Woomera hunger-strikers taunted

Issue 

BY SARAH STEPHEN

The information available from the hunger strikers in Woomera detention centre, whose protest passed the two-week mark on July 7, is heart-rending. The July 5 Canberra Times spoke by telephone to Ramzi, who said "We are very weak and ... everyone is quiet. They don't have the energy any more. But they want to continue [until] we die or we get freedom."

Ramzi told the Canberra Times that about 15 detainees were too weak to speak properly and others had diarrhoea. One detainee was suffering severe headaches after hitting his head with a rock in frustration at not receiving medical treatment despite complaining of painful eyes for eight months. Hunger strikers are also being refused medication and taunted with food.

With one escapee still missing in the South Australian desert, the police search was called off on July 6. Twenty detainees appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on July 4 and will appear again on November 5 to face charges of "escaping lawful detention". They will be held in Woomera detention centre until then. Two of the five people arrested and charged with assisting the break-out have also faced court in Adelaide.

In a tape delivered to the ABC on July 1, some of the participants in the break-out emphasised the unplanned nature of the action: "These people know fascism and if you had the opportunity out there to sit down with these people face to face, I can guarantee that most of the people in Australia would do the same thing that we've done because you cannot turn your back. You can't unlearn the reality once you've learned the reality from these people, you cannot walk away and you cannot not offer them help."

From Green Left Weekly, July 10, 2002.
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