New Internationalist

We are torches of freedom in the darkness of Israeli apartheid’

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The birds want to ask us, 'are you still here? Do you still not have your freedom?' terrainofthought.com under a Creative Commons Licence

Activities coordinator for Aida camp's Lajee centre in the West Bank, Mohammed Alazraq recently agreed to write for New Internationalist and was thinking up ideas for new articles. But on 26 March Israeli soldiers came to his home at four in the morning and arrested him. For the past two weeks he has been held in Israel’s notorious Al Jalama prison and interrogated. On 8 April Mohammed was admitted to hospital at the insistence of his lawyer; he is suffering from injuries and gastrointestinal problems due to beatings and ill-treatment. Two other Aida camp residents also actively involved with the Lajee centre, Mohammed Abo Akar and Marwan Frargah, were arrested in the early hours of 7 April.

Mohammed wrote the below piece in January 2013. His body may be imprisoned, but his words are not.

Over the last 45 years, 700,000 Palestinian political prisoners have been incarcerated in the occupation jails, and thousands of them are still there until now: facing the darkness of the cells and the dark room, suffering from the torture and the cold winter and the heat of the summer, talk of hunger and illness is common in the jail among the prisoners. Eyes looking for freedom, and the morning that can take away the darkness. Years, months, or a day, however long a person resides in those jails will be enough to change a life. Yes, 10 or 20 days does not seem that long from the span of a person’s life, yet, with the Apartheid it can feel like 20 years to them, and it will be enough to be remembered their whole life and make them think differently.

Living for years with no rights, Palestinian political prisoners feel their humanity taken from them day after day. It is a feeling of someone humiliating you every day; in their food, drink, sleep, and even in the presence of their families, if you have the luck to be allowed a family visit. And all of this, why? Simply, because we demand our freedom; all of this systematic humiliation because we want to live free as all people around the world do, and essentially because we are Palestinian. Today there are hundreds of human rights papers, prisoner rights agreements issued in the world to protect the life and humanity of a political prisoner, so why is none of this enforced in Palestine? How can 'Israel' reign free and do whatever it wants against Palestinians and no one will stop them? Why should we, having waited 64 years, wait any longer for our rights?

Every morning in prison, prisoners wake up and go to the small window of their cells to look at the birds flying. Looking for some bread we have left for them on the windows, the birds are the only ones we can talk to from the outside world, and they are the only ones who can listen to us. We can see every morning in the birds’ eyes they want to speak to us and ask, are you still here? Do you still not have your freedom? Every prisoner is angry when they hear the shouts from the occupation jailers, ordering us to stand close to the beds as they count. Even if we were small birds and could fly we would be shot by the snipers, because you can fly free as a bird but you can’t if you are Palestinian. If you are Palestinian there is something waiting for you, to stop you dreaming of being a bird.

Years and years have passed and we are still in jail, more brothers and sisters being sent into the darkness every day. But we still have a dream and we are still strong: they can do whatever they want but they can’t stop us struggling for our rights, for a free Palestine. When we chose to be in the line of resistance we knew that something bad would happen to us, we knew we would be killed or we will spend years and years in the jails. Yet, we know also that we are fighting for justice, for freedom and dignity of humanity, not only for Palestinians but also for all people around the world. We are not criminals, we are freedom fighters.

This is the time when people have to come together and end the injustice everywhere in the world. We are all people in this world and have the same rights, no one is up and no one is down, we are equal. We will always be the torches of freedom in the darkness of apartheid.

Together until the freedom.

This article was first published as #12 of the Communiqué Palestine series on the ISG (Scotland) website.

Read 'The soldiers are here': resistance in a Palestinian refugee camp.

Palestinian Prisoners' Day is on 17 April.

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