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Hana Shalabi - Victory or Martyrdom

29 March 2012

Zahra Shalabi spoke about her fears for her younger sister Hana who is dying in an Israeli prison:
"My sister is dying.. we say it is either victory or martyrdom, God willing, it will be victory.. We are sitting here thinking 'Are we going to see Hana or not see Hana?'.. I don't know, we are lost.. but our spirits are high, thanks be to God.."

On 16th February 2012, for the second time, Hana Shalabi was illegally taken from her home at gunpoint by Israeli soldiers without any warrant or reason given. The first time, they locked her up for over two years without a trial. The Israeli soldiers interrogated her from morning till night, day after day, beating her and using sexual and religious humiliation as tools of interrogation. When she persevered they imprisoned her without charge. To protest her condition Hana has begun a hunger strike.

Hana Shalabi has been on hunger strike for over 40 days now, an independent doctor who examined her a week ago concluded that Hana Shalabi is "in danger of imminent death". Her pulse is very weak and her body temperature is low, with a weight loss of 14 kg her body is now breaking down its own muscles in order to survive. She has a heart murmur caused by the body digesting the heart muscle because it does not have any other source of energy. This could lead to heart failure at any moment.

Whilst the worlds governments are silent, grass-roots protests have sprung up across the globe. Hana's last message to the people of the world is to "to continue action in applying pressure [on Israel] towards the release of all our courageous prisoners".

Video: Hana Shalabi "Victory or Martyrdom"

Hana Shalabi's mother holding up a poster of her daughter
"Hana is not only my daughter, she is the daughter of every Palestinian" - Yahya Shalabi (Hana's father)

First arrest

Hana Shalabi was first arrested in September 2009 when in the early hours of the morning 12 Israeli military jeeps surrounded her home in the farming village of Burqin near Jenin. Upon entering her home the soldiers tore up her family photo and crushed the pieces under their boots. They verbally abused the family, shouting and swearing at Hana, and then assaulting her father with a rifle butt causing her mother to faint. Without presenting any warrant they arrested Hana. They handcuffed her, placing tight shackles around her wrists and placed her in their military jeep. When her abaya (Muslim modest dress) came undone the male soldiers took out their cameras and took photos of her as a form of religious and sexual humiliation.


She was held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell with no windows or natural light. They subjected her to exhausting interrogation sessions starting at 10am in the morning and going on till the late evening. During interrogation she was sexually harassed and beaten up. When she resisted, the guards took her back to her cell and tied her to the bed frame and took humiliating photos of her laying in that position. This was during Ramadan, and due to lack of any natural light she lost all sense of time and so couldn't determine the time to start and end her fasts so she decided not to eat or drink at all during the entire eight days of interrogation.

In total they kept her in the interrogation centre for 17 days during which time she was not once given a change of clean clothes. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel have reported that women suffer inhuman detention conditions used as a method of interrogation including painful shackling, physical violence, inappropriate strip searches, humiliating and degrading treatment, including denial of menstrual pads and exploitation of cultural and religious sensitivities as a form of humiliation.

Mural in support of Hana Shalabi in the Falls road in Belfast, North of Ireland

Administrative detention

When the Israeli interrogators couldn't break Hana's spirit, when they couldn't get her to confess to their trumped up charges, they placed her on a rolling 6 month administrative detention which requires no burden of proof, no trial or even a charge.

In violation of the regulations they separated Hana from the other Palestinian women prisoners and placed her in with Israeli common criminals. A Palestinian woman, surrounded by Israeli convicted criminals is subjected to continuous abuse and lives in constant fear of physical attack.

The six months detention became 12 months and then 18, then 24, and was set to go on indefinitely. It was only Hamas's capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit that lead to Hana's glimpse of freedom. She was finally released on 18th October 2011 when Hamas negotiated the release of over 1000 Palestinian prisoners in return for for Gilad Shalit.

Hana Shalabi hugging her father and mother when she was released in the Hamas-Israeli swap of Palestinian prisoners in October 2011, after two and half years of imprisonment

Release and re-arrest

Upon her release on 18th October 2011, Hana planned to study nursing at Al-Rawda college but before she could enrol, on 16th February 2012, she was rearrested.

Hana who had just turned 30, had seen less than 4 months of freedom before 50 soldiers broke in to her and her brothers family homes in the early hours of the morning. The soldiers unleashed a pack of dogs in to her brothers home, in to the children's room, terrifying the children. They arrested Hana without any warrant or giving any reason, one of the soldiers was heard saying 'Hana must die'. In a similar raid in 2005 Israeli soldiers had murdered her other brother Samer in his home.

