Hunger strike

From Academic Kids

A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance in which participants fast as an act of political protest or to achieve a goal such as a policy change.


Mohandas Gandhi

In 1922, 1930, 1933 and 1942 Mahatma Gandhi was sent to prison. The British could not let him die as he was very well known and Britain’s reputation would have suffered. Gandhi would not martyr himself for nothing. He knew how to sacrifice in ways which had political value.

Mohandas Gandhi engaged in two famous hunger strikes. The first protested British rule of India; the second, autocratic rule in the newly self-governed India.


Bobby Sands was the first of ten Irish nationalist paramilitary prisoners who died due to a hunger strike in 1981. This hunger strike was a protest against the revocation by the British of a prisoner of war-like Special Category Status for paramilitary-linked prisoners held in Northern Ireland.There was widespread support for the hunger strikers from Irish republicans and the broader nationalist community on both sides of the border. Some of the hunger strikers were elected to both the Irish and British parliaments by an electorate who wished to register their disgust at the attitude of the British government. Each man took ten weeks to die, on average, taking only water and salt. After the deaths of the men and following severe public disorder, the British government allowed political prisoners to retain their Special Category status. The hunger strikes gave a huge propaganda boost to a severely demoralised IRA. The tactic was not new, having been used by republicans during the Anglo-Irish War in the 1920's, most famously the Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney, who died on hunger strike in Brixton prison in 1921.

Kurdish and other prisoners in Turkey

In recent years, many Kurdish separatists in Turkish jails have died on hunger strike. It is alleged that 6 hunger strikers died during 2004, Kurdish or other. They protested against small prison cells which, are felt to facilitate torture. The Government maintains that 189 hunger strikers received presidential pardons since 2000. Turkey's poor human rights record causes many Europeans to oppose its accession to the European Union.

British suffragettes

In the early 20th Century suffragettes frequently endured hunger strikes in British prisons. Marion Dunlop was the first in 1909. She was released as the authorities did not want her to become a martyr. Other suffragettes in prison also underook hunger strikes. The prison authorities subjected them to force-feeding, which they categorised as a form of torture. Mary Clarke and several others died as a result of force-feeding.

In 1913 the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act (nicknamed the "Cat and Mouse Act") changed policy. Hunger strikes were tolerated but prisoners were released when they became sick. When they had recovered, the suffragettes were taken back to prison to finish their sentences.

Gwynfor Evans

In 1980, the Welsh nationalist politician Gwynfor Evans threatened to go on hunger strike in order to hold the newly-elected Conservative government to its election promise to set up a Welsh-language TV channel. The government capitulated and the channel was on air by the end of the year.


External link

  • Infoshop News ( - Palestinian Strike
  • Women’s Suffrage (

nl:Hongerstaking ja:ハンガー・ストライキ


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