BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- “The happiness I saw on my peoples’ faces made me forget all the suffering I experienced when I was on hunger strike,” freed Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan said Wednesday.
When he arrived in Jenin, instead of going home, Adnan chose to head to the sit-in tent in Arraba village to meet with parents of prisoner Jaafar Izz Addin who is now on hunger strike protesting Israeli policies against prisoners.
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered on Tuesday night to greet the former detainee, whose 66-day hunger strike inspired others to protest administrative detention.
Adnan proceeded to visit the al-Aridha family who have three brothers in Israeli jails. Amjad al-Aridha is serving a 20-year sentence, his brother Mahmoud is serving life sentence, and Raddad al-Aridha is also detained in Israeli jail.
As time ran out, Adnan insisted on visiting the sit-in tent in Kafr Raai village after midnight to meet with the mother of prisoner Bilal Thiab who has been on hunger strike for more than 50 days.
He arrived at 3 a.m. and told Thiab's mother that when her son bid him farewell he was chanting “Allahu akbar”. Other prisoners Thaer Halhla, Hasan Safadi, Omar Shallala and Mahmoud Siksik also chanted “Allahu Akbar” from inside their prison cells because they were not allowed to bid him farewell, Adnan explained.
Asked about the last moments before he left his cell in Ramla prison for freedom, Adnan said, “It looked like an uprising as all my hunger-striking fellow prisoners began chanting 'Allahu akbar.'
"I tried to bid them farewell," he added, "but I was denied that and was moved from one detention center to another until I finally arrived at Salem center in the northern West Bank.”
Adnan highlighted that his release was delayed 16 hours as he was moved from one place to another. He was not released from Salem center, but was handed to the International Committee of the Red Cross which took him to Arraba.
“When I noted that delay, I started a hunger strike again fearing the Israelis might go back on their word.”
“They detained me in the darkness so that nobody could see them, and when they released me they did it in the darkness so that nobody could welcome me. They failed in that because I had a reception which indicates that our people are still committed to the prisoners' cause and will support them until they are all freed,” Adnan said.
Adnan pointed out that Israeli prison authorities shut down the windows of all cells when they moved him to prevent other inmates from seeing him released.
With regard to the feasibility of hunger strikes, Adnan said it would be better if it is done in stages starting first with dozens or hundreds of prisoners, then gradually others join them until all prisoners are on hunger strike. The longer prisoners continue with hunger strike, the better they can expose the occupation’s policies and injustice to the world, he said.
As for the current situation with 1,600 prisoners on hunger strike, Adnan suggested that other prisoners join them in stages with 500 joining at each stage.
“My hunger strike was not a new form of hunger strike, but the long duration gave it special importance. This is like vertical expansion where you construct a building on a small area of land, but that building benefits everybody.”