Happy Birthday Samer!
The Game is about to be over. The Soul (not soul) is about to be lost. It should be the right and duty of everyone to unite and show solidarity for the thirty-three-year-old Palestinian Samer Issawi. The final scene of the last episode is in the spotlight. Free people should say no to illegal detention.
Last Wednesday Dec 12th I received three frustrating news infused with the feeling of urgency about the critical condition of Issawi. When I read about his alleged assassination, I couldn’t help but cry. It was a kind of a painful joy when his sister told me, “He is still alive but about to die. He has been admitted to the intensive care unit at Ramla Prison Hospital after getting shortness of breath and pain in his head.”
Today Sunday 16th, I woke up thinking of Samer’s heart; of his mother; and of an innocent family. He has been charged with spurious charges and denied a fair trial in the Israeli military courts. Now, he has been on a partial hunger strike for 140 days, deprived of his freedom and proper medical care.
On this day in 1979, Samer Issawi was born. Will he be alive to celebrate his next birthday?
Many Prisons and One Land
I have lived in Gaza “the biggest prison” since my childhood. Yet I cannot envisage the situation of Samer’s small cell. Indeed, there is no comparison. Being on a hunger strike for more than 139 days, and living in a dirty dark cell for around 10 years is not at all easy, particularly without a fair trial and proper charges, and not knowing the day of your release. You are in a constant state of suspense.
Samer has been detained more than once. His current arrest took place only eight months after his last release. Today Sun 16th I contacted Samer’s sister to delve more into the latest news regarding his brother’s case. I knew it would be difficult to get in touch with her during this difficult time, but I convinced myself to be as strong as I can since this might help spreading the plight of Samer. When she answered, the first sentence she uttered was; “Save Samer, he is dying”. She carried on and I could sense how gloomy her voice was. “The last news we got was on Dec 14th when the Occupation Court refused to release Samer Issawi on bail. I have received news from different sources indicating that my brother has recently started suffering from severe pain in all of his body especially in his muscles, the abdomen, and kidneys. He has an acute vitamin B 12 deficiency. His body has begun to eat his muscles and nerves. It seems he has lost the control of his limbs as a result of malfunction of the nerves. His vision is frail as a result of fainting four to five times a day and his body is covered with bruises. He is vomiting blood, his heart is weakening, and he can barely breathe.”
A Mother’s Plea
On Nov 22nd I talked with Samer’s father on the phone. Hearing his sad voice gave away how depressed he was. On Sun Dec 16th, though the situation is even harder as his son is at a critical condition, I had the chance to talk to him again, and I asked about his wife who had fainted after her son’s re-arrest; she has hardly been able to speak or move since then. “Her condition is worsening each day. She was shocked and kept looking at her son’s face when she attended the court hearing on Thu Dec 13th. She could not endure seeing her son losing more than half of his weight. Unconsciously, she screamed at the judge’s face, “Your apartheid regime is illegal and we do not recognize it. Samer will be released either you want or not”. I do not know how to describe this, but my wife is just a mother with a heart!” “Her physical and psychological condition is now more at risk than ever. She cannot endure seeing her own son dying. She spends most of her day at hospitals and every single moment, she repeats the same plea: “Can’t anybody help my son to be free and to live!”
I cautiously asked Shireen: “When have you seen your brother?” “No one has met or spoken to him since his current arrest. I have seen him on Thursday (Dec 13th) when he appeared in court. He is turning into some bones covered with a human wrap. In other words, he is a skeleton sitting in a wheelchair, and he can’t move or walk. My brother was put in the slaughterhouse of Ramla Prison Hospital during his first month of the strike. A month later he was put in a small cell as a punishment. He suffered the solitary confinement in a two-meter square room, meant to pressure him to end his strike,” she answered with sorrow.
“Where is he now?” I asked with growing anxiety. “He is still in a small dark room in Assaf Harofeh hospital. He is kept in isolation; no one can see him, not even his loved ones. The only human contact he has is the guards, who misleadingly wear white uniforms. His legs are tied with shackles that look even bigger now against his tiny skeleton.”
Samer’s mother standing while in the court! (Captured by Mahmoud Elian/ Al Quds Newspaper).
It is very difficult to describe this kind of torture. In a recent article, I have said, “Only imagine that you are in a silent void filled with your own fears and pain, in a deafening silence. You wait for somebody to arrive, but nobody, not even your loved ones are allowed to visit you. The only human contact is with the guards who are the lords and masters over every minute of your day. It is a sort of a living grave where fears unfold. You have nightmares about not having a place to be in. And no reason is given for your detention, and no process is outlined for your release. And consider going without food, and not just for the evening, but for days and days. And what you can imagine does not get near to the reality of what the prisoners are feeling. But the link between the prisoners and you will give them power and strength over their misery, to overcome some of what they are facing now.”
An Assassination Attempt
“It is worth mentioning that there is no medical treatment for my brother’s condition as his health gradually deteriorates and his condition becomes unbearable. My brother stopped drinking water 10 days ago. On Sun Dec 9th, 3 pm, Samer was given medicine. Seconds after taking it, he lost his consciousness for two full days. The administration department in the ‘hospital’ stated: “This was given to Issawi by mistake.” There is no doubt that they want to kill him,” said the evidently distressed Shireen.
In a letter from Samer – translated by Ahrar Center and published on Wednesday Dec 12th, Samer writes about his health and about the aforementioned incident:
“I take B12 injections because I have gradual damage in my nervous system and I have pains in my eyes, nerves, abdomen, hands, arthritis, and muscles and can’t stand. They told me that they will give me an injection weekly in order to help my nervous system. My pain in my kidney and hands is increasing. The pain in my head is like the electrical shock and I have continuous diarrhea due to the fluids they give me in hospital. I have blood in urine twice a week. They put me in an isolated room in the hospital with plastic doors so that they can’t hear me when I call them. I accepted to take fluids and vitamins because the intelligence promised me that my file 80% finished.
