In solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners


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Shahd Abusalama | October 6, 2011 | Mondoweiss

I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately. Last night I was exhausted, in body and mind, but tried to keep my eyes open to follow updates on the Palestinian prisoners’ conditions. My heart and mind were with them completely, in every corner of the horrible Israeli prisons where our heroes continue with persistence, steadfastness, and struggle. Deciding to rebel against the torturous conditions they could no longer endure, the prisoners started a hunger strike on 27 September. [Ed: For more on the hunger strike see here, here and here.]

Around 6,000 detainees inside Israeli prisons are forgotten and treated as if they are less than animals. Israel, who claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, seems to forget that prisoners are humans and have rights. The Palestinian prisoners are hunger striking for the ninth day hoping that Israel will implement their simple demands. But while they are calling with the loudest voice they can for their rights, Israel is reacting negatively, using every method they can to force the prisoners to give up. Prisoners are being sent to isolation in increasing numbers, family visits are being denied, families threatened, and identity cards confiscated, visits with denied, and belongings and clothing confiscated, beyond the constant, harsh torment they already receive.

Israel is violating international law and nobody is stopping them. Oh, pardon me for forgetting that Israel is beyond any law! Around 285 children are jailed and the world is still silent; nobody will dare to challenge Israel.

I am very emotionally attached to the prisoners’ issue, especially their hunger strike, not only because I am Palestinian but also because I am the daughter of a released prisoner. I was brought up hearing my father’s sad stories, full of suffering and despair, which remain stuck in his memory and never will leave him. My father’s eyes would have never seen the sun if Ahmad Gibreel didn’t manage to make a deal exchanging the three Israeli prisoners he held captive in 1985. My family was watching the news concerning the ongoing prisoners’ hunger strike when Dad started telling us about his imprisonment, which lasted for 15 years. “I witnessed and participated in the longest hunger strike in the history of Palestinian prisoners in 1982, which lasted for 33 consecutive days,” he said. “Three prisoners died and tens of cases were sent to hospital, including about 27 for dehydration, but what else way could we do to pressure them to provide us with the smallest things?”

Thinking deeply about my father’s words, and trying to imagine the awful conditions of the Palestinians inside the merciless Israeli jails, broke my heart. All the unbearable treatment prisoners get is totally unfair and against humanity!

There was a demonstration today in solidarity with these prisoners, whose health is getting worse every day, but who will bravely continue. I was lucky to not have early lectures at university, so I could be there at 9:00 am protesting against the situation of our prisoners. I had some conversations with other women there protesting, too. Most of them were either released prisoners or had sons, brothers, or husbands in prison hunger striking.

One of them was a mother of six kids whose children grew up as if they were fatherless; her husband is spending his 26th year inside a damned Israeli prison. “I was one month pregnant with my youngest girl, who is 25 years now, when my husband was arrested,” she said. “My oldest girl was only seven years old. All my kids do have a father but they became adults without their father around, like orphans.” She kept describing to me how hard it was to be alone without her husband taking care of six children, and how much she suffered and endured to make her husband, sentenced to lifelong imprisonment, proud of his children when he hopefully someday gets his freedom back. “I was very young, only 24 years old, when he went to prison. I stayed in this state of a married woman who has to live without a husband for 26 years for my six children. Thankfully I now have 25 grandchildren,” she said proudly.
Then she burst out crying expressing her worries because she heard that the Israeli army attacked Asqelan prison where her husband is held yesterday, violently attempting to force the impossible: to make the hunger strike end. I couldn’t then hide my tears anymore, despite trying so hard not to let them fall. I didn’t know what to do or say to calm her down. The woman told me that she and all other prisoners’ families have been denied visitation since Hamas was elected. They hear nothing from their imprisoned family members, except rarely, when some miracle happens, like someone from West Bank visiting his relatives imprisoned with her husband, who asks the visitor to convey a message to her that he is doing well.

I couldn’t say anything but prayers that God provides her with patience and that her husband gets his freedom back soon.

My father has always said that prisoners are the living martyrs. I think they really deserve this honor for all the injustice and suffering they endure. This open hunger strike of the Palestinian prisoners will continue until the Israeli army addresses their demands. International solidarity is needed now more than ever. Everyone needs to wake up and do something. We shouldn’t let the torturous conditions of the Palestinian detainees last forever!

Shahd Abusalama blogs at Palestine From My Eyes.

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