The families of the Palestinian prisoners face very difficult living conditions on the social, economic and humanitarian level. They face the problem of non-reunification when their children are being taken away from them.
Furthermore they are also challenged economically because the families rely on income from their kids. On top of that the families will have to pay large fees imposed by Israel on the prisoners when they are released.
In Aida refugee camp, located south of Bethlehem, sits the mother of seven kids. Three of her sons are currently in Israeli prisons and her fourth son was just released last month. Her family has not been reunited for more than 10 years.
The woman’s name is Wjdan, she is 50-years-old. Last year her husband Saleh Abu Aker died from long time sickness and she is now alone, without any income, fighting to pay for her children’s release fee from prison.
Her oldest son 29-years-old Mohammed al-Asir was released from prison last month, after having spent two years in Israeli prison for accusations of throwing stones.
To get Mohammed released the family had to pay a fee of NIS 8000. If the family don’t have the resources to pay the fee for their son or daughter’s bail, they will not be released from prison and instead will additional NIS 1000 be added to the fee every month. This puts a lot of pressure on the families that in average earns NIS 1500-2000 per month.
In the case of Wjdan the local community stepped in and helped loaning her the NIS 8000 but she and her family will still have to pay back the money.
Her second son, Hussein Omar, 29, has spent a total of 10 years in administrative Israeli prison and has no perspectives of getting out anytime soon. He was imprisoned because he was a part of Hamas.
Her third son Monjed was sentenced to three years in prison due to allegations of throwing rocks. He will be released in May of next year and the fee for his release is NIS 2,000.
During his time in prison he went on hunger strike for 41 days and lost 25 kg. Due to this the family received a collective punishment for the strike which means Wjdan is prohibited for being able to visit and have any contact with her sons in prison.
Her last son is named Amjad is 21- years- old and was also imprisoned due to allegations of throwing rocks. His first sentence was two and a half year and the fee was 6000 NIS. He is currently serving his second sentence for one year and a day. He will be released this August for NIS 3,000.
The father Saleh Abu Aker, who past away last year, was not able to see any of his sons before he died because of his past as a ex prisoner. This was very hard for the family.
Wjdan explains “it was difficult for me telling my sons that their father was dying because they were in prison and they cannot do anything for him. It was the most difficult moment in my life to tell them through the phone that their father had died”. “
When financial fees increase it canalize the suffering of the families of the prisoners, where the occupation authorities not only deprive the families from seeing their children but increase their suffering by imposing financial fees that forces the families to pay for the release of their children.
When Wjdan lost her husband last year she was left with four children in prison and without any income for the family which not only had an impact on her economically but also socially. She was drained for energy having to worry about her sons in prison and not being able to talk to them and having to manage how to pay their fees.
Wjdan said that there is no way of getting help to compensate for the large sums they have to pay. Mohammed began looking for work to repay the debt forced upon him the first day after he came out from prison.
This was not an easy task not only due to the high unemployment rate in Bethlehem but also from sustaining permanent injuries in prison. However the economic situation forced him to work for debt repayment but the salary he received was not enough to both support his family’s need and pay off his debts.
Mohammed was released from prison but one might ask if the freedom was ever given back to him.