Historic Background of the Palestinian Women Prisoner Movement:
The Palestinian Women Prisoner Movement was a special and quite unique experience throughout the years of the detainees' struggle. However, it has deep inner suffering because it reflects the progress of the Palestinian society by having more and more women getting politically involved and taking a major role in contributing to the Palestinian struggle.
There is a lack of resources, little information documenting the numbers and the names of the Palestinian women prisoners being involved in the struggle. According to the information that is made available, it is shown that about ten thousand Palestinian women were detained. The majority of the women were detained between l968 and l976 in addition to the first Intifada as well as the current Intifada. The updated statistics for the current Intifada is sixty-three women prisoners and the number is on the rise.
With the growing struggle against occupation, many women became involved politically so more women were detained and were put in three women political prisons. The first was in Nablus, the second in Jerusalem (referred to as Al-Masqubieh) and the third prison was in Gaza. The women that were detained usually were from a diverse background including young women, old women, new wives, mothers, and even women suffering from different chronic diseases.
The Palestinian women movement went through a very painful and heroic journey against the occupation throughout the history of the Palestinian struggle. In the earlier part of the movement, the Palestinian political women detainees were placed in the same jail with criminals at one of the first prisons in Ramla called Nive Tritsa where a long and painful struggle of rejecting Israeli prison treatment began.
The women detainees demanded separation between themselves as political prisoners and other criminals. They suffered through constant hunger strikes, demonstrations, refused to obey orders and refused to work in order to improve their treatment and the human life conditions in jail such as quantity and quality of food and medicine, to be allowed to have newspapers, listen to the radio and be allowed to have personal clothes. Thereby these women created the independent organized detainees institution behind bars by creating a council to negotiate the rights and needs of women detainees with the Israeli prison administration.
Many of the women detained suffered from many methods of torture while being detained. These types of methods included the first and most cruel weapon of threatening and attempting rape in order to break these women and humiliate them into confessing. The second method was the physical and psychological torture used to terrorize them. The psychological torture was represented in the emptiness, the waiting, the quietness, and the loneliness.
The physical torture included being forbidden to see family, to eat, to sleep, to socialize and even to sit. This type of torture also meant that many women had to stand for a long time with a dark dirty bag covering their head and face, with hands and legs cuffed. Although it did not leave immediate physical marks on their bodies, it caused painful humiliation and different long term diseases such as rheumatism, disk, ulcers, and affected blood pressure. Furthermore, using loud music, different crying voices, listening to others being tortured and being physically beaten in different parts of their bodies was used intensively against the detainees.
Following the signing of the Oslo Peace Agreement many of these women detainees took a legendary stand in l996 and refused to be released in small groups thus their release was delayed an extra four months on the basis they created the logo "no peace without the release of all women and men detainees." In l997, the campaign to release the prisoners was successful for the women detainees only.
The long journey of the women detainees was about to finish but due to the failure of the peace process the last page of this book in the struggle of women detainees was not yet written. So until this day, Palestinian women are still suffering behind Israeli bars.