Sami Younis is now in his eightieth year and has been in prison for 27 years. He is the doyen of Palestinian prisoners from inside Israel itself, having spent more time behind bars than he has ever done living with his family. Nevertheless, he remains determined and steadfast even though illness and heartbreak have exhausted him physically.
Born on 1st May 1932, Sami Khaled Salama Younis, known as Abu Nader, grew up in Arara; his home village was destined to become part of the Zionist state of Israel in 1948. When that time arrived, he refused to remain indifferent to the suffering of his people. He studied architecture at the Technicon in Haifa and his spirit is infused with Palestinians’ right to the land from which hundreds of thousands were driven by Zionist militias and terrorist groups in an act of ethnic cleansing the effects of which are with us today.
His daughter, Kauthar, was a very young girl when her father was sent to prison but she is able to describe the characteristics of the man kept in custody by the warden because he is a “security threat”. She says that he is a compassionate man who worked hard as a taxi driver to provide a decent living for his family; they did not know about his military work for the resistance.
Abu Nader was arrested just after midnight in Arara on 5th January 1983. Kauthar remembers it well: “Dozens of military vehicles stormed the town and surrounded our house. This surprised us as we had not been in trouble with the Israeli occupation forces. The soldiers were brutal as they went about their work.” Her father was taken to an interrogation centre where he was kept for a few months. He faced a number of charges, including the killing of an Israeli soldier and snatching his weapon, as well as smuggling weapons to resistance factions in the occupied West Bank.
His family appealed at the death sentence which Abu Nader was given and it was reduced to life imprisonment. Despite the severity of the sentence, it is better, say his family, than the death sentence. “At least his is still alive and there is hope that he will be released.”
There is no doubt that his health has been affected by the conditions under which he is held in prison at such an age; he suffers from many diseases and has had a heart attack and an intestinal tumour. He suffers from inflammation of the joints, eyes and ears, which require him to take as many as twenty tablets a day. Without his family’s support he would be at the mercy of the Israeli prison authorities, who offer little help.Abu Nader is regarded as one of the most important long-term prisoners in Israeli jails and has earned a lot of respect for organizing events in prison. He plays a major role in solving everyday problems for the benefit of all prisoners.
As he approaches his eightieth birthday in 2012, he doesn’t expect to live much longer. Moreover, with no release date on the horizon, he has asked his family to stick to their rights for the rest of their lives.
According to Kauthar, her father has asked that if he dies in an Israeli jail, they should take his body to his house so that he may “be immersed in my memories and say goodbye to the place that I love”. She adds that her father still has some hope of seeing freedom, especially if a prisoner exchange deal is reached.
“My father has been frustrated by talk of previous deals because the prisoners from inside Israel itself have been excluded,” says Kauthar. “Now he hopes that the resistance groups will include them in any future deal and not exclude them under pressure from the Israelis.”
We are, after all, she ends with a determined flourish, an integral part of the Palestinian struggle. Clearly, she has taken her father’s request to heart and will not give up on Palestinians’ rights.
Source: Ahrar Center for the Study of Prisoners and Human Rights