The following news report and final statement were issued by BDS Turkey following their 29 November conference featuring Palestinian former prisoners and advocates, including Lina Khattab, Amneh Muna, Fadwa Barghouti and Mahmoud Hassan.
Members of BDS Turkey met for the “Struggle of Palestinian Prisoners, International Solidarity and Boycott Conference” on 29 November with the goal of giving a voice to Palestinian prisoners and discussing international solidarity and an effective boycott campaign. At the conclusion of the conference, BDS Turkey announced plans to begin a boycott of G4S, a security company that operates in prisons, checkpoints and settlements in the occupying state
The Boycott Israel for Palestine Initiative (BDS Turkey) organized an international conference on 29 November at the Istanbul Medical Chamber with the aim of giving voice to thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Zionist jails, debating methods of international solidarity with prisoners, underlining the necessity of an effective boycott campaign and drawing a path of action for Turkey.
Speaking first on behalf of BDS Turkey, Selim Sezer noted that the conference was being held on 29 November, the “Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” – which was first celebrated in 1977 – while emphasizing that attacks against the Palestinian people had been increasing and that the Palestinian people were experiencing a period in which mass arrests had come to constitute part of these attacks.
Taking the floor in the wake of Sezer, Zeina Hamad, a member of the Palestinian diaspora, highlighted popular freedom struggles, noting that “as people who are resisting in Turkey and Palestine, we find our path in the poems of Nazım Hikmet and Mahmoud Darwish.”
‘Daily lives of prisoners even a struggle’
The first session, titled “The Struggle of Palestinian Prisoners,” was moderated by Kutlu Dane. The session’s first speaker was Amneh Muna, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 by the occupying powers before participating in a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement in 2007. Muna was subsequently released in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel before going into exile. “I’m going to discuss with you the daily life of the prisoners there, because daily life for the prisoners is even a struggle,” Muna said, noting that she lost everything suddenly and that the struggle started the moment one was arrested.
Relating her experiences during her time in the occupiers’ prisons, Muna said:
“For them, every prisoner is an experiment. I stayed for 11 years, but some comrades were there for 30 years. Torture is especially done during the interrogation period. For one week, you’re on a chair underground without sleep or food. During that time, you learn that your family’s home has been bulldozed. This type of collective punishment is illegal everywhere in the world, but they arrest and punish the whole family. At the moment, 500 children are prisoners. While in prison, your biggest dream is to see your families once more.”
Muna said 45 women were currently being held prisoner in the occupiers’ prisons, while adding that one of the most important aspects for women in the Palestinian freedom struggle was that they were subjected to more oppression in the occupiers’ prisons than men. Despite being sentenced to life in prison, Muna wrote on the side of her bunk, “Tomorrow will be the day of freedom,” noting that this phrase gave her the strength to resist during the years of captivity.
‘Student movement an element of the Palestinian struggle’
Lina Khattab, a student at Birzeit University and important figure of the imprisoned Palestinian students, provided the second speech of the session. During a PFLP rally for solidarity with prisoners on 13 December 2014, Khattab was taken captive and held by an Israeli military court for six months on charges of “throwing stones” and “participating in an illegal demonstration”. Student movements are an element of the Palestinian struggle, Khattab said, adding that Palestinian youths were engaging in a struggle to protect their rights at university.
Telling participants about her experiences under arrest and the conditions in jail, Khattab said:
“I was arrested during a rally to protest the conditions of Palestinian captives. You’re alone underground in a dark, cold, and stinking dungeon. International organizations have to do more work regarding ill Palestinian captives. They are especially deprived of food before court hearings. Other than when they are in isolation, prisoners live a communal life. As a result of our struggle, high-school captives that had not been able to sit exams since 2009 won back their education rights in 2014.”
Noting that the policy of “administrative detention” – a legacy of imperialist states – was being implemented widely in Zionist prisons, Khattab emphasized that Palestinian prisoners were faced with very significant health problems.
‘Palestinian people’s struggle to last as long as the occupation’
The second session was moderated by Mehmet Özgün Özkul on the subject of “International solidarity and boycotts,” first featuring Mahmoud Hassan, a representative of the ad-Dameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Organization as well as the lawyer of Palestinian parliamentarian and PFLP General-Secretary Ahmed Saadat – himself a prisoner. Hassan said the age of detention had been lowered to 12 in Israel and that the destruction of prisoners’ homes was now being used as a tool of collective punishment. Some 2,000 Palestinians have also been arrested in the last two months alone, he added.
Following Hassan, Fadwa Barghouti, a lawyer, human rights activist and the wife of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, took the floor, noting that the Palestinian people would continue their struggle for as long as the occupation continues and that international solidarity movements kept the Palestinian people’s hopes alive.
“Israel has thrown 800,000 Palestinians into prison up until now – a figure that represents 25 percent of the Palestinian people. We will give voice to Palestinian prisoners everywhere. Regardless of the price, the Palestinian people will not abandon their struggle. As long as the occupation is continuing, no one can ask, ‘Why are you fighting?’ As long as the occupation continues, our struggle will continue.”
