#PalHunger | Palestine: Hunger Strikers’ Families Wage Own Battles

A Palestinian protestor holds a banner and a photo of a relative during a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails outside the Massiyahu Prison in Ramle, near Tel Aviv, on 3 May 2012. (Photo: AFP – Ahmad Gharabli)

As soon the electricity comes on in her house in Gaza, the mother of Palestinian prisoner Ahmad al-Shamali rushes to the TV set to watch the latest news.

She is eager to find out about the state of her son, particularly as it has been 16 days since he and his fellow prisoners began a hunger strike.

Shamali’s mother lives in a state of constant apprehension and worry over her son, who has spent four of his 18-year prison sentence without seeing his own children.

She is worried about Shamali, saying that she has not heard news about him for more than 14 days.

She is slightly reassured when the daily news does not mention him as a martyr or among those who are in a critical condition as a result of the hunger strike.

“My son and all the prisoners are engaging in an honorable battle to obtain their basic demands from their jailers,” she says through her tears.

“They should at least have the right to see their families instead of the deprivation they are suffering.”

Shamali’s mother adds that she has not seen her detained son since Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner in 2006.

“Despite the critical risks that they face, I hope that they hang in there until the end so that we can see them,” she says, adding, “My heart is with him in every prayer and I don’t stop praying for him and his companions.”

Nidal al-Sarafiti, an elderly man, is not in any better shape than Shamali’s mother, although he was also a prisoner in Israeli jails in the late 1970s.He also worries about Ali, his only living son after his two other sons were killed in Israeli air raids.

“The prison administration today has a hard-nosed approach and is different than previous ones,” says Sarafiti.

He adds that past administrations at least “feared prisoner hunger strikes and would submit to all their collective demands…Today, they would rather see the prisoners die than meet their demands.”

Sarafiti says that “the instinct of fatherhood overtakes me and I hurt when I imagine that something bad might happen to my son. But there is nothing I can do.”

Like most relatives of prisoners, Abu Husni has not seen his son in years.

He says that he has started to “live in a dream” that his son would be released. He would marry him off and be happy for him in the remaining years of his life.

The same goes for his wife, who is worn out by pain, deprivation, and years of shedding tears over her sons until she became ill with diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis.

She can no longer walk without help inside her own house and she has become almost completely blind.

“I pray to God Almighty that I retain a little eyesight so I could see my son again,” she says. “After that, I don’t want my eyesight. I just want to see my beloved son before I die.”

A prisoner’s wife endures an entirely different kind of suffering, as Najiyeh Musleh says. She is known as a married woman but has not experienced married life.

Musleh never bore any children and cannot live in her husband’s house as is customary. She tries to keep her husband’s parents and her own happy – all at the expense of her personal suffering, as she puts it.Musleh lives on the hope of reuniting with her husband, Salama, and living with him. They only lived together for four years, although they have been married for 25.

Her husband has already spent 19 years in Israeli jails after he was handed a 99-year sentence for killing settlers to avenge the martyrs of the 1990 Ouyoun Qarra massacre on its first anniversary.

More than 1,700 Palestinian prisoners are on an indefinite hunger strike until they obtain their legitimate demands, starting with ending solitary confinement and allowing their families to visit.

The prisoners’ families have been complaining about a weak show of solidarity with their kin, who are in their third week of a hunger strike.

But more than 50 liberated prisoners announced on Wednesday their own hunger strike for “their brothers inside the Zionist jails” and to “deliver their message to the world that the cause of the prisoners and their demands are just.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


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