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Palestinian Prisoners and Our Responsibility

19 August 2012

Talk by Sr. Sukeina of Innovative Minds on "Palestinian Prisoners and Our Responsibility" given at the annual Al Quds Day rally in London on 17th August 2012 to launch the Palestinian Prisoners Campaign Group.




Asalamun Aleikum Warahmatullahi wabarakatu.

As brother mentioned I am from Inminds and you probably know us from the Boycott Israel Campaign. But today I want to speak about something else - Palestinian prisoners.

Hopefully we will be having a live feed from a former prisoner later on but I just want to say a few words now.

Today there are nearly 5000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli dungeons. This includes women and children.

Since the year 2000 over 8000 Palestinian children have been locked up. Today there are still 220 children suffering in Israeli jails. The children have complaint of sexual assaults by their jailers and threats of rape in order to coerce confessions and to coercing them to becoming informers on their families. For Israel its not about getting information the whole place is like a prison they know everything that goes on, but rather its a means to destroy families and with it the fabric of Palestinian society.

Similarly women prisoners are routinely tortured, and have to submit to strip searches in the middle of the night as a form of punishment, and they are denied their most basic needs like sanitary towels. Like we saw in Abu Ghraib, cameras are used as part of the torture when the women are shackled to their beds. In order to coerce confessions from the women not only are the women threatened with rape but their families are also threatened with rape in order to get the women to cooperate. Imagine if someone threatens you child like that in front of you in order to get you to confess? Even pregnant women are shown no mercy, their hands and feet are shacked right up to and after the moment of delivery.

Many prisoners are held in what's called administrative detention. What that means is that they are held indefinitely - could be 6 months, could be 1 year, could be 10 years, or a life time - they are never told, every 6 months it just gets renewed. They are not charged, and there is no trial - they are simply picked up an locked up. So for example a Palestinian footballer, Mahmoud Sarsak, was on his way to play a football match, Israeli soldiers kidnapped him at a checkpoint, he was not charged with anything and there was no trial - they just locked him up, six months became 1 year then two than three years. Imagine if you are caged like that what do you do?

Palestinian prisoners have responded with the only means of resistance they have in prison - to refuse food, to go on hunger strike. For this they are punished by solitary confinement, the only time they get to leave their cell is for interrogation sessions, torture in routine in Israeli prisons. After nearly three months on hunger strike Mahmoud Sarsak was near death having lost nearly half his body weight. Even then he managed to smuggle a final message, a last pleas to the world. It read:

"To the freedom loving people of the world, we cry out to you, and to all people in the world who believe in the justice of our cause: Do not abandon us to the vindictive hands of the jailers to take what they want from our frail bodies.. We say: There is still enough time and the support that comes late is better than that which does not come at all.. It is better that you receive us alive and victorious rather than as lifeless bodies in black bags.."

This is where our responsibility comes in. We feel the hunger pangs when we fast from sunrise to sunset for just one day in Ramadan, imagine 3 months, day AND night no food. We have a duty to support these prisoners and this is what I am asking of you today.

We along with the Islamic Human Rights Commission are forming a prisoners campaign group, and we need your help. All we are asking from you is 2 hours and 2 letters twice a month. We will focus on a different prisoner each fortnight, we will hold a 2 hour vigil and we will have a letter writing campaign. If you can spare 2 hours twice a month can you please give your contact details to the IHRC volunteers - thank you.

And be in no doubt that the vigils and the letters do make a difference. The publicity Mahmoud Sarsak's hunger strike generated and the campaigns it sparked around the world finally won his release last month alhamdullah. Today he is back with his family.

We will start the campaign by focusing on Hassan Safadi and Samer al-Barq, both men are on renewed hunger strikes after Israel broke its deal to release them. They had previously already been on hungerstike for 70 and 50 days. Now Sameer has been on a renewed hunger strike from May 22 - that's nearly three months, and Hassan for nearly two months. Both men are in critical condition, barely able to stand and use wheelchairs for their daily needs. Amnesty has reported that even at the Medical Centre of the Israel Prison Service Samer and Hassan are being repeatedly beaten and abused. The latest news we just received yesterday is that the prison guards have once again attacked Hassan and Samer smashing Hassans head on the iron doors of the cell repeatedly until he was unconscious on the floor, they then dragged both prisoners to an isolation cell without any mattresses. To protest this inhuman and degrading treatment Hassan Safadi has announced that he will no longer be drinking water. Due to the urgency of this case we will be holding a vigil for Samer and Hassan tomorrow afternoon from 3pm to 5 pm outside Israeli embassy in Kensington high street.

I know it's the last days of Ramadan and a time to spend with our families in ibadat, but THEY are also our family and to stand up for THEIR sacrifice is also ibadat.

So Brothers and Sisters lets stand for Justice, lets stand for Palestine. JakakAllah.

Banner at Al Quds Day 2012 reads "Free All Palestinian Political Prisoners"

Source: www.inminds.com

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