Photo: Mohammed Kana’aneh

Palestinian prisoner Lena Jarbouni, the longest-serving woman prisoner in Israeli jails, was released from HaSharon prison on the morning of Sunday, 16 April. Jarbouni, 43, from Arraba al-Botouf village near Akka in occupied Palestine ’48, was welcomed by her family and friends who greeted her after 15 years of imprisonment.

In a brief interview with Asra Voice Radio immediately following her release, Jarbouni urged Palestinians to rally around the prisoners’ struggle, including the strike that will begin on Monday, 17 April, calling for unity around the cause of Palestine.

Jarbouni was the elected representative of the Palestinian women prisoners in HaSharon prison and known for her advocacy for Palestinian girls’ right to education inside prisons. Despite an agreement to release all women prisoners in the 2011 Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange, Jarbouni (and several other women serving shorter sentences) was excluded from the exchange as a Palestinian citizen of Israel and so remained imprisoned for over five years after her fellow prisoners were released.

Photo: Asra News

She has been imprisoned since 18 April 2002 and was accused of providing support to the Palestinian resistance and membership in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement. When she was seized by Israeli forces, she was working in a sewing workshop and helping to support her family, including her parents, brother and sister.  Israeli forces ransacked the home with dogs in April 2002 at 2:00 am, claiming they were searching for “drugs;” however, Lena was seized and held under interrogation for 40 days. Her sister, Lamis, was also seized by Israeli forces and reported her own torture under interrogation before her release.

Jarbouni’s father and grandfather were both political prisoners in Israeli jails, and her uncle was reportedly jailed for 14 years for his participation in the Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes and welcomes Lena Jarbouni upon her freedom. Throughout her years inside prison, she was always on the front lines of struggle, involved in hunger strikes, prisoner organizing and protest. She was thrown in solitary confinement for her participation in prisoner protests and denied appropriate medical care for ongoing illnesses, yet always remained committed to building resistance and mutual solidarity among the women prisoners. As we enter Palestinian Prisoners’ Day 2017, we recall Lena Jarbouni’s words one year before and echo them in our organizing:

“On Prisoners’ Day, I greet the Palestinian people and all of the free people of the world…Hundreds of women prisoners held behind bars have stood firm in the struggle, along with the sons of our people, confirming that the Palestinian women are struggling against the occupation and fighting for social justice, emancipation and equality in all spheres of life.

On this day, we salute the longest-serving prisoner Karim Younis, and all of the prisoners throughout Palestine, the Palestinian prisoners’ national movement, and the Arab prisoners, and we salute the child prisoners, boys and girls, sick prisoners, and those in solitary confinement and all of our steadfast people. We assure you that we are held as captives behind bars, but we are free in our minds, and in our convictions. Our freedom remains in our hope and our conviction in the freedom of Palestine.”