Ghadir Anwar Al-Aqra’a, a 34 year old mother of four children, Nidaa’ (12), Nisma (15), Ra’ed (10) and Nara (8), lives with her children in the Al Sheikh Redwan neighbourhood of Gaza City.
Her husband, Nahed Al-Aqra’a (42), was arrested on 20 July 2007 by the Israeli military, is incarcerated in Ramle Prison Hospital in central Israel, and since that date has been denied any prison visits by his wife or children.
Since being arrested in 2007 none of Nahed’s family members from Gaza have been allowed to visit him. Ghadir explains the situation, “The only person who has been allowed to visit Nahed since 2007 has been his mother. She is forced to see him through a glass window and can only speak to him via an internal phone. She cannot touch or hug her son.”
The last time that Nahed saw his children was in March 2007. Neither Ghadir nor any of her four children have been allowed to see Nahed since his arrest.
The issue has been made all the worse by the fact that Nahed has faced extremely serious medical problems, issues which have been severely exacerbated since his imprisonment in 2007.
Ghadir’s husband sustained multiple gunshot injuries to his legs during internal Palestinian clashes relating to the Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007.
In order to obtain medical treatment, Nahed travelled through the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt to gain access to Jordan. During this medical trip and as a result of the injuries he sustained, Jordanian doctors were forced to amputate his left leg.
On his return trip to Gaza from Jordan, Rafah Crossing was closed. As a result, Nahed was forced to cross by the Israeli controlled, Al Karama Crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. It was here that Israeli forces arrested him.
He was interrogated, arrested and subsequently received three life sentences for his role Palestinian military offensives before 2005.
Nahed’s mother has told Ghadir of the terrible pain Nahed endures daily due to the deterioration of his health, “He suffers terribly from the pain of his injuries and serious medical complications due to neglect by the Israeli authorities.”
Nahed was arrested mere days after his leg was amputated in Jordan. He has since been denied all appropriate medical care for his injuries as well as being kept in conditions completely inappropriate for adequate recovery.
Ghadir continues, “In prison they just give him painkillers. They do not provide him with proper medical care. The painkillers gave him temporary relief however they did not solve his medical problems. As a result of the conditions he lives in, he has suffered repeated infections in his legs. The pain is now more than he can stand and painkillers have ceased to work.”
In April 2013 Nahed had to undergo a second surgery in the prison hospital to amputate his right leg.
Ghadir states that, “If Israeli authorities had paid proper attention to his medical situation he would never have reached this point. In the hospital in Jordan, doctors stated that he all he needed to save his right leg was a nerve transplant. This was not provided to him. When he was jailed in Israel he was just given painkillers.”
Even suffering these extremely serious medical issues and the loss of both his legs, Nahed has never received any sympathy from Israeli officials.
Ghadir discusses the issues relating to her husband’s imprisonment, “His mother is the only person allowed to visit him as she is from the West Bank. Families from the West Bank are allowed to visit their sons, families from Gaza are not. Ramle Military Hospital (where Nahed is incarcerated) denies visitation rights to all family members from Gaza. Whether a prisoner is allowed visitors depends solely on the whim of Israeli officials. I have no idea about the conditions that Nahed is currently living in. I have been denied all rights to visit him since his arrest in 2007.”
When I ask her why she does not move to be with her husband’s family in the West Bank and thus have the ability to visit him, Ghadir explains, “I have a Gaza identity card and therefore I am banned from travelling to the West Bank. There is no way for me or my children to move there.”
Ghadir was not allowed to speak to Nahed from July 2007 until January 2013. Six months ago, Nahed was allowed his first 10 minute phonecall to his wife and family in Gaza since he was arrested. This was the first time they had spoken since 2007. Two months ago, Ghadir and her children received a second 10 minute phonecall from Nahed.
Ghadir explains that since his imprisonment she has attempted on multiple occasions to mail Nahed, “I have sent him multiple letters with photos of our children attached. I do not know whether he has ever received any of the letters. Nahed’s mother has informed me that he has received some photos; otherwise he would not know what his children look like. Nahed has never been allowed to write a reply to any of my written correspondence.”
Israeli authorities’ official stance to deny visitation rights to the Gazan families of Palestinian prisoners is for “security reasons”.
Ghadir states that “I have never been provided with a reason for not being able to visit my husband however I am not the only one who has been denied the right to visit my loved one. Many families are denied their rights.”
Ghadir explains to us that in some cases prisoners have been transferred to a different, less strict prison for one day so that family members from Gaza can meet them.
Nahed’s lawyer had called her a few days ago to inform her that this may be a possibility for Hahed, “They might transfer Nahed to Aishal prison for a day so as to accommodate a visit between me and my husband. There might be the opportunity to visit him. This is my greatest hope.”
However, even if Ghadir is eventually allowed to visit her husband she would be restricted by severe visitation rules.
Only a wife and children may visit their husband/ father. Also, children over 8 years of age are denied the right to see their parent under any circumstances.
“Of my four children, only one daughter currently aged 8 years old has the right to visit Nahed. Once Nara turns 9 none of my children will be allowed to see him.”
When I ask Ghadir what her difficulties she faces as a result of not being able to communicate with her husband, tears well in her eyes and she reveals that she as an adult, can bear the difficulties in being denied communication with her husband.
“My children however are not able to cope. The children need to see their father. They cannot remember what he looks like. My youngest daughter was only one year old the last time she saw her dad. She has no recollection of him and only associates him with his photos we have hung around our house. My children don’t know what it’s like to have a father. The hardest thing however is having a father who’s alive but who they are unable to speak, touch or see. My youngest daughter often cries at nighttime due to suffering the sadness of being unable to see her father.”
Nidaa’, Ghadir’s daughter, explains what it is like without being able to speak to her father, “It is terrible that I cannot visit my father. I see his picture everyday and know that he is still alive however I cannot speak to or see him.”
Assessing her hopes for the future, Ghadir states that “My hope is that at my children will one day be allowed to visit their father. This is my only request. While I sincerely hope that one day he leaves jail, the chance to visit him is the only thing I seek. My only hope is in God. I do what I can and leave all other things to Him.”
Israel’s restriction of visitation rights to Nahed’s family is in direct violation of Article 37 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, “[p]risoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits.”
This is supported by Principle 19 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, which states that “[a] detained or imprisoned person shall have the right to be visited by and to correspond with, in particular, members of his family and shall be given adequate opportunity to communicate with the outside world.”
Moreover, under Article 9 (3) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, States Parties shall respect the rights of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza , Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
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