International Womens' Day: Imprisoned Palestinian Women and Girls Struggle for Freedom

08-03-2016 15:02

Source: UFree Network


Palestinian women have always been a part of the struggle for national liberation: in the streets and fields of Palestine, in the home, the school, the university; in all forms of struggle, from the cultivation of Palestinian agriculture and the education of Palestinian children, to engagement in political leadership and all forms of struggle and resistance.


Accordingly, they have faced political imprisonment, torture and repression. Since 1967, over 15,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and imprisoned in Israeli jails; since 2000, 1,400 Palestinian women have been arrested and imprisoned. 3,000 women were imprisoned during the Palestinian intifada of 1987-1992.


Currently, there are approximately 60 Palestinian women held in Israeli jails. 118 Palestinian women have been detained since October 2015 and the rise of the Palestinian popular uprising. 10 Palestinian girls under 18 are imprisoned, and 3 of the Palestinian women imprisoned are held under administrative detention without charge or trial. The imprisonment of Palestinian women has risen dramatically alongside the mass incarceration of Palestinian men. Addameer notes that the current imprisonment of Palestinian women marks a 70% increase over 2013, and a 60% increase over 2014.


Indeed, as International Women’s Day dawns in 2016, Palestinian grassroots activist Manal Tamimi, well-known for her leadership in the popular protests in Nabi Saleh against settlement expansion and confiscation of Palestinian land from the small agricultural village outside Ramallah, who has represented the Palestinian struggle around the world, was seized by Israeli occupation soldiers in a violent 1:00 am raid on her home in the village, thrown into a military jeep and taken to an unknown location. On 7 March, Palestinian advocate Shireen Issawi wassentenced to four years in Israeli prisons by a military court for her role in supporting Palestinian political prisoners. Palestinian parliamentarian and feminist leader, Khalida Jarrar, is serving a 15-month sentence for her own advocacy for freedom for Palestinian prisoners and for Palestine. They are among 60 more Palestinian women imprisoned for their role in struggling for the freedom of their people.


The rise in “house arrest” orders in Jerusalem have led to a new form of Palestinian prisoner: Palestinian women imprisoned with their sons inside their homes in Jerusalem. In a particularly dangerous precedent not only for children but for Palestinian women, an order of house arrest was made against the child Milad Musa Salah-al-Din, 16, of Hizma in Jerusalem, on the condition that his mother be imprisoned with him for two months. Both are threatened with a 20,000 NIS fine if either of them leaves the home. This comes after he was imprisoned for 25 days, accused of throwing stones, and his family paid a fine of 10,000 NIS. His mother is prohibited from teaching at her job as a school teacher.


Most Palestinian women prisoners are held in two prisons, HaSharon and Damon. Like Palestinian men, Palestinian women are arrested in multiple venues: on the streets, at Israeli checkpoints, when going to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque, and in late-night raids on their homes. Several Palestinian women have been arrested when visiting their imprisoned sons or other relatives. They are taken to detention and interrogation centers where they can spend weeks or months under interrogation without charge, trial, or access to a lawyer. Palestinian women have reported the use of stress positions, sexual harassment and threats of sexual assault, sleep deprivation and other forms of cruel, arbitrary strip searching, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture under interrogation. As Palestinian writer Reham Alhelsi notes, “Palestinian female prisoners are subjected to various forms of psychological torture; including verbal harassment, insulting religious and national beliefs of the prisoners, uttering obscenities in front of them during the investigation, threats of sexual assault and rape to force Palestinian women to surrender and submit confessions. Additionally, Palestinian female political prisoners, like their male comrades, are held under inhumane conditions in cells that are overcrowded, dirty, humid, cold in winter and hot in summer, and lack ventilation and the basic needs for living. They also suffer from various punishments, ranging from malnutrition, medical negligence, to denial of family visits and isolation.”


Palestinian women prisoners are also subject to denial of medical care, especially for those injured by Israeli occupation soldiers. Most of the minor girls imprisoned in HaSharon were injured or shot, and were transferred to prison before the completion of their recovery. They are regularly transferred back to hospital due to the ongoing complications of their injuries, yet are regularly exposed to threats of infection or further injury in prison. Shorouq Dwayyat, who was shot by an Israeli settler after she resisted his harassment in Jerusalem, was denied medical care after being shot, and was transferred to HaSharon prison while relying on a wheelchair, the use of which was regularly denied. Israa Djaabis, suffering from second and third degree burns, and Abla al-Aedam, shot in the head by soldiers, were both moved to HaSharon prison despite their ongoing and serious injuries requiring regular assistance by their fellow prisoners.


For Palestinian girls, imprisonment also threatens their education. WOFPP reported that “the prisoners’ spokesperson in Hasharon, Lena Jarbouni demanded that the prison authorities provide regular schooling for all minor prisoners. Most of them are school students and some are in their final year and have to prepare for their Tawjihi (final) exams. Recently, the prison authorities responded positively and agreed to provide a special prison-appointed teacher, following which twice-weekly day studies have begun.” Palestinian women within the prisons have both struggled for girls’ right to education and provided direct support despite all attempts to deny or undermine education for girls. Khalida Jarrar and Mona Qa’adan supervised the 2015 Tawjihi exams within the prisons, ensuring that several girls could receive their graduation certificates.


The denial of education also impacts university students. For example, the graduation of Asmaa Qadah – the secretary of Bir Zeit University’s student union – has been postponed due to her being held in administrative detention for three months.


The denial of education also impacts university students. For example, the graduation of Asmaa Qadah – the secretary of Bir Zeit University’s student union – has been postponed due to her being held in administrative detention for three months.


Palestinian women outside Palestine are also subject to political imprisonment and repression at the hands of the Israeli state and allied governments – the case of Rasmea Odeh is an instructive and iconic example. Odeh, 67, is a former Palestinian prisoner who served 10 years in Israeli prison after being subject to horrific torture, including rape and sexual assault. For the past four years she has faced imprisonment and deportation at the hands of the United States government, which has persecuted her for alleged immigration violations based on her experience as a Palestinian political prisoner in Israeli jails. Odeh, who in Chicago has led in the organizing of Palestinian and Arab women, has been the subject of a strong solidarity and defense campaign, and she and her legal team recently won an important victory in appeals court. However, her persecution is part and parcel of the same system that imprisons Palestinian women in Palestine in an attempt to undermine Palestinian organizing and struggle for freedom.

Topics : #Palestine #Israel #Middle East #FreePPP #Palestinian Political Prisoners and Detainees #International Women's Day #Palestinian Women #Palestinian resistance

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