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Balata Refugee Camp: The toll of human rights violations and imprisonment

by Alex

9 May 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

The 9th May marks the 22nd day of the Palestinian prisoners mass hunger strike. Today as with every day, the prisoners’ families and friends met at Nablus Prisoners’ tent in a show of solidarity, paying respect to their sons, brothers, daughters and sisters suffering in Israeli prisons in conditions which constantly violate international laws.

Said al Kabi, 54, is just one father whose anguish is worn on his worried face. He has suffered greatly, lost many family members and both of his legs to the illegal Israeli occupation. His son, Jawad al Kabi, 26,  is sentenced to 13 years in prison and has now served six of them. Said lost both his legs in 1967. One morning whilst going out in his tractor to farm his land as usual, Said turned down a dirt road and hit a land mine left by the Israeli army.

In 1984 a demonstration in Balata Refugee Camp claimed the life of Said’s mother. The demonstration was to resist the occupation but tragically Said’s mother was shot in the heart and died immediately. Ten years later, in 1994, Said’s brother was shot in the head by an Israeli sniper, also in Balata Refugee Camp.

Said has two cousins and a twenty year old nephew suffering in Israeli prisons, their sentences adding up to a depressing 37 years and four life sentences. His family’s misery is wholly representative of the thousands of the absent mothers, fathers, daughters and brothers of Palestine who sit waiting in Israeli prisons for some sort of justice.

All of Said’s incarcerated relatives began their struggle in the mass hunger strike which has now reached a tragic world record. The prisoners, their families and human rights supporters all over the world are uttering the same demands for these prisoners: the right to be treated according to international and humanitarian laws.

The Israeli Shalit law in which Palestinians are sentenced under violates international law in many ways. Some of the violations are:

  • Prisoners are kept in small rooms with a strong light on 24 hours seven days a week
  • Prisoners are kept in solitary confinement and not allowed to meet or interact with other prisoners
  • People from Gaza can not visit their relatives in Israeli prisons
  • Prisoners are denied the right to continue their studies.
  • Prisoners are forbidden to watch TV, can not read newspapers or books

“The message sent to the world from the prisoners are very simple and clear” Said says, “Death and dignity or give us our demands to be treated according to International laws”

Unfortunately, Said’s tragic story is not unique. For almost every person present in Nablus’ Prisoners tent there is a long story of suffering and longing for freedom. The photographs and posters of absent family members duplicate on the walls of the tent each day, now spilling out into the street as the situation becomes more desperate. As one prisoner moves into his 72nd day of hunger strike, the deterioration of his health will cause reactions across Palestine and hopefully the world, forcing Israel to recognize Prisoners rights in accordance with International law.

Alex is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement (name has been changed).