On International Women’s Day, Palestinian Political Prisoners Remain the Spearhead of Resistance

From the cold, dark dungeon, and after three weeks of an open-ended hunger strike, Palestinian detainee Hana Ash-Shalabi saluted Palestinian women on the occasion of International Women’s Day and confirmed that she will continue her hunger strike and her struggle: I will not compromise my freedom and my right for any price, and I have decided to continue my hunger strike for my dignity and the dignity of all those struggling for freedom and liberation.

Palestinian women will always be the spearhead of resistance against the occupier and the symbol of generosity, patience and steadfastness.

Hana Ash-Shalabu, today on her 21st day of hunger strike, is writing a new chapter in the history of struggle and steadfastness, the history of a nation that is yearning for freedom and fighting for justice, the history of Palestinian women who have always stood side by side with their fathers, brothers, husbands, comrades to resist the Zionist occupation, to fight for freedom and legitimate rights.

Palestinian women resist the Zionist occupation soldiers in the streets and alleys of occupied Palestine, they resist the Zionist colonists in the fields and meadows, they resist the Zionist jailors in the dungeons. And every day, Palestinian female prisoners write new chapters in the history of resistance with their courage and their steadfastness. Neither the threats, the harassments, the torture, the interrogation cells nor the walls of the dungeons can break their will or stop their struggle. They fight not only for their freedom, but for the freedom of every Palestinian, and their belief in their just cause gives them the strength to continue the struggle, to break the dungeon walls and to defeat injustice. Their struggle is the struggle of every Palestinian, the struggle of every justice-seeking person, the struggle of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners, those who are free today and those who are still fighting for freedom. Since 1967, Israeli occupation forces kidnapped and detained more than 800,000 Palestinians, including 15,000 Palestinian women.

During the First Intifada, at least 3000 women were detained and during Al-Aqsa Intifada more than 900 women were locked up behind Israeli bars. Raids are carried out on a daily bases, and every week tens of Palestinians are kidnapped from their homes, workplace, schools and at checkpoints. Alone this week, at least 3 Palestinian women were detained by Israeli occupation forces, 2 of them while visiting their relatives imprisoned by Israel. Currently, there are 11 Palestinian female prisoners held captive in Israeli dungeons and detention centres.

The Zionist entity violates the rights of Palestinian political prisoners on a daily basis. In addition to torture, physical and verbal abuse, repeated attacks and humiliation, Palestinian political prisoners in general and female political prisoners in particular suffer from medical negligence, are denied proper nourishment, their private property destroyed or confiscated, they are tied up for hours under the hot sun or under the rain, are deprived of sleep, isolated, and are forced to pay for the water and electricity they consume. The cells are small, over-crowded, damp, lack hygiene, are cold in winter and hot in summer, no sun or fresh air enters them and they are infested with insects and mice.

Palestinian female prisoners are often subjected to harsh and humiliating raids and body searches. During raids, mostly at midnight or early morning, tear gas is fired inside the cells and Israeli prison guards beat Palestinian female prisoners, causing many injuries, broken bones and suffocations. On 24.06.2010, Israeli special forces in the Damon prison broke into the cells of Palestinian female prisoners in the early morning, assaulted the prisoners, searched the cells and forced them to undress, to sit in a humiliating squatting position for 4 hours under the pretext of inspection. Water is very dirty and undrinkable and food is inedible, forcing the detainees to buy their food and water from the prison canteen for very high prices.
One method of punishment favoured by Israeli prison forces is reducing family visitation for Palestinian prisoners from 45 minutes to 15 minutes, or cancelling all visitations despite the hardships the families endure to reach the prisons. When a Palestinian child reaches the age of 16, he/she is prevented from visiting their detained parent anymore without special permits which aren’t easy to get. In addition, Gaza, Arab and many West Bank prisoners are denied their visitation rights completely. Also, there are many cases of Palestinian female prisoners who were imprisoned as well as other family members, such as their husbands or their siblings, but were not allowed to visit them.