When she objected to one of the male soldiers grabbing her they beat her up, striking her face. They then blindfolded her and put her on the floor of their military jeep, not letting her get up. She was first taken to Salem detention centre where after being left blindfolded for two hours in a tiny room, she was subjected to further beatings and humiliating treatment before being taken to HaSharon Prison.

Hana' Shalabi's parents at the solidarity tent in Burqin village

Hunger Strike

On her first day in prison she started her hunger strike in protest of her treatment. As punishment she was put in solitary confinement and a few days later transferred back to Salem for further interrogation. Despite the intimidation and punishment Hana Shalabi has continued her hunger strike, and on her 30 day of hunger strike she released the following message:

"To all the free and loyal Palestinian people, I direct my words to you — while I and all my brothers and sisters in the occupier’s prisons are on hunger strike, we call on you to continue your solidarity and for the issue of prisoners to be on the highest priority list […] I call on foreign states to continue action in applying pressure [on Israel] towards the release of all our courageous prisoners." - Hana Shalabi, 16 March 2012

On 19th March, the 33rd day of her hunger strike, an independent physician from Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-Israel) was finally allowed to examine Hana. She concluded that Hana is "in danger of imminent death and must be hospitalized immediately". Her report on Hana states:

"there has been a significant deterioration in her condition, and that she risks death. The deterioration is expressed in a process of muscle breakdown, with a weight loss of 14 kg (31 lb.) since the onset of the hunger strike, a very slow pulse, and a drop in blood sodium levels. These symptoms could indicate grave damage to the heart and the beginning of the breakdown of the heart muscle, which could lead to heart failure at any moment.

Anat Litvin, director of the prisoner's program for Physicians for Human Rights Israel added

"She {Hana Shalabi] has atrophy and wasting of the muscle, and this involves her heart as well - she has a heart murmur caused by the body digesting the heart muscle because it does not have any other source of energy."

The Physicians for Human Rights Israel report continued:
"Additionally, her body temperature is low (hypothermia), recorded at 35.05C (95.09F), with Shalabi reporting that she feels cold. This finding indicates that the energy production in her body is mostly directed at the essential organs, which also indicates possible damage to the heart, which could be expressed in arrhythmia, systemic deterioration, or sudden death. The attending physician adds that Shalabi is not taking medications, has gone from ambulatory independence to being dependent on others for locomotion, and suffers from significant weakness, low blood pressure, serious pain throughout her body, significant sensitivity in her upper abdominal region, and serious dizziness.

The results of the blood test taken on March 14th indicate a drop in the levels of blood glucose and sodium, and damage to the thyroid functions. The thyroid plays a critical role in maintaining body temperature, as well as heart, liver, and brain function. Significant damage to the thyroid gland could lead to a coma, and this possibility is clearly present with regard to Shalabi. Additionally, blood work done today indicates disruption of the clotting functionality, and a significant lack of iron and vitamins.

Following her examination, the physician has determined that Shalabi is in immediate danger to her life, and recommended that she be transported to a hospital with no delay, for close supervision and follow-up."

Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel (PHR-I)condemned the Israeli prison Service:

"As of today [20th March], the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) is refusing to transfer Ms. Shalabi to the hospital, despite yesterday’s urgent reports by her doctor that she should be transferred immediately."

The Israeli Prison Service temporarily transferred Hana to Meir Hospital but she wasn't admitted to the hospital and they brought her straight back to prison and in the process abused her - handling her violently including being “dragged across the floor” in her fragile state. The Chief Medical Officer for the Prison Service is complicit in the prisons 'violation of medical ethics', he has provided falsified blood results to hide Hana's true condition. They have also tried to undermine Hana's faith in the independent physician by lying to her, telling her that PHR independent physician had given the blood tests to the Prison Service.

Hana Shalabi's hunger strike follows the successful 66 day hunger strike of Palestinian activist Khader Adnan, stopping his hunger strike close to death when the Israeli authorities agreed to release him on April 17. At least 29 other Palestinian prisoners have joined the hunger strikes in Israeli jails in protest against Israel's practice of detaining people without charge, including a 72-year-old prisoner who has not eaten for a week.

Zahra Shalabi talks about her feelings and fears for her sister:

Cultivate Hope - A Poem for Hana Shalabi

Poem poem written on day 40 of Hana Shalabi’s hunger strike by Rafeef Ziadah / music by Phil Monsour.

Further Information:


Source: www.inminds.com

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