Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

28 Years: One Palestinian Prisoner's Story

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

28 Years: One Palestinian Prisoner's Story

Article excerpt

Human rights activists refer to Salim Al-Kayyali as "the dean of detainees." One of the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners Israel agreed to release in return for the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, he has been incarcerated in an Israeli prison-without trial-longer than any imprisoned Palestinian. Even before his latest incarceration, for his affiliation with the military wing of the Fatah party, Al-Kayyali had been arrested and jailed multiple times for that affiliation and his political activities. The last time he saw freedom was on May 30, 1983, 28 years ago-and exactly half his life.

Al-Kayyali has been in prison since before the first intifada broke out; before the massacre perpetrated by Barnard Goldstein on a Hebron mosque, killing dozens and wounding hundreds of worshippers, and opening the door to retaliatory bombings; since well before Oslo, before the 2000 Camp David summit, before Sept. 11, 2001, before hundreds of checkpoints made travel nearly impossible, and before a single concrete slab of Israel's wall was pounded into the earth, tearing apart entire Palestinian communities. The world the 56-year-old Al-Kayyali returned to on Oct. 18 barely resembles the one he last saw. Things are far worse-but he'll have plenty of time to absorb all the changes in the weeks ahead. The day of his release was about joy and reuniting with his family members-many of whom he's never met.

Al-Kayyali's wife has waited nearly three decades for her husband's return. She has not seen him since 1996, when the Israeli Prison Service began denying her visitation with her husband. "Not a moment passed when Salim was not on my mind," she explains. "Now my husband is back," she says with delight. "I have no further reason to feel the weight of the seconds, minutes, passing by on the clock hanging in the hallway next to his photograph."

Recalling the moment she heard the good news that her husband was to be released, her eyes well up with joy: "When I heard the words of the radio news presenter announcing my husband's name, I cried, and knelt down on the floor to thank God for this gift."

In addition to his wife, Al-Kayyali has a daughter he's never seen. Douwaa Al-Kayyali is now 28 years old, married and with a newborn baby of her own. All she knows of her father comes from family stories and the poster of him hanging in the family's hallway. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.