Imprisoned Palestinian girls denied educational rights as women self-organize high school exam preparations

Imprisoned Palestinian women and girls continue to be under attack by the occupation, most recently as the Israeli prison administration in HaSharon prison attempted to block Khalida Jarrar, the imprisoned leftist, feminist parliamentarian, from helping the minor girls prepare for their national tawjihi examinations. In response to the prohibition of Jarrar’s classes on 9 April, the women prisoners closed their section and refused meals, reported Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

For several months prior, the teacher who is supposed to enter from outside the prison to provide lessons to the minor girls had not come, prompting Jarrar to add exam preparation classes to her existing self-organized training sessions on human rights. After the women prisoners’ protest, the prison administration relented, allowing Jarrar to continue teaching temporarily and promising that the visiting teacher would return in less than a week.

This news was released when Sahar Francis of Addameer visited Jarrar in HaSharon prison along with the imprisoned mother and daughter, leaders in the indigenous land defense movement in Nabi Saleh, Nariman and Ahed Tamimi. They noted their message to the world on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day was that the Israel Prison Service continues to systematically deny the prisoners’ rights and attempt to prevent them from educational and cultural programs in an attempt to dull their minds and prevent them from refining their consciousness and knowledge of their rights to self-determination and liberation.

Jarrar began teaching the Palestinian girls after no external teacher entered the prison for several months. As these child prisoners were being denied their fundamental right to education, she began preparing them for their final exams in addition to presenting awareness sessions about human rights to inform them about their own rights under international law and human rights conventions.

Addameer emphasized that the Israeli occupation’s refusal to educate imprisoned Palestinian children violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Addameer wrote:

“By depriving prisoners of their right to education, Israel not only seeks to inhibit the development of the Palestinian people, it seeks to stifle any form of intellectual resistance amongst detained children. Unlike Israeli prisoners convicted of criminal offenses, who are given the opportunity to serve their sentence in conditions that respect their humanity, Palestinian detainees who are imprisoned with the aim of being psychologically destroyed, spiritually impoverished, or turned into collaborators and tools in the service of the occupier. To achieve this dehumanization, the IPS adopts an approach that is complementary to the oppression and torture practiced in interrogation facilities. It aims to control, humiliate, and degrade detainees, with the aim of placing them under its full control. As such, the IPS destroys their identity and vitality.

What is currently taking place at HaSharon prison is not only a denial of education, it is also an attempt to curtail female prisoner’s ability to better understand their own oppression. These sessions are about the fundamentals of human existence, rights. The Israeli occupation forces, are not only violating IHL and IHRL but are also attempting to erase an understanding of the acts of the oppressor and to distort the Palestinian consciousness.”

There are 62 Palestinian women prisoners in Israeli jails, including 7 minor girls; many more of the girls have recently turned 18 and have been detained since they were minors. Among the Palestinian women prisoners is Abeer Abu Khdeir, from Jerusalem, a well-known feminist organizer and Palestinian activist and a leader in the Union of Palestinian Women’s committees. She was recently sentenced to two months in Israeli prison in relation to allegations of “assaulting soldiers” when they invaded her home in 2011 to arrest her son, Anan, 14 years old at the time.

Abu Khdeir is being held in isolation away from the other Palestinian women prisoners, and the Handala Center for Prisoners and Former Prisoners reported on 11 April that she is being denied books to read and subjected to ongoing verbal abuse while being held in isolation, despite being classified as a “civil” rather than a “security” prisoner by the prison administration.

She is the wife of Nasser Abu Khdeir, a fellow prominent Jerusalemite Palstinian activist who is currently sentenced to 16 months in Israeli occupation prisons.