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Maikel Nabil Sanad: Hunger Strike isn’t Suicide

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When I started my hunger strike since nearly 40 days, many people tried to convince me to end my strike... Of the most opinions I heard was the religious point of view, which is summarized for: the hunger strike is a type of suicide, the one who commits suicide is an infidel, the church doesn’t make a prayer on strikers if they died, their destiny is eternal torture... It’s funny that the religious Christians and religious Muslims, together, had the same point of view.

Unfortunately, this kind of religious thought produced a jurisprudence which grew in a climate of political tyranny, by clerics who interpret religion for the liking of the unjust authoritarian authority, so they made religion a means for oppressing the peoples... Personally, despite my non-belief in any religion, however I see that religion in its essence promotes resisting injustice and that the one who is on a hunger strike isn’t someone who commits suicide and isn’t an infidel... In this article I’m going to explain the idea of hunger strike and I’m going to explain from the 2 points of view, the religious and the humanist, how the strike is a noble action deserving respect and meritorious.

The idea of the strike

  • The hunger strike, which is clear from the English phrase, is a “strike of hunger”, any type of challenging hunger for all its pains, not for several hours only (as what happens in fasting) but for days, weeks and months... The normal person bears the hunger strike from 50 to 70 days, afterward he enters the stages of death... The ill person bears a shorter time... In a hunger strike, the person can take anything that won’t eliminate hunger feeling as long as it’s not food, in other words, drinks, medicines and water don’t conflict with hunger strike, though some strikers abstain from some or all these things in order for their strike to become stronger.
  • The thirst strike, is a “strike of thirst”, in other words challenging thirst (multiplying hunger, of course), in it the person abstains from eating or drinking anything... The normal person bears from 3 to 5 days, afterward he suffers renal colic or coma. The idea is to challenge the fatal pains of thirst... Of course, the person’s bearing period of time could become longer than 5 days if solutions were transfused for him.
  • The idea of the strike in general is objecting and resisting injustice, it is one of the means of non-violence struggle... Instead of resisting injustice with violence, resisting by the peaceful means, one of which is the hunger strike. The strike’s significance is that the person is ready to die but he won’t continue living under injustice... Of course, the included message is that if the person on a strike dies he didn’t committed suicide, but was killed, because the person on a strike would have stopped his strike if the injustice was lifted from him, but the unjust continued in his injustice so the result of injustice was death for the one on a hunger strike, therefore the one who is considered responsible for the injustice is the killer of the one on a hunger strike.
  • Of course there are many types of strikes in which the person can add-up together with hunger strike, as strike action and medicine strike and the strike against buying a specific product or a specific newspaper or from watching a specific TV channel.

The person who dies while doing a noble action

  • Resisting injustice is a noble action in most of religions, civilizations and cultures, here comes the question: if the person dies while making a noble action, would that make him seem as if he committed suicide?
  • If someone fasting died, would it make him seem as if he committed suicide? If a Muslim died of fasting during Ramadan in summer as a result of the loss of water, would he seem as if he committed suicide? If one of Christian saints, who were fasting for weeks, died, would that make one of them seem as if he committed suicide? If the one fasting died as a result of his fast he won’t be considered as having committed suicide, because the fasting person (in the eyes of religion) is doing a noble action, and the person who does something noble won’t be considered to have committed suicide.
  • If the person who volunteers to defend his country died, would that make him seem as if he committed suicide? No one forced him to go to war, but he willingly volunteered subjecting his life to danger, but if he died we don’t consider him to have committed suicide, even though he went to death on his feet, but defending the homeland and standing against the unjust aggressor is a noble action, and if the person died while doing a noble action won’t be considered to have committed suicide.
  • If the fireman risked his life and entered a burning house to save another person, would he be considered to have committed suicide if he died? Even though he willingly entered the burning house, no one forced him to do so, but if he died no one considers him to have committed suicide, because he was doing a noble action (saving a person from perishing), and if the person who does a noble action died he wouldn’t be considered to have committed suicide.
  • The Christian martyrs in the era of persecution (according to the Christian history) who heard of one of the rulers killing Christians, they went to him on their foot to die martyrs, why did the church consider them martyrs and not to have committed suicide? And did the church refuse to make a prayer on them? Despite that the unjust ruler didn’t arrest them and didn’t ask them to leave Christianity, maybe the wali/governor would have intended to ignore them and not to make persecution decisions on them, but they were the ones to have come to him on their feet and mandated that he make persecution on them and kill them... The church doesn’t consider them to have committed suicide, but martyrs, because in the point of view of the church those persons are doing a noble action and its the martyrdom for believing in Christianity, and the person who dies while doing a noble action isn’t considered to have committed suicide.

