As soon as the prison gates opened for his mother to breathe the air of freedom, Palestinian baby Yusuf celebrated his second birthday with the unprecedented merit of being the youngest released prisoner in the world.
As his mother Fatima , a prisoner released in a "good will" deal, celebrated the resumption of her life among her family and people following two and a half years in Israeli jails, Yusuf was opening his eyes to the world for the first time since his mother gave birth to him behind the bars of her prison cell on 17th January last year.
Fatima was one of nineteen Palestinian female prisoners released by the Israeli occupation authorities yesterday in exchange for a recent two and a half minute video of Gilad Shalit. Fatima was arrested when she was two months pregnant in May 2007 as she accompanied her niece, Rawda Habib , near the Erez crossing [Beit Hanoun].
As Fatima finally breathed the air of freedom, she stated to al-Ghad that the occupation is expected to free Rawda, under the same deal, on Sunday morning.
As for Yusuf who saw light and breathed the air of freedom for the first time in his life yesterday, he was astonished to see his seven bothers and sister as well as his father and screamed in amazement at the outside world after having spent nearly two years of his life with absolutely no knowledge beyond prison walls and prison guards.
In the darkness of prison, there is more space for warm cuddles which Yusuf is missing, "He was used to my lap and that of imprisoned sisters", said his mother, "this is why he is tired as he has been screaming since he left the jail despite all the presents and sweets given to him. Nevertheless I feel positive that he will be better in the next few days."
Fatima expressed that her joy at being released was incomplete, and went on to explain: "I've gotten my freedom but it is a feeling of incomplete happiness – it is mixed with bitterness as I have left behind sisters sentenced to life in prison. I am convinced that my imprisoned sisters will soon enjoy freedom like me and that there will be another deal to release all the female prisoners."
Despite its harshness, the experience of prison has many advantages for Palestinian people who are ready to give their lives for the sake of their homeland. Fatima seeks, in her future plans, to engage more in society and provide awareness services for women. She will tell them about jail and the inhumane practices against all prisoners, men and women, in the prisons of the occupation.
Yesterday, Abu Mahmud met with his wife and cuddled his son, Yusuf, for the first time since Fatima's detention. The Occupation has prevented the families of prisoners from visiting them since the capture of Shalit on 25th June 2006 by Hamas, the Committee of Popular Resistance and the Army of Islamic Militants.
Abu Mahmud highlighted the immense suffering he and his eight children (seven boys and a girl) had endured in the last few years due to Fatima's absence. "During her detention, I was both father and mother. It was a difficult time" he added.
He continued: "nobody can fill the place of a mother at home and remedy the suffering and ordeal of her children due to her absence; their continuous questions about their mother, why she was arrested and when she will return home. My children have undergone a great deal of suffering over the last years, so much so that their miserable situation made everyone who saw them cry."
As for Mahmud, his eldest son who is 21, he has not rested for the past two days as he and his brothers have been preoccupied with decorating the house and blowing colorful balloons to welcome home their mother and brother Yusuf. Yesterday, he was busy receiving well-wishers and distributing sweets and juice.
Amidst thousands of supporters; neighbors, friends and officials who crowded into the Gaza quarter where the released prisoner lives, Fatima enjoyed unforgettable moments of happiness that can only be felt by those who have been through the ordeal of imprisonment behind the bars of the occupation. And as Yusuf celebrates a new birthday, his mother wishes a better future for him.