Born in 1954 in the village of Cooper near Ramallah in the West Bank, Fakhri Barghouti witnessed many Israeli atrocities against his people. He married when he was twenty years old and two years later, on 23 June 1978, he was arrested.
Talking about the added problems faced by married prisoners is not easy, but Barghouti has a very patient wife, Samira Rifai, and two children who have been raised to understand that their father is a hero struggling for the liberation of their country. They all ask God to reunite the family soon.
Fakhri Barghouti has seen many of his fellow prisoners leave captivity while he and other colleagues languish in their cells. His sons joined a military group and were also arrested and have experienced the bitterness of prison life and shared in some of the pain and suffering which their father has undergone over many years.
Father and sons were able to meet, albeit in Ashkelon Prison, after 27 years. It was a moment of happiness for Fakhri and his sons Hadi and Shadi. The pleasure was shared by the other prisoners, many of whom had also shared Fakhri’s long years in captivity.
Hadi spent two years in prison but Shadi is serving a sentence of more than twenty years. On his release, Hadi married his cousin, the daughter of his uncle Omar Albarghouthi; the couple now have a daughter called Majdal, after the town of Majda occupied by Israel in 1948.
Fakhri Barghouti has spent time in several prisons and detention centres and in each he gets asked by the other prisoners for stories about Palestinian freedom fighters and their struggles; his head is full of such anecdotes.
Through his many years of detention, Fakhri has suffered from illnesses and disease because of poor prison conditions and neglect. He has lost his parents, uncles, aunties and his brother, Abu Khaldun; their homes now lie empty and Fakhri, like other prisoners who have lost their loved ones during their detention, is left with just memories.
Fakhri Barghouthi’s family lives in a modest house in the village of Cooper. Umm Shadi (the mother of Shadi) continues to listen to the news, hoping to hear about her husband’s release date. She contributes to local radio programmes made especially for prisoners, to let her husband and son know how she is. She has also used these opportunities to send a message to the captors of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in Gaza, that they should “stick to their demands” because “we have no hope, after God, except through you”, a reference to the possibility that her husband and son may taste freedom again as part of a prisoner exchange with the Israelis.
Ahrar Centre for the Study of Prisoners and Human Rights