Throughout the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, around 800,000
Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli authorities, more than 10,000
of whom are women. Many of those female detainees were subjected to
several forms of abuse, sexual in particular, but very few were willing
to talk. On the eve of International Women’s Day, however, some decided
to break their silence.
S.H., who refused to disclose her full name, was arrested for a few days
to put pressure on her husband, also detained at the time, and extract
confessions from him.
“They striped me and the officer who was interrogating me sat beside me
and tried to molest me but I resisted,” she told Al Arabiya.
Hanaa Shalabi, the 30-year-old
prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for 21 days in protest of the
humiliation to which she was subjected in detention, said that an
officer in civil clothes claimed he was a nurse at the prison and asked
her to take off her clothes so he could search her.
“When I refused, he called other officers who tied me up and started
beating me,” she said in a statement to the Palestinian Prisoner
Shalabi’s lawyer Mahmoud Hassan said that one of the female officers
wanted her to take off all her clothes in front of the other
interrogators for the search.
“She kept refusing until the officer had to search her in the bathroom
but threatened to retaliate against her,” he said in statement, of which
Al Arabiya obtained a copy.
Hassan added that his client’s hands and legs were illegally tied during the trial.
Shalabi, who has so far lost 10 kilos, vowed to go on the hunger strike
until she is released. She was sentenced to six months in jail and the
sentence was reduced to four months, but no clear charges were leveled
According to former detainee Iman Nafea, Israeli authorities abuse
female prisoners all the time if not physically then at least verbally.
“In many cases, they search female prisoners after forcing them to take
off their clothes. This is very humiliating even if it is done by a
female officer because it shows there are bad intentions.”
Nafea argued that Israeli officers do not need to get prisoners naked to
search them properly because they have advanced equipment that can
reveal what is under the skin.
Nafea added that Israeli officers do not necessarily harass Palestinian
detainees through direct physical contact with them, but they use other
forms of sexual abuse.
“I know of a Palestinian woman who was assaulted with a club and several others who were constantly threatened with rape.”
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, which is an official
holiday in Palestine, Palestinian Minister of Social Affairs Magda
al-Masry stated that women have always been an integral part of the
Palestinian struggle for freedom.
“This struggle is manifested in the plight of female detainees like Hanaa Shalabi,” she told Al Arabiya.
Masry added that the Palestinian government should take a firm stance on the naked search of Palestinian female detainees.
“This violates all human rights laws and the world has to break its silence.”
All Palestinian women, stressed Masry, will mark International Women’s Day by declaring solidarity with Shalabi.
“We will all support her until Israeli occupation forces release her.”
Several Israeli human rights organizations filed 17 complaints on behalf
of Palestinian female detainees who accused Israeli officers of sexual
According to the organizations, the Israeli military prosecution is currently looking into the complaints.
Sabr is a blog created by international activists while they were in Gaza Strip in 2009 in order to raise awareness on the issue of Palestinian prisoners.It regularly compiles articles from various sources on Palestinian prisoners (and foreign prisoners for the Palestinian cause) in Israeli (or foreign) jails.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in articles reproduced from other sources, do not necessarily reflect the ones of Sabr