Press Releases 

wedish Human Rights Defender on Hunger Strike

Tel Aviv, February 21, 2024: Israeli authorities at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport have denied entry to a Swedish foreign national and Palestinian human rights defender arbitrarily citing “Public security or public safety or public order considerations”. Samira Khoshbakht, 42, a textile artist and craft teacher working with children, has started a hunger strike in protest of their detention after being denied entry to Israel/Palestine. Samira’s phone was taken, they have not been allowed to contact the Swedish embassy and are now held in a moldy cell.

Samira has stated: “Amidst the ongoing genocide in Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank endure daily brutality from Israeli settlers and soldiers. The media coverage of these violations is highly deficient, only a small fraction of the most extreme cases are reported. Just in the past few months, sixteen whole communities have been displaced. Therefore, the presence of human rights activists is crucial. Israel's imprisonment and deportation of international human rights defenders under the guise of terrorism are unjustifiable actions. In accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Israel is obliged to protect and promote our work. Our contribution is to observe and document what is happening on the ground and we are determined to continue doing so.”

Israel controls all access points to the Palestinian territories it occupies. Being denied entry by occupation authorities entails interrogation, forcible deportation and most often a ban on returning. In an extension of the oppression of Palestinian human rights, Israeli authorities continue targeting human rights defenders who speak out against its violations of international humanitarian law. Israel has denied entry to UN Special Rapporteurs on the occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT) since 2008. Lately, Israel has refused to extend the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPT’s visa. At the end of November 2023, human rights defender Allison Russell, a Scottish-born Belgian citizen, was arrested and then deported due to her work in reporting the ongoing attacks of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Far more brutal consequences for those that Israel wants to silence are implemented in the Gaza strip, where Israel has carried out targeted executions of journalists, outspoken academics, human rights defenders and their families.

We demand the immediate release of detained human rights defender Samira Khoshbakht and the cessation of tactics of violence and harassment against human rights defenders on the ground.

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