On International Women’s Day, seven women political prisoners at heart of protest
On International Women’s Day, stand with Palestinian women prisoners
By Maureen Clare Murphy, electronic intifada
The Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer put out a statement today marking International Women’s Day (March 8),
calling for the release of all Palestinian female political prisoners.
Israel currently holds seven Palestinian female prisoners in detention, including Hana al-Shalabi, who is being held without charge or trial and has been on hunger strike since 16 February. Al-Shalabi vowed to continue her hunger strike today as a military judge postponed the decision in the appeal of al-Shalabi’s four-month administrative detention order. [For the background to this see After Adnan, another hunger strike against administrative detention ]
In an update on al-Shalabi’s case today, Addameer reported:
Addameer lawyer Mahmoud Hassan noted that Hana appeared to be very weak in today’s hearing, and was handled roughly by soldiers. The military judge only allowed four of Hana’s lawyers to be present in the room and asked all others to leave. After hearing the legal arguments of her defense team and the military prosecution, the judge requested that the prosecution consider revising its position before he made a decision. He stated that he would make his decision on Sunday, 11 March, or Monday, 12 March.
Hana’s father arrived at Ofer military base at 8:00am in order to see Hana, but the military judge and Israeli soldiers made every effort to ensure that he would not be able to see her even from a distance. Furthermore, the door of the courtroom in which the hearing took place was locked so that no one would be able to open the door for him to look through from outside. The military judge repeatedly rejected all of Hana’s lawyers’ inquiries related to this matter.
Prior to this afternoon’s hearing, members of the Nahshon—a special escort and intervention unit of the Israeli Prison Service known for its particularly brutal treatment of Palestinian prisoners—arrived to transfer Hana from Hasharon Prison to Ofer. Hana stated that prior to her transfer to the court, a female soldier informed Hana that she would be conducting a strip search in front of the other female prisoners. After arguing, the female soldier agreed to conduct the strip search in the bathroom. After the strip search, Hana was told that she would be punished upon her return to Hasharon. Hana’s arms and legs were then shackled in a very strict manner.
Calls for solidarity with Hana al-Shalabi
In Palestine, International Women’s Day is always an occasion to highlight the particular way that Israeli occupation impacts Palestinian women’s lives, but this year the day is being focused around Hana al-Shalabi.
In an interview published today on The Electronic Intifada, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees leader Khitam Saafin reiterates that “Women must have solidarity [with Hana al-Shalabi] and support Hana in her strike.”
A similar call was made in a statement by Palestinian feminist and activist Janan Abdu, whose husband, civil society leader Ameer Makhoul, is currently held in Gilboa prison. In her statement, Abdu calls on international women’s and feminist organizations to stand in solidarity with Hana al-Shalabi and other Palestinian women prisoners, as well as the women family members of male Palestinian political prisoners.
The Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organizations also made a statement in support of al-Shalabi on the occasion of Women’s Day, calling for international action:
PCHRO urges the international community to stand in solidarity with Hana, today of all days, as a first step towards ending its longstanding inaction in the face of Israel’s disregard for international law. Hana should not be forced to wait 66 days before the world sits up and takes notice. Given that Israel does not grant due process and humane treatment to Palestinians, she must be released immediately. By failing to do so, the international community will only contribute to the perpetuation of such violations and add to the climate of impunity that currently prevails in the OPT.
International solidarity groups have also made calls in support of Hana al-Shalabi on International Women’s Day. The Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago (with which I am active), is encouraging supporters to send messages of support to Hana al-Shalabi and put pressure on Israel release her. The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign has put out a similar statement in support of Hana al-Shalabi and against Israel’s violations of Palestinian women’s rights.
Addameer’s International Women’s Day statement follows:
Calling for the Release of All Palestinian Female Political Prisoners on International Women’s Day: Free Lina Jarbuni, Wurud Qassem, Salwa Hassan, Alaa Jubeh, Hana Shalabi, Yusra Qaadan and Manal Suwan!
