Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Children send letters to imprisoned fathers

TUBAS (Ma'an) -- "Father, I miss you so much and it’s been so long and you are away we miss hugging you, we miss the smell of your jacket in the house, and the smell of your cologne. I pray to God that you will be released one day and come back to us. I dream about you often," Ahmad Atef Daraghmeh, 11, wrote.

One of dozens of children from the small municipality of Tubas with a parent incarcerated in an Israeli jail or military detention center, Ahmad joined his peers in the Tubas Prisoners Center on Sunday, the day which is marked as Prisoners Day, and for the first time wrote to his father.

The letters children wrote will be given to lawyers who regularly visit the nearly 30 detention centers where Palestinian prisoners are held, head of the center Mahmoud Issa said.

"These letters give us hope, they remind us of our fathers, brothers, husbands, and they bring to the fore the pain of separation; they make us redouble our efforts to secure their release and bring joy back to Palestinian families," Issa said.

Unless a prisoner release deal is reached, Ahmad's father will remain in the Shata prison for another 15 years to complete his 22-year sentence.

"I promise to always take care of my brothers, I will respect them and be the best at school and make you proud," Ahmad wrote.

The Palestinian Authority estimates that there are 6,000 Palestinians currently in Israeli prison, including 37 women and 245 children. Most are said to be political prisoners, jailed for resisting soldiers carrying out the continued occupation of Palestinian lands.

Since 1967, Israel has detained around 750,000 Palestinians, the PA Ministry for Detainees' Affairs said. Some 70,000 Palestinians have been detained since 2000, the ministry added.

"We will collect as many letters as we can, and we will make sure they are delivered to the prisoners," Issa said.

Sajida Jihad, 12, has not seen her father since he was detained when she was three years old, and could not decide what to write in her letter. She, like Ahmad, told her father she only dreamed of a hug.

"I wish you could be out of Jilboa prison forever, I wish it were you who were here to help me study for my exams, and help me with my papers," Ayat Mustapha, 17, said in her letter.