attempted to stop people from returning to their homes by securitising the area: “We didn’t just lose the lands that the regime stole from us; they created a ‘security zone’ all around our villages.”

Another young man, Karam, said starkly:

We have nothing, just our lands [and] without this we can’t survive; this land provides food for our families by growing vegetables, tomatoes and cereal crops.  Now they [the Iranian government] has taken almost all our lands, we’re facing the same fate as other rural areas, with the people left in poverty with no source of income.

Another despairing young rural man, Ali, who had been driven from his land, said that his family had been forced to migrate from their village to the capital Ahwaz, before Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) confiscated the remaining 40 hectares of land they owned and built a “Fajr” garrison on their land, referring to a group of Iranian paramilitaries.

Ali said:

My father did his best through the court and got a document saying that the land is ours – then the family got a threat from the intelligence services that if we didn’t stop pursuing legal action to reclaim their lands, we’d be imprisoned for many years.

Regime restrictions on the use of land for agricultural purposes have left thousands of rural families driven from their farms hungry and destitute, with many becoming ill as a result. Many children living in these communities are showing signs of stunted growth, with medics warning that conditions are regressing rather than progressing.

‘Axis of Resistance’?

In recent years, and in particular following the eruption of the Syrian crisis, Iran has been accused of creating a theatre out of its opposition to Israel in order to garner wide-spread regional support for its activities. Iranian leaders habitually threaten Israel – or “the Zionist entity” as it is commonly called in the Iranian media – but its actions that are perceived as being as expansionist and imperialist have garnered it increasingly intensifying criticism.

Iran’s Palestine conference was designed to shore-up Tehran’s regional position

Speaking to MEMO, Ruth Riegler, a Scottish journalist, said that “Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’ rhetoric  has been a monstrous cynical lie since the start,” and accusing Iran of “exploiting the cause of Palestinian freedom for its own political ends while continuing to be a vicious occupier and oppressor of another Arab people in Ahwaz.”

Meanwhile, Raed Baroud, a Palestinian rights activist, told MEMO:

The regime that occupies the land of our brothers in Ahwaz and crushes them under its boots can never be a supporter of the Arab Spring or a liberator of Palestine.

Although regional Arab powers do not effectively shed light on the Ahwazi cause, there are calls for the world to boycott Iran for its human rights abuses against the persecuted Arab minority.

Iran is now being criticised for at once claiming to support the rights, freedoms and liberties of Palestinians against Israeli colonisation, whilst simultaneously oppressing its own ethnic minorities and confiscating their lands.

Rather than address these concerns, Iran has instead sought to blame the increasing unrest in the Ahwazi populated region on Britain, Saudi Arabia and Israel. According to Tehran, these nations are conspiring to create “unrest by instigating a foreign plot in Khuzestan”.

However, with a number of Iranian minorities claiming persecution, including the Kurds and Baluchi people in southeastern Iran, those supportive of Ahwazi rights are instead suggesting that their cause is not an isolated instance of abuse, but something that impacts upon most non-Persian Iranians in a case of there being “no smoke without fire”.

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