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Gaza women face problems after leaving Israeli jails

March 18, 2013 7:03 A.M. (Updated: April 27, 2013 9:08 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Despite the warm reception and celebrations female prisoners receive in Gaza after being released from Israeli jails, many face social and familial difficulties upon returning to normal life.

In many cases, ex-female prisoners either get divorced or remain single into old age if unmarried.

Wafaa al-Bis, an ex-prisoner from Gaza, was detained in 2005 and sentenced to 12 years for allegedly planning an operation against Israel.

She was released after seven years and told Ma'an she suffers from marginalization, exclusion and degrading treatment.

"Our society views freed female prisoners as women who were raped. My question is whether they think female prisoners were raped willingly or raped while their hands were cuffed" she told Ma'an.

Wafaa has third degree burns from a past accident and complains that it is hard for her to get medical treatment which ex-prisoners are entitled to.

"I can't obtain the very basic rights of getting appropriate treatment as a freed prisoner," she said. She has contacted several Palestinian officials, but to no avail.

'You are a terrorist'

When Fatima al-Ziq began taking part in resistance activities she was married and had eight children.

She was arrested while pregnant, and gave birth in jail. Upon her release, she said all doors were closed on her and she had to beg for her rights.

"We do not seek anybody’s gratitude and praise even though we spent the prime of our youth in jail defending our homeland. However, we hope doors will not be shut to us as strugglers who fought on the front-lines."

Zahiyya Nofal was imprisoned for three years on charges of possessing weapons and helping resistance fighters. She was arrested when she was only 16, and upon being released her parents arranged for her to marry a Bedouin man.

Despite giving birth to two children, when her husband learned that she had been in jail he began to assault her on a daily basis and called her a "terrorist."

He filed for divorce and denied her access to her children, she said.

Given the attitude by many towards ex-female prisoners, Ruab Rajoubi decided to abstain from marriage. She was jailed for three years on charges of assisting fighters in 1996.

She said many families are "embarrassed" that their female relatives were in jail.

Dala Abu Qamar agrees that life is difficult after leaving jail. She agreed to be a second wife after she was freed in 1982. She was affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

"Nobody will propose to a freed prisoner, due to the degrading view. I paid a heavy toll for the sacrifices I made toward my homeland. I was divorced after I gave birth to two children."

Over the last 45 years, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian women have been detained under Israeli military orders, Addameer says.

As of Sept. 1, 2012, 7 Palestinian women were incarcerated in Israel's detention centers and prisons.

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