Over the last 45 years, Israel has arrested or detained 10,000 Palestinian women from the West Bank and Gaza, according to prisoners rights organization Addameer. The women are held mainly in Hasharon and Damon prisons inside Israel. The transfer of prisoners from the occupied West Bank and Gaza into Israel amounts to a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that “persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country.”
Who Profits? (a project of the Coalition of Women for Peace based in Tel Aviv) has reported that the British-Danish security firm G4S has been involved in both prisons. The occupation watchdog has stated on its website that G4S Israel has provided the entire security system and equipment for the central control room in Hasharon compound. Furthermore, the company has provided security services to Damon.
Today, 12 female Palestinian prisoners are held in Hasharon prison inside Israel, according to a statement from Addameer. The conditions in Hasharon are extremely difficult for the women:
they are held in overcrowded cells, with lack of access to basic human needs such as hygiene, nutritious food and proper clothing and blankets. Furthermore, female prisoners are subjected to harsh conditions during their interrogation, including beatings, insults, threats, sexual harassment and humiliation by Israeli interrogators. Often they must undergo degrading and intrusive body searches during transfers to court hearings and sometimes during the middle of the night as a punitive measure.
Pregnant in prison
Between 2003 and 2008, Addameer has documented four cases of women who gave birth in Israeli detention. The organization lists the experiences of the women in its statement:
Pregnant prisoners are not afforded special diets, living space or transfers to hospitals during their detention. During labor, they are chained to their beds until they enter the delivery rooms and shackled once again after giving birth. Under Israeli law, a female prisoner may request that her child live with her in prison until he/she reaches the age of two. However, the detainee and her child are not given additional living space or improved living conditions.
Israel should have ensured access to “appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period, granting free services where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.” These rights are enshrined in the international Convention to End all Discrimination Against Women. Israel ratified that charter in 1981.
Family visits forbidden
Children are often denied the right to visit their mother in prison. On Palestinian Mother’s Day — which fell yesterday — Addameer profiled four female prisoners who did not see their children:
Salwa Hassan (55) from Hebron, is the eldest female prisoner in the occupation’s jails. She is the mother of six children, all of whom have been forbidden from visiting her at some point during her detention. She has only allowed two visits since her arrest. Her sons Munther and Ibrahim have been arrested by Israel numerous times as well. Daughter Rula reflected on her mother’s absence during Mother’s Day:
Five hundred and sixteen days after her detention began, I was able to see my mother for 45 minutes behind a glass barrier. When I saw my mother behind the glass after a year and a half of detention, I collapsed in tears. When I saw her, I was hoping that I could hug and kiss her but I was too shocked. I tried to speak with her and take advantage of the limited time we were given, despite my intense longing for her and my concern for her and her health. She assured me that she would be freed soon and that only 90 days of waiting remained. I would have liked to have her with us today to celebrate Mothers’ Day. I see people around me with flowers and presents and it makes me miss my mother, who is languishing in the prisons of this oppressive occupation.
Nawal al-Saidi (53) from Jenin was arrested on 5 November 2012. She has six sons and five daughters. Two of her sons, Abdelkarim and Ibrahim, were killed during attacks by the Israeli military in Jenin. Her family has been forbidden from visiting her, and has only seen her once since her arrest.
Asma al-Batran (24) from Hebron was arrested on 27 August 2012 and sentenced to ten months for her participation in political activities in her university. A mother of six, she was studying at Hebron University at the time of her arrest.
Entesar al-Sayad (38) from Jerusalem was arrested on 22 November 2012 and sentenced to two and a half years. She is the mother of four children.