On International Women’s Day 2023, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes Palestinian women, on the front lines of the liberation struggle, and demands the liberation of the 29 Palestinian women jailed behind occupation bars. Palestinian women prisoners — and all Palestinian women — are the samidaat, the steadfast ones who refuse to give up or back down despite all circumstances of repression and colonization.
On this International Women’s Day we also extend a special salute to Leena Jawabreh Abu Ghoulmeh, liberated today and returning home to her beloved family — including her young daughters Natalie and Naya — and her friends and comrades.
Palestinian women struggle on a daily basis for national and social liberation throughout all fields of activity, from educating the next generation of Palestinians to direct participation in the fields of armed resistance. Like Palestinian women as a whole, the Palestinian women prisoners reflect all of these sectors of Palestinian society: students, activists, organizers, parliamentarians, journalists, health workers, farmers, laborers, mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, strugglers, freedom fighters.
As former Palestinian prisoners and Bir Zeit University students Layan Kayed, Elia Abu Hijleh, Ruba Assi and Shatha Tawil said two years ago on International Women’s Day, “Our battle is united, as we are all fighting oppression on the basis of gender, fighting class exploitation and fascist colonialism and foremost among which is the occupation on our land…For all Palestinian women, we believe that our social struggle is an inherent part of the struggle of our people, and for the liberation of land and people, we sacrifice, struggle and bring forth strugglers.”
It cannot be forgotten that International Women’s Day is International Working Women’s Day, a day rooted in working class women’s struggles. Palestinian women are workers, farmers and strugglers, working inside and outside the home to sustain and uplift Palestinian society in defiance of Zionism and imperialism. Today, we salute the Palestinian women workers, inside Palestine and everywhere in exile and diaspora, who confront super-exploitation, harassment, violence, police repression and exploitation on a daily basis, including the Palestinian working women locked behind bars. It has always been the Palestinians of the popular classes, including Palestinian women, who form the basis of the resistance and the prisoners’ movement.
Over 75 Years of Repression and Revolution
Since 1948, there have been well over 18,000 Palestinian women imprisoned and detained by Israeli occupation and Zionist colonialism. These include Palestinian women in Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian women holding Israeli citizenship in occupied Palestine ’48. Outside Palestine, Palestinian women in exile and diaspora have been denied their right to return to Palestine for over 75 years yet continue to struggle, facing racism, political repression, criminalization, deportation and imprisonment. Dalal Mughrabi, the Palestinian resistance fighter, is one of the earliest of the hundreds of bodies of the martyrs who continues to be held in the infamous “numbers cemeteries” of the occupation, the target of the International Campaign to Liberate the Bodies of the Martyrs. From the earliest days of Zionist colonialism, Palestinian women have been expelled from their homes and targeted for gender and sexual violence and repression on multiple levels, their very capacity to reproduce and raise their children labeled as an unacceptable threat to the racist Zionist settler-colonial project.
The 29 Palestinian women prisoners include one administrative detainee, Raghad al-Fani, jailed without charge or trial, among 1,000 total administrative detainees, two minor girls, six mothers deprived of their families and children, and 15 sick prisoners. Israa Jaabis, from Jerusalem, faces some of the most severe health conditions inside occupation bars, as she has been burned over 70% of her body, with fingers amputated, and she relies on her fellow women prisoners for assistance with the activities of daily living. She requires at least four more surgeries, which have been rejected by the prison administration, part of the systematic policy of medical neglect that forms another aspect of torture and slow killing. In the past year, Saadia Farajallah Matar, Palestinian mother, lost her life behind bars, another casualty of this deadly policy.
Women Confront the Intensified Attacks on Palestinian Prisoners
Today, the Palestinian women prisoners are subjected to a new onslaught, side by side with the male prisoners, under the auspices of the fascist Ben Gvir policy that seeks to target the prisoners as living symbols of resistance and steadfastness. In particular, they have faced in recent months, the imposition of new cameras throughout the prison yard, denying the women prisoners privacy, especially from male guards; physical attacks and brutality during “inspections” of the prison rooms; denial of family visits and isolation; interrogation under brutal methods of torture; solitary confinement; isolating Palestinian women with Israeli Jewish “criminal” prisoners in a deliberate attempt to foster mistreatment and abuse; confiscating books and denying their entry; medical neglect and mistreatment; transfers on the “bosta,” a painful and difficult experience characterized by mistreatment and physical pain; denial of access to education, including high school exams. Of course, all of these poor conditions of confinement are an attempt to break the resistance and steadfastness of the Palestinian women prisoners that continue to fail.
