Thursday, August 27, 2009

Suffering of Palestinian prisoners during Ramadan

Wednesday, 26 August 2009 10:29 Added by PT Editor Nour Scardina

Gaza, August 26, 2009 (Pal Telegraph)- Mothers, wearing deep wrinkles on their face and carrying pictures of their sons held captive in Israeli prisons, assemble every Monday morning in the courtyard of the Red Cross headquarters in Gaza.

The Monday meetings have become a tradition among Palestinian families living in Gaza. For ten years mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters all stand in solidarity and support. They stand in solidarity with their children and to denounce all forms of torture used against those held in Israeli prisons. Sadly, the holy month of Ramadan has not changed the status of those imprisoned or the torture received at the hands of their Israeli captors. They continue to suffer.

Suffering of the prisoners

"Is Israel a democracy?" queried the mother of Ahmed, who is held captive in an Israeli prison. "We talked to Ahmed two days ago, at the start of Ramadan, and he complained of being tortured during the fasting period." Ahmed's complaint is shared by many Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The mother of Raed hajj Ahmad said, "For more than two years we have been barred from visiting our son. The only news heard is that of torture and the treatment received. We send money, but we have been told that it does not reach him. We are especially worried for him during Ramadan. " Raed hajj Ahmad is being held in an Israeli prison.

The father of Shadi el-baba agreed and told of his own son's mistreatment at the hands of his captors. "The money we send for our son takes at least four months to be received. With this delay, how can my son eat or drink? How can he enjoy the breaking of his fast during this Ramadan with the money being delayed?"

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from morning to night, breaking their fast at the time of the Maghrib (sunset) prayer. As the Adhan is heard, Muslims around the world break their fast with dates and water. They then perform the Maghrib prayer. The prayer is followed by a meal. For prisoners held captive in Israeli prisons, this is not the case.

A former prisoner, Massod Ayad, shared that during Ramadan many prisoners are prevented from reading newspapers or watching television to find out the prayers times or to know when to break their fast. Mohammed Faraj al-Ghoul, Minister of the Prisoners, said many prisoners are not able to learn of when it is time for iftar (evening meal, after the breaking of the fast) and sahur (pre-dawn breakfast) because their confinement prevents them from seeing the setting of the sun and their ears from hearing the Adhan.

Conditions of the Prisons

There are hundreds of prisoners who are held in isolation cells, and detention and interrogation centers, said the Minister of Prisoners. The cells in which Palestinians prisoners are held are not comparable to those in which westerns are kept.

Massoud Ayad sheds some light on what it is like from the inside, from the perspective of someone who has be subjected to the harassment described by the Minister of Prisoners. "Imagine being locked in a closed room for five to six months at a time." In this closed room or, rather, cell chamber, there is only one small window. Each cell contains around 10 prisoners. In such a small space, it is hard to move and the smell is overpowering.

Ghoul further explained the methods of harassment and provocation against Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli Occupation Authority. Methods of harassment include constant body searches; storming of cells; confiscations of personal effects such as pictures of children; deprivation of clothing; arbitrary solitary confinement; closure of canteen accounts; and, prohibitions against communication within and outside the prison, including with family members.

There are more than 1600 prisoners needing medical treatment; and, many more who are deprived of visits from their families. The Israeli Occupation Authority claims that families are prevented from visiting for security reasons. Many families are prevented for years from seeing their children, while others are able to only see their children every 26 months.

Are not so-called "democracies" supposed to respect human rights? Putting aside the question of democracy, what of the universal human rights recognized under international law and adopted by states and the United Nations? Palestinians are human beings just like any other individual living in the United States or the United Kingdom. They too deserve protection guaranteed and granted under international law. They do not deserve to be tortured and subjected to humiliation at the hand of their captors in Israeli prisons.

Salem El-rayyes
PT Reporter in Gaza