On International Women’s Day, stand with Palestinian women prisoners

Young women hold posters in solidarity with Hana al-Shalabi

Palestinian university students hold a rally in solidarity with Hana al-Shalabi, Gaza City, 6 March 2012

Ashraf Amra APA images

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.

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: arbel@mail.idf.il; avimn@idf.gov.il

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 info@addameer.ps and we will provide you with details.



Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.