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A message from solitary confinement

By Al-Jazeera journalist Abdullah Al-Shami

I wonder what to write on the 300th day of my incarceration and my removal from the bosom of my family and daily life; held hostage within four walls where day follows night without me being able to distinguish anything apart from the morning light and the fall of darkness; or the noise of the birds followed by that of humans and their cars and the roar of aircraft in the skies.

Writing this letter away from the attention of my jailers, as I sit in the solitary confinement cell where I have been for the past 23 days at Al-Aqrab (“scorpion”) Prison, I do not know whether it will ever reach the outside world or not. As I write these words, thousands of ideas pass through my mind. You spend days here not knowing whether your folks, whom I have seen only once during this period, are well or not. You don’t know whether the world is still as you knew it because you have been completely denied every source of news. Above all, you spend your entire day alone, mixing with no one. Even when you are allowed out for a few minutes you are alone. Yet, this is all a mere aside in contrast to being on hunger strike. It becomes more difficult and more severe when on hunger strike with no company and no work.

I tried something much tougher over eight days in May by abstaining from drinking water until I lost consciousness for a period unknown to me; I can no longer keep time in this place. Then, my body shed blood, like in a haemorrhage, and liquids I could not identify. At that time a doctor came to me and said that my body was warning me that my kidney could stop functioning. It was then that I resumed drinking water and occasionally I also drank juice. These days too, I am being approached by people such as the prison warden and the police inspector as well as others to talk to me about the strike or to search for unknown items three times a week.

I am a journalist. I have read a lot about policies and governance. Now, I realise that the authority that is holding me captive and is isolating me from the world might be doing so in order to pressure my family through rumours that I had ended the hunger strike, which I am waging as a battle for my life, or in order to make people believe these rumours and break me through the loss of people’s support. They do not seem to realise that I am already beyond that stage, completely.

As for the battle, this is something that I have already won since all the authorities of that state have been fighting my strike although I am just one unarmed individual. And as for breaking me, let it be known that a person who possesses a resolve like mine can never be broken. As for the pressure on my wife and my family, they do not know them the way I do and they do not know that pressure only reinforces the determination of folks like us. And as for people’s support, those who believed me and believed in my cause at the outset, will surely not let me down. Those who disbelieved me and disbelieved in my cause will not believe even when they see my family take delivery of my corpse.

I do not know how long I have left of this life. Yet, if I die now it suffices to comfort me to know that this battle will continue and that freedom will one day win. I know when that happens that millions of journalists around the world will remember that a young man sacrificed his life for their freedom of speech; so that every journalist in the world will know that he or she has the absolute and full right to cover any unfolding event with all transparency and clarity, leaving it for the viewer or reader alone to judge what they watch or read.

Let it be known to every human being that no one has the right to restrict our freedom without sin or crime. I have fulfilled my mission. My final words are that I am continuing my battle until I regain my full freedom or until someone else will resume what I had started once I have departed.

One again, freedom is a promise to those who remain truthful to it.




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