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Nizar and Ahlam; Fatah and Hamas: from an Israeli cell to a wedding ceremony

February 20, 2014 at 3:34 pm

He was sentenced to life in prison and she was sentenced to 16 consecutive life terms. He is affiliated to Fatah; she is a member of Hamas. Today, however, Nizar Al-Tamimi, 38, and his cousin Ahlam Al-Tamimi, 31, are both free and are going to be married in Amman, Jordan.

The Al-Tamimi family from Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank were looking forward to receiving their son Nizar after his release from prison as part of the exchange deal between Israel and Hamas. He was sentenced to life in prison for participating in an operation to kill an Israeli settler during the nineties. Ahlam was jailed for providing assistance to a suicide bomber who blew up an Israeli restaurant in 2001. She was the first female member of Hamas’s military wing. Her motivation to get involved developed through her growing disaffection with the peace process and the Israeli atrocities she monitored while working as a journalist.

Mahmoud Al-Tamimi has lived with the knowledge of the relationship between his brother Nizar and cousin Ahlam after spending four years in an Israeli prison himself. In an interview with the French Press Agency (AFP), Mahmoud said, “The story of Nizar, who is a son of Fatah, and Ahlam, who is a daughter of Hamas, is an expression of the unified reality of the Palestinian people.” The current split is an anomalous state of affairs, he added.

Mahmoud spoke about having met his cousin Ahlam in Jordan when Nizar was already in prison. According to AFP he said of her, “I found a young girl with feelings completely bound up in Palestine. She had a picture of Nizar hanging in her bedroom because, for her, he represented the cause that she loved.” He said that in 1998 she asked for his help to enrol at Bir Zeit University; permission was given and she moved to the West Bank to study.

When Ahlam was in her third year at Bir Zeit, both she and Mahmoud were arrested by the Israelis; he received a sentence of 4 years; she got 16 life terms.

“I met Nizar in prison and not a day would go by without him sending Ahlam a letter through the Red Cross. These letters carried messages of love and yearning; of the homeland and of freedom.” A formal engagement proposal was made to Ahlam’s father soon after. Nizar’s family asked for Ahlam’s hand in marriage to their son during a large family gathering but in the absence of the bride and groom.

This is not a match made by the families, insisted Mahmoud. “It is the couple’s own wishes to be married,” he said. “The two of them formed a bond through their letters despite the difficult circumstances; the hope that they would meet one day never left them for a moment.”

Ahlam’s sister, Iftikhar Aref, said that the family never [dared to] hope that one day Nizar and Ahlam would be freed. “Thank God that it has happened,” she added. “When we heard that both were part of the exchange deal, we started arranging a party for them here in Jordan.” Although Nizar was able to return to his home in Nabi Saleh, Ahlam was deported to Jordan. “We will complete preparations for the marriage between Ahlam and Nizar,” said Iftikhar, “and if Ahlam is unable to go to Nabi Saleh, then Nizar will have to come to Jordan.” There are no security and travel restrictions on Nizar as there are on some of the released prisoners.

The bride and groom have only ever met on one occasion, when Ahlam visited Nizar in prison before her own arrest. Their families have pieced together a photograph of the two of them which now hangs in Ahlam’s house.

Hilmi Al-Tamimi, Ahlam’s nephew, works for an organisation struggling against the expansion of Israeli’s illegal settlements. “The engagement of Nizar and my aunt Ahlam is the greatest proof of the unity of the Palestinians, with Nizar being a Fatah supporter and Ahlam backing Hamas. This is a model of the hope, love and unity of the Palestinian people.”

Source: al-Sharq al-Awsat