May 13, 2024, 6:50 PM
Journalist ID: 1852
News ID: 85475940
2 Persons


Bobby Sands, the man who shook foundations of British royal palace

May 13, 2024, 6:50 PM
News ID: 85475940
Bobby Sands, the man who shook foundations of British royal palace

The beginning days of May coincides with the death anniversary of Bobby Sands, the  young Irish campaigner who died in 1981, some 66 days after he started a hunger strike to protest the poor jail conditions in Britain and the way prison guards  mistreated and tortured him while the government led by Margaret Thatcher just ignored him.

Sands was elected as a parliament member for Northern Ireland but the British government even refused to allow him to appear in the legislature. The way he was mistreated and the lack of attention to his demands for segregation of political prisoners from other inmates and the continued beating and tortures that he suffered caused global uproar.

Sands is still regarded as one of the most famous campaigners for independence of Ireland as the poems and songs he has recited in favor of independence from Britain’s cruel colonial rule has turned into a major theme in liberation songs and music.

Sands began his campaign for expulsion of the British army from Northern Ireland when he was just 18.

He was repeatedly arrested and sentenced to long jail terms by the British government. He began his hunger strike in prison in March 1981 after he became fed up with growing pressure on political prisoners.

He also fought for demands like putting an end to the British occupation of Northern Ireland, the right to be viewed as a political prisoner and to enjoy the rights of a political prisoner, wearing prison uniforms that were different from jailed criminals (not to the mention that he was kept naked for a long period inside prison), an stop to using prisoners for forced labor, enjoying the right to hold rallies with other prisoners, access to books, education and studying inside prisons, weekly visit times, access to postal services and mailed packages, and having the right to be notified of verdicts like other prisoners.

Concurrent with Sands' hunger strike, people in Ireland chose him as a local member of parliament during mid-term elections.

However, the British government rejected the vote results and ignored his difficult physical conditions because of a long period of hunger strike and practically prepared the ground for his death.

Sands died on May 5, 1981 at the age of 27 and after 66 days of hunger strike.

Other Irish prisoners followed him and chose hunger strike as a method to make their demands heard. Nine of those hunger strikers died in their struggle to liberate Northern Ireland from the British colonial rule, leading to increasing global and public opinion pressure on Thatcher.

Some 100,000 people attended Bobby Sands’ funeral, making it a historic event and intensifying the radical movement for independence of Northern Ireland from British colonialism. He has always been known as an Irish hero and an inspiring person in Ireland for his struggle to force out the British occupiers from the territory. 

Human rights violations committed by Britain in Sands’ case:

In Bobby Sands’ case alone, there are numerous cases of human rights violations committed by the British government, including the following:

1-Freedom from torture and oppressive treatment which are forbidden under treaties and conventions related to human rights.  Sands hinted in numerous occasions that he had been savagely tortured by police forces.

2-All prisoners are entitled to be treated with respect considering their inherent dignity and value as human beings. In fact, the British government has disrespected the basic standards in dealing with prisoners mentioned in United Nations conventions by denying the rights of the political prisoners who have campaigned for Irish independence.

3-Right to life: the Thatcher government refused to negotiate with the hunger strikers despite the fact that their life had been put to great risk and despite growing calls from human rights organizations, leading to the prisoners to be deprived of their right to life.

4-Right to fair trial: Rather than observing fair trail standards, the courts prosecuting Irish opposition figures relied more than anything else on confessions that no one knew under what circumstances they had been taken.

5-Right to equal protection by law: Basically, the British judicial system failed to deal with Irish political prisoners fairly and without discrimination and issued verdicts that were much heavier than those issued for other convicts.

What events did Bobby Sands’ death caused?

- Bobby Sands’ death triggered negative reactions even from countries that were deemed to be Britain’s allies. International rights organizations, including the Amnesty International, that were routinely used by the British government for advancing its foreign policy agenda, strongly condemned the British government for Sands’ death. Britain also lost the moral position that it had wrongly claimed for many years in the eyes of the global public opinion because of the huge impacts of the incident.

-Britain’s human rights claims come as it has left behind huge catastrophes in colonies like India and Ireland. Bobby Sands’ death is only a tiny example of efforts by people seeking liberation from parasitic rule in other countries and is an instance of numerous human rights catastrophes that Britain has left behind in nearly a century of opposing independence-seeking movements in other nations. Bearing this in mind, one should clearly question Britain’s mandate for raising human rights claims against other members of the international community.

-Publication of documentary films about Bobby Sands’ life and images taken from his hunger strike period which clearly portrays his grave physical condition have been very helpful in elucidating the inhumane practices of the British government.

Iran was among the first countries taking a position to condemn this crime. During a speech in 1981, former President Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei touched upon the struggle and the death of this Irish campaigner.

“... the days of political empires have come to an end. The hegemons must go. The oppressed people of the world should be optimistic about their future. We have always been saying this and predicted that when a young Irish campaigner displays such a degree of resistance just under the aegis of an old and decayed empire with such records so that the entire world focuses on him, the existence of such a person and his resistance and the scandal suffered by the power that opposes him is a proof of the recommendation we had learnt from Islam and we repeated it time and time again. We have said and we will continue to say that the day is close for the collapse of the satanic and hegemonic powers.”

The infamy of killing Bobby Sands remained with Margaret Thatcher until April 2013 when she died and even after Thatcher’s death, Bobby Sands’ case was never forgotten and even the influences of his freedom-seeking campaign against the British colonialism became more popular around the world. Even today the issue of full Irish independence is living on in the minds of the people of the territory.

After Britain left the European Union (EU), Northern Ireland was re-separated from Ireland through the establishment of new borders. In fact, people in Northern Ireland have been separated from the EU because of the continued colonial rule of Britain while Ireland is still an EU member. This has caused the people in Northern Ireland to renew their demand for independence from Britain and to reunite with Ireland.


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