Palestinian students continue to face harsh repression in Israeli jails. Layan Kayed, a Bir Zeit university student imprisoned by the Israeli occupation since June 2020, wrote the following letter to her family in December, following her isolation for potential COVID-19 exposure. Before she was seized by occupation forces, she noted: “The occupation knows that students are the most active and dynamic sector of society – especially at a time when political parties are less and less effective.” Layan is among dozens of Palestinian university students from Bir Zeit University alone jailed for their political activities, and among 40 women prisoners, including feminist leaders Khitam Saafin and Khalida Jarrar.
She sent the following moving letter, highlighting the emotional effects of imprisonment on detained Palestinians:
Our relationship with prison is that of a constant attempt to tame us and alienate us. Perhaps our alienation only intensifies our affection, or otherwise impossible things. Prisoners speak a great deal about their feelings when they leave prison to go to the court or to the hospital. About a yearning to return, about a comfort you can imagine in your “bunk,” about your question driven by all of the realism and gullibility of the world: “When will I go?” Asking to return to your prison, to protect the rest of your body from the torment of the Bosta and transfer.
It is our alienation that we call this bunk that has replaced our bed as if it is our bunk, to see the cell with its items and compare it to your room that you love and take care of. It is your frantic clinging to your simple possessions, your grief over a cat drenched in the rain, a cat that can climb the wall that you cannot. It is your keenness to clean a door that closes upon you, and on a window that does not open. Nothing is overlooked. These are our castles, and even the sand mourns them. These are our possessions, and even poverty despises them.
I had a recent experience when I was quarantined “because of exposure to Corona.” All of my asperations were – like those of the prisoners with whom I was quarantined – to return to our “normal life,” to the recreation yard, for the girls in our rooms. Dreams were absent from our dreams, and our longing for our prisoner friends became more tangible than our constant longing for our families.
Freedom for Layan Kayed and all Palestinian prisoners!