18th and final day of the hunger strike

Over two years ago, my sister’s brother in law was arrested, for no clear reason.  He’s a pharmacist, in his late 40’s, married with three children, and was a member of the major opposition political party, the PJD, which frankly is a thorn in the side of the Moroccan government.  I’m not going to go into the details of the trial, honestly I’m not even sure what he’s being charged with.  But it’s been a huge burden on their family, and by extension, to a much lesser degree, on me also.   I have to actually be pretty careful about what I write about it…bloggers have been imprisoned for less.

Anyway, what I can say is that about three weeks ago the prisoners started an open ended hunger strike.  They would go without food until they were promised a fair trial.  I got updates from my sister, who saw them regularly in court, in Rabat, Morocco, where all is taking place.  Every time I sat down for a meal with my family, I thought of the prisoners, and how they must feel, one day without food, two days, a week.  One day, about a week in, my sister’s brother in law collapsed and was taken to a hospital.  They hooked him up to an IV, which he removed as soon as he was conscious again.

Another day he was meant to appear in court, but instead he was held back because the prison guards insisted he needed to see a doctor.  He waited and waited, but there was no doctor.  Instead, a statement was read in court that said that his medical condition prevented him from appearing in court, so the hearing would be postponed for a week.  When he heard this, and realized that the whole thing had been rigged in order to postpone the court date and weaken the prisoners to breaking point, he was furious.  At that point he took an oath to stop drinking too, until something changed.  The judge allowed the family to go in and see him at the hospital, which was a big exception.  My sister said he was gasping for each breath, and yet, surprisingly his thinking remained clear and logical.   The judge said to them “beg him to eat”.  Finally, after 24 hours with no water, and at the pleading of his wife, he agreed to drink again, but that 24 hrs left him much weaker.

By the time his day in court came around, he was on the 16th day of the hunger strike.  His skin had turned yellow, then a greenish hue.  Because it was the third week, organ failure was imminent.  He could barely stand, but did so with immense effort.   It was an intensely emotional scene.

Within a few days, the prisoners received the best news they’d had yet since the trial began two years ago: they were going to get a fair trial!  What a breakthrough!  I know that his family just about collapsed in relief.  I felt like a tightness around my heart was loosened.  I honestly didn’t think that the hunger strike would have any impact, but I’m so happy to be wrong about that.  Finally after 18 days without food, the prisoner have started to eat again!  I’m so in awe of their strength and will.  What does it feel like to be so desperate that you stop eating?  What physical and mental states do you go through? What spiritual states do you experience?  Do you forget what food tastes like?  What does food taste like after an 18 fast?  What do you eat first?  I’m amazed to have witnessed this process, even from afar.  I can only hope and pray that God brings even more ease and opening to these prisoners.