On Arab Mother’s Day: Palestinian mothers demand the return of their children; a message from women prisoners

“The woman is a mother and fighter on the path to liberation”

On 21 March, Palestinians and Arabs celebrate Mother’s Day, honoring the many contributions of mothers to the lives of their children and to society as a whole. In Palestine and in exile and diaspora, however, mothers face particular challenges and forms of oppression by the Zionist regime, from imprisonment to the destruction of their homes, the confiscation of their land and the detention of their martyred children’s bodies. Nonetheless, Palestinian mothers remain on the front lines of struggle for the liberation of themselves, their children and all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

On Mother’s Day, the mothers of the martyrs gathered in Ramallah to demand the liberation of their children’s bodies detained by the occupation. This manifestation came days after the launch of the International Campaign to Liberate the Remains of Palestinian Martyrs, endorsed by over 180 organizations, including events and actions in multiple cities as well as five webinars highlighting the testimonies and experiences of the families of the martyrs.

The mothers of the martyrs read a statement, in which they declared, “The Palestinian mother is the mother wishing for a dignified burial for her martyred son. She digs with her hands an open grave that she visits every day, sharing with him her longing, as she is denied even the knowledge of the fate of her son, whether he is a martyr or a owounded, kidnapped prisoner. We have suddenly become the mothers of martyrs, without preparation. We wage a fierce battle to bury our children, standing in the squares, shouting, chanting, writing statements and writing texts…This is a rightful cry that we make to the occupation that will not hear, to the world that deals in double standards, and to the Palestinian political leadership, factions, organizations, movements and unions.”

Of the 29 Palestinian women prisoners held in the Israeli occupation prisons, five are mothers. On this Mother’s Day, they are deprived, as every year, of the embrace of their children and loved ones. Of course, this Mother’s Day also comes only days before over 2,000 prisoners will launch a collective hunger strike, the Battle of Freedom or Martyrdom. The imprisoned mothers are:

  • Israa Jaabis, mother of the child Muatassem, is serving an 11-year prison sentence. She is severely wounded and suffers from burns all over her body and continues to require intensive surgeries which are denied by the occupation as part of its systematic policy of medical neglect and abuse.
  • Fadwa Hamadeh, sentenced to 11 years in occupation prisons, is the mother of five children: Hamada, 12, Sadeen, 11, Mohammed, 9, Adam, 8 and Maryam, 6.
  • Amani al-Hashim, sentenced to 10 years in occupation prisons, is the mother of two children. She was shot by occupation forces at the Qalandiya checkpoint in 2016 and has been detained ever since.
  • Etaf Jaradat, is the mother of two sons who are also imprisoned by the occupation, Omar and Ghaith. From the town of Silat al-Harthiyeh, her home was demolished after her sons were seized on charges of participating in the Palestinian armed resistance in 2022.
  • Yasmine Shaaban, the mother of four children, receives Mother’s Day this year with additional pain, due to the death of her father only days earlier as he awaits her freedom. Detained since March 2022, she was previously arrested for five years continuously and was seized once again only months after her release.

In many cases, imprisoned mothers are denied family visits, just as mothers outside prison are denied visits with their imprisoned children, as a mechanism of collective punishment. Many of these visits must take place through glass, without the opportunity to touch or embrace their loved ones.

All of the women prisoners issued a message to the mothers of the Palestinian people on Mother’s Day, written by Yasmine Shaaban (below):

Here is another year and another March, passing in our homeland and bringing with it more cries of our mothers and pains of our bodies. It is no coincidence that March is the time of Mother’s Day, Women’s Day, Land Day and the spring season, bringing day and night to equal length, and our pain a symbol of life in a homeland that weaves the threads of dawn into shields to protect our chests from a relentless and arrogant enemy.

To our mothers, who illuminated the light of our lives with their patience, to those who give us strength from the beating of their hearts, to those who ignited a revolution in us, to those who taught us how to live like olive trees planted in a barren land, to extend roots into the depths of the earth, to seek the freedom of our homeland that represents all homelands.

On this day each year, the world celebrates Mother’s Day for each person to express their feelings for their mother. As for our beloved homeland, we express on this day to our mothers in our own way, as on each occasion, and from our small cells, we draw and chart our path with the blood of the martyrs, the pains of the prisoners and the endless suffering of our people.

To our mothers, to our children, we miss you like the earth longs for droplets of rain, we miss you like the expressions of a lover whose wings overflow with love, passion, appreciation and reverence.

To all of Palestine, to those who challenge the prison walls and confront the jailer, who make their suffering a bright beacon to guide them, every year, our greetings to the mothers of the world, and to the mothers of Palestine, and this year, as every year, we are approaching our liberation.