Mon May 1, 2017 07:52AM
Students at the University of Manchester go on a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Students at the University of Manchester go on a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

A group of students in the University of Manchester have gone on hunger strike to raise awareness about the abuses Palestinian prisoners are being subjected to in Israeli jails.

So far, five students have joined the movement, which began on Thursday and would last at least a week.

The hunger strike is an act of solidarity with a mass strike by more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, who have been refusing food for two weeks to denounce the harsh conditions in Israeli jails.

Palestinian detainees complain that they have been subjected to assault and torture at Israeli prisons.

Dubbed the Freedom and Dignity Strike, the ongoing action began on April 17. There are currently 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails, according to rights group Addameer.

Mohammed Ezzeldin, one of the five UK students on hunger strike, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the prisoners were held in “abhorrent” conditions.

“Political prisoners in Palestine are being held for up to six months without charge or fair trial,” he told the Qatari news outlet.

“They are facing abhorrent conditions in jail, with no access to medical treatment or visitation rights,” the student added.

University crackdown on activists

The students hoped that the hunger strike would prompt university officials to drop disciplinary action against activists who took part in a pro-Palestinian protest in March.

The university has been pressing disciplinary charges against two activists, who are accused trespassing and damage to property after unfurling a banner in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS.

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Dozens of academics at the University of Manchester have thrown their weight behind the activists, including the president of the local chapter of the university and college union, Adel Nasser.

“I think they [students] are doing it with the best intentions, but their success will depend on how much they can shame the university into dropping their stance,” Nasser told Al Jazeera.

The university has cancelled a number of BDS events in the past while preventing speakers from taking part in events organized by BDS activists.

Similar actions have been taken by other academic centers like the University of Central Lancashire, the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) and De Montfort University.