‘Sometimes they feel shame, even though we know that they are our enemy and they do this to break us,’ said one former woman prisoner
Bethlehem, West Bank – “I remember he brought his chair closer, opened his legs and sat very close to me. It was something ugly for me. It made me feel that he was trying to attack my body,” Khawla al-Azraq said, as she recalled the physical intimidation tactics and sexual harassment used by Israeli interrogators when she was only a teenager.
Decades later, al-Azraq, who is now 54, still shudders at the memory of Israeli interrogators brushing their hands across her legs to sexually intimidate her.
“They would sit in a way to be very close to us, to touch our bodies. I remember it was terrible for me at that age,” she said.
Al-Azraq is a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Since the age of 14, she has been arrested by Israeli forces four times for her involvement with Fatah and taking part in protests against the Israeli occupation. When she was only 18, she was sentenced to three years in prison.
“The torture, ill treatment, and degrading treatment start from the first moment of the arrest,” said Sahar Francis, director of Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights group.
She added that women who wear the hijab would often get into heated arguments with soldiers to let them put their headscarves on, before being detained from their homes.
Periods of interrogation are largely described as the most violent part of the detention process, in which women are not only subjected to physical and psychological torture – such as being tied in stress positions, sleep deprivation and beatings – but to methods targeting them specifically because of their gender.
“The interrogator will shout in their faces, try to intimidate them with some sexual words and insults, or start teasing them if they’re married, asking her what her husband is doing while she is imprisoned,” Francis told Middle East Eye.
While Israeli forces are mandated to have a female officer present during the interrogation of women, the former prisoners said that these officers did little to ensure their safety, often even serving as cover for the verbal and physical abuse that took place during interrogations.
“Sometimes the interrogator will talk to us in a sexual way, and they will use her (the female soldier) to say that we are lying when we say they beat us,” said Shireen Issawi, a prominent lawyer who spent five years in prison, including four years for transferring money to Palestinian prisoners. Issawi was released in October 2017.
According to the former prisoners, female officers were rarely present during the long trips back and forth from Israeli courts. They would spend up to 12 hours in transit handcuffed to iron seats in the back of prison vans, sometimes subjected to lewd comments by the Israeli guards transporting them.
Khitam Saafin, the leader of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, said that Israeli soldiers mostly target younger women and sexually harass them during these long journeys.
“They are exhausted; they suffer a lot; they are alone without any older people to take care of them and they are the ones mostly targeted with sexual harassment,” she said.
Saafin spent three months in administrative detention without being charged and accused Israeli soldiers of taking naked photos of her on their phones while being strip-searched following her arrest.
While some Palestinian women have spoken up about being raped in Israeli custody, for many it is a difficult topic to address because of social taboos.
Additionally, authoritative data on the prevalence of sexual assault on Palestinians in Israeli prisons is not available.
However, a 2016 report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), an Israeli human rights organisation, estimated that some four percent of male respondents had been subjected to some form of sexual torture.
Francis emphasised that these practices are not lone acts committed by individual members of the Israeli armed forces.
“It’s not something that’s done by an individual soldier who decided to humiliate or mistreat [the prisoners],” she said. “It’s part of the process, part of the policy, in order to affect the entire society and put it under pressure… because they are aware that [gender] is a sensitive subject in Palestinian society.”
‘This made me stronger’
According to Addameer, there are currently 58 women being held in Israeli prisons.
While this figure is far less than around 6,000 Palestinian male prisoners, women detainees have faced more difficult incarceration conditions in some areas.
According to Francis, women suffer from the same restrictions as men do when it pertains to family visits. However, the fact that all women are detained inside Israel makes it more challenging for relatives to see them, as they must first obtain permits.
According to Addameer, Palestinian female prisoners are mainly held in two prisons located inside Israel, HaSharon and Damon, in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention regulating the detention of prisoners.