Ramallah, 7 March 2012 – Join Addameer and call for the immediate release of all female political prisoners and detainees from Israeli prisons on Women’s Day, 8 March 2012. As of March 2012, seven Palestinian women remain in Israel’s prisons and detention centers, including one woman, Hana Shalabi, currently held in administrative detention and on hunger strike for 21 days.
Over 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and detained since 1967 under Israeli military orders, which govern nearly every aspect of life in the occupied Palestinian territory. There were 36 Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli prisons prior to the exchange deal concluded by the Israeli government and Hamas in October 2011. Hamas reported that Israel agreed to include all female political prisoners in the exchange deal. However, two women, Lina Jarbuni and Wurud Qassem, who have been in prison since before the first phase of releases on 18 October 2011, and an additional two women, Salwa Hassan and Alaa Jubeh, who were arrested before the second phase of releases on 18 December 2011, are still in Israeli detention.
Addameer aims to raise awareness about each of the seven women currently detained by Israel, two of whom were arrested just this week, in the hopes that continued international pressure will secure their release:
Lina Jarbuni was arrested on 18 April 2002 and sentenced to 17 years in Israeli prison. She is currently held in Hasharon Prison. She is from Arrabet al-Batoof, in the Galilee region. Lina is 36 years old.
Wurud Qassem was 20 years old when she was arrested on 4 October 2006. She was sentenced to 6 years in prison and is currently held in Damon Prison. Wurud is from Al-Tira, in the Triangle region, and is now 25 years old.
Salwa Hassan was arrested on 19 October 2011, and is currently in Hasharon prison awaiting trial. She is 53 years old and lives in Hebron. Salwa is married and has six children.
Alaa Jubeh was only 17 years old when she was arrested from her home in Hebron on 7 December 2011. She is currently detained in Hasharon prison and has not yet been sentenced. Under Israeli military orders, a Palestinian child’s sentence is decided on the basis of the child’s age at the time of sentencing, and not at the time when the alleged offense was committed. Therefore, because Alaa turned 18 on 29 January 2012, she will now be sentenced as an adult.
Hana Shalabi was re-arrested on 16 February 2012, less than four months after being released as part of the prisoner exchange deal on 18 October 2011. Hana had previously spent over two years in administrative detention. She received a six-month administrative detention order on 23 February 2012, which was reduced to four months on 4 March. Hana began an open hunger strike immediately after her arrest, and will enter her 22nd day without food on Women’s Day. She is currently detained in Hasharon Prison. Hana is from Burqin village, near Jenin, and is 30 years old.
Yusra Qaadan was arrested on 4 March 2012, while visiting a family member in prison. She is currently detained for interrogation in Beersheva. Yusra, 30 years old, is from Qalqilya. She is married and has four children.
Manal Suwan was arrested on 6 March 2012 and is currently under interrogation in Hasharon Prison. Manal, married and a mother of two, is 31 years old. She is from a village near Qalqilya.
Addameer reiterates its concern about the general conditions Palestinian female prisoners and detainees face while in Israeli prisons, which has been carefully documented. Addameer condemns the cruel and discriminatory treatment that Palestinian women prisoners and detainees are subjected to in prison, including sexual harassment, psychological and physical punishment and humiliation, and a lack of gender-sensitive healthcare. These practices are in contravention to international law and must stop immediately.
There are crucial steps that can be taken by the Israeli authorities, particularly the Israeli military and the Israeli Prison Service, to fulfill their obligations under international law in respect to the detention conditions of Palestinian women and in protection of their human rights:
End the systematic abuse of administrative detention and provide every female detainee and prisoner with access to the legal support she is entitled to under international humanitarian law;
Provide female prisoners with detailed information on the length of their detention and the date of their release without undue delay;
Ensure that prison and detention cells meet basic requirements of hygiene and health as required by the UN Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;
Immediately bring to an end practices of sexual violence, including strip searches and invasive body searches and use of threats and/or other forms of sexual assault;
Conduct proper independent and serious investigations into complaints of assault, and provide safeguards until proper investigation outcomes are reached; Allow visits of specialized doctors adequately trained to deliver health care in a prison environment, including mental health doctors, and ensure that hospital/doctor visits are allowed when requested;
Allow open family visits and communication with family members via phone.
