17 April 2011

Narratives Behind Locked Doors (8)

The Mother of a Minor in Prison - Amal Abdul-Allah

Amal Abdul-Allah, 44, from Tulkarem, has endured a long history of arrests in her family. Her father was imprisoned for 17 years. Her husband was arrested and released in 1983. Her brother and nephew were also both in Israeli prisons for some time. And in February 2009, Israeli soldiers arrested her third-oldest son, Oudai.

Oudai had left school after ninth grade to take care of his family but he was hoping to enroll in an occupational training program. This was delayed because his father had passed away and his older brother was working in Ramallah so he became, as his mother puts it, "the family man." As the oldest male relative, "he used to bring me and his sisters what we needed, take us where we needed to go." But, she says of her family, "we were living in hard conditions and he was looking for a job, but he couldn't find one."

"He was arrested on his way to Ramallah, at Beit Iba checkpoint near Nablus. We realized that he must have been arrested when he did not come home to sleep that night. He had been arrested in the morning and forced to spend the entire day and night at the checkpoint. He had to lie on the ground the entire time, until they took him to Megiddo prison the next day." The family was not informed of the boy's whereabouts. Instead, Oudai's mother contacted the Red Cross after she had not heard from her son in a worryingly long time. The ICRC told her that one teenager had been arrested at Beit Iba checkpoint – "so we assumed it was my son."

For several months, Oudai was moved from prison to prison. His mother was only permitted to visit him once. All other applications for visitation were denied for 'security reasons.' "I applied for a permit for his sister, but it was also refused. […] They say it is for security reasons. Maybe it's just to torture parents.[…] I have asked the Red Cross once why they don't help me, they answered that they can do nothing."

Oudai has not yet received a sentence. According to his mother, "his charge is possession of bullets and producing a simple handmade bomb. They also want to charge him with injuring an Israeli settler but they are not sure of it." Inside the prison, the "cubs" – the under-18-year-olds are incarcerated separately from older prisoners, but are able to interact with them during break-time in the yard. Oudai is generally doing well: "He is healthy, thank god. He was not tortured during interrogations. But he says he is psychologically exhausted and he wants to get out of prison."

Sometimes the family receives letters or messages from Oudai from prisoners who have just been released. "Recently, one of the men who lives near us was released from prison and he told us that my son is really sad and upset about being imprisoned. He felt he was responsible for me and his sisters so when he was arrested he suffered from a kind of shock. He was very depressed, always crying and feeling guilty and wondering what he did and why and what happened to me – as his mother – and to his sisters." And his worries seem justified; his mother says, "We were greatly affected. He left a huge empty space behind."

The mother tells PCHR: "I am emotionally in pain because I haven't seen him in so long, the whole situation is very hard, I can't bear it. Also, when I saw him for the first time in court, it was very hard for me, especially since I hadn't seen him for three or four months before that. I could not stop crying, but I was afraid for him and I tried to hold myself together as much as possible. For now, what hurts me most is that I am not allowed to visit him. It would be easier for me if were able to visit him."

Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 17 April 2011

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