“When I was a mother, it was so difficult. I can’t express in words how I was feeling at the time,” al-Azraq said of her 25-day interrogation in 1991 for her participation in protests during the First Intifada.
At the time, her first son Khaled was only two and a half years old.
It was a difficult period for her whole family, as her husband Issa Qarage, who is currently the head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, was also in prison.
According to al-Azraq, during the same period her sister-in-law was killed by Israeli forces.
“This made me stronger,” she said. “I didn’t say anything because I wanted to go back to my son.” Al-Azraq was released after 25 days.
Israel classifies all Palestinians detained in its custody as “security prisoners”, whether they are accused of throwing stones, posting what is deemed “incitement” on social media or killing an officer. But Palestinians insist that they are “political prisoners” who are detained either for trumped-up charges or in violation of their right to resist occupation as enshrined in international law.
Inadequate medical care
One of the main issues that advocates have repeatedly brought up has been inadequate medical care, especially following the recent campaign surrounding Israa Jaabis’s dire need for medical treatment after 65 percent of her body was burned and eight of her fingers needed to be amputated.
“The prison system says it offers the basic medical service, but honestly we think not, because the main treatment they offer for anything is a painkiller, unless you reach a really serious condition,” Francis said.
Francis also highlighted rarer cases of imprisoned pregnant women, saying that at least two Palestinians had given birth while in Israeli custody, under extremely difficult circumstances.
“It is a very humiliating process. Imagine that they tie you to the bed right until you’re about to give birth and immediately after giving birth, they will handcuff one hand and one leg back to the bed,” she said. “They won’t allow a family member to be present. Imagine a stranger, a policewoman, is standing beside your bed while you’re giving birth.”
Francis added that children under the age of two can accompany their mothers in prison, yet there are few arrangements made for the children’s well-being.
Meanwhile, more mundane aspects of women’s health also become a struggle, particularly when women are in interrogation centres.
“When I had my period, they just gave me paper tissues,” Issawi said.
“They didn’t take into consideration that we have special needs, that our bodies are not like men’s. I didn’t have any rights as a woman.”
Because of insufficient medical care, women have had to step in to take care of their sick or disabled fellow prisoners, despite most not having any nursing experience.
“We took the role of the nurse, the doctor, the social worker,” Issawi said.
The Israel Prison Service did not respond to MEE on allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and medical neglect by the time of publication.
While there is a limit to the number of books available at any given time to both Palestinian men and women detained by Israel, the smaller number of female prisoners means there are fewer books for them. This restricts their access to education and knowledge.
Saafin described how an NGO representative visiting HaSharon while she was being held there was shocked by the number of books available.
“The library of [imprisoned Fatah leader] Marwan Barghouti is bigger than these women’s library,” he reportedly said.
‘They called us mamma’
In spite – or sometimes, because of – the harsh incarceration conditions, female Palestinian prisoners develop a strong sense of solidarity, relying on each other for support.
“It was the best community I’ve experienced, because we all were equal. We shared everything. Nothing belonged to you except your underwear,” al-Azraq said of her time in prison in the 1980s.
“You feel this very strong connection,” Saafin said. “If the prisoners don’t have solidarity, then they don’t survive.”
Older female prisoners, many of whom have been detained several times since their youth, have taken the younger detainees under their wings.
According to Francis, this number has increased since 2015, with nine girls under the age of 18 currently imprisoned.
“When the children came to prison, we took care of them, we gave them clothes,” Issawi said. “Sometimes they called us ‘mamma’.”
A teacher by profession, Saafin and other adult prisoners said they did their best to complement the classes provided to them by prison authorities, where a teacher visits three times a week and covers only the subjects of Arabic, English, and mathematics.
Saafin said the attitude of the younger girls inspired her, as they persisted in continuing their studies in spite of the minimal access to instruction and restricted number of books.
“Most of the young female prisoners were hopeful,” she said. “I’m happy that I met them, because they also gave me hope.”
