Watch: Palestinian couple divulge psychological impact of Israeli imprisonment in short video

A Palestinian couple, Shirin and Thaer Halahleh, frankly describe the profound impact of Israel’s repeated arrests of the husband on their married life and psychological health in a new short video produced by the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq.

Thaer Halahleh made headlines last year when he went on a weeks-long hunger strike to protest his detention without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention. Thaer, 34, has spent an elapsed total of nearly ten years in administrative detention.

As Shirin Halahleh explains in the video, administrative detention orders, imposed by a military court judge, are indefinitely renewable, and families often do not learn until the last moment that the orders are renewed.

“The last month of each detention period is the most difficult stage I live through,” Shirien states. “I suffer from severe tension.”

Shirin and Thaer’s brave testimonies in the video are a poignant reminder that human rights are more than abstract concepts illustrated by statistics. When rights are violated — as in the case of Thaer Halahleh, who has been repeatedly and arbitrarily denied his freedom like so many other Palestinian political prisoners — there are real consequences for real people.

Life disrupted

Shirin describes her alienation from her husband as a result of his repeated, prolonged detention by Israel.

Thaer was arrested two months after their engagement. Shirin, who was raised in Jordan, says: “I learned about his detention during my graduation rehearsal at the university.”

The couple had planned to marry shortly after her graduation, and Shirin would move to the occupied West Bank. But Thaer would instead spend the next 2.5 years in an Israeli prison.

“After his release we got married. But fourteen days after our marriage he was arrested again,” Shirin recalls.

Shirin describes suffering symptoms that are characteristic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the Israeli army’s violent raid on their West Bank home during that arrest operation.

Barrier

The impact of Thaer’s absence is still felt even when he is back home.

“Honestly, repeated detentions have created a barrier between me and my wife,” Thaer says, using the Arabic word hajiz, also used to describe military checkpoints.

“I only begin to become acquainted with her when I get detained [once more],” he adds.

Indeed, eight days after Al-Haq conducted the interviews with the couple, Thaer was arrested yet again.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.