V. A Visit to Prison: A
The effect of
imprisonment on the families of detainees
arrest of hundreds of prisoners is causing deep negative effects on their
families, both financially and mentally. Some family members are sometimes
forced to leave their schools and universities to find jobs in order to
earn their daily bread. Hatem, the son of detainee Talal Abu Akbash from
al-Sumu’u village in Hebron (42, held in Nafha so far for 15 years of his
life sentence) was unable to study at Bir Zeit University because of a
lack of finances flowing from his father’s imprisonment.
As a further
example, the Israeli authorities have bulldozed the home of detainee Ahmad
al-Tus three times, claiming that a detainee has no right to build a home.
The families of
detainees suffer many other violations. The following are three
testimonies detailing the suffering.
From 3 in the
morning until 10 in the evening:
A mother tells
the details of her journey to visit her son at Nafha prison in the desert.
Abdul Qader Abdul Razzaq
– Gaza Strip
On 18 January
1999, during the first days of al-Fiter feast, I went to sleep at one in
the morning because I was preparing cakes for my son. You see, this was
the day to visit prisoners. I woke up at 3 in the morning, carried one and
a half kg of lemon, cigarettes, coffee, a shirt and trousers, and left the
house. I went to the Red Cross headquarters in Rafah where the buses leave
and take us to prison. The weather was extremely cold and it was pouring
rain. I waited with wives and mothers of prisoners for almost one and a
half hours until the Red Cross bus arrived. We stepped on the bus. I had
my little daughter Taghrid (8) with me. The two buses took off to Gaza
which is the second station after Rafah. We waited there for about one and
a half hours until everyone from all areas north and south of the strip
from the Red Cross arrived and read the names of parents and people who
are not allowed to pay visits to prison. This restriction also applied to
women. Usually, parents who wish to visit their relatives in prison need
to give their names one week prior to the visit, where the Red Cross would
present their name to the Israelis for approval or refusal. I was once
restricted from going. They returned me to Erez checkpoint claiming that
my ID was torn. This was in November 1998.
After all these
procedures, 16 buses head to Talmond prison, al-Ramlah, Nafha, al-Majdal,
al-Sabe’e, and Shatta. Then we reach Erez. On the Palestinian checkpoint a
Palestinian officer enters the bus and asks for the number of visitors,
which is a rather routine thing and does not take long. Then the bus takes
off to the Israeli side. In the beginning, soldiers get on the bus to take
a look, then the search starts. They search our stuff with a special
machine, then they check our ID and body search us (women soldiers). They
ask us to take our clothes and shoes off. When this is over, we ride on
different buses, and the ones that dropped us there would go back to Gaza.
From our arrival at Erez at 8:30, we stay there until 10, sometimes 11,
and then head off to the prisons.
When the visit
was on the day of al-Iftar, Israeli soldiers told us that there were no
visits. When we asked about the reason, they said that the roads are
closed because of the heavy rain. We protested because we wanted to visit
our sons on the day of the feast. We returned to the Palestinian DCO and
asked them to interfere, and they did.
It took us
almost two hours to get to Nafha. When we got there, a large iron
electrical gate was opened. When the bus entered, the gate was closed, and
all of us stepped out of the bus and our ID’s were collected. Women
soldiers were registering the names of those of us who wished to visit.
They made sure that the visitor was directly related to the prisoner. Then
they placed a small paper in the ID’s after inspecting them. Then they
start letting in the visitors. The stuff we have would be handed to the
prisoners. This time, they refused to allow us to bring in the nuts we had
and made it a condition that the clothes be brown in colour.
They take the
stuff we have for the prisoners and place their names on them. We enter
without having anything. We stay in the waiting room for about 15 minutes,
then we walk in a long corridor, and enter the visiting room. The latter
is a place separated by iron bars, where we cannot enter anything through
the bars but our fingers. We try to kiss our sons but to no avail, because
the kisses would not get through. The visit would last 45 minutes. In the
middle, they would allow the children to visit the detainees. They took
Taghrid to see her brother Jamal. Jamal said to his mother that this was
the 19th feast he spends in prison away from the family.