In January 2023, the Palestinian women prisoners were subjected to a new attack in Damon prison, beaten by invading prison guards and subjected to collective punishment, especially after they made and raised a banner in the prison yards declaring, “Not bread or water, we want our freedom!” Yasmine Shaaban, the representative of the women prisoners, was thrown in solitary confinement and multiple Palestinian women prisoners were barred from the “canteen” (prison store) and family visits for a month.
Damon prison, where the women prisoners are held, was previously a stable for animals, is located in occupied Palestine ’48 — in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and making it even more difficult for Palestinian women’s family members to visit them. All visits are subjected to an arbitrary permit regime which is often obstructed by the Israeli occupation regime.
Palestinian Women Prisoners in Resistance
Of course, Palestinian women prisoners are among the over 4,750 total political prisoners, but Palestinian women are broadly affected by the mass incarceration of Palestinian men as well. Palestinian women are the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, lovers and friends of Palestinian male prisoners. They make homes for themselves and their children, denied access to their husbands and fathers. They lead the movement outside prison to highlight the names, faces, voices and stories of all Palestinian prisoners struggling for liberation.
Despite all forms of attack and repression, the Palestinian women prisoners continue to resist and to lead the resistance, toward national and social liberation. In April 1970, imprisoned Palestinian women at Neve Tirza prison launched one of the earliest collective hunger strikes of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement when they refused food for nine days. They demanded access to women’s sanitary supplies as well as an end to beatings and solitary confinement. Palestinian women have joined all of the prisoners’ general hunger strikes and protest actions, while strikes led by women prisoners in 1985, 2004 and 2019 that inspired global women’s solidarity. Despite the denial of formal education by the Israeli colonial regime, Palestinian women prisoners developed revolutionary self-education for all prisoners, expanding their knowledge and commitment to struggle.
Palestinian women prisoners are not alone; they struggle alongside fellow women political prisoners in the Philippines, Turkey, India, Egypt, the United States and around the world. Their imprisonment is an international crime: it is funded, backed and supported by the diplomatic, military, economic and political backing given to Israel by the imperialist powers, including the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and the European Union states. Palestinian women also confront the role of the Palestinian Authority’s “security cooperation” regime under Oslo, the arbitrary arrests and repression of Palestinian resistance by PA forces, and the normalization politics and repressive attacks of reactionary Arab regimes.
On International Women’s Day and throughout the year, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the Palestinian women prisoners, their steadfastness, resistance and continuing revolution despite torture, abuse, mistreatment and violent repression by the Israeli occupation regime. We urge all women’s organizations and supporters of Palestine to highlight the struggle of the Palestinian women prisoners, escalate the campaigns to boycott and isolate the occupation, its institutions and complicit corporations, and resist with all Palestinian prisoners as they confront fascism with their bodies and their lives. Palestinian women prisoners are on the front lines of struggle for national and social liberation, and we urge their immediate release, the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners — and the liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.
Action Campaigns – What You Can Do?
- On a monthly basis, Samidoun Paris Banlieue sets up a table at an outdoor market in the Paris region of France, where they not only provide education and information about the Palestinian cause, but collect dozens of letters to send to the women prisoners in Damon. Samidoun Paris Banlieue maintains a list of all the women and girls in Damon along with their biographies to ensure they all receive letters and support from internationalists.To organize your own table, bring pens, envelopes and paper (and sometimes stamps!) to send a letter to a particular woman prisoner, and mail to: Damon Prison, POB 98 Daliat El-Carmel, Israel
- Alkarama, the Palestinian Women’s Mobilization, organizes in Spain with women’s and feminist organizations. They participate in women’s campaigns against colonialism, forging alliances with women’s movements across Europe and throughout the Arab region, to highlight Palestinian women prisoners and all women’s struggles.
- In Charleroi, Belgium, Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine and Vie Feminine organized a workshop for members of Vie Feminine, students, and girls about Palestinian women and the prisoners’ movement. Participants wrote letters to severely injured Palestinian mother, the imprisoned Israa Jaabis, expressing their solidarity. This comes after the Plate-forme published a book in French on Palestinian women prisoners, SUMUD.
- The International Women’s Alliance organizes anti-imperialist women around the world. It launches joint campaigns for the freedom of women prisoners in the Philippines, Palestine and around the world as part of building a global anti-imperialist struggle in the women’s movement, with events, actions and educational sessions.
Here are some actions that you can take to join the campaign and spread it in your local area and community!
We join together to call for action and support for imprisoned Palestinian women:
- Boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and isolation of the Zionist regime internationally
- Ending all military and economic aid, military transactions, joint projects and direct funding to the Israeli occupation regime by governments around the world.
- Challenging “normalization” programs that aim to legitimize Israeli occupation.
- Organizing to build direct links of solidarity with Palestinian women’s organizations and movements, to ensure that they will not be isolated from their global community of support despite all attempts by the Israeli occupation.
