PALESTINIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS: STRUGGLE BEHIND IRON BARS
THE CASE OF AIDA SAAD
In "Palestine" Vol. 5, No. 9 we published the testimony given to "Palestine" by Hassan Al-Saghir, one of the militants liberated last month from the Zionist jails. Following is the statement made by Aida Saad, another liberated militant. Aida Saad tells of her recollections as a young girl under Zionist occupation and her experience in Zionist jails.
"When I became 14, my elder brother was an officer in the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) and another was a soldier. I began to wonder: Why does my brother carry that gun? Whom is he going to shoot? Why does he wear this uniform? My brother answered: 'I don't have the Palestinian identity card. Palestine has been occupied and renamed Israel. Palestine exists no more on the map of the world. I have to restore Palestine and my Palestinian identity.' I, too, felt that I should carry a gun. But I was too young then.
"Early in 1968, I joined the ranks of the Palestinian revolution with full awareness of my choice and destiny. It might be because I was so young that the leadership didn't give me a big role in the organization. I understood that my duty was to take food and weapons to the commandos who were pursued by the enemy, and to convey messages from one base to another. My duty remained as such till one day in June 1968. I heard about the death of militant Mazen Abu Ghazali. My blood raged within my veins. On my insistence, the leadership agreed to recruit me as a full militant. I consider that day as my birthday. After I had my training outside the occupied territories, I returned to begin my new task. I knew that the road would be difficult and paved with hardships and sufferings. But I believed that the troubles I was going to undergo would allow a child of my people to smile."
"I WANT TO RESTORE MY IDENTITY"
"On 16 March 1969, I received instructions to go on a splendid mission. In the meantime, I was very emotional. But my love for my people, their pain in the refugee camp, the humiliation of the occupiers erupted in my mind to dominate any other thought and suppress any other consideration.
"At midnight, I headed to my target, the Zionist military warehouse at Sheikh Bilal in Gaza. I was determined that the explosion of my grenade would bring down the Zionist entity imposed on my land and make the whole world hear my lesson. I want to restore my homeland... I want to restore my identity. When I drew near the warehouse, I felt that I was holding my soul in my hands, and every step forward was drawing me nearer to certain death, but the memory of the bombs and shells thrown on us pushed me to hurry into the warehouse. I threw the first grenade... a tank caught fire, I threw the second... another tank caught fire. I was close to the second target so I was struck by some shrapnel. The flames of the burnt tanks turned the darkness of the night into daylight. My wounds made it too difficult for me to withdraw in time and avoid the bullets of the guards. Thus I fell captive, and from that moment the beating and torture started."
"The interrogation started before they gave me any first aid, just after I was arrested. They took off all my clothes under the pretext of checking me. They pulled me by the hair, spat on me, dragged me on the floor, kicked me, and extinguished cigarettes on my body. They wanted to know 'the other people' who were with me, and from where I had brought the grenades. The next day, the interrogation took the form of a play. They made me sit at a table on which delicious foods were laid. Also there were a knife and a fork. Pressmen were attending and taking photographs. The interrogator introduced me to those present: 'She threw grenades at us, but we offer her a good meal.' However, this performance was for propaganda purposes, nothing more. For, how could I eat while my wounds were not treated? Anyhow, I was prevented from drinking, though the water was in front of me. After this farce of Zionist "generosity", they refused to give me water unless I answered their questions.
"Just after my arrival, the interrogation was resumed. I was severely beaten so I would give the names of my fellow commandos. To spare myself some beating, I told a lie that my companion was named Walid. They rounded up everyone they could who was named Walid. I told them my companion is not among them.
"They told me your mother has given us the name of so and so. Your brother has told us about so and so, they put me face to face with my brother so that we might confess. But the information given by each of us was contradictory.
"My commando operation was carried out a day before my brother's planned marriage. I said to my brother, "You sent me to buy your bride a bottle of perfume. Excuse me, but I didn't. I went to carry bombs to secure an identity card for your coming baby." At that moment my brother took me to his chest and began crying. His tears rolled down warm on my cheeks. The way the soldiers separated us affirmed my belief that they hadn't any human feelings. I became more confident that my brother would follow the trail I had blazed."
