Thursday, May 24, 2012

Footballer’s dad asks sports world to speak out for hunger-striking son as Israel violates prisoner deal

The father of Mahmoud Sarsak, a member of the Palestinian national football team jailed without charge or trial by Israel for almost three years, has called on the sporting world to speak out for his son who remains on hunger strike after more than two months without food.

Ten days ago, more than 2,000 Palestinian prisoners ended a month-long mass hunger strike, but already Israel is violating the terms of the agreement that ended it, according to prisoners’ rights groups.

Sports community must not reward or be silent about Israeli abuses

“For us it is unbearable to see Israel has been awarded the hosting of the UEFA Under 21s football championship in 2013 and gears up to participate in the London Olympics, while it routinely arrests, tortures, imprisons and kills Palestinians, including football players, without consequence,” Mahmoud Kamel Muhammad Sarsak said in a statement given to Stop the Wall.

A poster of Mahmoud Sarsak, and some of his athletic trophies. (Rami Almeghari / The Electronic Intifada)

The younger Mahmoud Sarsak, 25, was detained by Israeli forces as he traveled from his home in Gaza to the West Bank in 2009 to join the Palestinian national football team.

“We ask fellow football players and athletes to speak out in support of Mahmoud - don’t be silent when Israeli cruelty and arbitrariness has destroyed the aspirations of a rising athlete and keeps thousands under inhumane conditions in their jails,” Sarsak said, “We ask sports teams and anti-racist fan clubs to organize in support of Mahmoud and all the other Palestinian political prisoners. Your voice can contribute to saving his life and to a little victory against injustice.”

Earlier this month, Football Beyond Borders, a student-led international organization “which uses the universal power of football to tackle political, social and cultural issues” released a letter of solidarity with Sarsak and thousands of Palestinian prisoners and announced that it would boycott the UEFA 2013 Under-21 European Championships.

And last week, Amnesty International issued an action alert calling on people to contact Israeli authorities regarding Mahmoud Sarsak. More