Of the 750,000 Palestinians detained since 1967, about 10,000 have been women. As of March 1st, 21 Palestinian women were imprisoned in Israeli jails.
Palestinian women accused of “security” offences go through the same procedures, and face the same challenges, as Palestinian men.
But certain aspects of women’s time in the Israeli military detention system are unique to their gender. This includes access to medical care, pregnancy and birth in prison, sexual harassment, and other considerations.
You are in a shared taxi (service) travelling home after a day of shopping in Hebron with your mother.
The taxi slows, as traffic has picked up on Road 90, which links Hebron to Bethlehem and then Jerusalem. Two Israeli army jeeps, and six Israeli soldiers, have set up a roadblock at the roundabout, and are checking each car as it drives by.
When the taxi pulls up to the impromptu checkpoint, all the passengers are asked to step out and present their ID cards. You hand your ID to a female soldier, who pulls you away from the group and asks you to sit on the curb.
The female officer asks you to open your shirt so that you can be searched. You are in the middle of a busy road, and men are within view. You feel humiliated, but do as you are ordered.
The taxi drives away with the other passengers, including your mother. You tell her not to worry, and reassure her that this must be a mistake. You’ll be home soon.
You are detained by the side of the road for three hours. Your eyes are covered with a blindfold and your hands are tied in front of you.
In September 2000, only five Palestinian women were in Israeli prisons.
That number jumped to 120 female prisoners in 2004, at the height of the Second Intifada (uprising). Between 2000-2008, Israel detained more than 700 Palestinian women.
According to prisoner rights group Addameer, about 56 percent of female prisoners were aged 20-30 at the time of their arrest in 2007-2008.
Another 13 percent were under the age of 18.
A REPORT SUBMITTED TO THE
COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
(PDF - Click to open in new window)
Your blindfold is removed, and you see that you are at the Gush Etzion police station.
A female officer strip-searches you. You are then brought into an interrogation room, across a desk from two Israeli police investigators.
Your hands and feet are tied to a chair in the painful “shabah” position. One officer calls you degrading names and makes sexually explicit comments. You feel threatened and anxious.
After eight hours of intense questioning, you are put back into an army jeep, blindfolded, and driven to the notorious Maskobiyeh detention centre, also known as the Russian Compound, in Jerusalem.
You’re brought to a dark, damp cell where you are held overnight. There is no window. There are bugs on the floor. You realise that you are underground.
The next morning, your interrogation continues. An Israeli investigator threatens you and your family. He says that he will arrest your father and brother if you don’t cooperate with the investigation.
Your interrogation period lasts 40 days, and you are held the entire time at the Maskobiyeh.
At the end of it, you sign a confession, which was written by your investigator and which you haven’t read.
ON TORTURE ALLEGATIONS
Between 2001 and 2010, 701 complaints of torture and ill-treatment of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli secret service (Shin Bet) interrogators were received.
Not a single criminal investigation was opened as a result of these complaints.
JEHAN DEHADHA, FORMER PRISONER, DESCRIBING BEING HELD AT MASKOBIYEH PRISON
(Alternative Information Center)
“The use of family members as a means of pressure is a glaring exploitation of the sensitive social, emotional and cultural meaning of family relations.
It causes unbearable psychological pressure during the interrogation…
The grave pressure and tension can bring the interrogee to a state of psychological distress which amounts to torture.”
PUBLIC COMMITTEE AGAINST TORTURE
IN ISRAEL REPORT
You are brought to Ofer military court.
Your mother and father wait for two hours in a fenced-in holding area for your hearing to begin. There is no set schedule for the hearings and wait times can last several hours.
You are accused of supporting a “hostile organisation” (Hamas), and handing out materials related to the group.
Your trial lasts several weeks, during which time you are remanded to Hasharon prison in northern Israel.
After hearing from several witnesses, and testifying yourself, the military court judge sentences you to seven years in prison.
“Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions” criminalises civic activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.