Israeli prison authority refuses to allow Palestinian female prisoners to visit their imprisoned husbands, despite the existence of an Israeli law which permits family visits within jails once every 6 months. While Palestinian female political prisoners are denied such rights, Israeli criminal prisoners are allowed family visits at least once every 3 months. Linan Abu Ghalmeh asked to be removed to the same section as her sister Taghreed who was also held hostage in the same Israeli prison, but the Israeli prison authority refused her request despite Linan’s 20 day hunger strike.

During house raids, Palestinian mothers, sisters and daughters are beaten, kidnapped to detention centres, and tortured to force their relatives to surrender themselves to Israeli occupation soldiers or to force confessions out of them. Fathiya Sweas, 57 year old mother, was detained on 19.07.2010, and her sister Ikhlas, the wife of a prisoner, was also summoned for interrogation. Upon her release on 01.08.2010, Sweas talked about being tortured, prevented from sleeping and forced to stand for long hours despite her bad health. She was threatened with the detention of all her sisters if she didn’t provide information. In addition, Palestinian women are sometimes kept hostage by the Israeli prison authority while visiting imprisoned family members. Samha Hijaz was detained while visiting her brother in jail. Since the beginning of 2012, at least 8 women were detained while visiting brothers, husbands or sons in Israeli occupation dungeons.

One form of punishing Palestinian prisoners is medical negligence. Since 1967, at least 51 Palestinian political prisoners have been killed due to the deliberate medical negligence widespread in Israeli dungeons. Palestinian female prisoners in need of medical treatment are denied appropriate and urgent medical care. Instead, they are punished with isolation, withholding or delaying the provision of medicine and treatment, thus contributing to a deterioration in their situation and leaving them to die a slow and painful death. All ailment and diseases, no matter how malignant, are “treated” with pain killers, expired or useless medicines and those who do get operated end up in a worse situation than before the operation.

Palestinian prisoners are treated either in the so-called prison clinics or are sent to the Ramleh prison “hospital”. Both the “hospital” and the clinics lack basic medical equipment and supplies and are run by military personnel with little to no medical training. There are no specialists and no doctors for emergencies at night. Patients are transferred in vans to the Ramlah prison “hospital” instead of in ambulances while they are hand and leg cuffed.

They are also hand and leg cuffed during operations which are often conducted without anesthetic. In cases when human rights organizations send a doctor to examine a sick prisoner, the Israeli prison authority delays giving the needed permission by placing obstacles. The prisoner has to apply for a “security clearance” so the doctor can enter the prison and this may take more than six months, in which time the health of the prisoner might deteriorate. If security clearance is given, the human rights organization has to apply for a permit for the doctor so he/she may see the prisoner. Even if the doctor is allowed to examine the Palestinian prisoner, he/she is not allowed to issue any medical prescriptions.

According to one report, upon arrest, Palestinian political detainees are first taken to the prison clinic for a medical test to determine their weak points so these might be used by Shabak during interrogations. Palestinian prisoners get interrogated in the so-called prison clinics and are blackmailed into giving information. For example, former Palestinian female prisoner Amna Muna, who was isolated and in need of an operation, was told to sign a document in which she refuses medical treatment in return for not being isolated.

Amal Jum’a suffered from internal bleeding for 6 months, after which it was discovered she has uterine cancer. Israeli prison authority “refused to give her the necessary medical treatment, nor was a stretcher made available. This meant that other female detainees had to carry her on their shoulders in order to move her from one place to another, because her condition had deteriorated so dramatically that she was no longer able to move alone.”[1]
Raja’ Al-Ghoul, who has heart problems, reports how once, while in Israeli detention, her blood pressure was extremely high and despite calls for help from her fellow Palestinian prisoners, the Israeli prison authority ignored her state until she fainted. After many protests, Al-Ghoul was finally taken to the prison clinic where she was left for 2 hours without any attention, after which she was transferred to a hospital. She didn’t get any medical treatment, but was tied to a bed for 2 days and was in such suffering that she preferred to be returned to her cell. On 09.02.2011, it was reported that the medical clinic at the HaSharon prison refused to provide medical assistance to Qahira As-Sa’di who suffered from severe inflammation of the jaw and gum and was in urgent need to remove her infected teeth. The clinic also refused to allow a specialist to see her even on her own expenses.

