My husband, Shadi Abu Aker, has been on hunger strike for 61 days. He took this drastic step in protest at being detained by Israeli occupation authorities without charge or trial since 6 October 2020, a practice known as administrative detention.
Now, Shadi faces the possibility of being force-fed by his jailers – as permitted by Israeli law but in violation of international human rights conventions – along with six other prisoners who have gone to the extreme of putting their lives in danger to protest their unjust imprisonment.
After the lawyer was permitted to see Shadi, what he described was heart-breaking. They brought my husband in a wheelchair, and I learned that he has been vomiting bile, his eyesight is growing weak, and that he suffers from excruciating headaches.
Cuffed to his hospital bed, Shadi only drinks salt water to keep his organs from rotting, and refuses to take any vitamins that might lengthen his strike.
Even as his health deteriorates, none of us are able to visit him. The Israel Prison Service only allows family visits when a hunger strike is at the most life-threatening stage – and only then, in order to emotionally pressure the prisoners to end their strike and accept the detention.
Our son, Mohammad, was two years old when he properly got to know his father – Shadi was previously arrested and detained not long after he was born. He struggled to make a connection with him, and when he finally was able to form an attachment, Shadi was taken from us again. Now, he keeps asking for his father, and refuses to eat because his father is not eating.
Our daughter Nour, meanwhile, was only one month old when her father was arrested; when Shadi saw a photo of her in August, he asked, “Is that my daughter?”
This pain and cruelty is not our family’s alone – Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention routinely suffer from medical neglect, violations of due process, and even torture – as is well-documented.
This is about the 200 children in prison, and all the children who wish their father could walk them to school in the morning, or guide them through life. This is the story of anyone who dreams of a normal life without living in constant fear of having their family ripped apart by the occupation.
I have experienced the same suffering as my kids; like them, both my husband and I were born in the Aida camp, our families made refugees in the Nakba exodus of 1948. My father was arrested one month after I was born, and spent 24 years in prison. Shadi, meanwhile, has spent more than 14 years of his life in Israeli jails – he was first arrested in high school.
Decades have passed, and nothing changes. The memories I have of skunk water and tear gas being thrown at us are still our reality. The Israeli occupation forces’ ongoing arrests and raids are deliberately intended to instill fear in everyone, old and young. If you knock on the door of any family house in our camp, you will find that at least one of them has been imprisoned.
We are forced to endure this pain to the point where it is as normal as the oxygen we breathe. My family has been torn apart and every new day is a threat to my husband’s life. Please, reunite us.
Sajida Abu Aker lives in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem