Detained Palestinian feminist and women’s organizer Khitam Saafin was ordered by an Israeli military commander to administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, on 9 November 2020. The President of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Saafin was seized by Israeli occupation forces from her home in occupied Beitunia along with six other Palestinian activists and human rights defenders on 2 November 2020. On 25 February 2021, Saafin’s detention was extended arbitrarily for an additional four months.
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She was last arrested by Israeli occupation forces in 2017, when she was ordered to three months in administrative detention — leading to a global outcry. We urge all supporters of justice in Palestine and women’s organizing to speak out and protest to demand freedom for Khitam Saafin and her fellow Palestinian women prisoners.
Khitam Saafin is a well-known international advocate for Palestinian women and freedom and justice for the Palestinian people. She has spoken around the world about the struggle of Palestinian women, including at the World Social Forum, and served as chair of the Global Women’s March Palestine.
She was originally ordered to six months in administrative detention, which was reduced to four months following a legal battle. However, her detention was extended – once again, arbitrarily, without charge or trial, for another four months on 25 February 2021.
Administrative detention, a practice first introduced to Palestine by the British colonial mandate, imprisons Palestinians without charge or trial on the basis of a so-called “secret file.” Even the detainee’s lawyer is denied access to any of the contents of this file; instead, it is simply asserted by the Israeli occupation military commander. These detention orders are issued for up to six months at a time and are indefinitely renewable; Palestinians routinely spend years a a time jailed under administrative detention. There are currently approximately 450 Palestinian prisoners held under administrative detention orders, among approximately 4500 Palestinian political prisoners in total.
- On the International Day of Action Against Violence Against Women, 25 November 2020, organizations highlighted the case of Khitam Saafin and the Palestinian women’s movement. In various cities, including Toulouse (France), Murcia (Spain), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Frankfurt (Germany) and Naples (Italy), feminist activists for justice in Palestine – including Samidoun organizers – participated in street actions, protests and mobilizations, carrying signs, banners and posters calling for the liberation of Khitam Saafin, her fellow Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian women – and all of Palestine.In Toulouse, organizers with the Collectif Palestine Vaincra participated in the demonstrations:
In Murcia, Samidoun España and Alkarama activists joined the mobilization:
In Rotterdam, the International Women’s Alliance (IWA) Europe and Revolutionaire Eenheid members showed solidarity with the #FreeKhitamSaafin campaign at the action for the International Day, along with Kurdish and Filipina and Dutch women’s organizations.
- 39 European and Palestinian human rights organizations, including the World Organisation Against Torture and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), issued a statement condemning Khitam Saafin’s detention on 10 December 2020, calling on the European Union to:
- “Ensure Israel’s immediate release of Palestinian human rights defender Khitam Al- Saafin;
- Ensure that Israel puts an end to the practice of administrative detention and releases all human rights defenders currently detained;
- Call on Israel to respect International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and Human Rights of all Palestinian prisoners and detainees held in its custody;
- Recognise and support the work of UPWC and Human Rights Organizations, in compliance with the European Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.”
- Freedom Road Socialist Organization issued a statement demanding freedom for Khitam Saafin on 20 November 2020. “FRSO calls on all progressive activists to join the effort to free Khitam Saafin. We must stand with the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and demand an end to U.S. support to the Israeli occupiers of Palestine.”
- Paz con Dignidad issued a statement in support of Khitam Saafin, urging action to secure her release. “The attacks and harassment of human rights activists in Palestine is a continuation of Israel’s policy of silencing those who defend and express their opposition to the policies of the Israeli occupation , including human rights defenders, leaders of civil society, as well as members of the Legislative Parliament. The arbitrary use of the administrative detention mechanism is a serious violation of international legislation and of the standards of respect for Human Rights, particularly articles 72 and 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to which everyone has the right to legitimate defense…”
- On 9 November in Brazil, Workers Party President Glesi Hoffmann, along with militants from the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), the World March of Women (MMM), the Movement of Peasant Women (MMC), the Levante da Juventude, the CUT and the Teachers Union, representing more than 50 Brazilian organizations that are part of the International Peoples Assembly and La Via Campesina Brazil, visited the embassy of Israel in Brasilia to file a document demanding the freedom of the Palestinian Militant Khitam Saafin. According to the document delivered to the Israeli embassy in Brasilia, Khitam’s prison is part of a criminal policy by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people and their national leaders, especially women, which aims to prevent these leaders from fulfilling their roles in the fight against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
- Alkarama Palestinian Women’s Mobilization called for the release of Saafin, noting that “Saafin’s arrest occurs in the context of the ongoing imprisonment of Palestinian activists by the Israeli occupation authorities. This can be seen in the growing number of Palestinian Legislative Council members, human rights activists and civil society leaders arrested by Israeli occupation forces in recent years.”