**** ACT NOW!
Here is how you can help these seven Palestinian women prisoners: Attend an event supporting Palestinian female prisoners on Women’s Day. Addameer would like to draw attention to various local actions supporting Hana Shalabi and women’s rights, including a demonstration at Qalandia checkpoint at 12:30pm, a march starting at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem at 2:00pm, and a protest in Haifa. Send a letter with the above statement and recommendations to:
Israeli Prison Service Ministry of Public Security, P.O. Box 18182, Jerusalem 91181
Brigadier General Danny Efroni, Military Advocate General, 6 David Elazar Street Harkiya, Tel Aviv Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak Ministry of Defense 37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya Tel Aviv 61909 Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757
Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam Fax: +972 2 530 5741
Col. Eli Bar On Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5 Beit El 90631 Fax: +972 2 9977326
Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release all Palestinian women prisoners.
Send letters of support to the women in prison. If you wish to write letters to a detainee – please contact Addameer at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with details.
Palestinian orphans in solidarity with Hana Shalabi
By Rana Baker, electronic intifada
Whenever my feet carry me to Hana Shalabi’s solidarity tent, my eyes fall, before anything else, on a piece of paper attached to huge banner wherein Shalabi grins at those coming to wish her a quick release. That small white piece of paper read “20” today.
The battle of empty stomachs continues. An empty stomach against an entire criminal system; a young woman against armed soldiers; the ones whose orders are higher than any conscience they might possess. Shalabi is a “terrorist,” how dare you defend her?
By Israel’s warped standards, I’m a terrorist too. Perhaps standing with a “terrorist” degrades my status from a student, activist, daughter, friend, call me anything, to a terrorist. Perhaps all of those who support Shalabi’s cause are terrorists, even those Israelis who are clear to be against administrative detention and who have described it as one of the most anti-democratic laws in Israel.
Call the kids I met today as terrorists too. It will make no difference; they have always been treated like a threat, like terrorists, and maybe eventually killed.
Fifteen orphan children
I was surprised to see fifteen orphan children belonging to al-Amal Orphan Association in the tent earlier today. The association is known for the services it provides for orphan children in Gaza. Homeless orphans find a home, school and a caring family in the association.
“Many of the orphans who live in the association’s dwellings are sons and daughters of families that were murdered during Operation Cast Lead” said Raji Shenaino, a member of al-Amal’s board of directors.
The children were there to express their soft emotions on a huge piece of cloth held to a wall right opposite Hana Shalabi’s solidarity tent. Each child held a brush and watercolors and painted something on the cloth. The kids painted doves, olive branches, Palestinian flags, suns inside which Hana’s name was written; and phrases like “I’m with Hana Shalabi,” “yes for freedom, no for oppression,” and things like “we are all Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi.”
I asked eleven-year old Nour Yasseen, an orphan, why she came to the tent. “Because of freedom” she said, twisting with something of a shy smile on her face. “Whose freedom,habibti?” I asked, trying to pull words out of her tiny mouth; “Hana’s” she replied, “I hope she comes back.”
Donya Felfel, eight years old, told me that she was in the tent to “visit” Hana and that she hopes “she comes out of prison to play with her sisters and mother.”
“I want Hana to know that we will not forget her and that we stand with her; I want to tell her that the administrative detention will go,” said Yasser al-Nabulsi, fourteen years old, also an orphan.
The way these children expressed their solidarity with Hana Shalabi proves that even Palestinian children, no matter how young, cannot escape the politicization of their lives. Yet they are hardly “being taught to become suicide bombers,” an myth constantly invoked by Israel and its supporters.
A powerful message
Unlike the picture anyone is most probably going to draw of an orphan, those orphans are quite different.
“We wanted to send a powerful message,” said Maram Humaid, a young activist and organizer of the painting event, “that despite the fact that the children are orphans, they do not wait for the world to stand in solidarity with them; instead, they themselves speak up in solidarity with others; this is a powerful message for everyone around the world to know, that the Palestinian children are not weak.”