At least 8 Palestinian female political prisoners were forced to give birth in Israeli prison “hospital” while they were handcuffed and tied to the beds such as Intisar Al-Qaq, Majida Salaymeh, Umaymah Al-Agha, Samiha Hamdan, Mirvat Taha, Manal Ghanim, Samar Sbeih and Fatima Az-Ziq. They didn’t get appropriate medical care before, during or after giving birth and weren’t allowed to have family members by their side while in prison hospital. During 66 days of interrogation, Samar Sbeih who was pregnant, was threatened with abortion, and when she was transferred to hospital to deliver her baby, she was hand and leg cuffed

Another form of punishing Palestinian political prisoners is isolation, which is used to undermine and break the will of the prisoners. Being locked up in isolation cells constitutes not only physical and physiological torture but also a death sentence, where prisoners are left to die a silent death. Some political prisoners are transferred to isolation cells immediately after the end of their interrogation, others are punished with isolation for protesting Israeli inhumane treatment, for demanding their rights, for being political leaders or for no reason other than persecution and harassment. Justifications provided range from “causing a threat”, “being dangerous” to having “influence” on other prisoners. Usually isolation orders are extended without reason and prisoners who are placed in isolation remain so for many years and have no access to other prisoners, no contact with the outside world. There are two types of isolation: Individual isolation where one prisoner is locked up alone in a cell, and dual isolation where two prisoners share a small cell. Every 6 months or every year, depending on the type of their isolation, isolated prisoner go through mock trials which always end with the extension of the prisoner’s isolation without reason. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club describes “a phony court where the prisoner is taken every six months and in the event of their being two prisoners they are taken to it once a year. This court obeys the Israeli intelligence court orders “Al-Shabak” and the prisons administration “Al-Shabas”, and often requires the extension of the period that the prisoner is in isolation without giving reasons for it, and it also lacks the bare images and elements of a fair trial.”[2]

Isolation cells have an area of only 1.8m x 2.7m, including the WC. These cells are damp, badly ventilated. They have an iron door that is fitted with an opening for passing food to the prisoner and one small window close to the ceiling causing high humidity. Neither fresh air nor natural light enter the isolation cells. Prisoners are expected to live, cook, sleep, shower and excrete in these cells. There is almost no room for movement and little space for personal items.

Some Palestinian female detainees were subjected to solitary confinement more than once such as Latifa Abu Thra’, Abeer Amro, Abeer Odeh, Amna Muna, Nisreen Abu Zeinah, Su’ad Nazzal, Wafa’ Il-Bis and Mariam Tarabeen. On 11.03.2003 six Palestinian female prisoners were punished by the Israeli prison authority with solitary confinement because they demanded the prison authority provide them with hot water for bathing during the cold season. Latifa Abu Thra’ was isolated more than once after she was “declared” in 2007 by the Israeli prison authority as “dangerous to the security of the state of Israel”. She suffers from fibers in the uterus and was supposed to conduct medical tests at Tel Hashomer hospital, but because her hands and feet were chained, the nurse was unable to conduct the tests. After the accompanying policewomen refused to unchain her arms, Abu Thra’ unchained herself, upon which she was attacked by the prison guards and “declared” as “dangerous”. She was further punished with solitary confinement for two months and ten days in Ramleh prison, after which she was returned to HaSharon prison and was isolated there. She didn’t get any medical treatment. On another occasion, Abu Thra’ saw the Israeli special forces for the “suppression of prisoners” beat prisoner Sanabil Breek from Nablus. When Abu Thra’ told them to stop beating Breek, the special forces started beating her as well. She defended herself and hit one of them back and was punished with isolation for 4 months in Ramleh prison and a further 2 months of isolation in HaSharon in a tiny cell with cameras observing her 24 hours. Wafa’ Il-Bis spent 7 months in isolation in Ramleh prison, thenwas isolated in Damon, then in Ramleh isolation cell again. Amna Muna was not only deprived of family visits as punishment, but was also placed in isolation for 2 years in Ramleh prison. She was imprisoned together with Israeli criminals who often assaulted her in front of the jailors and she was tied to a bed for days. Ahlam At-Tamimi was isolated as a punishment for writing the names of all Palestinian female prisoners on a piece of paper for her lawyer during a visit.

