Trasnlate by Saed Bannoura, IMEMC

Despite the loneliness of detention, detainees in several Israeli prisons and detention camp have overcome the high walls and barbed wires with a smile, a smile that, in their dire situation, has become an act of defiance.

In the Negev desert, more than 1500 Palestinian political detainees live in groups of tents, in a prison known as “Ansar 3”, notorious for its desert climate and bad conditions.

Recently, on a cold December night in “Ansar 3”, a “technical error” occurred cutting the electricity off in all branches of the camp. The guards raised the alert level, fearing that the detainees would escape amidst the darkness, through the high concrete walls and barbed wires!

“The detainees were laughing, all you could hear was loud laughter after midnight when the electricity went off. There is a detainee in tent number 9, a blind detainee who of course was not affected by the loss of electricity, he became our guide to the kitchen or bathroom since he knew the way ‘by heart” in the full sense of the word”, another detainee reported.

Ali Hanoun, 39, the blind detainee, became the guide for the rest of the detainees. His ‘services’ were suddenly in high demand because of the darkness, and he was called by many detainees in his branch to show them where things were.

The blind guide became a source of joy, causing the prisoners to laugh – but the army apparently did not like the loud laughter in the camp. It seems that it is part of their duty to make sure that the detainees never laugh!

Generally, losing electricity is a bad thing which might cause different problems and accidents, but in this case it brought a light moment to detainees used to only sand storms and harsh conditions in the desert climate of the Negev .

The laughter, which annoyed the guards, kept up until dawn, not because the soldiers did not want to stop it, but because they were scared to move between the tents in the darkness.

Ali Hanoun, the ‘guide’, was arrested for the first time in 1995, and spent 10 months in prison, then he was rearrested in 2000, and forced to spend six more months in Al-Maskobeyya interrogation prison, after which he was released for the “lack of evidence”.

While he was heading towards Bir Zeit University , near Ramallah, in August 2004, he was arrested again and was placed in administrative detention without any charge.

Raed Amer, head of the Nablus branch of the Prisoners’ society reported that Israeli prisons are filled with dozens of handicapped detainees, and detainees with special needs, but prison authorities do not provide any special care for these prisoners.

“Dozens of detainees are handicapped, or have lost body parts, some can’t see or speak, yet prison authorities ignore their needs”, Amer stated.

Yet those detainees do not “sit in the dark”, or mourn, they seek to maintain high spirits and overcome their pain to challenge their jailers in ironic and creative ways.

Detainee Ez Ad-Deen Amarnah, from the village of Ya’bod , near Jenin, is currently imprisoned in Majeddo detention, after being charged with writing slogans on the walls and other charges.

Apparently, the Israeli prosecution ignored a simple but important fact which could have cleared him of the charges against him: the simple fact is that Amarneh is blind!

A third blind detainee, Ahmad Abu Swelim from Qalqilia, spent two years in detention, and when he was released, left behind memories both joyful and sorrowful, since he was known both for his sense of humor and serious attitudes.

Abu Swelim was charged with belonging to an armed group, and participating in several attacks against military bases, which added a sort of ironic humor to his case — that a court and prosecution could charge a blind person with these impossible charges.

These charges were a source of humor among the detainees, who made fun of a “Court of Law” which could even convict in this case. Some of the detainees even made plays in which they tried to act out the charges against Abu Swelim (a blind man attacking a military base) – bringing a smile to the faces of fellow detainees.

Meanwhile, blind detainee Raed Qadiry, from Nablus , was recently informed by prison administration that the Prison Authorities have decided to renew his administrative detention. He was not surprised by the announcement, since this is the eighth time in which the authorities decide to renew his detention without any reason or charge.

Each time he returns to detention after appearing in court, he tells the other detainees that he “received a new gift”, a “gift” that is known well by many of the detainees.

According to statistics and study cases conducted by the Palestinian Prisoners Society, there at least 1400 detainees in administrative detention, which means they have not been charged with any crime – often they serve six months with no trial, then the period is extended to another six months, and another – with no charge, no trial, and no end in sight. They are among the 7000 Palestinians currently imprisoned by Israel in different prisons and detention camps.