Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike enters 2nd month / Ireland reunification referendum / Brittany’s Diwan turns 40

19 to 25 May

Gathering in support of strikers.
Gathering in support of strikers. Author: Addameer
WEEKLY ROUNDUP. More than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have entered the second month of their hunger strike, protesting “severe” conditions to which they are subjected in Israeli prisons. The situation is also tense in the Philippines, where president Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law in Mindanao. In Europe, Sinn Féin is again asking for a referendum on Ireland’s reunification as a way to overcome Brexit, while Breton-medium school network Diwan is marking its 40th anniversary.


Hunger strike of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners enters second month.Strikers protest the “severe conditions of incarceration” in Israeli prisons. They call for more family visits —Israeli has come under the Red Cross’s criticism on this point—, improved access to medical treatment, and restrictions to the implementation of solitary confinement, among other measures. Some 60 strikers in critical health condition have been rushed to hospital this week. All in all, Israel holds more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners —more than 600 of them under administrative detention, that is without having been formally charged or tried— with a variety of cases: MPs, journalists, Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine members.... Most are convicted for terrorism-related offences by the Israeli authorities. The Palestinian movement, however, regards them as prisoners of war. Strikers have received support from Palestinian civil society groups on several occasions. Israeli newspaper Haaretzwonders if it would not be better to negotiate with the strikers, rather than risking “to descend into a third intifada.”


Referendum on Irish unity before 2023? Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill has again insisted this week on a five-year term to decide on the issue. The Irish republican party seeks to avoid Northern Ireland from falling outside the EU as a result of Brexit. Sinn Féin’s election manifesto calls on the EU to grant Northern Ireland a special status and, within five years, to organize a vote on Irish reunification. Voters in Northern Ireland, like those in the rest of the UK, are expected to elect all 650 seats in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament, June 8.

Diwan schools mark 40 years of Breton-medium education. Thir first-ever class was opened on 23 May 1977 in Gwitalmeze (Ploudalmézeau, in French), with just five pupils. Today, Diwan has 4,242 pupils in 46 schools. Diwan’s board of directors, looking back, believe the network’s example was a key factor to trigger the introduction of Breton-French bilingual schooling in in public and private education centres in Brittany, which as of today are attended by almost 13,000 students —in addition to those in Diwan centres. Coinciding with the anniversary, Yoran Embanner publishing house has released Diwan 40 years déjà !, a book by Diwan teacher Fanny Chauffin that explains the history of Diwan schools, and sets the Breton-medium network of schools in comparison to education centres of other European stateless nations.

Unilateral ceasefire by South Sudanese government. President of South Sudan Salva Kiir has ordered army commanders to stop attacking rival factions. Kiir says he wants to launch “an inclusive dialogue.” However, clashes have been reported following the announcement. This is not the first time that a similar initiative is launched in the war-ravaged African country. It is not clear at all whether Kiir is now willing to negotiate with his foe and former vice president Riek Machar.

Kurds, Baloch support to Hassan Rouhani’s reelection. The Iranian president, who won the 19 May election, got 57% of the votes at the Iran-wide level, defeating conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi, who totaled 38%. Rouhani, regarded as being a reformist, received higher rates of support than the Iranian average in most Kurdish- and Baloch-majority provinces. Even so, abstention rose in the Kurdish provinces. Several Kurdish parties in exile had called for an election boycott.

Martial law declared in Mindanao. Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is expected to extend this exceptional measure for 60 days on the island. According to Duterte, martial law will allow the army to more effectively fight two Islamist armed groups (Maute and Abu Sayyaf) who have sworn allegiance to Islamic State. A Philippine army statement says that MILF and MNLF —both political and military groups involved in the Mindanao peace process —which should result in an expanded autonomy for Bangsamoro— will be left out of the military operations.