Anti-radar activist goes on hunger strike

Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednař, photo: CTK

On Tuesday at 11am, anti-radar activist and chairman of the Czech Humanist Party Jan Tamáš began a hunger strike in protest at the Czech Republic’s impending acceptance of a US missile-defence radar base in the country. Dominik Jůn met with Jan Tamáš at his base of operations - a rented shop space in the centre of Prague, to discuss his motivations for taking such a drastic step:

Jan Tamáš and Jan Bednař, photo: CTK
“In the last two years, we have tried many, many things. We’ve tried organising peaceful demonstrations, marches, petitions; we organised several international conferences on this topic; we organised several happenings as well. I travelled throughout Europe and the United States to have debates about this issue and met with US congressmen and others. But in spite of all this and in spite of the fact that two-thirds of Czechs oppose this project, our government continues to negotiate with the US government about the radar and is close to signing the deal. And to us it becomes more than just an issue of a radar base, or of foreign troops that will be stationed on our territory. It becomes an issue of democracy in our country.”

So you view this radar as a kind of betrayal?

“I had a dream of a society that I would want to live in back in 1989 when we were going through the Velvet Revolution, and I think that all of us were dreaming of a world where it wouldn’t be the political elites that were deciding for the majority of the population without their involvement and even against their will. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is taking place today. Our leaders are denying us the right to decide on this issue in a referendum, and they are going ahead with this project knowing that they are going against the majority of the people. Now that to me seems so strong that together with my colleague Jan Bednař, we decided to go on hunger strike, because we think that is important to speak up and to let people know that this is not what we dreamt of and this is not democracy.”

How long do you intend to continue the hunger strike?

“Well, we want to continue as long as it takes. We have certain demands [including a public referendum] and we will continue until these demands are met.”

Are you willing to give your life to this cause, should it come to that?

“I don’t think that I would like to give my life for this cause, and fortunately we have other people that in case one of us has to decide to quit the hunger strike for health reasons, other people will join in and take their place. So this hunger strike can continue even if someone has to stop for health reasons.”

And we’re in an office here in the centre of Prague at I.P. Pavlova, surrounded by campaign posters from the “Ne násilí” organization – or “No to Violence.” So is this your centre of operations and is this where you are going to stay during the hunger strike?

“Yes, this is a place that we as humanists have rented, and this is where we will be staying for the whole duration of the hunger strike. The place is open to the public every day, including Sundays and Saturdays from ten in the morning until 8pm so we invite people to come in and sign our online petition against the radar if they haven’t already done so. The website is www.nonviolence.cz. This is a place where we engage in debate with people and it is also a place where people come here to support us.”