International Hunger Strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 20, FIRST DAY of an International Hunger Strike for Syria

Congressman Keith Ellison, Syrian-American Mazen Halabi, Gail Daneker from Friends for a Nonviolent World and 15 other Minnesotans are preparing for a day long hunger strike in solidarity with Qusai Zakarya, a Syrian who is in the 25th day of his hunger strike to protest the siege of over 30 towns in Syria. They are the first phase of an action that is gathering international support (see list below).

Hunger Strike Logo

Syrians are dying of malnutrition because military blockades have prevented food and medicine from coming into their areas – approximately 1 million people are affected. The goal of the strike is to break the siege.

It’s a “rolling” strike where at least one person participates in the hunger strike each day. Congressman Ellison is fasting on Monday, December 23. Mazen Halabi, Gail Daneker, Wendy Tuck, Terry Irish, and Ava Dale Johnson are the Minnesotans fasting on Friday, December 20.

The Minnesota Syrian-American community has been extremely active – sending doctors to help in the refugee camps, making speeches around the state, and raising money for refugees and medical aid.

Mazen Halabi is one of the local Syrian-Americans whose friends and family in Syria are caught in a crisis that has been described as the worst humanitarian catastrophe since World War II. Halabi expressed his appreciation for Ellison’s responsiveness. “Congressman Ellison has always been there for us – to listen and to try and find a way to resolve the Syrian conflict. We are grateful to have a compassionate, involved representative in Congress.”

Qusai Zakarya, who is in Moadamiya, Syria, pleads with the world to help the “starving and frozen Syrian people”. “Starvation is a much worse weapon of war than sarin gas,” he points out. “Dozens of women and children have died from malnutrition in the last few months. The world has to raise their voices together and say ‘Stop using food as a weapon of war’. My hunger strike will continue until the siege is broken and aid convoys enter the besieged towns of Syria.”

The solidarity hunger strike has gotten support from U.S. academics and nonviolence advocates around the world, including American poet Marilyn Hacker. Here in Minnesota, Gail Daneker, director at Friends for a Nonviolent World and a peace activist for 30 years, says, “We live in an era where we have ample resources so that no one on the planet should be hungry and yet thousands are being deliberately deprived of food and medicine. We should be beyond using food and medicine as weapons of war.”

A petition supporting Zakarya’s strike was created by the human rights advocacy group Avaaz last month. The petition calls for a binding resolution from the U.N. Security Council requiring the regime in Syria and all armed parties to allow humanitarian organizations immediate unfettered access to aid the civilian population without discrimination, including cross-border access and access across military lines. Sign the petition here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Member_states_of_UN_Security_Council_Lakhdar_Brahimi_Allow_immediate_humanitarian_access_to_help_Syrians_without_descrim/

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List in progress:

Keith Ellison, U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District
Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger-activist & former political prisoner
Rev. Kristin Stoneking, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Gail Daneker, Friends for a Nonviolent World, Director of Peace Education Advocacy
Huwaida Arraf, Palestinian American co-founder of International Solidarity Movement
Medea Benjamin, Code Pink
Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Syrian writer & former political prisoner
Mona Eltahawy, Egyptian feminist writer
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Co-Founder of Shomer Shalom Network of Jewish Nonviolence
Jawdat Said, Syrian nonviolence teacher for over fifty years
Marilyn Hacker, American Poet
Mina Hamilton, American Writer
Michael Nagler, Metta Center for Nonviolence
Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies, University of San Francisco
Suad Mohamed, University of Virginia Danny Postel, University of Denver
Bob Nechal, Friends for a Nonviolent World
Nader Hashemi, University of Denver
Raed Fares, Media Office Director for the Town of Kafr Nbel, Syria
Afra Jalabi, Syrian Nonviolence Movement
Mohja Kahf, Syrian American poet & academic
Linda Thomson, Minnesota Peace Project
Fadia Afashe, Syrian refugee in the U.S.
Ian Keith, St Paul Elementary School Teacher
Wael Khouli, Physician and Human Rights Activist
Mazen Halabi, Community Activist
Cathy Murphy, Peace Activist
Andy Berman, Veterans for Peace
Terry Burke, Friends for a Nonviolent World
Nicole Halabi, School Administrator
Wendy Tuck, Educator
Terry Irish, Friends for a Nonviolent World
Ava Dale Johnson, Minnesota
Cort Green, solidarity organizer
David Moseman, Minnesota Peace Team, Minnesota Spending Alternatives Project
Rhoda Gilman, Green Party of Minnesota
Suzan Boulad, law student, University of Minnesota

(Organizations listed for identification purposes only.)

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Gail Daneker- Solidarity

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