A year after being released from an Israeli prison following a 103-day hunger strike, Maher al-Akhras is barely able to walk. Frequent bouts of dizziness and sensitivity to noise mean he can neither enjoy social occasions nor return to work on his ancestral farm in the occupied West Bank.
Back home, he is seen as a hero of the Palestinian cause, one of a small group of hunger strikers who have secured release from Israeli detention. But the mental and physical damage from the prolonged hunger strike has left him and others like him unable to resume normal lives, and reliant on long-term medical care.
“My balance is gone,” said al-Akhras. “I can’t walk among the cows, I can’t hold them, I can’t milk them.”
Palestinian prisoners have long used hunger strikes to pressure Israel to improve the conditions of their detention or to secure their release after being held without charges for months or years under a policy known as administrative detention.