A Palestinian woman is about to give birth behind Israeli bars.
Anhar al-Deek, 25 was detained by Israeli forces in March. She was four months pregnant. Now nearing term, she is soon to deliver her baby by cesarean section.
Israel has denied her family’s request for either her mother or husband to be by her side when she gives birth.
“You know what a cesarean section is like outside of prison. Imagine how it will be in prison, while I am shackled and alone!” al-Deek wrote in a message from Damon prison near Haifa.“I don’t know how I will be able to care for him and protect him from their frightening voices,” al-Deek added. “Even when I have strength, I may faint in the face of what they may do to me and the rest of the captives.”
Her lawyer, Hanan al-Khatib, told the newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi that the Israeli prison doctor will determine the delivery date, sometime before 10 September, and that the operation will take place without adequate health standards.
Al-Deek’s family and lawyer say she suffers from severe postpartum depression and was receiving treatment from a Palestinian doctor.
Al-Deek had given birth to a baby girl a few months before becoming pregnant again.
The Israeli prison doctor claims however that al-Deek is mentally fit and sound.
“It is well known that the prison doctor implements the agenda of the occupying state, especially since the prisoner possesses papers proving she was treated by a Palestinian psychiatrist after her last birth and before her imprisonment,” lawyer al-Khatib told al-Quds al-Arabi.
Israeli occupation authorities accuse al-Deek of attempting to stab a settler in the Israeli colonial outpost of Sde Ephraim in the occupied West Bank in March.
She has been charged with “aggravated attempted assault and possession of a knife,” according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. But al-Deek has not yet been tried or convicted of any crime.
The Israeli military claims that al-Deek entered the colony and tried to stab a female settler. When she was confronted by another settler with a gun, the army says, al-Deek dropped the knife and was detained by Israeli occupation forces.
Al-Khatib told al-Quds al-Arabi that the incident occurred when al-Deek was going through a particularly difficult period of her postpartum depression, experiencing “dark thoughts” that led her to pick up a knife and go to the settlement “without being fully aware” of what she was doing.
Giving birth in chains
Al-Deek is not the first Palestinian woman to be forced to give birth in Israeli custody. The prisoners rights group Addameer has documented several such cases.
The group says pregnant women receive very poor to no prenatal and postnatal care, as well as no special treatment when it comes to dietary needs, living space or transportation to hospital.
Women are usually shackled by their hands and feet when transferred to hospitals, and they are only allowed to move under supervision.
They are chained to their beds up until delivery and are shackled again minutes after giving birth, according to Addameer.
Some reports say that Palestinian women are handcuffed during labor as well.
In the United States, the shackling of incarcerated women giving birth has been a common practice. But it is now widely considered cruel and inhumane and in recent years there has been a movement to outlaw it.
Following the birth, al-Deek will have two choices: She can keep her baby in prison for the first two years, or send the baby out of the prison. Either way, she will be forcibly separated from one or both of her children, or her family will be separated from the new baby.
Al-Khatib says that Israeli women who give birth are often released to home confinement.
The lawyer is urging international human rights and women’s organizations to pressure Israel to release al-Deek, or failing that to at least allow a family member to be with her when she gives birth.
Israeli prison authorities are particularly cruel to Palestinian mothers, of whom they currently hold 11.
The Israel Prison Service denied numerous calls for Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar’s temporary release to attend her daughter’s funeral.
Suha Jarrar, 31, was found dead on 11 July in her apartment in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
To die in prison
Israel’s cruelty towards those born and giving birth in its prisons extends to those who die there as well.
Israel is currently withholding the bodies of seven Palestinians who died in its custody, Gaza-based human rights group Al Mezan stated on 27 August.
Palestinians mark that date as the national day for reclaiming bodies withheld by Israeli authorities and revealing the fate of missing people.
This policy prevents families from burying and mourning their loved ones according to tradition.
Israel’s high court approved in 2019 the withholding of slain Palestinians’ bodies to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with Hamas.
The “practice of withholding bodies amounts to a policy of collective punishment,” according to Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq.
Israel’s use of collective punishment is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus a war crime.
Israel has withheld the bodies of 325 Palestinians since 2015, with 26 of those being deceased persons from Gaza, Al Mezan said.
Israel keeps the names of dead Palestinians it withholds a secret and does not even provide forensic assessments or death certificates.
Al Mezan says this violates articles 129 and 130 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.