Palestinian Female Captives .. Behind the Scenes of Arrest

By Reham Al-Maqadmeh

Every time I decide to work on a new piece of journalism, I make it my responsibility to be as authentic as possible. But the journey of searching for stories shocks you with things that go beyond the truth. It is a reality that a woman has to live, against her will. Why? Because she was born Palestinian.


This nationality, in the eyes of the Israeli occupation, condemns its bearer. Does it matter who it is? What their gender or religion is? Do they belong to a political party? It is enough for them that they are Palestinian, which makes them a target for arrest and assassination, and all the ways in which the occupation expresses its violations and barbarism, which increases if the captive is a woman.


Over the long years, more than 16,000 Palestinian women have been arrested in the occupation prisons. In 2020, about 128 Palestinian women were arrested, some of whom were released, and some were tried and imprisoned.


Although we have not yet finished this year, the year 2021 witnessed an increase in the number of arrests against women, and the number reached 130 female captives. Some of them were released while others were imprisoned.


In conclusion, the number of female captives serving sentences in the occupation prisons until the end of last August reached 32.


Methods of torture in the words of released female captives

Seeing a female captive in the occupation’s cells is not the beginning, as a lot lies behind the scenes and in the details that are not seen in the headline-making picture of the arrest.


The abuse begins with the moment of arrest itself, where at dawn the occupation soldiers break into her house, chain her and take her away without warning.


Chains are not the only thing that violates the dignity of the female captives during their detention, but it also amounts to beatings, insults, and curse words. Then, the harassment escalates upon their arrival in the interrogation centers, and all forms of psychological and physical pressures are applied against them, such as sleep deprivation, intimidation and terrorization.


The Palestinian captives Club notes that “the female captives face an investigation that relies on physical and psychological torture methods, including: The Ghost in its various positions, shackling them throughout the interrogation period, depriving them of sleep for long periods of time, continuous interrogation, isolation, extortion and threats. In addition to preventing lawyers from visiting them during the investigation period and subjecting them to a lie detector and severe beatings such as continuous slapping and solitary confinement.”


Picture of Salam Abu Sharar


Salam Abu Sharar, a freed captive who was arrested while she was in her last year at the Faculty of Pharmacy, said in an interview with “Sharika Walaken” that “the most difficult moment I went through was the interrogation in the Al-Mascobiyeh prison in Jerusalem. I didn’t see my face for a whole month, and I could only comb my hair once. For a whole month I did not see the sun or the sky, as if I were in a grave.”


Salam, who was arrested after the “Jerusalem Uprising,” adds that “what hurt her the most was the number of injured female captives in the occupation cells without receiving any medical assistance.”


When we talk about medical negligence in the occupation prisons, the one who suffers the most, and the first name that comes to mind is captive Esraa Jaabis. She suffers from burns on more than 60% of her body and face, due to the outbreak of a fire in her car in 2015 after the airbags exploded in the steering wheel near one of the occupation checkpoints. In their view, she became a criminal, and she is being tried for attempting to carry out a run-over operation.


Esraa’s sister, Rula, told “Sharika Walaken” that “her sister needs several vital and cosmetic operations on her nose, lower lip, and palms of the hands because her bones are exposed, and in the ear as well.”


Picture of Esraa Jaabis


She added that she “faces health problems in sight, breathing, and hearing, and suffers from pain in her feet and ears, and dry skin. And all this negligence was caused by the intransigence of the occupation and its refusal to treat her for no reason. She did not even get moisturizing creams for the skin because of the dryness that causes sores.”


Esraa was not the only one suffering from medical negligence. The captive, Rawan Abu Ziada, suffers from an unknown germ in the digestive system and bone problems. The captive, Nisreen Abu Kamil, suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. And the captive Somoud Abu Zaher, suffers from blood problems. All these female captives and many others suffer on a daily basis without any regard for their health conditions.


The occupation army targets university students in its arrests to a large extent, as student activism is considered a charge on the basis of which hundreds of Palestinian university students are arrested.


Layan Kayed, the studient captive, was arrested 10 days before completing her graduation application which is the culmination of her 4-year study journey. Layan was arrested while she was passing through a checkpoint. The soldiers stopped her mother’s car, which she was traveling in. After they asked for her identity, they took her out of the car, searched her, and informed her that she was under arrest. Then they tied her hands and feet with iron chains.


Picture of Layan Kayed


Layan told our website: “Before the court issued its decision against me, I was put in the Hasharon Prison, which is like isolation that includes Israeli female soldiers who sometimes subject the female captives to physical and sexual harassment. There is no privacy in that place, as there are surveillance cameras. The rooms are dirty, the water is polluted, and the mattresses we sleep on are very thin and cause a lot of pain in the body.”


