Feras Hajj Mohammed/ Occupied Palestine (Nablus)
On November 15 of each year, PEN launches its solidarity campaign under the title “The Imprisoned Writer’s Day”, in which it sheds light on the cases of writers imprisoned or facing trial, and through which it calls for urgent international action to release and protect them. These cases symbolize –that We highlight– the patterns of threats and attacks that writers and journalists around the world are often subjected to as a result of their peaceful practices of freedom expression.”
The previous paragraph topped the international campaign launched by the “PEN International” to advocate for imprisoned writers around the world for the current year 2021 under the title “Prisoner Writer’s Day 2021”. It targeted in its campagine the writers “Selahattin Demirtas” on Tuesday 15 November – Tuesday 16 November, Rahil Daut – Wednesday 17 November, a collective case of 12 Eritrean writers – Thursday 18 November, and Mohamed Al-Roken – Friday 19 November. Al-Roken imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates is the only Arab writer in this campaign.
There are many writers imprisoned by Arab regimes in all parts of the Arab world, and there is no Arab prison without a writer, poet or journalist. The Arab countries have turned into a place where the writer is humiliated, and becomes either fired, exiled, or imprisoned or becomes a domesticated sheep devoured by the regime, then turned into nothing but a daily hypocrisy trumpet who broadcasts its nonsense in newspapers and magazines in glorifying the Arab dictator. In other cases he turns to prevarication or to silence. In all of which are cases that the Arab regime bears its burden in the life of the Arab writer.
Perhaps what the Arab writer is exposed to especially in the Arab “slaughterhouses of death” is enough for the International PEN Organization to start a special campaign to introduce these “forgotten” people in Arab prisons, although these campaigns, if they happen, will not be acceptable to the Arab regimes, and will be completely ignored. The Arab dictatorial regime, in all its actions, is protected from the Western regime and so it is safe and reassuring, and this regime will consider these campaigns useless, passing matter and deserve nothing. Nevertheless, none of the governmental organization dares to stand with them and adopt their causes. Many writers died in Egyptian prisons under the pretext of combating terrorism and the Brotherhood’s tide, and some of them are still living in very difficult conditions inside the prisons of the Egyptian regime. Silence is applied to their status and names, no one talks about them.
This is what concerns the Arab countries and Arab writers, but in occupied Palestine, the matter is more horrific, and the writer is not only imprisoned in the prisons of the Palestinian Authority, which brutally suppresses freedom of expression with the help of a number of opportunistic utilitarian intellectuals who turned into hypocritical “ewes”, defending the authority and its actions against the writers. At the same time, none of the Palestinian non-governmental organization defending these writers or adopting their causes, neither the Palestinian Writers Union nor the local human rights institutions, or there are human rights campaigns led by independent intellectuals, not to mention the silence of the Ministry of Culture and the official media, because of being part of the Palestinian Authority. This situation is more or less the same as what is happening in Gaza, where the authority in the besieged strip sticks its sharp nails into the bodies and souls of writers, and they are attacked with beatings as well, just as it happens in the West Bank.
The cruelest thing in occupied Palestine is what is happening inside the prisons of the Zionist occupation. The occupation has taken a clear strategy against all writers who engage in the culture of resistance and call for liberation and the right of self-determination, and to fight against the occupation and get rid of it and its evil. As a result I can say that, all Palestinian writers have gone through the experience of detention in the prisons of the Zionist occupation since 1948 until today, and other additional measures were applied to Palestinian writers such as house arrest, dismissal from work, travel ban, deportation, confiscation of books, and sabotage of public and private libraries, inspecting school books, punishing anyone who has a book that the occupation has placed on its blacklist, restricting the entry of books into the occupied territories of Palestine, and preventing the holding of cultural seminars that do not fit what the authorities or the military ruler thinking.
Perhaps the International PEN does not know that there are currently dozens of writers in the prisons of the Zionist occupation on whom the occupation authorities have imposed high sentences. Hundreds of years will be spent by writers or even after death, if they happen to die in prison. The “corpse” must spend the full term, The sentence does not end with death. Does PEN know that?
Does the International PEN know that these imprisoned writers, along with thousands of Palestinian prisoners, are deprived of basic human rights inside prisons, as they are subjected to unjustified beatings, and to confiscation of their personal belongings, books, notebooks, pens and drafts of their writings, and are subjected to isolation and imprisonment without trial, under the title of the secret file, some of them are in open prison sentences time under the heading of “administrative detention”?
Does PEN know that thousands of books written by writers in prisons, have been destroyed, confiscated and prevented from mentioning its writers, under the pretext that they are serious “terrorist acts” that incite “violence”? Does the International PEN know that there are female writers in Zionist prisons who were arrested because of their “inciting” writings, as the occupation authorities claim, as it happened in Jerusalem, and it happened in other areas within the occupied areas under the authorities since 1948?
Does the International PEN know that the occupation authorities impose imprisonment on every writer who refuses military service in the ranks of the so-called army, and is punished with a prison term of up to nine months. This happened with the poet Samih al-Qasim, with the poet Marzouk al-Halabi, the writer Saeed Nafaa, Osama Melhem and many others? And it will happen to every writer who refuses this kind of “compulsory conscription.”
Does the International PEN know that the occupation authorities are demolishing entire villages and expelling their owners from them? Including the writer Sheikha Heliwa, who used to live in the Haifa area, and her village, Tail al-Araj, located on the outskirts of Haifa, was demolished. And now she lives outside her hometown. And her village is unrecognized. Does the International PEN know what the occupation authorities mean by this term “unrecognized” villages? It means that they are villages that must be removed as they are illegal, and the authorities do not provide them with water and electricity, and do not recognize the existence of an administrative authority for them (a municipality or a village council).
Does the International PEN know that every day a male or female writer is born inside the prisons of the occupation to tell the story of his arrest and imprisonment. After being abandoned by international and local laws, and waiting for a miracle to be liberated from the life of the “isthmus” in which he lives? These writers have no hope except what they make on paper, they work with the theory of “illusion of freedom”, they believe or make themselves believe that when they write they are practicing the act of freedom or trying to escape from prison and escape outside the iron room. They are trained to live with emptiness no more than. In fact, freedom is their neglected demand. Who can support these writers? Who will raise their issues to be supported by their fellow writers around the world?
Finally, does the International PEN know that there are Palestinian writers imprisoned in the prisons of the Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well, not just the writer Muhammad Al-Roken? In the belly of the whale there in Saudi Arabia is the poet Ashraf Fayyad and in the Emirates the poet Ramez Mansour whom nobody know about his destiny, he is missing, or he may have died, so there is no information about his health condition and his threatened life.
After all, the International PEN Organization must know that the Palestinian writer’s suffering is complex, from the Palestinian Authority, as an Arab regime, and from the occupation authorities and Arab regimes, and it must pay attention to these writers and their suffering in these prisons, which extend to more than twenty prisons at least.
* Note: I am publishing this article to coincide with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 29, 2021.