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ISM Nablus visits Linan Yosif Abo Gholbi on her release from prison

5 October 2009

On Monday, October 5, 2009, a group of ISM’ers visited Linan Yosif Abo Gholbi in her extended family’s home near Nablus, at the invitation of Tanweer, a grass roots organization based in Nablus. She is one of the 20 women prisoners who were recently released from Israeli prisons in exchange for a video from Hamas proving that Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured in 2006, was still alive.

Generations of Linan’s family have been fighters and PFLP activists in the Palestinian struggle for justice. Many have died, many have been imprisoned. Her parents have spent years visiting their children in various prisons and at the moment one of her brothers is in jail.

Linan’s husband Amjad Mletod was killed in a battle with Israeli soldiers in 2004 and shortly after that Linan was arrested and their home demolished. Although they were married for 5 years, they were only able to live together for a year since Amjad was a wanted man.

Linan was held in an interrogation centre, where for 20 days she was questioned, tied for hours to a chair and bound hand and foot, a form of torture. She was sentenced to 4 years in prison for her activities in the PFLP but in revenge two more years were added, one for her husband’s activities as a fighter and one for her brother’s who had also been killed. She was sent to Ramla, a prison for Israeli women criminals, and soon after to Al-Sharon prison for 3 and a half years. She spent the last 2 years of her imprisonment in Demon, a former stable for horses during the British Mandate period. All of the women incarcerated there suffered from the dampness, filth and insect infestations, many becoming ill.

Linan spoke eloquently and movingly of the deprivations and abuse that prisoners suffer and about the harsh treatment that is especially endured by women prisoners and is no less harsh than that of the male prisoners in Israeli jails. They are harassed verbally and physically, often arbitrarily punished by having their cells tear gassed or water sprayed into it; dogs have been set upon them in their cells; punishment may mean being put in an isolation cell; physical punishment such as beatings or being dragged about by their hair, is administered by male guards. Such procedures are a constant and are often administered for contrived reasons as part of a regime of extreme sadistic abuse and cruelty.

When prisoners are brought to court and when they leave, they are strip searched. They are not allowed to talk to or make signs to their parents, acts for which they can be punished. Punishments can consist of their personal effects being taken away such as blankets, money and books. When Shalit was captured, study privileges were taken from them and prisoners from Gaza were singled out for the collective punishment of not being allowed visitors.

There is no privacy – 14 inmates live in one cell and sleep on thin mattresses. Bathrooms are outside the cells and women must ask for permission to go to them. In addition, they are not given adequate medical treatment, even for very serious illnesses.

Although Linan’s young brother and nephew were in the same prison as she was, they were not allowed for ‘security’ reasons to see them or make contact in any way and for years they fought heroically but unsuccessfully for their right to do so.

When asked how she deals with her tragic, undeserving past and what she wants for the future, she said that she keeps her smile on her face and will continue to be strong in her resolve to participate in the struggle. She is very proud of her family’s steadfast history and that of her husband’s. The thought that she could be arrested again does not deter her. Her 5 years in prison have only strengthened her resolve to continue in her activities in the battles for Palestinian liberation.

One of Linan’s main concerns is the fate of those Palestinians who languish in Israeli prisons, possibly as many as 11,000 prisoners, some held in indefinite preventative detention for years without charges brought against them. She also expressed the hope that international human rights organizations and grass roots groups will work more vigorously to see that justice is done and that the prisoners, incarcerated for exercising their right to resist oppression will be released.

Arrests, detentions and incarceration are one of the most important weapons in Israel’s all-out war against the Palestinian people. These actions constitute a violation of the rights of occupied people, are designed to reach the largest number of people, affect all segments of society, and thereby  break the will of the Palestinians to resist the occupation. To find out more and what you can do, go to:

http://addameer.info – Addameer is a prisoner support and Human Rights association

For more information on Palestinian female prisoners, their detention conditions, access to health care and education, please refer to Addameer’s “Protection of Palestinian female prisoners and detainees” project website at: www.aseerat.ps

http://www.dci-pal.org/english/home.cfm – Defense for Children International Palestine Section

http://ppsmo.org/epps/ – The Palestine Prisoners’ Club

Addenda: from Addameer’s “Protection of Palestinian female prisoners and detainees” Project:

•    Given their small number in the total of Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian women are usually detained in harsher conditions than men in jails dating back to the British Mandate period (1922-1948), lacking modern day infrastructure or gender-sensitive health care. Humid, unhygienic, deprived of natural sunlight and overcrowded, these facilities have been designed for men and by men and rarely do they meet women’s needs.

•    While interrogated, women are often subjected to such forms of cruel treatment as humiliation, intimidation, shouting, sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling in painful positions, isolation in cells and even beatings. According to ex-prisoners accounts, psychological pressure is the most preferred technique used towards Palestinian women by Israeli interrogators. Threats of house demolitions, arrests of family members, forced collaboration, rape or other forms of sexual abuse and harassment are thus an often practice.

Lack of gender sensitive health care and hygiene standards

•    Due to insufficient and poor quality nutrition cooked for Palestinian female prisoners by Israeli criminal offenders, women suffer from loss of weight and hair, general weakness, anemia and iron deficiency. Their diet is not changed or improved when they fall ill, are pregnant or breast-feeding.

•    Poor ventilation, lack of fresh air, moisture and the presence of cockroaches and insects in the cells contribute to the development of dermatological diseases. Additionally, the lack of movement, the unavailability of sports equipment and a spacious recreation area as well as uncomfortable iron bed frames and only 3 to 5 centimeters thick mattresses cause women back and joints pains.

•    Huge mental pressure, the lack of appropriate nutrition and isolation through the denial of family visits contribute to the perturbation of women’s menstrual cycles, whereas older women suffer from psychological and physical difficulties caused by menopause. However, the Israeli Prison Service does not provide them with specialized gynecological health care. While it should be applied as a preventive measure, gynecological health care is only offered to those women in need of hospitalization.

•    Additionally, rooms at Damon, one of the prisons where more than 30 Palestinian women are detained do not include showers making women’s hygiene requirements hard to fulfill during both menstruation and menopause.

Denial of Family Visits

•    At least 10 Palestinian women are prevented from family visits as a punitive measure. An additional, 6 female prisoners are allowed to receive visits only from minors, namely children under the age of 16, either their younger siblings or their own kids as adult members of her families are barred from permits on “security grounds”. As minors are allowed to visit by themselves only once a month, these women are subjected to further isolation.

•    Mothers of minors are subjected to the same restrictions as men in terms of access to family visits even though international regulations on women in prison give precedence to the maintenance of strong family ties giving them the opportunity to serve their sentence close to home upon their request and making visits as often and flexible as possible.

•    Palestinian female prisoners are only allowed to have open visits and thus physical contact with those of their children who have not reached the age of six. However, research on female prisoners worldwide proves that the lack of adequate and sufficient contact with children and family members is a key source of anxiety for women in jails. Such feelings are translated into depression, anger and guilt and lead to the deterioration of the overall mental state and health condition of the woman.

•    Communication with the outside world in general is very restricted. Phone calls are permitted only in exceptional or humanitarian cases depending on the record of the prisoner. Letters are delivered to prisoners after huge delays, creating thus a huge disincentive for families to communicate with women in prison in such a way.

•    Importantly, the isolation of female prisoners reduces their chances of an easier reintegration into the society and the family upon their release.

For more information on Palestinian female prisoners, their detention conditions, access to health care and education, please refer to Addameer’s “Protection of Palestinian female prisoners and detainees” project website at: www.aseerat.ps