On November 26, Qusai Zakarya began a hunger strike in a nonviolent action to demand that the Assad regime’s armed siege on the Syrian town of Moadamiyah be lifted, and that humanitarian agencies be allowed to bring food and medicine to the dozens of besieged towns in Syria.
Due to health issues, Qusai decided to end his personal hunger strike on December 28, his 33rd day. With this, he passes the baton to the International Solidarity Hunger Strike. “Access to food for the populations of dozens of Syrian towns that are still besieged and still starving, remains critical,” Qusai says.
An International Solidarity Hunger Strike launched on December 20, to support these goals. Philosophy luminaries Jurgen Habermas, Seyla Benhabib, Slavoj Zizek, and Hilary Putnam; Bahraini human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja; Syrian media activists Razan Ghazzawi and Raed Fares, poets Marilyn Hacker and Martin Espada and Syria’s Khawla Dunia, joined the Strike.
Our ranks expanded with prominent American public figures such as Bill Fletcher Jr., Naom Chomsky, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Norman Finkelstein, Simon Critchley, and Congressman Keith Ellison. Solidarity hunger strikers include Andrei Codrescu of Romanian origin, as well as Omid Safi, Nader Hashemi, and Leila Zand, who are of Iranian origin, and novelists Robin Yassin-Kassab and Mohja Kahf, who are of Syrian origin. Syrian schoolteacher and protester Soad Nofal, Syrian writer Yassin al-Haj Saleh, and Syrian doctor Mazen Halabi, along with many other Syrians, joined. The response of Huwaids Arraf, Palestinian American co-founder of the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement when she was invited to join the International Solidarity Hunger Strike for Syria was, “Yes, without hesitation.”
The International Solidarity Hunger Strike is still growing and will continue until January 22, when the Geneva Conference on Syria convenes.
The team working on Qusai’s Facebook page, including Rasha Othman, Bayan Khatib, and Mohja Kahf, who are Syrian activists in North America, deeply appreciate Qusai’s personal commitment to bringing international focus on the food blockade affecting one and a half million Syrians. “Qusai is a valuable spokesperson for Moadamiya citizens, and for the Syrian revolution for freedom, human rights, and democracy,” says Terry Burke of the Minnesota-based Friends for a NonViolent World, who is also part of the team. She adds, “We are grateful that Qusai ended the strike before suffering permanent damage to his health.”
Despite the recent submission of the Local Council of Moadamiya to humiliating conditions imposed by the Assad regime in exchange for regime promises of allowing food into the town, to date only a small amount of food has been allowed in by the regime: one truck with canned food inadequate even for one meal for the 8,000 civilians in Moadamiya. Local civilians, including Qusai, believe this is a cruel regime ploy to keep the town dependent on arbitrary regime conditions.
The Assad regime is still violating international law and still using food as a weapon of war not only in Moadamiya but in dozens of other Syrian towns that remain under starvation siege. International humanitarian agencies have not yet been allowed unfettered access to Moadamiya to distribute food and medicine, as required by the non-binding Statement of the United Nations’ Security Council last September. We still need a binding UN resolution on this, and it must happen before the Geneva Conference convenes.
Qusai’s act of civil resistance was bravely forged amid surrounding conditions of violence. His nonviolent action motivated many people around the world to join in solidarity with besieged and starving Syrian civilians. This solidarity is even more urgently needed as Qusai now passes the baton to all of us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the International Solidarity Hunger Strike, and please sign the petition to support its goal of allowing food and medicine to be brought in to starving Syrians:
Please follow Qusai’s continuing updates from Moadamiyah, Syria, at:
Like the Facebook page for Solidarity with Qusai’s Hunger Strike::