Her upbringing and education
Ahlam al-Tamimi was born on 20/10/1980 in the Jordanian city of al-Zarqa to a Palestinian family with roots in the Palestinian village of al-Nabi Saleh near Ramallah. Ahlam completed her elementary, junior and secondary education in al-Zarqa before returning to Palestine and enrolling in the Department of Media and Journalism at Bir Zeit University. With only a term left until her graduation, the 2001 al-Aqsa Intifada [The Second Palestinian Uprising] broke out across the Occupied Palestinian Territories bringing with it unprecedented levels of violence and repression at the hands of the Israeli authorities. This was exemplified by the horrific assassination policy implemented by the successive governments led by the war criminals, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon.
The media as a means of resistance
Ahlam endeavoured to battle against the Occupation in her own way and focussed her energies on a local television program broadcasting out of Ramallah called ‘Independence’ which monitored the illicit practices of the Occupation. Through her journalistic work for this program, Ahlam collided with the bitter reality and the tragic stories and tales of woe being caused by the Occupation.1
Defiance and determination
Ahlam was detained on 14/09/2001 and was sentence on 13/10/2003 – almost two years later. A Zionist Military Court sentenced her to 16 life terms, i.e. 1584 years with the recommendation that she should not be released in any possible prisoner exchange deals.2
From that day forward, she has remained behind bars. Members of her family have been prohibited from visiting her on the pretext that they are Jordanian and do not carry Palestinian identity cards. At the beginning of her sentence, Ahlam was subjected to solitary confinement on more than five occasions. The length of each confinement ranged from twenty five days to a month, and from there the month stretched into years.
Ahlam was not spared from continual and severe beatings and torture which led to her hands being broken and to her deteriorating health status. She suffers from stomach and joint disease as a result of her mistreatment, the unhealthy conditions of her detention and lack of exposure to sunlight for periods stretching over weeks. All of this was far removed from the Red Cross and of the doctors responsible for supervising the medical treatment of prisoner.3
Hunger strike as a means of combatting aggression and injustice
In August 2002, the persecution Ahlam Al-Tamimi was subjected to by the Israeli prison authorities drove her to go on hunger strike for over a month. Following her transfer from the Women’s prison in Ramla, she was put in solidarity confinement at the al-Maskoubia Prison where the rampant violations practiced against the inmates led them to go on hunger strike.
Through her lawyer at the time, Ahlam demanded to be taken out of her dungeon and returned to the prison. She said that her health condition had deteriorated to such a point that her sugar levels were dangerously low; she was suffering from arthritis in her fingers and toes, and she experienced pain in the heat. Ahlam also complained that the prison doctors did not provide her with medical treatment and that the prison doctor at al-Maskoubia had threatened to forcefully make her eat if she did not desist from the hunger strike.4
The Centre for Prisoner Studies confirmed that the Israeli Prison’s administration had isolated Ahlam in the criminal wing of the prison as punishment for refusing to be strip searched. “On Wednesday 28/06/2011, the administration of the Hasharon prison transferred the prisoner al-Tamimi into isolation in Sector 2 which is specialised for criminals in an unprecedented step after the guards attacked her under the pretext of her refusal to undergo an abusive and humiliating strip search when she was going out to visit one of her lawyers. As a consequence of this, the prisoner al-Tamimi decided to begin an open ended hunger strike in protest against the repressive practices of the ‘Hasharon’ administration against her rights. As a result of the strike, her health status deteriorated further and she lost a lot of weight. She was not given any salt during the strike.”5
After a full week on hunger strike, the Hasharon Prison Administration yielded to her demands and on the morning of Wednesday (6/7) they moved her from isolation in Section 2 to the Department for Palestinian Female Prisoners. She then announced the end of her hunger strike, and the Prison Administration’s acceptance of her conditions for ending it, which included an end to the strip searching of female prisoners.6
Ahlam refused to be anything but exceptional even when it came to her engagement. She accepted the marriage proposal of a man who, as a fellow struggler against the occupation, had gone to prison before her. His name was Nizar al-Tamimi and he is currently serving a life sentence in Ashkelon prison of which he has served 16 years.
The residents of al-Nabi Saleh village to the north west of Ramallah celebrated this beautiful engagement despite the cruel circumstances. It took place like any other engagement ceremony with hundreds of family members from the village and adjacent villages attending the ceremony. On the day of the engagement, Ahlam’s brother, Muhammad al-Tamimi, was quoted as having said the following words, “I visited my sister Ahlam last Monday where I sought her opinion on the engagement just like any girl. After she expressed her approval of the groom, arrangements were immediately made for a ceremony to announce the engagement.” Muhammad spoke about the mechanisms of consultation between the families of the bride and groom on the issue concerning the engagement. He ended his statement by saying, “I hoped that my sister Ahlam and Nizar could have been present with us, but despite this, we are happy and are certain that they too are happy with this step.”7