- The Komite Internazionalistak issued a statement on 17 November 2020, demanding Khitam Saafin’s immediate release. “From Euskal Herria, we want to convey all our support and solidarity to the Palestinian people and especially to our friend and partner, Khitam, as well as to all the political prisoners. Transfer all our strength and admiration to this people, who continue to stand, fight and resist the atrocities committed by the State of Israel.”
- ANAWANTI, an international network of feminists from Central America and the Mediterranean, issued a joint statement on 13 November 2020, calling for Khitam Saafin’s freedom. “We condemn the detention of Ms. AlSaafin, which add to hundreds of arbitrary arrests that Israel has committed against the defenders of the rights of the Palestinian people. We also condemn the growing environment of prosecution and harassment of human rights defenders and human rights organizations and ask the European Union to recognize and support the work of this organizations and, in compliance with the European Guidelines on human rights defenders.”
- A group of left and progressive women’s organizations in the Arab region, including the Women’s Sector of the Democratic Way in Morocco, Palestinian Working Women Committees Union, Jin Women Association of Lebanon, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the World March of Women – MENA region, also urged her immediate release in a statement “Demanding the human rights and women’s organizations in the region to crystallize a regional and international solidarity campaign to demand the release of the comrade Khitam and the rest of the Palestinian prisoners and calls for serious and real support to the Palestinian captive movement.”
- Member of European Parliament Manu Pineda, chair of the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Palestine, issued a statement to the European External Action Service, calling on the EEAS and the EU to “mobilize its diplomatic resources to obtain the prompt release of Ms. Saafin and all other Palestinian citizens detained without formal charges.”
- The US Palestinian Community Network organized a social media day of action on 16 November 2020 along with Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the National Lawyers Guild, the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Thousands of tweets reached large audiences, and many organizations participated in the campaign.
- On 25 November 2020, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, the US Palestinian Community Network, the International Women’s Alliance – Europe, Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine, Alkarama Palestinian Women’s Mobilization and the Palestinian Youth Movement organized a social media storm and Twitter campaign to free Khitam Saafin and Palestinian women political prisoners.
- Famed musician Roger Waters participated in the online mobilization on 25 November 2020:
- ELAFF, a French association of Green, anarchist and antifascist feminists, issued a statement of solidarity, demanding the release of Khitam Saafin and other feminist political prisoners around the world.
- Jewish Voice for Peace, Germany, joined the call for freedom for Khitam Saafin, Khalida Jarrar, imprisoned Palestinian women’s leaders.
- Radical Women chapters in the United States and Australia join Palestinian feminists and leftists in strongly condemning Israel’s recent arrest and abduction of women’s movement and student leaders, former prisoners, and leftist organizers throughout the occupied West Bank of Palestine. As the statement noted: “Israel attacks feminists for their leadership and resilience in challenging the Zionist state. Women are hit especially hard by the occupation. They hold the family together, and feed and care for children and elderly relatives. Their homes are destroyed, They witness people killed in their beds and dying when ambulances aren’t allowed through checkpoints.”
1. Post pictures and graphics on your social media accounts urging the release of Khitam Saafin and all Palestinian prisoners. Send your photos to us at Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network on Facebook, @SamidounPP on Twitter, and at email@example.com.
2. Issue a statement from your group, association, women’s organization or union demanding freedom for Khitam Saafin. In 2017, dozens of organizations around the world joined in the call for her release, making her detention – and that of Khalida Jarrar – an international issue. Send your statements to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Organize protests, demonstrations creative actions. Ad hacks, postering and other outdoor actions – especially near an Israeli embassy or consulate – can draw a significant amount of attention to Khitam Saafin and the Palestinian cause at this critical time.
4. Build the boycott of Israel! 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.
Please share your actions and posts with us at Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network on Facebook, @SamidounPP on Twitter, and at email@example.com.