Writing Solidarity Letters
Palestinian prisoners and detainees repeatedly report that receiving letters from supporters around the world boosts morale and provides them with support. Israel wants to isolate Palestinian student leaders by keeping them behind bars, and letters help to break their isolation. This is a simple activity that can be done with physical distancing or combined with other prisoner support efforts. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a physical mailing address, or send us your letters — Samidoun in Occupied Palestine will share directly with the families and lawyers of detained women.
Adopt a Prisoner
Share the stories of Palestinian women detainees with your community by “adopting” a prisoner. Share their stories, write letters to them and include their name and photo in your activities. Please contact us at email@example.com for even more info on your organization’s adopted prisoner.
Join the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Highlight the complicity of corporations like Hewlett-Packard and the continuing involvement of G4S in Israeli policing and prisons. Build a campaign to boycott Israeli goods, impose a military embargo on Israel, or organize around the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
Protest, Rally and Organize
Organize a protest or direct action! The United States, Canada, EU states, Australia and Britain, among others, provide ongoing military, economic, diplomatic and political support to Israel to continue the repression of Palestinian women. Protest on your campus or in your city, highlighting government and media complicity, or act and organize at Israeli embassies, corporations and institutions in your area. Ad hacks, postering and other outdoor actions – especially near an Israeli embassy or consulate – can draw a significant amount of attention to the Palestinian women prisoners and the Palestinian cause at this critical time.
Share These Stories on Social Media
You can support Palestinian women on social media as well. Use the prisoner photos above on your individual or group social media pages, on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Take a selfie or a group photo with our posters or just post these images with a message of your own.
We recommend the following resources for more information on Palestinian women prisoners:
- Addameer Commemorates International Women’s Day by Shedding Light on the 29 Palestinian Women Prisoners Languishing in Harsh and Degrading Conditions in Damon Israeli Occupation Prison, March 2023
- “SUMUD – Paroles de résistance des prisonnières palestiniennes”, Plate-forme Charleroi-Palestine, April 2022
- Este 8M Exigimos la liberación de todas las presas políticas, Alkarama, March 2023
- Remembering Fatima Bernawi: Historic Palestinian fighter and liberated prisoner (1939-2022), Samidoun, November 2022
- Khalida Jarrar speaks out on women prisoners’ struggle as Ramallah protest urges their liberation, November 2020
- Steadfastness and resistance: Palestinian women prisoners confront repression, Charlotte Kates, March 2020
- International Women’s Day … 43 Palestinian Women in Detention, March 2020, Addameer
Khalida Jarrar: New Video and Resources, April 2020, Samidoun
Nahla Abdo, From Captive Revolution to Grand Gaza Prison: https://plutopress.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/from-captive-revolution-to-grand-gaza-prison/
- Nahla Abdo’s book, Captive Revolution: https://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745334936&%3C/
“For the Love of Palestine:” New booklet highlights stories of Palestinian women prisoners – November 2016, Prison, Labor and Academic Delegation to Palestine
- Sahar Francis, Gendered Violence in Israeli Detention, Journal of Palestine Studies, summer 2017
Remembering Therese Halasa, Palestinian revolutionary: Rima Tannous’ prison story – Samidoun, March 2020. With reprint of historical account of Palestinian freed prisoner Rima Tannous
Soraya Antonius, Prisoners for Palestine: A List of Women Political Prisoners – Journal of Palestine Studies, 1980
Addameer, Occupied Lives: The Imprisonment of Palestinian Women and Girls: http://www.addameer.org/publications/occupied-lives-imprisonment-palestinian-women-and-girls
Leena Jawabreh, Facing imprisonment in Israeli Jails: A Palestinian Woman’s Testimony: http://samidoun.net/2013/09/facing-imprisonment-in-israeli-jails-a-palestinian-womans-testimony-by-leena-jawabreh/
Film, Women in Struggle, Dir: Buthaina Canaan Khoury, 2004:
Film, Tell Your Tale, Little Bird, Dir: Arab Loutfi, 2007:
The Struggle of Palestinian Women (PLO, 1975): http://www.palestinianconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/PLO-PalestinianWomen.pdf
International Women’s Day and the General Union of Palestinian Women, PFLP Bulletin, April 1982: http://www.palestinianconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WomensDay-PFLPBulletin-April1982.pdf
Palestinian Women Develop Their Struggle through Democratic Revolutionary Resolutions, September 1974, PFLP Bulletin: http://www.palestinianconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WomensDay-PFLPBulletin-13-SepOct74.pdf
Women’s Struggle in Occupied Palestine, Democratic Palestine, May 1984: http://www.palestinianconference.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/WomensStruggle-DemocraticPal-Mar1984.pdf