Fresh off of Women’s History Month and Muslim Women’s Day, stumbling across an article titled, “In Women’s Month, Suffering Of Palestinian Female Prisoners Increases,” stopped me cold in my tracks. As I am half Palestinian, this particular problem that continues to arise is very upsetting to me. I chose to discuss this article not to bash any religion, ethnicity, or race. I chose to write about this article as it is an issue that takes place way too often, and is rarely brought up as a problem that society needs to help address and shed a light on.
According to this article, there are, at present, 48 female Palestinian prisoners held within Israeli prisons. Out of these 48 prisoners, some are injured and ill, some are mothers, and all are being held without charges or trial. Held in a prison located inside the occupied territories, these detentions are in direct contradiction to the Fourth Geneva Convention (GCIV), a treaty that prohibits the transfer of an occupied population to the territory of the occupiers.
Whilst researching, I stumbled upon information on BBC News regarding the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel. The site stated the following: “Israel is a party to the Geneva Conventions, and bound by its obligations. But its government argues that the international conventions relating to occupied land do not apply to the Palestinian territories because they were not under the legitimate sovereignty of any state in the first place. Israel has over the years often chosen to use the term administered territories to refer to Gaza and the West Bank. It has annexed the Golan and East Jerusalem. Israel, therefore, denies the formal, de jure, the applicability of the 4th Geneva Convention in the occupied territories.”
In simple terms, the West Bank and Gaza are considered Palestinian territory. The Palestinian people are not allowed to travel freely into “Israel”. This so happens to be the place where prisoners are being held, making matters worse for the families in terms of visitation, or having the opportunity to bail their loved ones out of prison.
Women who are held prisoner are being mistreated and are dealing with severe abuse. Even during the arrest, women were being handled in a harsh manner. The services in the prison are unimaginable as these women are not being given proper meals, water, personal hygiene products, medical care, rights to privacy, or the rights to an education. What’s even worse about all of this is that women who are detained are interrogated for several days and denied the right to know why they were arrested.
Additionally, it has been reported that female prisoners are not given proper medical services and that the assigned doctors at certain prisons are not providing proper medical advice. When the prisoners seek medical attention, the only counseling given to them by the on-staff doctors is to drink more water. Funny, since the prisoners are barely given water, to begin with. It has been reported that there has been a shortage of food and that in September of 2018, there was no provision of hot water for almost two months. These living conditions and environmental conditions are completely unethical by any standards.
The harsh treatment these women are undergoing can, of course, affect them physically, mentally and emotionally. The strength they possess in order to get through these tough days and nights is truly inspirational. I could not imagine the amount of isolation they face from their families and children while they maintain a strong stance. How would you feel if you were blindfolded and handled roughly, without knowing what was going to happen next? How would you feel if you were handcuffed and deprived of major necessities such as sleep, food, access to the restroom, or a simple shower, for extended periods at a time?
Any criticism of Israel is immediately met with cries of anti-semitism. And so, these women — held without charge — continue to suffer.
These are the conditions that Palestinian prisoners are experiencing. Let us not forget the amount of sexual harassment and verbal abuse women deal with while being detained. But of course, few on the global stage are going to protest these injustices, because these incidents are kept quiet to preserve the Israel’s image. Any criticism of Israel is immediately met with cries of anti-semitism. And so, these women — held without charge— continue to suffer.
Statistics show that since 1967, over 10,000 Palestinian women have been taken into custody by Israeli occupation forces. Sadly, from 1967 to 2019, these occurrences have become more frequent. Palestinian women and girls are routinely seized from the streets, Israeli military checkpoints, and during brutal night raids at their homes. Who is involved in all this you may ask? During those unlawful military raids, you can expect to see Israeli soldiers, intelligence officers, and police dogs. These invasions cause destruction to household items and damage to personal property.
The incidents that take place happen repeatedly, and nothing is being done to stop it. I could never imagine someone forcibly entering my home, uninvited, and causing havoc. I cannot imagine having my relatives torn away from me, to be imprisoned in an abyss, with no knowledge of when—or if—I will ever see them again. Palestinian children grow up seeing this on a daily basis, and yet, the world stays relatively quiet. I truly pray for these women and their families. May justice be served, and may we all open our eyes to how much trauma and tragedy these events bring on the Palestinian people.