A national strategy to free Palestinian prisoners from occupation prisoners – and address the needs of sick prisoners, elderly prisoners, and administrative detainees – is needed, said Comrade Ahmad Abu Saud as he released his new book, “Flashes from Behind Bars.”
The book launch was held Sunday, November 25 at the Red Crescent hall in Gaza, attended by former prisoners, friends, comrades, and allies from prisoner support organizations and Palestinian factions.
Dr. Ibrahim Abrash, political science professor at Al-Azhar University, spoke at the event, entitled “The reality and challenges for the national prisoners’ movement.” Abrash noted that Abu Saud offered concrete proposals in his valuable book to develop the prisoners’ movement and its relationship with internal and external forces in order to develop the movement to support the struggle of prisoners for their freedom. Abrash said that the book belongs to the line of prisoners’ literature that has always been part of the Palestinian cause.
Former prisoner Hisham Abdel Razeq spoke about the accuracy of Abu Saud’s description of life inside prison in the period prior to Oslo, through that time, and later in the second intifada. The political situation outside the prison impacts the prisoners inside the prisons as well, from all factions, said Abdel Razeq. He noted that the word “prisoners” did not appear in the Oslo agreement, saying this indicated a real disregard for prisoners’ human dignity by the leadership that signed the Declaration of Principles.
Abdel Nasser Ferwana, former prisoner and statistics director in the Ministry of Prisoners, said that there are over 4900 prisoners in occupation prisons, in 17 prisons and detention centers. There are 190 children under 18 out of nearly 10,000 children who have been arrested and imprisoned since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, Ferwana noted. He spoke about the situation of women prisoners and in particular Lena Jarbouni, who has been held for 11 years and faces a continuing health crisis, as well as the imprisonment of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other Palestinian political leaders, particularly PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. Ferwana urged a higher level of international action to support the prisoners who are exposed to ongoing attacks on their lives, quality of living, dignity and human rights.
Former prisoner Tawfiq Abu Naim said that often the experiences of the prisoners are not written down and that is important to record the experiences of the prisoners for historical reference, and that in particular, prisoners and former prisoners’ stories must be recorded as unique experiences that collectively form an encyclopedia of struggle.
Abu Saud said the book is part of a deep and wide history of struggle and suffering, an attempt to document what he experienced and heard for the benefit of new generations of strugglers and of prisoners.
He said that the prisoners’ issue is a national, political and humanitarian imperative that must be prioritized. Abu Saud said that he wrote specifically about his experience, as a true history of the prisoners’ movement is a collective process of all forces and factions inside and outside the prisons. He focused on the history of struggles within the prisons, the organizing of early prisoners in occupation prisons, the development of national unity within the prisoners’ movements, and their struggles to achieve their demands. In particular, he described the 1992 prisoners’ strike and its achievements through collective struggle and unity that secured all of their demands inside the prisons, forcing the occupation to concede.
The book surveys facts, events and historical developments in the national prisoners’ movement, and the lives of prisoners, seeking to document and analyze experiences of the prisoners’ movement and putting forward conclusions and proposals based on the lessons of the movement’s experience. He thanked the comrades who contributed to the book’s development and content.
Abu Saud was born in 1956 in Beit Furik, Nablus area, where he belonged to the PFLP. He was detained for the first time in occupation prisons in 1980 for PFLP membership, serving 20 months. Upon his release, he organized volunteer committees in Beit Furik as well as developing secret military groups of the PFLP in the area. He was arrested again in 1985 and released again after he would not confess in interrogation, and then arrested and imprisoned a third time in 1987. This time he was imprisoned under a life sentence until his release in October 2011 as part of the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange agreement. He is a member of the Central Committee of the PFLP and was the chair of the Front’s prison branch from 2009 until his release. He participated in over 6 hunger strikes including the September-October 2011 strike, where he held principal responsibility.