Female captives who gave birth in the occupation prisons… a fate that Anhar Al-Deek feared


Picture of Anhar Al-Deek


Historically, 8 cases of female captives who gave birth in occupation prisons under cruel and inhumane conditions were recorded.


This is what the liberated captive, Anhar Al-Deek, was afraid of, who was arrested while she was in her third month of pregnancy. As time passed, she found herself in the middle of her ninth month, living in inhumane health conditions that are not appropriate for giving birth in prison.


What Israel is doing with female captives is not supported by any special circumstances. From the first moment of arresting any pregnant woman, her hands and feet are chained, she is subject to interrogation, and all harsh methods are used on her, without taking into account the impact of all this on her health and the health of the fetus. After the end of the investigation, she is transferred to the ordinary prison rooms that are not suitable for the average person, nonetheless for pregnant women? The rooms lack sun and ventilation, and the preganant woman doesn’t get any appropriate nutrition or medical care for her and her fetus.


Anhar says in her conversation with “Sharika Walaken”: “I lived in constant anxiety from the first moment of my arrest. All scenarios were present. How will I give birth to my child alone while I go to the clinic with handcuffs and feet tied, and how will I take my first steps?”


Anhar did not hide her joy when she learned of the decision to release her, despite the stipulation that she be placed under house arrest and that she pay a large financial bail. The liberated captive, who gave birth to her child a few days ago, adds: “When I held my child in my arms, I wondered, was I in a nightmare? Did I live through all this?”


Israeli violations do not stop

After a long journey of interrogation and detention, the female Palestinian captives end up in Damon Prison, located in Haifa. This prison was built during the British Mandate as a cigarette warehouse, so when building it, humidity was taken into account to preserve the tobacco leaves.


However, after 1948, the occupation laid its hands on it and turned it into a prison that lacked the basic necessities of human life. The rooms are poorly ventilated, infested with insects, and damp due to how old the building is. Its floor is made of concrete, which makes it cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.


Israel clearly and explicitly violates international law in several agreements that stipulate the obligation to treat captives with dignity, including the Geneva Convention, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It continues its approach of violating the rights of Palestinian female captives, by detaining them in poor, inhumane conditions, while depriving them of health care and of seeing their children.


As for the methods of torture, they are sometimes carried out by male interrogators, contrary to what is stipulated in international law, which stipulates that direct supervision of captives should be assigned to female wardens, without any contact with them by male warders. They may not be searched except by women, with the necessity of separating minor girls from adult women. So, what happens with underage detainees?


I thought a lot before I met the freed captive, Dima Al-Wawi, who was arrested in 2016 and was 12 years old at the time. Today, she is a young woman in the prime of her life and in her first university year studying Arabic language and literature. But, she is still that minor child who was arrested without understanding anything or comprehending what is happening to her.


“I always had a feeling that this period would last forever,” Dima says to “Sharika Walaken”.. She recalls the early days of the investigation, the investigator shouting questions she did not understand, and his threat to her that she would be sentenced for life. All of this happened from the first day of the arrest of a 12-year-old girl.


Dima recounts: “When I was taken to court in the “Busta” car (which is an iron car in which captives are transported through a arduous journey), there was a glass partition between me and the soldier, so I asked him for some water, and he put it behind the glass to provoke me.


In court, one of the soldiers toyed with me, telling me every other minute that it was time for my trial, so I would go to the door and find nothing. They also prevented my mother from giving me a winter jacket to protect me from the cold in the winter, where the soldier stood between me and her and prevented me from taking it.”


Picture of Dima


Nothing stops the violations of the occupation. Since the beginning of Corona, visits to the families of captives have been stopped and the children of female captives have been prevented from visiting them. Visits decreased from one per month to one every two months. The occupation even prevented the captive, Khaleda Jarrar, from saying goodbye to her daughter Suha, who died several months ago, in an example of the harshest degrees of psychological torture to deprive the female captives even of saying goodbye to their loved ones.


I always think when I finish writing, what do I end with? with hope? Or will it be a deception in conditions like those experienced by our female captives in the occupation prisons?


This time I decided to write them as they were, a mixture of everything. It is true that the occupation was able to steal Anhar’s pregnancy from her and her family, prevent Layan from attending her graduation ceremony, steal two and a half months from Dima the child, prevent Salam from completing her degree in Pharmacy, and Israa is still suffering the effects of the occupation on her soul and body, but they all agree that captivity, despite its bitterness, has brought them together and unified their pain, as we women say. They created a space for learning, reading and writing.


Layan told me that when they heard the news of the escape of the six captives days before she was released from prison, they felt an unparalleled freedom, and that they needed freedom as every human being was created free.


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