Prisoners’ Day: Palestine Remembers Loved Ones in Israeli Gulag
The Palestinian people mark Prisoners’ Day on April 17 every year, expressing the continuity of struggle to liberate detainees in the occupation jails. It’s a day of freedom. A day of refusing injustice, chains, and the dominance of occupiers over their life and dignity.
Prisoners’ Day marks the release of Mahmoud Baker, the first Palestinian prisoner held by Israel after 1967, on April 17, 1974 in a swap deal. According to the statistics published by the director of Statistics Department at the Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees and former prisoner Abdulnasser Frawna:
1- 4750 Palestinians are detained in the Israeli jails including children, women, sick, handicapped, elders, MPs and former ministers etc. They are held under very tough conditions where they are deprived of their basic rights and they are exposed to various forms of torture and treated inhumanely, all of which constitutes a grievous violation of international conventions and norms.
2- The majority, 83.5%, are residents of the West Bank, 9.2% are residents of the Gaza Strip, the rest are from 1948 Palestine and Jerusalem. They are scattered into 17 jails and detention centers, most importantly Negev, Nafha, Rimon, Jablou, Shatta, Ofer, Askalan, Hadarim, Ishel, Ahli Kidar, Hasharon, Ramla and Majido prisons.
3- 14 Palestinian MPs, two former ministers, dozens of teachers, journalists, political leaders and academics are arrested.
4- 168 Palestinians are held under administrative detention orders without charge or trial.
5- 14 female prisoners are held in the Israeli jails, the oldest is Linah Aljarboni from 1948 lands, who has been detained since 2002 and sentenced to 17 years.
6- The number of child prisoners hit 235, 35 of them are under 16 years old and child arrest has escalated recently.
7- 533 prisoners are sentenced to life once or several times.
8- 1200 prisoners are sick and they suffer various diseases. 170 of them need urgent surgeries. 85 of them suffer various forms of disabilities (physical, psychological, mental and sensory) and 25 prisoners have cancer, one of them, Maysraa Abu Hamdia, passed away on April 2nd 2013 of throat cancer. The remaining prisoners live under the constant fear of dying. This increases their suffering and their health is jeopardised due to the medical negligence of their captors.
9- To date, the number of elderly prisoners who were arrested before singing the Oslo Accords in 1994 is 105. Everyone of them has a story to tell. 77 of them has been in prison for more than 20 years. The 25 prisoners are called “Deans of Prisoners” or “Generals of Patience”. This is a term Palestinians use to describe those who spent more than quarter century in the Israeli jails. Karim Younis from the 1948 lands town of Arara is considered the Dean of Prisoners. He spent more than 30 years in Israeli jails so far.
10- The number of the martyrs of the prisoners’ movement hit 204 after the killing of Arafat Jradat who was tortured in Israel’s jails and the death of Maysraa Abu Hamdia as a result of medical negligence. Since 1967, 71 Palestinians prisoners died because of torture, while 52 others died because of medical negligence, 74 prisoners were intentionally killed directly after arrest, and seven prisoners were killed by Israeli bullets inside Israeli jails.
Israel’s Prison Service implements a policy which violates the rights of prisoners including arrests during night raids, medical negligence, banning family visits, solitary confinement and administrative detention, ignoring all international conventions and human rights.