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نوفمبر 14، 2009

Eman, former prisoner : People think that I’m something evil

“In my moments of anger and despair, I wish I hadn’t left the prison.” This is what Eman al-Akhras, 28 years old, a former prisoner, says.

The young woman from Bethlehem has spent four years in the Israeli prison, during which she underwent punishments from the Israeli soldiers and was exposed to a cruel and inhumane treatment.

As her parents paid a lot of money to the court, she could be released before the prescribed time.

Eman has faced a different suffering since she left her cell. Before being put to jail, she had a lot of relatives and friends, however, after she got out, she found nobody to look after her. When we asked Eman about the reason behind this, she said:

“People think that I’m something evil” She thought that her people would be proud of her and treat her as a heroin since she had helped wanted men. Instead of this, some of her relatives began to blame her:

“What did you do to us?”

Sima Anbas is a freed prisoner from Tulkarem. She has spent two years and a half in prison for helping wanted men, in particular her husband who was killed by the Israeli soldiers. Sima says:

“After my release, I was closed and isolated because I didn’t want to see or talk with anybody, even my child didn’t accept me.”

However, she has been surprised by many people from her relatives, neighbors, friends and even people she didn’t know, wh warmly welcomed her and were very proud of her. On the contrary to Eman al-Akhras, she "felt that [she is] a heroin".

After Sima stayed a couple of days in her house, fearing that people in her community wouldn’t accept her specially because she was a widow, she realized that everybody around her was ready to help her recovering her role in society.

No regrets
Some of the freed prisoner who are members in the Palestinian Prisoner Club encouraged her to get out of her loneliness and join them to work in the Prisoner Club. Sima is working nowadays at the ministry of Prisoners and prisoner rehabilitation:

    “I have no regrets for what I did and my way of defending my land, that’s why I’m happy to serve the Palestinian prisoners' case.”

And when we asked her if she thinks that male prisoners are more welcome back, she says:

    “No, my brother has been released two days ago and I felt that my welcome party was greater.”

On the other hand, Eman says that even though her celebration was good, still she feels that people are happier for male prisoners.

“The prison is a small world that I can manage with, but this big world, I can’t stand it anymore.”

After two years of freedom, Eman still feels that she doesn’t belong to the place where she lives.

She gets a psychological help from her friend in a special assembly dedicated to helping freed prisoners, but as she says, "this wouldn’t help". If she can’t get rid of the depression she feels, it is also because she doesn’t have a job. When she adressed the competent authorities to get a job, she was told :

    “Why should one like you look for a job? You get a salary every month!”

Eman says that the 1000 Shekels she gets as a former prisoner are not enough to support her family.

"Stronger and more determined to live.”

Palestinian prisoners are deprived from his rights as a human being in the Israeli prisons. When they are released after the hard experience he/she has faced, he/she finds it difficult to reintegrate in the society. Some can’t find a place; others do cope and go on in life. This maybe depends on each one’s personality. As Sima says, “this may be due to a weak personality":

    "As for me, I know, after my experience, that I’m a strong woman. My strength is a main key factor in enabling me to complete my life, and now I feel that I’m stronger and more determined to live.”

Since the outbreak of Al-Aqsa Intifada, the number of Palestinian prisoners has gone up to nearly 850 prisoners, 33 remain in Israeli jails. For sure, many freed prisoners are able to continue and take a role in society, and this maybe due to self esteem and to the person’s insistence to live.

However, the community and the competent assemblies play the biggest role in helping the prisoner to recover and overcome the painful experience. Palestinian society should look at the female freed prisoner “as a case of struggle rather than a social situation”, Sima says:

    “Prison experience masters the human personality; the smart one could make out of this experience a positive motive to deepened his/her determination and attachment to life.”

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