The drawings and paintings the children came out with today reminded me of the paintings that were censored by Israel’s lobbyist groups a few months ago in the US.
It did occur to me to wonder whether the paintings were going to be banned from being displayed had they been sent to the US. Perhaps doves are anti-Semitic and violence-inciting in the sickening criteria of the Apartheid state and its supporters.
Palestinian women march in Gaza, West Bank
GAZA CITY — Hundreds of women marched in Gaza and the West Bank on Thursday marking International Women’s Day with a call for national unity and the release of Hana Shalabi.
Women marched from the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City to the UN headquarters before heading to tents set up in solidarity with Shalabi, who has been on hunger strike in an Israeli prison for 22 days.
Carrying Palestinian flags and photos of Shalabi, the women demanded the 29-year-old’s freedom and called for an end to the split between Hamas and Fatah.
In the West Bank, women rallied at a demonstration in Qalandiya, near Ramallah. Soldiers broke up the rally which was also marking women’s day and in solidarity with Shalabi.
Israeli forces fired tear gas and youths threw stones at the demonstration south of Ramallah, witnesses said. Eight people suffered tear-gas inhalation and were treated at the scene, they said.
International Women’s Day is a national holiday in Palestine.
Marking the occasion, Gaza’s Minister of Women’s Affairs Jamila al-Shanti told Reuters TV that all Gazan women are heroines and set an example to others.
“I tell this woman who is a heroine and is brave, whether she is a house wife or a working mother, she is a prisoner, a wife of a martyr, a mother of a martyr.
“Anywhere she exists she is a heroine and has recorded history. Her story has been exported and this woman has become an example to follow,” she said.
Meanwhile in Ramallah, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters the women’s movement was growing across all social divides.
“The educated community was always open minded and supportive of women, and the women in Palestine work continuously. It used to be only by groups, but today it represents all women not only those thinkers or those who are more wealthy,” Ashrawi said.
She added: “The women’s movement, as a result of hard work and the support of open minded men, has been able to change the reality and to break the barriers and borders that had been set in place.”
Middle East Monitor
On International Women’s Day, 8th March, the Palestinian Working Woman’s Society for Development along with The Coalition of Women for Peace and several other women’s and human rights organisations, has held a mass rally at the Qalandia military checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The demonstration sent a strong message of protest and resistance against the Israeli government’s policies of segregation, discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people. Such policies, said the demonstrators, are unacceptable; the women who pay the ultimate price will continue to resist them.
Israeli forces attacked the women with tear gas and sprayed sewage water on them in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Around 200 women from Haifa, the Negev region, Hebron, Ramallah and other cities came together to take part in the protest.
One of the main organisers, Mahasin Rabus, said: “On this year’s International Women’s Day we are sending a message to the world; we say loud and clear that we are not accepting Israeli occupation policies, with their checkpoints and the apartheid wall, and we call for immediate intervention to stop Israel’s decades-long abuse of our fundamental rights.”
The Qalandia checkpoint has become a symbol of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. It separates Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territories, and divides the West Bank into separate units socially and politically disconnected from each other.
According to Amaal Khresha of the Palestinian Working Woman’s Society for Development, “The 8th of March symbolises the mutual struggle by women all around the world for freedom and justice. For Palestine women under the occupation this day is a day to mark our struggle against the Israeli occupation.”
Demonstrators called for the release of Hana Shalabi, an administrative detainee who has been on hunger striker for 22 days. They also demanded the immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners being held by Israel.
Abeer Zeibak Hadad is a Palestinian filmmaker living in the Israeli mixed city of Jaffa. This year her first feature film – Dum’a – was released in Israeli theaters. The film is the first in the Arab world to deal with sexual assault of women and girls. The film has been screening throughout the country. This week, two days before International Women’s Day Dum’a was screened to hundreds of high school girls in Qalanswa, a Palestinian city half an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky speaks to the girls who watched it, the filmmaker who made it, and the women activists who fought to have it screened.