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The Story of a Palestinian Woman behind the Bars of the Israeli Occupation

 Thursday 15 November 2007, 06:32 PM

Salwa Hdeib Qannam, Head of Board of Trustees of Jerusalem Center for Women and a guest speaker at the forum presented her story during the second session of the conference. She was a Fath activist and a student of law in Beirut, when she got detained by Israeli soldiers on her way back to Palestine. In her own words this is the story of what she went through when she was arrested by Israeli soldiers:
“I wasn’t even 20 years  old when I was a junior in the faculty of law in Beirut. On my way back to Palestine, I was passing through Jordan across the King Hussein Bridge, when I was detained by the Israeli occupation forces. It was a Sunday; an extremely cold, rainy and stormy day. I was forcefully removed from between the passengers [on the bus], as if they were waiting for me.
 I was placed inside the Israeli police car and an overwhelming silence befell me. My heart was racing…pounding more than 100 beats a minute. I couldn’t remember at that moment anything but my parents, whom I had not seen in three years. I woke up from my delusion to the kicking of the Israeli soldiers in the police car. [The kicking ] continued until we arrived at al-Maskoubiya penitentiary at al-Quds, where there were four interrogators, lead by a man called Abo Nihad who spoke Arabic with an Iraqi accent. 
The interrogations started and so did the torture. I stayed in that place for a week handcuffed, my feet tied, with a foul smelling bag over my head.

Later I was transferred to a small grave-like cell, surrounded by frightening sounds, and images beyond human imagination. I was subjected, along with other political prisoners, to all kinds of threats when I refused to testify to false claims. I was denied my basic human rights.
At that time, as embarrassing as it is, I had my period, and I could not even take care of myself or the hygiene of my body. Every woman knows how hard it is. The guards would tell me, ‘I will leave u like this until you die from your own smell.’
 I was later moved to cells under the ground.  All former detainees know the state of these cells; they are always very humid, have an unbearable smell, are filled with rats and insects that dance in front of you as if challenging your perseverance [to withstand this situation]. This went on for 100 days, during which I was only served a single meal of rotting food each day. During this time, I was not able to meet with neither my defense lawyers nor the delegates of the Red Cross or any other organization.
The guards brought my parents and beat them in front of me. Another time they tried to remove my clothes forcefully in front of my dad. I do not know where I got my strength at that point, but I slapped [the guard] as hard as I could.
Two weeks later I was transferred to the Tia woman’s prison, where we started a strike by refusing to eat. Later I was again transferred to solitary confinement. I was tried and charged in my absence.
 I was finally released one year later, I was however placed in house arrest in al-Quds where it was mandatory that I report of my presence daily at 6.30 am, for 9 years. And as of now, the Israeli officials still ask for me every time I go in and out of the country.”

    After her speech, Salwa Qannam said, “I hardly held my tears as I told this story. The torture I was subjected to never ended. The horrible memory does not leave me even a second, and I live it again and again. I tell it to my children and people around me all the time.”

    Qannam said that women have to teach all Arabs, Muslims and people around the world to focus on the cause of al-Quds and prepare more people to work for the liberation of Palestine.

    She added that women have to be encouraged to speak up for Palestine because they are struggling as much as men do but they have to raise their voices to be heard.

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