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The New Arab

#SaltWaterChallenge: Palestinians launch media campaign to support hunger strikers

Over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails are on hunger strike [AFP]

Date of publication: 27 April, 2017

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The challenge, which involves drinking a glass of water mixed with salt, was launched by Marwan Barghouti's son to show solidarity with over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
The son of jailed political leader and hunger striker Marwan Barghouti launched a social media challenge on Wednesday to draw attention to the plight of Palestinian prisoners.

The campaign, called #saltwaterchallenge or #تحدي_مي_وملح, was initiated by Aarab Marwan Barghouti to show solidarity with over 1,600 Palestinian prisoners who embarked on a mass hunger strike last week.

The challenge involves drinking a glass of water mixed with salt, and then nominating two others to do the same, similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge which went viral in 2014.

"Why salt water? Because the prisoners have been living only on salt water for seven days so far," Aarab says in the video.

Salt water is highly symbolic as it is usually the only thing Palestinian prisoners consume while on hunger strike.

In the past, some prisoners on extended strikes have also resorted to drinking water mixed with sugar as a way to prolong their protest action.

Aarab Barghouti nominated Palestinian singer and Arab Idol winner Mohammed Assaf to take the challenge, which he accepted within hours.

"I challenge everyone, and every honourable person, wherever they may be, to take on this challenge in solidarity with our heroic detainees until they gain their freedom," Assaf says in his video.

Hundreds of Palestinians have since completed the social media challenge, uploading videos to Facebook and Twitter.

Palestinian singer Yacoub Shaheen, the most recent winner of Arab Idol, also joined in, posting his video online.

Marwan Barghouti's health seriously declined over the past week and the Palestinian leader is reportedly refusing medical treatment.

In response to the reports, an Israeli Prisons Service spokesperson said: "If Barghouti feels bad, all he has to do is eat."

The hunger strike began on April 17, with those taking part ingesting only water and salt. They have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access.

Barghouti was transferred and placed in solitary confinement immediately after the strike began.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes, and are considered political prisoners by Palestinians.

Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

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