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From the field

Nidal al-Bum, 34, recently released from administrative detention, talks about his detention and 39-day hunger strike

Nidal al-Bum, teacher

Nidal al-Bum. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B'Tselem, 12 June 2014

I am a teacher in the elementary school in the village. I live in the village with my wife and our three children: Liana, 4, Dujana, two and a half, and Amar, a year and a half old.

On Tuesday, 4 March 2013, at around 3:00 AM, I was asleep at home when I was woken by loud banging at the door. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see many soldiers. They asked me for my name and arrested me. I got to Huwwara camp a few hours later. I underwent a medical exam there and after a few more hours, they took me to the interrogation center at Salem, west of Jenin. I was interrogated by three interrogators for about five hours, regarding their claim that I had been a Hamas party activist in the 2006 elections and was a Hamas movement activist. After the interrogation, I was taken to Megiddo Prison. On 7 March 2014, I got an administrative detention order for six months, without a trial and without knowing what I was accused of, because my file was classified. That day, I was transferred to a different ward inside the prison, where I stayed until 19 May 2013, when I was transferred to Ktziot Prison. On 2 August 2013, my administrative detention was renewed for another six. On 3 February 2014, my administrative detention was renewed yet again, this time for four months. I was shocked because I was supposed to get out of prison and couldn’t wait to be released. Instead of getting a release order, my detention order was extended by four months. I can’t describe what I felt. I couldn’t stand prison. It was very hard to get through the day.

Two or three days after they extended my detention yet again, they took me to the military court at Ofer for judicial review of the detention extension. I hoped they would say that there had been some kind of mistake and that I would be released, but unfortunately, the court accepted the four-month extension of the administrative detention and I was taken back to prison. My problem was that I didn’t know how long they would keep extending my detention. I was losing hope of ever getting released. If I had been sentenced in a court, I would have at least known when my detention would end. Administrative detention is different. Every time the detention period ends, they renew it for three to six months. I appealed the decision through a lawyer I’d hired, but the court dismissed the appeal.

In March of this year, the detainees decided to protest administrative detention by boycotting the courts, returning a portion of each meal, and by sick prisoners not taking their medication.

On 24 April 2014, a hunger strike was called to protest the unjust administrative detention. It’s still going on. was one of the 49 detainees who began a hunger strike on 24 April 2014 at Ktziot Prison to protest the unjust administrative detention. In order to pressure us to end the strike, the IPS took all the strikers and put us in a different ward, made up of tents. The ward has not been used since 2006. It was full of garbage and unfit for people. The water in the pipes was hot and we had no access to cold drinking water. We were held there for two weeks and strip-searched three or four times a day, sometimes in the presence of another inmate, and sometimes each person was searched alone. There were at least three soldiers present at each search. The searches were done in another ward and took about ten hours at a time. Sometimes, a unit from outside the prison would come. They were usually crueler than the prison staff. They knocked people out of their beds, forced us to stand in the sun for a head count, and broadcast noise on the loud speakers. They barbequed meat and ate it right in front of us, to break us.

But we decided to go on with the strike, no matter the consequences. Our only demand was cancelling the unjust administrative detention. It’s a serious problem being under arrest without knowing the reason why or when you might be released. It’s very difficult. It’s impossible to accept or understand it.

After two weeks, they transferred the hunger strikers to Dekel, Eshel, Ela and Shikma Prisons. I was transferred with some other detainees to Eshel Prison. We were put in single or double isolation cells. I was held together with a detainee from Hebron in a 1 by 2-meter cell for six or seven days. Then, I was transferred to Ela Prison, where I shared a cell with a detainee from Ramallah. On 27 May 2014, we were both taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, Israel. We were both in very poor health. I was suffering from joint and back pain, headaches, fatigue and muscle weakness. At the hospital they gave us medicinal liquids and vitamins. They wanted to give us sugar too, but I refused. There were ten of us in the room, all hunger strikers. We were chained to the beds by our left hands and right legs. One of the detainees had an infection in his blood and he was in serious condition. We were afraid he would die any minute.

On 1 June 2014, I was released after 16 months in administrative detention. Thank God my detention wasn’t renewed again. I never saw a lawyer or an organization during the strike, except for a visit by the ICRC the day before my release. I didn’t apply for visits because I knew that others on hunger strike had asked and been refuesed.

I’m still suffering from back pain, fatigue and headaches because of my hunger strike, which lasted 39 days. I still can’t eat normally. I now only eat soup that has a small amount of vegetables. Witness information:

Nidal Salah a-Din Ahmad al-Bum, 34, is a teacher at the elementary school of the village of Qaryut. He is married and has three children. He gave his testimony at his home in Qaryut to Salma a-Deb’i on 3 June 2014.