Imprisoned Body…Free Soul: Samah Jaradat

Imprisoned Body…Free Soul: Samah Jaradat

by Hind Shraydeh

Samah sleeping with her cat, Lozah.
Courtesy: Samah Jaradat’s family

Dressed in their khaki military uniforms, heavily armed Israeli occupation soldiers raided Samah Jaradat’s house while directing their weapons towards her as she slept with her cat hugging her face. Stunned momentarily by the sight, the soldiers exchanged glances to the unexpected and unfamiliar scene. Their astonishment rose as they scrutinized her room, where a violin is placed with care in the corner of her room and musical notes found everywhere they looked. They also noticed a portrait of the German composer and musician Bach along with a souvenir. The room also housed a small library full of textbooks and novels. Samah’s parents say that the exchanged looks amongst them reflected confusion and doubt about their mission to arrest this young woman. Regardless of all that, the forcible arrest took place.

Samah was arrested three days after graduating from Birzeit University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. This turn of events blew away her dreams and ambitions, including her desire to become a professor at Birzeit University. The arrest took place on 7 September 2019 where she was taken forcefully from her family’s home in Al-Bireh by the Israeli occupation forces.

Samah with her father on graduation day; only three days before her arrest.
Courtesy: Samah Jaradat’s family

In the notorious Moskobiyyeh detention center, Samah was subjected to 22 days of harsh interrogation. She was banned from seeing her lawyer during that whole period, Samah’s father recalls. During her interrogation, “my daughter was subjected to all types of systematic and arbitrary torture methods. Moreover, prison officials also strip-searched her and held her in isolation where she was repeatedly subjected to various forms of psychological torture, including sleep deprivation,” he notes.

To know Samah is to love her. She is a generous and sensitive person. Her generosity and kindness stem from her love for people – especially those who have been marginalized or oppressed – as well as her readiness to make social change. For example, she took it upon herself to take time from her busy schedule at the university to teach an illiterate young woman to read and write. She introduced the young woman to the Arabic alphabet and later brought her workbooks and simple stories to practice her reading and writing.

Another example of her readiness to take practical steps to help others was best expressed by Abu Shadi, a Palestinian craftsman from Qaddura refugee camp, who makes his living by engraving the map of Palestine, among other items using olive wood. He recounts the time when Samah helped find him an appropriate space to sell his handmade items after his kiosk was expropriated by the municipality. “Samah walked all over Ramallah to find me a room in order to continue my work. How can one forget such a lovely person?” he said.

Samah, imprisoned, is missed by many people. Her friend Yasmine speaks fondly of her as she describes her sense of humility and empathy towards her peers. She said Samah used to leave her sandwich on the table in the university cafeteria for students who live in dorms and may not have enough money to buy food.

Samah’s absence hits her family the hardest. Her mother tried to express her feelings when celebrating Samah’s birthday in her absence. “It was a very painful day to celebrate Samah’s birthday without her. It was even more painful to blow out the candles while our thoughts were with her, held in interrogation, tortured and feeling cold.”

Samah’s sister Samar recalls her positive memories of her sister. “I imagine Samah dancing to the music of “the Chamber” for Bach while being with her mates in her new ‘chamber,’” she says. “After all, this is what she did while tidying her room. The Occupation forces imprisoned Samah’s body but they cannot imprison her soul. Samah’s soul will always be free.”

Samah with her mother and father.
Courtesy: Samah Jaradat’s family

This prison was used to house animals before it was turned into a prison, hence it is unfit for human use. It lacks natural light and basic hygiene needs such as proper toilets, running water etc. It is also filled with insects and rats and so on.

Women and girls prisoners held there suffer from overcrowded cells, harsh conditions, and medical neglect, including for women who were pregnant at the time of their arrest. Moreover, these prisoners are denied their right to education and at times family visits under the pretext of security. They are also denied their basic rights by being placed in solitary confinement without any gender-sensitive considerations. These harsh conditions also include difficulty in meeting with Palestinian defense counsel and attorneys. Surveillance cameras are also used 24/7, denying them any privacy.

According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, all of the above-mentioned practices are illegal under international law.

As per the Addameer report: “the majority of Palestinian women prisoners are subjected to some form of psychological torture and ill-treatment throughout the process of their arrest and detention, including various forms of sexual violence. This includes beatings, insults, threats, body searches, and sexually explicit harassment. These techniques of torture and ill-treatment are used not only as means to intimidate Palestinian female detainees but also as tools to humiliate Palestinian women and pressure them into giving confessions.”

Samah with her siblings.
Courtesy: Samah Jaradat’s family

Hind Shraydeh is a writer and human rights defender from occupied Jerusalem, Palestine. She is the wife of Ubai Aboudi, the imprisoned Executive Director of the Bisan Center and a Palestinian writer and researcher. To support Ubai’s campaign for freedom, please visit Scientists for Palestine and sign the petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/end-the-detention-of-ubai-aboudi