When the bell
rang, the guards started to take the prisoners away, and the parents
through the long corridor again. We had to wait five hours until we got
back. The number of buses that visit Nafha prison are five, and they leave
every 15 days. Then the journey back began. We left there at 2:45 in the
afternoon, and reached Erez at 6. It took us an hour to get through the
Israeli checkpoint. We walked 20 meters to reach the room where we
presented our ID’s and birth certificates and the permit given by the Red
I was home at 10
in the evening. I felt that my head was going to explode. The minute I get
home, I could not wait to throw myself on the bed and sleep. Women who go
and visit the prisons usually take a lot of pain relievers and tie their
heads because the whole procedure is such a headache.
Letter to Father
in prison …
My Dear Father,
greetings I send to you and your fellow inmates from the bottom of my
heart. I miss you so much.
How are you
Father? I hope that you enjoyed you holidays. I only wished that the Feast
would come and bring you home along with it. We really do not enjoy the
celebrations without you, as all other children across the world do with
their fathers around them.
You were in
prison when I was born. I only get to see you once every two months. I
wish that I would be able to sit on your lap instead of meeting you behind
bars all the time. My brothers and I live as strangers without you in this
world. Our only hope is that you be free one day and come and live with
us. Our lives are worth nothing without you. You are the most precious
thing in the world to us.. you are all that we own.
I am praying
that you will be set free very soon. May God be with you and protect you,
With all my love
Your son who
Released … After
9 Years in an Israeli Jail
Hsein Abdullah Abu Zeid
Al-Breij refugee camp – Gaza Strip
Student at the Islamic University
He was arrested
on 20 September 1990 for killing an Israeli soldier (Amnon Bomress) in
al-Breij refugee camp. He was also charged of belonging to Hamas. He
served his sentence in many Israeli prisons. The last prison he was in was
Nafha. He was released on 4 January 1999.
On 4 January
1999, the day I was released, I was taken in a Peugeot Monet. I was
neither hand cuffed or blindfolded. The car took off for Nafha prison to
Erez checkpoint. I was fasting that day. We reached Erez at around 5 in
the afternoon. I was given a paper that carried my ID number because I did
not have my ID with me. I remained at Erez for almost two hours. Israeli
soldiers told me that they were waiting for the Palestinian DCO to come
and take me. No one came until later. I was home at around 7.
conditions and treatment at Nafha were terrible. The prison administration
deals with us according to the political situation. They used to tell us
that they would treat us well when the political situation improves. The
food was bad and scarce. Some of it was not even fit for animals to eat.
The rooms were filthy. Legally, there should not be more than six
prisoners in one room. They used to place ten prisoners in one room. The
ventilation was bad. We were 640 prisoners and all the windows were
covered with asbestos, and were 50 centimeters from the iron bars. This
prevented the sun and fresh air from coming in. The floors were in poor
condition because of all the cracks in them.
between the prison guards and prisoners is very bad. They always blame it
on security. They would come at midnight for example, to search the rooms.
They would claim that there are iron saws and electronic equipment in the
On 11 November
1997, an incident took place in prison. We, prisoners called it “a
persecution incident.” The prison forces released tear gas canisters in
the prison and broke into three prisons. Three men were severely beaten;
some of them were seriously injured. One man had to be given ten or
fifteen stitches. Some of these men were Tawfiq Abu Nai’im from al-Breij
and Abdul Karim al-Sharif from Gaza.
incident, Moussa Hisham al-Wahidi was placed in solitary confinement. When
he was allowed to go to the bathroom, his hands and legs remained cuffed.
They claimed that he provoked a police officer.
On al-Fiter Eid
our wives were not even allowed to visit us. Israelis would return them
from Erez checkpoint for ‘security reasons.’ Ruhi Mushtahi’s wife was
returned from Erez more than once. Hasan al-Maqadmeh was not allowed
visits from his wife for over a year, while they allowed his brother to
and Wisam Farhat were not allowed any visits at all.
al-Sharif and Mahmoud al-Sharif are two brothers who have been not allowed
visits by their mom for four months now.
forbidden from getting rest and tranquility inside the prisons. Prison
guard would scream from loud speakers on a regular basis and during the
four two hours rest we get twice a day. Many prisoners would be sleeping
or reading at the time, but they would still scream in the loud speakers.