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“My hope is that my children will one day be allowed to visit their father”


Nidaa’ Al-Aqra’a (12), Ra’ed Al-Aqra’a (10) and Nara Al-Aqra’a (8),
children of Nahed Al-Aqra’a

Ghadir Anwar Al-Aqra’a, a 34 year old mother of four children, Nidaa’ (12), Nisma (15), Ra’ed (10) and
Nara (8), lives with her children in the Al Sheikh Redwan neighbourhood of Gaza City. Her husband, Nahed Al-Aqra’a (42), was arrested on 20 July 2007 by the Israeli military, is incarcerated in Ramle Prison Hospital in central Israel, and since that date has been denied any prison visits by his wife or children.


Since being arrested in 2007 none of Nahed’s family members from Gaza have been allowed to
visit him. Ghadir explains the situation, “The only person who has been allowed
to visit Nahed since 2007 has been his mother. She is forced to see him through
a glass window and can only speak to him via an internal phone. She cannot
touch or hug her son.” The last time that Nahed saw his children was in March
2007. Neither Ghadir nor any of her four children have been allowed to see
Nahed since his arrest.


The issue has
been made all the worse by the fact that Nahed has faced extremely serious
medical problems, issues which have been severely exacerbated since his
imprisonment in 2007. Ghadir’s husband sustained multiple gunshot injuries to
his legs during internal Palestinian clashes relating to the Hamas take-over of
the Gaza Strip in 2007.


In order to
obtain medical treatment, Nahed travelled through the Rafah Crossing between
Gaza and Egypt to gain access to Jordan. During this medical trip and as a
result of the injuries he sustained, Jordanian doctors were forced to amputate
his left leg. On his return trip to Gaza from Jordan, Rafah Crossing was closed.
As a result, Nahed was forced to cross by the Israeli controlled, Al Karama
Crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. It was here that Israeli forces
arrested him. He was interrogated, arrested and subsequently received three
life sentences for his role Palestinian military offensives before 2005.



A portrait of Nahed Al-Aqra’a in his family home


Nahed’s mother
has told Ghadir of the terrible pain Nahed endures daily due to the
deterioration of his health, “He suffers terribly from the pain of his injuries
and serious medical complications
due to neglect by the Israeli authorities.” Nahed was arrested mere days after
his leg was amputated in Jordan. He has since been denied all appropriate
medical care for his injuries as well as being kept in conditions completely
inappropriate for adequate recovery.


Ghadir continues, “In prison they just give him painkillers. They do not provide him
with proper medical care. The painkillers gave him temporary relief however
they did not solve his medical problems. As a result of the conditions he lives
in, he has suffered repeated infections in his legs. The pain is now more than
he can stand and painkillers have ceased to work.”


In April 2013
Nahed had to undergo a second surgery in the prison hospital to amputate his
right leg. Ghadir states that, “If Israeli authorities had paid proper
attention to his medical situation he would never have reached this point. In
the hospital in Jordan, doctors stated that he all he needed to save his right
leg was a nerve transplant. This was not provided to him. When he was jailed in
Israel he was just given painkillers.”


Even suffering
these extremely serious medical issues and the loss of both his legs, Nahed has
never received any sympathy from Israeli officials. Ghadir discusses the issues
relating to her husband’s imprisonment, “His mother is the only person allowed
to visit him as she is from the West Bank. Families from the West Bank are
allowed to visit their sons, families from Gaza are not. Ramle Military
Hospital (where Nahed is incarcerated) denies visitation rights to all family
members from Gaza. Whether a prisoner is allowed visitors depends solely on the
whim of Israeli officials. I have no idea about the conditions that Nahed is
currently living in. I have been denied all rights to visit him since his
arrest in 2007.”


When I ask her
why she does not move to be with her husband’s family in the West Bank and thus
have the ability to visit him, Ghadir explains, “I have a Gaza identity card
and therefore I am banned from travelling to the West Bank. There is no way for
me or my children to move there.”


Ghadir was not
allowed to speak to Nahed from July 2007 until January 2013. Six months ago,
Nahed was allowed his first 10 minute phonecall to his wife and family in Gaza
since he was arrested. This was the first time they had spoken since 2007. Two
months ago, Ghadir and her children received a second 10 minute phonecall from


Ghadir explains
that since his imprisonment she has attempted on multiple occasions to mail
Nahed, “I have sent him multiple letters with photos of our children attached.
I do not know whether he has ever received any of the letters. Nahed’s mother
has informed me that he has received some photos; otherwise he would not know
what his children look like. Nahed has never been allowed to write a reply to
any of my written correspondence.”

authorities’ official stance to deny visitation rights to the Gazan families of
Palestinian prisoners is for “security reasons”. Ghadir states that “I have
never been provided with a reason for not being able to visit my husband
however I am not the only one who has been denied the right to visit my loved
one. Many families are denied their rights.”


Ghadir explains
to us that in some cases prisoners have been transferred to a different, less
strict prison for one day so that family members from Gaza can meet them.
Nahed’s lawyer had called her a few days ago to inform her that this may be a
possibility for Hahed, “They might transfer Nahed to Aishal prison for a day so
as to accommodate a visit between me and my husband. There might be the
opportunity to visit him. This is my greatest hope.”


However, even
if Ghadir is eventually allowed to visit her husband she would be restricted by
severe visitation rules. Only a wife and children may visit their husband/
father. Also, children over 8 years of age are denied the right to see their
parent under any circumstances. “Of my four children, only one daughter
currently aged 8 years old has the right to visit Nahed. Once Nara turns 9 none
of my children will be allowed to see him.”


When I ask
Ghadir what her difficulties she faces as a result of not being able to
communicate with her husband, tears well in her eyes and she reveals that she
as an adult, can bear the difficulties in being denied communication with her
husband, “My children however are not able to cope. The children need to see
their father. They cannot remember what he looks like. My youngest daughter was
only one year old the last time she saw her dad. She has no recollection of him
and only associates him with his photos we have hung around our house. My
children don’t know what it’s like to have a father. The hardest thing however
is having a father who’s alive but who they are unable to speak, touch or see.
My youngest daughter often cries at nighttime due to suffering the sadness of
being unable to see her father.” Nidaa’, Ghadir’s daughter, explains what it is
like without being able to speak to her father, “It is terrible that I cannot
visit my father. I see his picture everyday and know that he is still alive
however I cannot speak to or see him.”


Assessing her
hopes for the future, Ghadir states that “My hope is that at my children will
one day be allowed to visit their father. This is my only request. While I
sincerely hope that one day he leaves jail, the chance to visit him is the only
thing I seek. My only hope is in God. I do what I can and leave all other things
to Him.”


restriction of visitation rights to Nahed’s family is in direct violation of
Article 37 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners,
“[p]risoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with
their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence
and by receiving visits.”  This is supported by Principle 19 of the Body
of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or
Imprisonment, which states that “[a] detained or imprisoned person shall have
the right to be visited by and to correspond with, in particular, members of
his family and shall be given adequate opportunity to communicate with the
outside world.” Moreover, under Article 9 (3) of the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child, States Parties shall respect the rights of the child who
is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal and direct contact
with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s
best interests.