They gave me on Wednesday a medicine. I slept for two days, then they said it wasn’t for me! It was for a civilian prisoner! And they didn’t even talk to the one. Before two days I found myself on the ground! I think I slept deeply, but they came searching for a cell phone thinking that I have one, but I told them that I asked the police man once to call the lawyer, and because I found a phone card they think that I have a phone! But the card, I didn’t take it, I threw it to the bed of the sick civilian man.
After a week of taking fluids and vitamins I stopped everything, because they were liars. My isolation is very hard.”
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association writes more about the medical neglect he and other prisoners are subject to: “Like the other prisoners, Samer is not being treated as an ill patient by the Ramla prison clinic. On Saturday December 1st, 2012 during an examination with the prison clinic doctor, Samer tried to stand and lost consciousness. Instead of assisting him, the doctor left him lying on the floor and exited the room. We express our deep concern for the health of Samer and the other detainees who are on hunger strike protesting their unlawful custody.”
Egypt and the Israel Regime
In a recent interview with Samer’s sister, she explained why exactly her brother is detained, “The Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv paid a visit to the prisoners who were supposed to be released in accordance with the prisoner swap deal. He told them that there would be no restrictions on their movement. However, on July 7th, my brother was captured from a place named Kufr Aqab between the Palestinian village of Hizma and the Zionist settlement, Adam, a region within the boundaries of the municipality of Jerusalem.” Shireen also recounted that this area belongs to the Israeli authority but since Israeli courts had no charge to justify my brother’s detention, they claim that “Samer breached the deal as he was captured from a place that is not a part of Jerusalem, but the West Bank.”
Samer’s father speculated, “We do not know what Jerusalem is for us. Whenever the Israeli regime wants to change its boundaries, it does it by deceit and under the false cover of security.”
When asking Shireen about the Egyptian Representative’s response in regard to her brother’s issue, she answered sadly, “They always tell us that they have spoken many times with the Israeli government but that is all, we get nothing that makes us believe that attempts to free my brother are bearing fruit.
“It is still disputed whether the location of the arrest was considered Jerusalem or the West Bank” Labib Habib, Samer’s lawyer from Nazareth, stated.
Habib added, “The Israeli Military Committee will put anyone on trial in Ofer Military Court for three main reasons: if they claim that they have covert proof of a security threat; if the person has committed an offense the sentence for which is more than three months; or in response to a claim the person has violated conditions signed upon release.” The Military Committee has requested the Israeli Military Court to have Samer continue his remaining term of 20 years in jail from the original 30 years of his previous sentence, as he broke the conditions of the deal by entering the West Bank. Apart from this, the Israeli Magistrates Courts in Jerusalem are trying to charge him with disobeying the Israeli Military Commander in the West Bank. If convicted, he will be sentenced to more time in prison, in addition to the ruling of the Military Committee in Ofer Military Court.
A Palestinian Mother Is Pleading
At the end of my previous call, I could hear his mother’s wail: “He has been stolen, tortured with no charge except his commitment to Palestine. Isn’t there any free body to let me see my darling before his death? Please help him to be free and alive. I want to see him; I want him; want him; him!”
A week ago, Samer forwarded a short message via his lawyer, “My detention is unjust and illegal, just like the occupation is. My demands are legitimate and just. Thus I will not withdraw from the battle for freedom, waiting for either victory and freedom – or martyrdom.”
Shireen Issawi concluded with some touching words in a message to the free world: “Only imagine that you are put in my brother’s position going with no food for more than four complete months. He is not but a human calling you all to stand by him. Think of him as if he was your brother or son. He needs every bit of your support. His detention is unjust and illegal, just like the occupation is. His demands are legitimate and just. Thus He will not withdraw from the battle for freedom, waiting for either victory and freedom – or martyrdom. It is a message to those who have hearts, to those who belong to humanity, to the free world – save Issawi before it is too late!”
I was speechless; my voice grew harsher. Who can hear this story and remain silent?
Waiting for Monday Dec 17th
For the first time during Samer’s strike international campaigns are now rising prominently.
A silent vigil in Berlin in solidarity with the hunger strikers/ see photos here http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.438381482894226.104484.409330199132688&type=1
On Dec 12th, hundreds in Ramallah were protesting and calling for Issawi and Sharawna’s immediate release. Khader Adnan and other former hunger strikers joined the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE4QMq8MJJc
Several international activists, including public figures like Carlos Latuff and Lauren Booth, are also calling for intensified efforts and actions in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners who are on hunger strike in Israeli jails. You can see around 450 solidarity messages here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/set=a.468970796477936.98289.195473957160956&type=1
In addition, around 200 of the biggest websites and pages on Facebook and Twitter announced Monday Dec 17th to be a day of solidarity with hunger strikers, Samer Issawi and Ayman Sharawna.
If you want to give your opinion to the Egyptian Ambassador call or write to:
Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel
Mr. Muhammad Asim Ibrahim, Ambassador
Telephone (+972) 3 546 4151 / 2
Telefax (+972) 3 544 1615
And if you are appealed by the medical malpractice of the Assaf Harofeh hospital, write to them, and their ‘friends': email the hospital: email@example.com
Write to the Friends of The Assaf Harofeh Medical Center: American Friends of AHMC
110 East 59th st. New York, N.Y. 10036: USA
Note: Ayman Sharawna was also detained after his release under the last prisoner-exchange. He has now been on hunger strike for a total of 170 days.