“The phone rang from an odd number. I had a gut feeling it was my son calling from prison. It was so emotional for me to speak to him, and for his mother too. Then I asked his brother to run with the phone to my mother, who is 88 years old, so she could speak to her grandson. She was very worried about his health, and always prays for his safety. She was so happy to hear that he’s healthy and okay”.
Ahmad Bajawi, whose 15-year-old son is in Megiddo Prison awaiting trial
Dozens of worried Palestinian parents like Mr. Bajawi were finally able to speak with their sons in prison for the first time, as a result of HaMoked’s litigation.
To most of us, a detainee’s right to call his family seems trivial. But as a rule, the Israel Prison Service bars Palestinians defined as “security inmates” from calling their families. No exception is made for child detainees, no matter how young. Their only contact with their families is through bi-weekly or monthly visits. And in late February, the Prison Service cancelled all prison visits, as part of Israel’s efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. This left thousands of Palestinian detainees completely isolated from the outside world, unable to communicate with their families at a time of widespread fear and concern.
Last month, HaMoked submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that all Palestinian detainees, and especially minors, be allowed to speak to their families on the phone throughout the Covid-19 crisis. In response, the Prison Service announced that all minor detainees would be allowed to call their families once a fortnight until visits are reinstated. We are now pushing to extend this decision to adult detainees as well.
It was so moving to hear from Ahmed after he finally got to speak with his son. These seemingly small victories are a reminder of the importance of HaMoked’s work, ensuring that the rights of the most vulnerable are not neglected during this pandemic.
Sending my best wishes to all of you, and hoping that you and your families are weathering this difficult time.
Executive Director of HaMoked