The Zionist entity uses torture systematically against Palestinian prisoners, including women and children. According to a 2005 report of B’Tselem, 85% of the Palestinian detainees have been subjected to torture: “Since 1987, the GSS (Israeli General Security Service) interrogated at least 850 Palestinians a year by means of torture …. (a)ll governmental authorities – from the Israeli army to the Supreme court – take part in approving torture, in developing new methods, and in supervising them.”[3] Confessions extracted under torture are admissible in Israeli courts, and Israeli interrogators use over 80 methods of physical and psychological torture, including severe beating, shackling, depriving the detainees of sleep, burning detainees with cigarettes, removing their nails, shabih, freezing or boiling baths, standing for long hours, sexual harassment. Torture used during interrogation has led to the death of at least 70 Palestinian detainees. Palestinian female detainee Nili As-Safadi was locked up in an isolation cell for more than 45 days in Israeli detention center Bet Hatikva. The cell was dark, she didn’t get any proper food and wasn’t allowed to change her clothes for the length of her isolation. During the interrogation she was subjected to all forms of physical and psychological torture to force her into confessing. When she didn’t confess, her entire family and the family of her husband were detained. Later she was transferred to HaSharon prison in a journey that lasted 12 hours with her hands and legs bound and she wasn’t given any food or water. Iman Badir Ikhlayyil, 33 years old from Beit Ummar, was kidnapped at an Israeli military checkpoint on 20.06.2010. She was tortured by the Israeli soldiers during the interrogation and had to be transferred to hospital twice.

Former Palestinian detainee Maha Awwad described her time in the detention centre: she was kicked by one of the soldiers until she bled from her mouth, another soldier threatened her with rape, and when she asked for water to drink, a soldier urinated in a bottle and gave it to her. Iman Al-Akhras described how during interrogation she was tied to a chair and was not allowed to eat, drink, go to the bathroom or sleep for 3 days. After her release, former Palestinian prisoner Raja’ Al-Ghoul described her captivity in Israeli dungeons. She was kidnapped in the middle of the night from her home, was handcuffed and taken to Jalameh prison. Al-Ghoul was made to sit on a chair for a whole day with her hands tied behind her and was threatened with torture and the arrest of her husband to force confessions out of her, which she refused. During the 25 days of interrogation she refused food and only drank water, and on the last day of interrogation she was placed in a very cold room, with one stone bed and a very stinky mattress. Al-Ghoul was told by the interrogators that she is to spend her detention time in that cold cell as punishment for not talking. When she still refused to talk, Al-Ghoul was transferred to a cell of Israeli criminal prisoners where she continued her strike and refused to take her heart medicine. Upon the deterioration of her health, the Israeli prison authority was forced to transfer her to section 11 of the Tal Mond prison (for political prisoners). Al-Ghoul further described the suffering of Palestinian female prisoners when transported to court for a hearing or to the Ramleh prison “hospital”: Palestinian prisoners are transported at 3 am and sometimes the transport can last hours, even days. On the way, the prisoners are often mistreated by Israeli special forces in all possible ways such as withholding food, water for long periods of time, beating the prisoners and insulting them. Before the court session begins, prisoners are locked up in cold small cells without any food or water, and after the short session which often lasts no longer than 15 minutes, all prisoners are gathered in a cell till 7 pm when the return journey begins.

Palestinian political prisoners often protest their illegal detention, the inhumane conditions in Israeli dungeons, their baseless punishments, isolation and ill treatment and harassments. A hunger strike is a legitimate form of resistance and protest used by Palestinian prisoners in the fight for their rights. While some hunger strikes are open-ended and last until the prisoners’ demands are met, others are one-day hunger strikes to protest a certain policy or show solidarity with other political prisoners.

There are general hunger strikes, where all prisoners in all Israeli jails take part, and partial hunger strikes where Palestinian prisoners in a particular Israeli prison declare a hunger strike to protest ill-treatment at that particular prison. Palestinian female prisoners have either joined their comrades in hunger strikes or organized their own hunger strikes (Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike: Defeating Oppression, Liberating Palestine).