The former prisoners empathised with Ahed Tamimi, who on 31 January turned 17 in Israeli custody.
“In the case of Ahed Tamimi, I saw myself,” said Issawi, whose family has long been targeted by Israeli forces. “This was my childhood.”
“As a mother, I know exactly how difficult it is for children like Ahed,” al-Azraq said. “I know it will be hard for them and it will affect them their whole life.”
Life after prison
The effects of imprisonment continue long after these women are released. Decades later, al-Azraq said she experiences shortness of breath in enclosed spaces and feels claustrophobic even in the shower.
According to Issawi, she still suffers from back and arm pain after having been handcuffed to an iron chair during a month-long interrogation period.
On top of her health issues, since being released she has been unable to resume her work as a lawyer due to efforts to disbar her because of her previous conviction.
Francis believes that the main issue for former prisoners remains insufficient psychological support.
“It’s related to our perception of prisoners as heroes. We put them in a space where we as a society are not allowing them to feel weak, to feel that they need such support.”
Al-Azraq said that some women she knows, who had been raped in Israeli custody in the early 1970s, still struggle to talk about their experiences.
“Sometimes they feel shame, even though we know that they are our enemy and they do this to break us,” she said in a trembling voice.
Al-Azraq expressed pride in the small but persistent number of Palestinian women who in spite of the risks have taken an active role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“They believe they have the same role as men and they can do things in the same way or better than men. They are fighters against the occupation and it’s their right.”
Surveillance footage capturing a “ghost” terrorizing the halls of a school in Ireland is going viral online … again.
The same allegedly haunted high school, Deerpark C.B.S, whose video of a “ghost” that had the internet grasping for an explanation last month, just released new eerie footage.
The second video, which was captured by the school’s security cameras around 5:30 a.m. last Thursday and uploaded to YouTube shortly after shows even more disturbing activity.
The footage shows a series of unexplained events from chairs mysteriously levitating, to bookbags careening from storage cubbies, and posters flying off the walls.
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At the time the first video went viral, school officials weren’t sure if they were dealing with an actual poltergeist or a simply a “very well-designed prank” from students.
However, the school’s principal, Aaron Wolfe, previously said there’s been a history of similarly creepy events that have occurred at the school, which is apparently the oldest school in the city at nearly 200 years old, according to the school website.
“Our caretaker has worked in the school for over 30 years, he recalls many stories of ‘paranormal activity,'” Wolfe said.
“For example, on one occasion the school was hosting an exotic bird show, and the birds arrived the day before, because the organizers were worried that someone might break in and steal the birds, someone had to stay overnight.,” Wolfe recalled.
“That person left the school in the middle of the night – they refused to stay any longer as they said that they heard ‘the last call’ being played on a trumpet – of course this could have just been the wind.”
As if kids didn’t already have reasons to skip school.
- This article was initially published on AOL.com: Haunted high school in Ireland has a second video and our stomachs just dropped again
Source Article from https://www.yahoo.com/news/haunted-high-school-ireland-second-183546863.html
This viral footage may prove ghost skeptics wrong.
One local spot in California is making headlines for some spooky incidents — and it was all caught on camera.
Cronies Bar and Restaurant uploaded two separate videos to Facebook to verify the creepy encounters. One shows the rocking of a chair during business hours, which had some of its customers spooked. The other video shows the toppling of a barstool after the business had closed its doors for the night.
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“For this to happen it’s pretty creepy,” said Dave Foldes, one of the bar’s co-owners, to a local news station. He continued, “It’s just really weird. We’ve been here 27 years, nothing weird like this has ever happened.”
Though they don’t know what caused the movements, they’re quick to blame it on the spot’s two originals, Ralph and Don.
“Ralph and Don. They were our first originals. They actually introduced me to my wife. And they died 25 years ago.Whenever something funny happens, we blame it on them,” he said.
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- This article was initially published on AOL.com: Terrifying ‘haunted’ restaurant camera shows furniture moving on its own