Profile: Nidal Abu Aker

nidalabuakerNidal Abu Aker, 46, is a Palestinian refugee from Ras Abu Ammar in Palestine ’48 and a resident of Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem. Married with three children, he is a journalist at “Sawt al-Wihda” (Voice of Unity) radio station, the only radio station to be broadcast directly from Dheisheh camp.

He hosts a program called “In their cells,” which addresses issues relating to Palestinian political prisoners, and passes messages from Palestinian political prisoners to their families; he is also a co-founder of the Families of Prisoners Association in the camp.

He has spent 15 years in administrative detention in Israeli prisons, through multiple arrests, the first in 1984. Born on 10 May 1968, his mother says that he has spent nearly half his life in Israeli prisons.

His home was invaded on 28 June 2014 by Israeli soldiers at 6:00 am, injuring his son Mohammad. His arrest came as part of the mass arrests particularly targeting former Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank.

He was immediately imprisoned under administrative detention without charge or trial, detention which has since been renewed three times. He began his hunger strike on 20 August 2015.

Nidal’s family consists of his wife, Mrs. Manal Shaheen, who works at a nursery, his son Mohammad, and two daughters Dalia and Karmel, who are school students.

Maya Rosenfield writes in 2008 about Nidal’s repeated imprisonment: “I was thinking of Malika and Naim Abu Aker, better known as Umm and Abu Nidal, both in their mid sixties, from the Dheisheh refugee camp, just to the south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.  Naim was a toddler and Malika a baby when, in the course of the 1948 war, their families were uprooted from their village of Ras Abu-Ammar, on the western slopes of the Judean mountains. Together with thousands of other villagers, they fled to the Bethlehem area, where they eventually settled as refugees. Malika and Naim grew up, came of age, married and brought up six children in the Dheisheh camp, which fell under Israeli military occupation in the aftermath of the 1967 war. In 1988, at the height of the first Intifada (the Palestinian popular uprising), Mohammad, the couple’s third son, then a school boy in the tenth grade, was fatally shot by an IDF soldier while taking part in a demonstration just across the street from home. Complicated surgical operations and endless help and support from his family and friends enabled Mohammad to survive for more than two years, a sort of miracle that earned him the title of “the living martyr.” He succumbed to his injury in 1990, at the age of 18. Malika and Naim’s eldest sons are twin brothers, now in their early forties. The two were first detained by the Israeli military at the age of 13 on grounds of their activism in the outlawed Palestinian national movement. Each of them has since then spent dozen of terms in Israeli prisons. In fact, at the time you were giving your speech, one of the twins, Nidal (the literal meaning of the name is “struggle”), by then a university graduate, a longtime community and political activist, and a father of three, was being held as an administrative detainee for the seventh successive or nearly successive time. Whenever he and his mates had access to a smuggled cell phone he would call me and talk about the inhumanity of being detained without trial, wondering whether the public in Israel was aware of this injustice.  At some stage, Nidal’s Israeli lawyer, a veteran and highly acclaimed human-rights attorney, appealed in his name to the Israeli High Court of Justice, but to no avail. The court accepted the request of the GSS (General Security Service) to extend Nidal’s detention.”