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Week 1: Nael Al-Barghouthi - Dean of the Palestinian prisoners

Born on 23 October 1957, Nael Al Barghouthi has spent 33 years in prison. He was arrested on 4 April 1978 after carrying out a commando operation in which one Israeli was killed. Al Barghouthi was subjected to extreme torture and has survived at least one attempt on his life during interrogation.

Throughout his long years of incarceration, he has faced his interrogators and jailers with incredible strength and determination, as they moved him from one prison to another.

Inside the prison, he has been a source of inspiration, knowledge and training.  He has raised generations of prisoners, some have left and others are still behind bars.

Nael Al Barghouthi likes to be called “Abu An Nur” (the father of light). He has witnessed a number of prisoner exchange deals; but on every occasion he has been exempted because his Israeli jailers regard him as a high security risk.

Nael Al Barghouthi’s years of imprisonment impacted considerably on his family. Often denied visits, they heard of his illness from secondary sources. For years his mother conducted a vigil in front of the offices of human rights organizations, which were unable to assist. Nael’s father, Hajj Saleh, passed away aged 88; he was followed shortly thereafter by his mother, Hajja Farha. His dream of freedom and the ability to embrace his parents has now been reduced to a desire to visit their graves and pray for them. He now hides his sadness over their loss with stoic resolve.

Nael is not the only member of his family to serve over two decades in Israeli jails. His brother, Omar Barghouti – Abu Asif – spent more than 23 years moving between prisons. His colleague, Abu Shadi – Fakhri Barghouthi – is the second longest serving Palestinian prisoner in the occupation’s prisons. Today, Nael Al Barghouti is one of the main Palestinian figures within the Israeli prison system. He is a symbol of national unity and is consulted by all factions. Though exempt from certain services, he spends much of his time serving his fellow prisoners; preparing meals, cleaning and teaching them Hebrew. His hope is to contribute to the training of a special generation of prisoners who would, one day, become leaders of the Palestinian national struggle.

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Palestinian Prisoners
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