BDS Turkey calls for a boycott of G4S
The last speaker, Ayşe Düzkan of BDS Turkey, provided information about resistance movements in prisons in Turkey and around the world while also relating a new campaign to boycott G4S. Hunger strikes became a method of resistance in Turkey particularly after the 12 September 1980 coup against oppression and isolation in prisons, Düzkan said, adding that the biggest expectation for people in prison was for support from the outside. Accordingly, Düzkan noted that the support for Palestinian prisoners from Turkey and around the world, as well as boycott campaigns against the occupying state, were of critical importance.
The G4S security firm has been committing human rights crimes in Zionist prisons in Palestine, as well as similar crimes elsewhere in the world using security as a justification, she said, adding that BDS Turkey was calling for support for its new boycott campaign of G4S.
The conference drew a large number of citizens of Turkey and Palestinians, ending with the reading of a final declaration.
Click here for the full declaration.
Final Declaration from the “Struggle of Palestinian Prisoners, International Solidarity and Boycott Conference”
Today is 29 November, the Day of International Solidarity with the Palestinian People. It is a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have turned every place in which they take a breath into an arena for struggle against the illegitimate Israeli state and Zionism, from the West Bank to Gaza, and from the refugee camps to prisons and detention centres. As in past years, this 29 November is also being marked by solidarity events around the world. We believe that we are making a contribution to these international solidarity events with this conference.
This conference comes amid a special period. Particularly in Jerusalem and the West Bank, we are witnessing the intensification of attacks by the Zionist entity directed at the Palestinian people everywhere in Palestine, an increasing number of extrajudicial executions and, in conjunction with this, mass arrests with every passing day, as well as the rise of a new popular uprising.
Today, the number of Palestinian prisoners in Zionist jails has reached nearly 8,000, with close to 2,000 of these arrests occurring in the last two months. Since the start of the occupation, the number of arrested Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem has reached 800,000. At present, 45 of the Palestinian prisoners in Zionist jails are women, while a significant portion are also children. Moreover, the number of child prisoners is likely to rise following legal amendments by the occupational regime lowering the age of detention to 12.
Palestinian prisoners in the jails, who are subjected to every form of systematic torture, are naturally also being deprived of their right to life. At the moment, 25 Palestinian prisoners are suffering from cancer; in addition, the administrators of Zionist jails have restricted detainees’ access to food containing B12 vitamins or phosphorus, opening the way to potentially permanent brain- and nerve-related illnesses. Another recently passed law has provided legal backing to the torture-like force-feeding of prisoners participating in hunger strikes.
The occupier Israel has especially targeted the leaders of the Palestinian people with their arrest attacks. A number of Palestinian parliamentarians – particularly popular leaders such as Ahmed Saadat and Marwan Barghouti – have been incarcertated for years as part of an attempt by the Zionist entity to intimidate the entire Palestinian people while also effecting their surrender and bondage. Israeli courts, which are entirely devoid of the slightest desire for justice, never advance beyond being a mere formality for the occupying regime.
As the organizers and speakers at the 29 November “Struggle of Palestinian Prisoners, International Solidarity and Boycott Conference,” we declare once more that we support the struggle of Palestinian prisoners with all our heart and strength. In concrete terms, we support the campaign that was begun in 2013 on Robin Island, the site of Nelson Mandela’s incarceration in South Africa, to demand freedom for Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian captives. In a similar fashion, we offer our support from Turkey to international campaigns to secure freedom for Ahmed Saadat. At the same time, we are not restricting our solidarity to mere declarations of support. Today, one of the most effective vehicles for concrete solidarity with Palestinian prisoners is the boycott campaign, which will soon target the G4S company.
Considered to be the world’s third biggest employer with 650,000 employees in 120 countries, G4S launched operations in Palestine in 2002 after it purchased a company called Hashmira. As part of an agreement signed with the Israeli Prison Authority in 2007, it employs people in prisons and detention centres. At the same time, however, it also has operations at military checkpoints in the West Bank, illegitimate settlements and police stations.
G4S has been accused of the ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners in jails and detention centres and of committing torture. Children, meanwhile, are not exempt from such treatment, with some being subjected to solitary confinement. In some instances, the torture has resulted in the deliberate death of prisoners, while medical aid and treatment has been prevented from reaching ill inmates. At other times, fresh air and water have been denied to prisoners.
In summary, a company is accruing profits by inflicting torture and ill treatment on a people, whose land has been occupied, in prisons and detention centres! A company is making money by restricting a people’s right to movement at illegal settlement units and checkpoints!
The Palestinian National Prisoners’ Movement has sent a letter from prisons and detention centres to the International Boycott Movement with a number of recommendations and requests. The letter notes that all security companies that support the occupying government, especially G4S, are chiefly responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people and that boycotting these companies would entail the protection and defence of the Palestinian people, whose homeland is under occupation and who is subjected to new massacres every day.
As such, we, the Boycott Israel for Palestine Initiative (BDS-Turkey), which has been exposing and boycotting Israel and Zionism in every arena in Turkey since 2009, declare that we will heed the call of the Palestinian National Prisoners’ Movement and boycott more than 350 organizations that have an association with G4S, which employs 4,250 people in 18 provinces around Turkey at firms such as Yapıkredi, Koç Museum, Finansbank and Sabancı University, until the company ceases its practices in Palestine and completely withdraws its investments from the occupied territories.