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Palestine's 'freedom ambassadors' born through smuggled sperm

Dallal Ziben, 32, carries her baby muhannad as she attends a press conference to announce for the succes artificial insemination operations after smuggling sperm samples from four Palestinian prisoners, in the West Bank city of Nablus on 6 Feb. 2013. [Nedal Eshtayah/Apaimages]
Dallal Ziben, 32, carries her baby muhannad as she attends a press conference to announce for the succes artificial insemination operations after smuggling sperm samples from four Palestinian prisoners, in the West Bank city of Nablus on 6 Feb. 2013. [Nedal Eshtayah/Apaimages]

Twenty-three years ago Ammar Al-Ziben was arrested by Israeli forces while on his way to the West Bank from Jordan. An Israeli court later charged him with being a member of the Al-Qassam Brigade and sentenced him to 27 life terms.

After Israeli authorities refused to release him in a prisoner swap agreement with Palestinian resistance group Hamas, he decided to challenge his detention.

In 2011, Ammar succeeded in smuggling his sperm out of prison to father a child.

"We were shocked when the Israeli authorities excluded my father from the deal. The world darkened in our faces, but my father decided to create a light for us," said Ammar's 25-year-old daughter Bashaer Al-Ziben, who was a one-and-half-year-old when her father was imprisoned.

Ammar's wife Dalal then underwent in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and Mohannad Zebin was born in August 2012, marking the first time a Palestinian baby has been born in this way.

Speaking from the village of Maythalon near the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, Bashaer said meeting her brother was the happiest day of her life.

"His birth was like a new light and hope for me, my sister, and our parents," she said.

READ: 'This is for Palestine', says mum who gave birth through smuggled sperm

Ammar lost his parents after his arrest, which was very painful for Dalal and their two daughters. His mother, Aishah Zebin died in 2004 when she went on a hunger strike to protest against the detention of her son and other Palestinian youth. In 2009, the family lost their grandfather.

But, the arrival of Mohannad and later another baby Salah Al-Din, again through smuggled sperm, brought smiles back to the family.

Dallal Ziben, 32, carries her baby muhannad as she attends a press conference to announce for the succes artificial insemination operations after smuggling sperm samples from four Palestinian prisoners, in the West Bank city of Nablus on Feb. 06, 2013.

More than 50 married inmates have so far followed Ammar and smuggled their seminal fluid to father 96 babies. Palestinians have named these babies "freedom ambassadors".

Israeli authorities treat these children as illegitimate and have been obstructing the issuance of identification documents, particularly for those who hail from Jerusalem.

After their birth, Mohannad and Salah Al-Din visited their father just three times after many pleas submitted in the Israeli courts by human rights organisations.

"Mohannad and Salah Al-Din are emotionally attached to our dad, despite that their relationship with him is just by telephone calls. They have not had any hugs or physical contact with our father," Bashaer said.

Ammar is the author of four books that he scripted in jail. His novel 'When Oranges Bloom' was awarded first prize at the 2010 culture competition festival in Jerusalem.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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