Currently, 28 year old Palestinian female political prisoner Hana’ Ash-Shalabi is on her 21st day of an open-ended hunger strike in the HaSharon prison. Hana’ was kidnapped from her home in Burqin, Jenin on 16.02.2012 and has been ordered in administrative detention for 6 months. After two and a half years in administrative detention, which is detention without trial or charge, Hana’ was released in October 2011 in the latest prisoner exchange deal, to be kidnapped from her home again less than 4 months later. Despite her deteriorating health, she is determined to continue the hunger strike in protest against her illegal detention and to demand an end to the policy of administrative detention. Israeli military orders empower the IOF to illegally detain Palestinians for up to 6 months, without charge or trial, which can be extended indefinitely. Over the years, thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for periods ranging from 6 months to over 8 years, without being tried or charged.

Currently, there are over 4600 Palestinians held captive in Israeli dungeons and detention centres, including11 women (including 3 women detained in the last two days), 145 children and 309 administrative detainees. Palestinian female prisoners currently held captive by the Zionist entity include:
1. Lina Ahmad Al-Jarbouni, from Arrabet Al-Batouf, Al-Jalil, in Israeli captivity since 15.04.2002.
2. Woroud Mahir Qasim, from At-Tira, Al-Muthallath, in Israeli captivity since 04.10.2006.
3. Salwa Abdel-Aziz Hassan, 52 years old from Hebron, in Israeli captivity since 19.10.2011.
4. Ala’ Al-Ju’ba, a minor from Hebron, in Israeli captivity 07.12.2011.
5. Saja Al-Alami, 18 years old from Beitunia, Ramallah, in Israeli captivity since 09.01.2012.
6. Hana’ Ash-Shalabi, 28 years old, from Burqin, Jenin, in Israeli captivity since 16.02.2012
7. Mufiqa Mohammad Al-Qawasmi, in Israeli captivity since 22.02.2012 (while visiting her imprisoned husband)
8. Muna Subhi Abu Sneineh, from Hebron, in Israeli captivity since 22.02.2012 (while visiting her imprisoned husband)
9. Diala Mustafa Thura, 26 years old, in Israeli captivity since 04.03.2012 (while visiting her imprisoned brother)
10. Yusra Adel Qa’dan, 30 years old, in Israeli captivity since 04.03.2012 (while visiting her imprisoned brother)
11. Manal Nawwaf Al-Jada’, 32 years old from Habla, Qalqilya, in Israeli captivity since 06.03.2012.
In addition, the Zionist entity still holds the bodies of 7 Palestinian female martyrs in captivity:
1 Dalal Said Mohammad Al-Mughrabi, killed on 11.03.1978.
2 Darin Abu Eisheh, from Jenin, killed on 17.02.2002.
3 Zeinab Isa Abu Aalim, from Askar refugee camp, Nablus, killed on 22.04.2004.
4 Hanadi Tayseer Abdel Malik, from Jenin, killed on 04.10.2003.
5 Wafa‘ Ali Khalil Idris, from Al-‘Am’ari refugee camp, Ramallah, killed 21.01.2002.
6 Ayat Mohammad Lutfi Al-Akhras, from Dheisheh refugee camp, Bethlehem, killed on 29.03.2002.
7 Hiba Azim Daraghmeh, from Toubas, killed on 19.05.2003.
On International Women’s Day, freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners, freedom for Palestinian political prisoners defying death in Zionist dungeons and freedom for Palestinian martyrs defying injustice in secret graves and Israeli morgues.
On International Women’s Day, freedom for all Palestinian women.
On International Women’s Day, freedom for Palestine from the River to the Sea.
[1] http://www.waed.ps/en/#
[2] http://www.ppsmo.org
[3] http://www.theheadlines.org/05/11-03-05.shtml
More on Palestinian female political prisoners:
Palestinian Female Prisoners and the Struggle for Freedom
On International Women’s Day: Remember Palestinian Female Prisoners
Palestinian Prisoners on Hunger Strike: Defeating Oppression, Liberating Palestine
Hana‘ Ash-Shalabi; A Struggle Against Administrative Detention
Video: Palestinian Prisoners of Freedom

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  
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