Saturday, June 9, 2007

1967: A birth in prison

I was three months pregnant when the Israeli soldiers came to our house in Tulkarem refugee camp.

By Manal Ghanem
The Guardian

"My youngest child was born in a prison. I named him Nour ("Light"), to signal the hope that he brought to me. Nour was loved by all the prisoners as well - when the prison guards banned the Red Cross from delivering any toys to him, we sewed a teddy bear for him ourselves, using cloth ripped from our brown uniforms......

I was three months pregnant with Nour when the soldiers came to our house in Tulkarem refugee camp. There must have been 50 of them, all heavily armed. My three children were ordered out of the house. Ihab was nine and my daughter Nivine was six. While I was trying to shield and protect little Majid, they started beating me. He was only five at the time and had sickle-cell anaemia......

Although I was a civilian, I was convicted by a military tribunal for political acts I had not even committed. I was sent to Telmond prison, a military facility notorious for incarcerating Palestinian women and children. Telmond has no windows, and in its yard (which we could use three hours a day), the sun is entirely blocked by huge iron sheets placed on top of a roof of barbed wire. It was an especially bad environment for a pregnant woman.....

I'm 31, so I feel I am still young and I have a life ahead of me. I was released nearly two months ago. Things seem better - my husband has found a stable job with UNRWA and I'm spending a lot of time with my children. Nevertheless I'm overwhelmed, knowing that although I got out, 105 women, 359 children and more than 9,000 men are still behind bars. That is but one consequence of the naksah of 1967 and the subsequent occupation of the small corner we have left of Palestine. Every day I think to myself: can a woman feel truly free while her people are occupied?"

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