While most Minnesotans are preparing for bountiful holiday feasts, Congressman Keith Ellison, Syrian-American Mazen Halabi, Gail Daneker from Friends for a Nonviolent World and other Minnesotans are also preparing for a day with no food – a day long hunger strike in solidarity with Qusai Zakary, a Syrian who is in the 23rd day of his hunger strike to protest the siege of over 30 towns in Syria.
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 solidarity hunger strike is being kicked off in Minnesota on Friday, September 20. It’s a “rolling” strike where at least one person participates in the hunger strike each day. It is an international action — people from all over the world are signing up to participate. The goal is to break the siege and allow humanitarian aid into all the affected areas.
Syrian-Americans who live in Minnesota have been active for the last two years in making presentations to local groups on the conflict and raising money for refugees and medical aid.
Mazen Halabi and many other local Syrian-Americans have been working to help their families and others in Syria, who 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 consistent support.
“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 Zakary pleads with the world to help the “starving and frozen Syrian people”. “Starvation is a much worse weapon of war than sarin gas. 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.”
Gail Daneker, a Director at Friends for a Nonviolent World, has been a peace activist for the last 30 years. “We live in an era where we have ample resources and 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.”
The solidarity hunger strike has gotten support from many Middle East academics and nonviolence advocates around the world. They are calling 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 cross-line access (from regime-controlled areas into rebel-controlled areas).