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From the field

10 year-old Sabrin and 'Udai, 13, miss school to visit brother imprisoned in Israel

R.KH., mother of eight

I live in hebron district with my husband and our four unmarried children. My husband, G., who is forty-seven, has been unemployed since the intifada began.

On 25 April 2001, my son R., 22, was arrested. He was tried and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment, a five-year suspended sentence, and a fine of NIS 6,000. Since R. was arrested, he has been moved from prison to prison. He was held in the Russian Compound, Ashkelon Prison, Nafha Prison, Eshel Prison, and Ketziot Prison. Now he is being held in Nafha Prison.

On 9 July 2005, my son S,, who is nineteen, was arrested on the charge of being a member of Islamic Jihad. He was tried and sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment, a seven months' suspended sentence, and a NIS 1,000 fine. He is currently in Ketziot Prison.

On 11 July 2005, my oldest son, M., 23, was arrested on the same charge - belonging to Islamic Jihad and participating in demonstrations. He was tried and sentenced to seventeen months' imprisonment, a three-year suspended sentence, and a NIS 3,000 fine. He, too, is now being held in Ketziot Prison.

The Israeli army classifies my husband and me as "forbidden entry on security grounds." Since R. was arrested, I have only managed to visit him three times, which took place during a forty-day period in which the Israeli authorities agreed to give visiting permits to persons in our classification. My husband and I visited R. at the end of March, in April, and in early May this year. Our requests to obtain permits before and after these visits were rejected.

I'm not giving up, and every week my husband and I submit a request to visit our children. The answer is always "forbidden entry on security grounds." I don't know why, because I haven't done anything to threaten [state] security. I think we are being punished because of our children, and our children are being punished to add to their suffering and ours.

I can't sleep at nights. I think about the boys all the time. I cry and sometimes stay awake until morning. I am always afraid that something is going to happen to them. I think of them in the morning, in the evening, and during meals. Without them, the food I eat has no taste. During the holidays, I cry and feel that our house is full of sadness. I see the sadness in our little children's eyes, who always talk of their older brothers. My boys' pictures hang on every wall in our house. Sometimes I stand in front of the pictures and talk to them.

I feel comfort and my pain is eased when my two children, Udai, who is thirteen years old, and Sabrin, who is ten, visit their older brothers in Nafha Prison. Sometimes they go together and sometimes only one of them goes, if the other one has exams in school or something else. They go three times a month, twice to Nafha and once to Ketziot. At Nafha Prison, visitors are only allowed to bring cigarettes to the prisoners. At Ketziot Prison, it is permissible to bring them anything: food, cigarettes, clothes, and even nylon to cover the tent from the cold.

'Udai and Sabrin on their way to vist one of their brothers. Photo: B'Tselem.
'Udai and Sabrin on their way to vist one of their brothers. Photo: B'Tselem. />

The visit lasts forty-five minutes. Sabrin and Udai say that at Nafha Prison, the visit takes place in a room with a glass partition between the prisoners and their visitors. The conversation is conducted by means of a telephone. They can't touch hands or hug. Ketziot Prison also has a glass partition, but there are holes in the glass that you can talk through.

Sabrin says there is lots of noise and she can't hear what her brothers M. and S. are saying. There are fifty other people in the room trying to talk to the prisoners. Only once, she said, did they let her and Udai go behind the partition and sit with her brothers. It was during the Holiday of the Sacrifice, and only the kids were allowed behind the partition. Our children's visits to their brothers calm us. When they return from the visit, I ask them many questions about their brothers, by which I can imagine that I had visited them myself. I miss them so much. I especially miss R., who still has four more years in prison. I don't know if I'll be allowed to visit him before his release.

On the other hand, the visit is not easy for Sabrin and Udai. The visit begins very early in the morning. They get up at 4:30 and go to Hebron , where they wait outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). At 6:00, the ICRC buses leave and go to the Tarqumiya checkpoint. There are usually from six to eight buses each time. At the checkpoint, they switch to other busses and the soldiers conduct a search, using dogs to check the personal possessions. Two police vehicles escort the buses, one in front and the other behind them. The buses are not allowed to stop along the way. It takes a long time to get to the prison.

At the prison, the visitors wait in the yard as the visits begin. The visitors are carefully checked when they enter for the visit. When the visit ends, everyone waits until the last of the visitors exits, including visitors who come from other areas in the West Bank . The visitors start the trip home at six or seven at night and arrive in Hebron at ten or eleven o'clock, and from there make their way home.

he trips to the prison are very difficult for Udai and Sabrin. When they go to Ketziot, they carry food and clothes for their brothers, and it's hard for them. I ask other prisoners' parents to help them. Usually they fall asleep on the way back and arrive home exhausted. They miss three days of school every month. These trips also influence them emotionally. I hear them talk about the long and tiring journey, getting up early and returning late at night. Despite all this effort, the visit is very short. They are sad and it ruins their childhood. The burden is too heavy for kids their age.

R.KH., 44, married with eight children, is resident of Hebron district. Her testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the witness' home on 13 December 2005.