Message from Samer al-Issawi
By Karin Friedemann, TMO
The mother of hunger striker Samer Issawi faints after an Israeli court refuses to release him.
Emaciated and wheelchair-bound, Samer al-Issawi appeared at a hearing before a Jerusalem civil court on Tuesday, February 19, called as a result of worldwide pressure, protests, and solidarity fasting for his release. Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Director of the Prisonersâ€™ Club in Jerusalem, Nasser Qaws, who said Israel decided on the emergency court session without prior warning.
Over 200 Palestinians were injured by Israeli troops this week while protesting outside Ofer prison, demanding Issawiâ€™s release. The health condition of hunger striking prisoners, Ayman Sharawneh, Jaafar Ezzedine, and Tareq Qaaâ€™dan, has also instigated demonstrations drawing thousands of protesters throughout Palestine and abroad.
The Israeli court rejected the release of Palestinian hunger striker Samer Issawi during this â€œemergencyâ€ hearing. Issawi will remain behind bars until his next scheduled hearing on March 14, 2013. Issawiâ€™s mom Um Raâ€™fat collapsed during the court decision, reports Gaza News, while other relatives screamed helplessly at the judge.
Samer al-Issawi has been refusing food, intermittently, for more than 200 days.
Issawi was among 1,027 jailed Palestinians freed by Israel in 2011 in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was taken prisoner by Hamas. Issawi was re-arrested shortly afterwards for allegedly disobeying court orders to remain in Jerusalem.
â€œIt is disputed whether the location of the arrest was considered Jerusalem or the West Bank,â€ his lawyer explained.
Reuters reports: â€œIsrael has defused previous long-term hunger strikes among the some 4,700 Palestinians in its jails by agreeing to release individuals or deporting them to Gaza – a prospect rejected by the four prisoners, who hail from Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union – have expressed concern at the hunger strike.â€
On February 16, EU foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton called on the Tel Aviv regime to bring â€œformal chargesâ€ against detainees and â€œallow for the immediate restoration of their family visiting rightsâ€ and called for â€œthe full respect of international human rights obligationsâ€ towards them.
Al-Issawi, 33, has been on hunger strike since August 2012 to protest against his administrative detention.
â€œAdministrative detention is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months. The detention order can be renewed for indefinite periods of time,â€ reports Press TV.
â€œBeing on hunger strike; losing more than half of your weight; suffering uncountable kinds of diseases; living in a two-meters-square room; not knowing when you will be released: it could be 1 year or 10 years or less or even more, you just have to wait. This is not only Samer Issawiâ€™s story but also that of many other administrative detainees and unjustly held Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails,â€ laments Malaka Mohammed, a freelance writer in Gaza.
Issawiâ€™s mother told Mohammed, â€œHe is now living in an isolated cell at Ramlah prison hospital; no one can see him, not even his loved ones. The only human contact he has is the guards. His legs are tied with shackles that look even bigger given to his tiny skeleton.â€
On Dec 13th, 2012, Issawi was attacked brutally three times inside the courtroom and in front of the judge where soldiers kicked on his chest. Since then, he is vomiting blood and having pain in his chest in addition to the symptoms of starvation.
â€œHe has recently started suffering from severe pain especially in his muscles, abdomen and kidneys. He has an acute vitamin B-12 deficiency and his body has begun to eat his muscles and nerves. Also, his sight is weak, he is fainting around six times a day and his body is covered with bruises… His health continues to deteriorate and his body is eroding and he has lost sense of the extremities (the hands and feet) as well as in his lips and he has lost a great deal of hair,â€ said his mother, crying.
Shireen Issawi, Samerâ€™s sister, went on hunger strike protesting his brotherâ€™s illegal detention over a month ago. She says she will not stop until her brother is free. Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association has documented the medical neglect he and other prisoners are subject to:
â€œLike 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.â€
On Dec 30th, Samer made a statement via his lawyer, â€œMy detention is unfair and my demands are nothing but just. Thus I will not withdraw from the battle for freedom. I am waiting for either victory and freedom â€“ or martyrdom. I was able to achieve 90% of my objectives that were to deliver my voice to the Egyptians, to maintain the achievements of the deal by preventing the re-arrest of prisoners liberated in the exchange; I maintained the prestige of Egypt as a mediator in the deal and to preserve the blood of the martyrs in Gaza. So there only still remains 10% from my goals, which is very small: my freedom.â€
Unfortunately, his Egyptian negotiators have now stated that they are not responsible for the outcome of Issawiâ€™s court case. The Arab League issued a statement that Israel is responsible if Issawi dies.
Samer Issawi issued another public message on February 17, which was circulated widely on Facebook: â€œDo not be afraid for my heart if it will stop, donâ€™t be afraid for my hands if they will be paralyzed. I am still alive now and tomorrow and after death, because Jerusalem is moving in my blood, in my devotion and my faith.â€
ENTIRE MESSAGE FROM SAMER AL-ISSAWI â€“ 16.02.13 â€“ â€˜I turn with admiration to the masses of our heroic Palestinian people, to our Palestinian leadership, to all forces, parties and national institutions. I salute them for standing by our fight to defend our right to freedom and dignity.
I draw my strength from my people, from all the free people in the world, from friends and the families of the prisoners who continue day and night chanting for freedom and an end to the occupation.
My health has deteriorated dramatically and Iâ€™m hung between life and death. My weak body is collapsing but still able to be patient and continue the confrontation. My message is that I will continue until the end, until the last drop of water in my body, until martyrdom. Martyrdom is an honor for me in this battle. My martyrdom is my remaining bomb in the confrontation with the tyrants and the jailers, in the face of the racist policy of the occupation that humiliates our people and exercises against us all means of oppression and repression.
I say to my people: Iâ€™m stronger than the occupation army and its racist laws. I, Samer al-Issawi, son of Jerusalem, send you my last will that, in case I fell as a martyr, you will carry my soul as a cry for all the prisoners, man and women, cry for freedom, emancipation and salvation from the nightmare of prisons and their harsh darkness.
My battle is not only for individual freedom. The battle waged by me and by my heroic colleagues, Tariq, Ayman and Jaâ€™affar, is everyoneâ€™s battle, the battle of the Palestinian people against the occupation and its prisons. Our goal is to be free and sovereign in our liberated state and in our blessed Jerusalem.
The weak and strained beats of my heart derive their steadfastness from you, the great people. My eyes, which started to lose their sight, draws light from your solidarity and your support of me. My weak voice takes its strength from your voice that is louder than the wardenâ€™s voice and higher than the walls.
Iâ€™m one of your sons, among thousands of your sons who are prisoners, still languishing steadfasting in the prisons, waiting for an end to be brought to their plight, their pains and the suffering of their families.
The doctors told me I became exposed to stroke because of the disorder of my heartbeats, the shortage of sugar and the drop in blood pressure. My body is full of cold and I canâ€™t sleep because of the continued pain. But despite the extreme fatigue and chronic headaches, as I move on my chair, Iâ€™m trying to summon all my resources to continue on the road till its end. There is no going back, only in my victory, because Iâ€™m the owner of Right and my detention is invalid and illegal.
Do not be afraid for my heart if it will stop, donâ€™t be afraid for my hands if they will be paralyzed. I am still alive now and tomorrow and after death, because Jerusalem is moving in my blood, in my devotion and my faith.