On Sunday 18th June 2017 Inminds joined thousands of Londoners from all walks of life, from all faiths and none, from all ethnicities and cultures, uniting for Palestine, for the annual international Al Quds Day in London. The march started at BBC headquarters - the mouthpiece of the British government that gave Palestine to the zionists, and ended in a rally at the embassy of the United States - the country that bankrolls apartheid Israel and shields it from international sanctions.
Sandra Watfa from Inminds Palestinian Prisoners Campaign was one of several speakers to addressed the crowds outside the US embassy. Her speech:
My brothers and sisters, I am a Palestinian from Inminds Palestinian Prisoners Campaign.
Israel's illegal occupation is enforced by mass abductions, torture and imprisonment of my people. 40% of the male population has been imprisoned since 1967. Every single Palestinian family is affected, with their loved ones disappearing into Israel's hell holes. Today over 7000 Palestinians, including over 400 children are caged in Israeli dungeons. The children, in particular, are targeted with one child taken from their parents every 4 hours. Three out of every four children is physically tortured, 40% are sexually abused by the Israel army.
The purpose of this collective punishment is to break the will of my people to resist the occupation and to terrorize the community into submission.
Well I'm here to say - this has failed! Our proud prisoners refuse to submit, and from within their cages they are leading the resistance against the zionist occupation of my land. Over 1500 Palestinian went on mass hunger strike in April to demand basic human rights accorded to them under the Geneva Conventions which Israel ignores with impunity. To crush the hunger strike Israel showed unprecedented savagery towards the frail hunger strikers, brutally attacking them in their cells, destroying their belonging and dragging them away into solitary confinement and forced transfers to make shift camps in the Negev desert. All of this failed, and our heroes won most of their demands after 41 days of hunger strike.
Whilst this is a great victory against the occupation, we have to ask ourselves WHY is it left to caged prisoners to fight these battles? They have nothing in prison to fight with, apart from their ability to refuse food. Outside of prison we have lots of resources to wage these battles, inside they have nothing, and yet they are left to do the fighting. This is a failure of the global solidarity movement.
When Imam Khomeini inaugurated Al Quds Day some 38 years ago, his vision was for Al Quds Day to awaken the people to stand with the oppressed. It was meant as a catalyst to start a movement for the liberation of Palestine. There has to be follow through. For us to hibernate the day after Al Quds Day, until the next year, is not good enough. We betray Imam Khomeini's vision if we do that.
This campaign that I am part of - Inminds Palestinian Prisoners Campaign, was launched right here, at this rally, on Al Quds Day, 5 years ago, in 2012. But I'm ashamed to say it has received very little support from this community, with hardly any Muslims participating.
Its important that Palestinian prisoners are not forgotten and left to the mercy of their torturers. The Palestinian prisoners campaign aims to raise awareness for the plight of Palestinian political prisoners and build solidarity for their struggle and work towards their freedom. We work closely with the families of the prisoners, campaigning on their behalf, targeting the pressure points in the UK that might help secure the release of their loved ones in Palestine. As part of this we hold regular protests every two weeks. We hope you will start supporting this campaign. If you are interested in receiving information about our next action, commitment free, please give us your details - we have volunteers under the large Palestinian flag to take them, thank you.
I want to just finish by reading a letter from a 12 years old Palestinian child prisoner, Shadi Farah, to his mother on her birthday. Shadi, who is from Al Quds, was abducted in December 2015, whilst waiting for a bus.
The letter to his mother read:
"I want to tell you to keep your head high in the sky just like palm trees, never shaken by winds nor earthquakes, and I want you, my mother, to be proud because what I am going through is a test from God. I want you to convey my greetings to my relatives and friends and my brothers and sisters, especially Rayan."
Shadi gave his coat, which his mother fought to deliver to him, to the youngest female child prisoner in Israeli jails, 12 years old Dima al-Wawi, when they met on their way to an Israeli court. After her release, Dima was asked why she looked sad in her photos. Her answer was, 'because I left Shadi behind bars'".
Shadi is still behind bars. Following a 12 months imprisonment without charge or trial, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison. He was subjected to torture during interrogation with the interrogators stripping him naked and forcing him to sit facing the air-conditioner. They shaved all his hair off as a form of psychological torture. Despite consistently maintaining his innocence, his interrogation continued in the detention. He lost a lot of weight, and is currently suffering from eye and ear infection and chronic headache.
Let us not leave Shadi and the other prisoners behind, forgotten, alone at the mercy of their torturers. Join the prisoners campaign today!