This includes organising and participating in protests, participating in vigils (gatherings of 10 or more people), waving flags, and printing and distributing political materials like newspapers, pamphlets, posters or photos.
ORDER REGARDING PROHIBITION OF INCITEMENT AND HOSTILE PROPAGANDA ACTIONS
(Click to read)
“I was once able to acquit someone at Salem [military court]. When the judge started to read the decision, the translator had to translate.
The judge says, ‘I have decided to acquit you,’ so the translator says, ‘I have decided to... how do you say acquit?’
I mean, this guy has worked in the court for three years and he doesn’t know how to say ‘acquit’ in Arabic!”
GABY LASKY, ISRAELI LAWYER REPRESENTING PALESTINIANS IN MILITARY TRIALS
Your cell measures three by four metres, and you share it with another woman. The room lacks ventilation, and has only a small window. It is extremely hot in summer and freezing in winter.
Your detention wing is adjacent to an area holding Israeli women prisoners who have been convicted of criminal offences. You are forced to walk by them every time you leave your wing, and you feel anxious.
The quantity and quality of food isn’t sufficient. You lack protein-rich foods, and don’t get vegetables or fruit. You get meat and fish once a week. You quickly begin to lose weight.
You and the other Palestinian women prisoners are given a few hours each day to share a common shower. The time is rationed and you barely have enough time to wash.
Your family members can’t visit you regularly. They can only bring you clothing once every three months. You don’t have proper shoes and are forced to wear cheap flip-flops that you bought from the prison shop.
“The Prison Service prevents my parents and the parents of the women political prisoners here from bringing us shoes during their visits, so that we are forced to buy very expensive shoes from the prison canteen which aren’t for women at all.”
FROM THE TESTIMONY OF A PALESTINIAN WOMAN PRISONER, HASHARON PRISON, 2013
Hasharon prison was first established in 1953. The prison has 400 cells, and hosts a diverse prisoner population, from Palestinian “security” prisoners to Israelis convicted of criminal offences and prisoners requiring “special protection”.
The facility includes a drug rehabilitation centre. The prison is also equipped with an advanced monitoring system.
(Click to read)
You are told that you will be let out of prison early, as part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.
You will be released back to your home in the West Bank under strict conditions. You are technically released on “parole” and will have to check in with the Israeli authorities once a month.
Your family decorates your home with posters of you and colourful lights. A party is planned to welcome you home. It seems as though all the residents of al-Aroub camp have come out to greet you.
In 2011, Israel and Hamas agreed to a prisoner swap deal: One Israeli soldier was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners.
The Palestinian prisoners were released in two stages – 477 were released in October, and the remaining 550 were released two months later.
(Click to read)
“As soon as you're out, you are pushed into a situation where you have to get re-integrated into society all at once. You have to get used to this new life, where it's difficult even being around the people closest to you.”
ISMAT MANSOUR, FORMER PALESTINIAN PRISONER, RELEASED FROM ISRAELI PRISON IN AUGUST 2013, AFTER 20 YEARS IN PRISON
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THROUGH THE EYES OF PALESTINIAN PRISONERS
ADDAMEER, DEFENCE FOR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL-PALESTINE, UNICEF, B'TSELEM, HAMOKED, PCATI, AL HAQ, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER, ISRAELI MILITARY BLOG AND WEBSITE, ISRAEL PRISON SERVICE, HA'ARETZ, GISHA, XINHUA NEWS AGENCY, UN COMMITEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, INTERNATIONAL COMMITEE OF THE RED CROSS (ICRC)
PRISONER BY LUIS PRADO FROM THE NOUN PROJECT * BARBED WIRE BY LUIS PRADO FROM THE NOUN PROJECT * LAMP BY LUBOŠ VOLKOV FROM THE NOUN PROJECT * GAVEL BY ILSUR APTUKOV FROM THE NOUN PROJECT * DOOR BY MICHAEL ROWE FROM THE NOUN PROJECT