The examples are many, all are summarized in that the religion promotes resisting injustice and the person who dies while resisting injustice or during doing a noble action didn’t commit suicide, but some religions and cultures consider him a martyr... Exactly as we consider the martyrs of 25 January Revolution as martyrs not to have committed suicide, despite that all of them would have lived if they hadn’t participated in the demonstrations and stayed home, but because they were resisting injustice and tyranny, which is a noble action, for this reason no one looks at them as if they have committed suicide.

When your death changes the lives of others

  • Despite my belief in the “right to death” as one of human rights, and that the person has the right to choose when he leaves life... Here, I don’t discuss this idea, and I don’t want to be considered by any means as if I promote people to commit suicide. However, what is undeniable, that when some persons sacrifice their lives or when they are subjected to death, their death leads to results changing the fate of millions of humans to the better, therefore their suicide or their assassination is a noble action which we have to appreciate.
  • The most prominent example on this idea is the incidence of “Mohamed Bouazizi” committing suicide... The Tunisian youth who was subjected to injustice, so he set his body on fire in front of the building of the municipality of his Tunisian city, so his death erupted the revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the rest of Arab countries, to the extent that only Qatar and Emirates of the Arab countries were the ones where big demonstrations didn’t happen after the suicide of Bouazizi... The Egyptians who have suffered of Mubarak injustice, and who lived for decades in Mubarak’s prisons, all those owe their freedom for Mohamed Bouazizi suicide... If there were a god, I don’t imagine that this god would throw Mohamed Bouazizi in hell, because god is benevolent and likes benevolence for people, and the religion came for the benevolence of mankind, so why would god sanction a person for bringing goodness for the tortured mankind?
  • Also, Christ is a religious model for committing suicide who brought goodness for mankind by his death (according to the Christian belief)... So, Christ had known that there is an intention for his arrest and killing, and he knew of Judah betrayal, despite that, he went to a quiet place to make the task for his arrest easier, then during his trial he deliberately brusquely answered the ones who tried him, replying to Pontius Pilate, “you say” and speaking to the chief of priests in a way which made one of the slaves of the chief of priests hit Christ. Of course, it is obvious that speaking in this manner with rulers in this tyrannical era, has no result but death. But, Christianity looks to the death of Christ as a salvation to mankind. Christianity as a whole is based on the cross, resurrection and the death of Christ. If it wasn’t for his death and his redemption, there wouldn’t have been something called Christianity... This is another example on a death incident which changed the history of mankind to the better (in the point of view of its believers).
  • A third example is the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. Benazir resisted the military rule in Pakistan for long years, and the general Musharraf, the coup d’etat ruler who imposed his dictatorship and his injustice on his Pakistani people, Benazir was subjected to prison and exile because of her struggle for democracy, but all that didn’t lead to the fall of the regime of Musharraf... In one of her rounds in Pakistan to mobilize the people in favor of the idea of democracy, Benazir was subjected to assassination in an operation in which general Musharraf was the most prominent ones to be accused of... This incident was the one to lead to the resignation of Musharraf under popular protesting pressure which were erupted objecting the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and by that, Pakistan got rid of the military rule... The Pakistani people owe their country to the death of Benazir Bhutto, if not for her assassination the military rule would have continued in Pakistan till that day.
  • The same thing is said on the assassination of the Egyptian youth “Khaled Said”... Egyptians who suffered of Mubarak rule for nearly 30 years, and who didn’t make a popular revolution against tyranny and despotism, because of the picture of Khaled’s crushed face and his touching story, they started a series of demonstrations, continued from mid summer 2010, and reached its peak in 28 January 2011, and these are the demonstrations to overthrow Mubarak and transferred Egyptians to a new era... Egyptians owe the death of Khaled for their liberation from Mubarak and his inheritance of power project.
  • What was said on Khaled Said and Benazir Bhutto, can also be said on the assassination of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Yitzhak Rabin, Jeanne d'Arc and others of the characters whose death caused change in the future of mankind to the better.


I hope that our usage of religion and philosophy be in the interest of humans not against them. In the interest of equality not for the interest of despots and tyrants. In the interest of human progress not their regression. Let’s start from now a movement reforming religions that would purge religions of jurisprudence experts of authoritarian authority, from the jurisprudence of tyranny, and to upgrade the interpretations of religions to a humane standard going along the interest of humans. Life isn’t a goal in itself, but we are living to enjoy in it, if we were to suffer in it, why live? If death is going to come whether we like it or not, why not die with our dignity instead of death coming to us to find us alive in humiliation? So, let’s stop fearing death, our courage in challenging death would lead to our victory, exactly as our courage challenging death in Tahrir square at the beginning of our revolution was the reason for our victory over Mubarak.

                        Maikel Nabil Sanad
                        El-Marg general prison – prison hospital