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Palestinian mother recalls emotional abuse in Israeli jail

Israeli forces outside Ofer prison in the West Bank on 12 July 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]
Israeli forces outside Ofer prison in the West Bank on 12 July 2021 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Sabah Shorbaji, a 39-year-old Palestinian mother, is trying to make up to her children for the time she lost when she was in an Israeli prison, Anadolu News Agency reports.

At the crack of dawn on June 16, 2016, tens of Israeli soldiers stormed her house in the town of Ezaria, East Jerusalem and arrested her arbitrarily.

"They aggressively separated me from my children. This was the first time I had left them," she told Anadolu Agency.

A few hours later, she found herself in the Ofer Prison in the West Bank where she was exposed to several hours of interrogation. By sunset, she was transferred to the Hasharon Prison, another detention facility.

Shorbaji is among dozens of women who are rounded up by Israeli forces every year over trumped up charges.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, there are 37 women in Israeli jails; eight of them are mothers.

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She recalls that other inmates invited her to join the iftar (fast breaking) meal as it was the Muslim month of Ramadan.

"I cried the whole time thinking about my children, if they had had their food," she said.

For more than four months, she was neither allowed to call her children, nor accept any visits.

This was a clear violation of rules.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, visit permits for the inmate's families should be issued at least three months after the date of detention.

After three months, she received a photo of her children, as the prison service allows five photos every two months.

"I looked at their photos for hours, trying to read their eyes, hoping to hug them one day," the mother of four said.

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In early October of that year, her children were allowed a visit.

She spent four months in prison on administrative detention.

At the end of this period, her children waited for her at a checkpoint, north of the West Bank, but in vain. She was not released.

Israeli authorities extended her detention for another four months.

"It was a shock for us, I was counting days to my freedom," she said.

Her detention was extended four more times.

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Her children were allowed two monthly visits, where they met with a glass panel separating them.

According to the rules of the Israeli Prison Service, children under the age of 6 have the right to an open visit with their detained parents for 10 minutes every month.

It was particularly difficult for her when her children saw her in leg cuffs.

"There were so many questions in their eyes. My heart burns every time I think of this."

She was finally released in 2017 and is now studying law at university with her daughter.

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