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From the field

Bara', 15, is the only link between her parents and her brothers, jailed in Israel

S.'A, 53

On 12 January 2003, my son Y. was arrested at our home, in Nablus , on the charge that he belongs to Gedudey 'Awadeh [the military arm of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine]. He was convicted of possession of weapons and aiding wanted persons, and was sentenced to three years' imprisonment. He is now being held in Shata Prison. My son ' I. was arrested on 24 October 2003, convicted, and sentenced to five years, seven months, and nine days' imprisonment for firing at soldiers and aiding wanted persons. The "wanted person" he aided was his brother M., who had been wanted by the Israeli army since the beginning of the intifada. The army claims M. belongs to Geduday al-'Awadeh. ' I. is being held in Megiddo Prison. M. was arrested on 28 May 2005 in one of his hiding places. He has not yet been tried. He faces many charges, among them manufacturing explosives, dispatching a person to carry out a suicide attack, and possession of weapons. M. is being held in Shata Prison.

Until the end of 2003, the Israelis did not permit any visits with the prisoners. In early January 2004, when the visits began, I submitted a request, through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for permits for my husband and me to visit our sons. The requests were rejected on security grounds. The ICRC officials told me that they resubmit the request every twenty days, but that the requests are rejected time and again on security grounds. I contacted the ICRC so many times to check on the requests that the words "refused on security grounds" is coming out of my ears. I don't know what they mean by these words. Our children are already in Israeli jails, so what kind of security threat are they? Can a woman of my age or a man of my husband's age, who travel on police-escorted buses, threaten Israel 's security? The only thing the refusal does is humiliate the prisoners' families. Not allowing us to see our children only aggravates our situation and theirs. We worry about them.

For a year or so now, nobody in our family succeeded in visiting my three sons other than my daughter Bara', who is fifteen, who has to go visit her brothers three times a month, twice to Shata Prison, once every fifteen days, and once to Megiddo Prison. The trip is very long. When she goes to Shata Prison, she leaves at 3:30 A.M. and returns home at 10:30 at night. The same is true when she goes to Megiddo Prison. When she goes once a month, it is even worse because the monthly visit to Megiddo Prison occurs the day after the visit to Shata Prison. Not only does she miss school on the day of the visit, but the next day, too, she doesn't go to school because she returned home late at night exhausted. So, once a month she misses three days of school one after the other. When she gets home, she doesn't eat and doesn't tell us what happened because she doesn't have the strength to talk. She returns home tense, and we see it. She is doing worse at school because she misses about one week of school a month. Sometimes, she also takes her nephew and niece with her, ' I. 's children: M'azuz, who is five, and Rama, who is seven. Their mother is not allowed to visit because she does not have a Palestinian identity card. She doesn't dare submit a request, fearing she would be deported immediately to Jordan and not be allowed to return here at all.

I feel bad for my daughter because she has to miss school and make the very long trip and go through all the procedures set by the occupation soldiers. She has to carry lots of things for her three brothers. She has to get up in the middle of the night to get on the bus. I am in constant contact with her by phone so that she doesn't get bored and so that I can remain calm and know what is happening. I call her trip the journey of torture. I pray all the time that the Israelis will let us visit our children. I fear that I'll die before I see them. Their elderly father, too, continuously says that only Allah knows if he'll live long enough to see them again. I cry when I hear him say that.

S. 'A., 53, is a mother of seven children and a resident of Nablus district. Her testimony was given to Salma a-Deb'i in Nablus 13 December 2005.