"Their questions were centered on my military training: Where? When? Whom? And who were my partners in the operation? They didn't believe that I had carried out the operation alone. There were about ten interrogators. Before I could answer the question of one, the other confused me with his. I had to answer different questions from different people at the same time. This overloaded my mind. Many times they offered me a cup of coffee and another kind of drink, but I refused to accept anything. I feared that there might be some drugs in the drink. I knew that from the experiences of other militants.
"Then came a group of soldiers. They quieted everyone down. My family's house was in the neighbourhood, and they said, 'Now you will hear an explosion. It will be in your house.' They continued, 'If you don't tell the names of your partners, your house will be blown up.' I laughed sarcastically and said: 'I was alone. I have no names to tell. Do what you want.' After some minutes I heard an explosion. In fact, it was our house."
"After that the psychological torture began. Each interrogator had his own method. One of them said, 'I will treat you as your father would. Tell me the truth, otherwise another one will come and strip you, beat or rape you.' I was able to perceive their deceitful words and looks. How could they be honest? Had they been so, they would have never come to steal my country! When these methods failed, they resumed beating me. They beat me in such a way that it left no traces on my body.
"I had been able to send a report to my leaders about the operation I had executed, and about the interrogation inside the prison. My captors asked me, 'How could you send a report to your leadership? We heard it on "Sout al-Assifa"' (The radio of the Palestinian revolution). I said, 'I am in jail. How could I send a report to my leadership?' This incident assured me that my enemy is dull. I realized that anyone with strong beliefs can do whatever he wants, even though he might be in prison.
"A considerable part of the interrogation was centered on my brother. They threatened me, saying, 'When we arrest him, we are going to make him have sex with you.'
"Before the trial, they introduced me to a group of psychologists. There were about 30 of them. I remember there were some oranges on the table before me. I smiled. I imagined what would happen if those oranges turned into grenades. I heard them saying, 'A 16-year-old girl, with a certain beauty, an acceptable financial situation, engaged, and who doesn't need anything! What made her throw herself to death?' My answer was that the motive was my love for my people.
"On 14 April 1969, they put me on trial. It was a play more than a trial. I knew that the sentence had been already determined. The moment I got out of the armoured vehicle to enter the court, I saw dozens of my Palestinian people there. I saw the Palestinian children holding bouquets of roses. The smiles of those children, their staring eyes, made it clear to me that they had understood the meaning of what I had done. My mother's looks at that moment were full of love and pride for what I had done. I felt that the bonds between me and my people had become stronger.
"Then the trial began. The judge charged me on six counts: throwing grenades in a warehouse, blowing up armoured vehicles, being a member of al-Fateh organization, 'illegal' penetration outside the occupied territories and receiving military training, assisting the Palestinian commandos, and organizing secret groups. The trial was concluded, and I received a 20-year sentence. During the trial, I heard a journalist say, 'I want to ask the defendant if she repents what she did.' The judge answered, 'Her eyes show that she doesn't. Her looks are a sufficient response.' I laughed and asked the judge, 'How could you know I am not repentant?' At that moment another journalist asked me the same question. 'Are you sorry or not?' My answer was that, 'Really, I am sorry because I was not able to set off all the grenades that I had.' In fact, I was sorry for that. Disorder prevailed in the court and some soldiers rushed towards me and returned me to prison."
"After the trial I thought that there would be no more interrogations. Yet they lasted for seven more months. They would wake me up at about 2 a.m. and take me to be interrogated. They would say, 'Come and see your brother, we have arrested him.' Then I would be confronted by some young men, most of whom were naked. My captors told me that the young men had confessed about me. I knew that they were using me as a sort of psychological torture for them. For example, they said to one of them: 'If you don't confess we are going to rape her in front of you.'
"One night they woke me up. They confronted me with a fellow, whom I didn't know at first. For ten minutes I was unable to recognize him. My failure to recognize him anguished me. His face was red and covered with blood. They repeated the question, if I knew the man, but I denied it. 'Do you know this man?', but I didn't. So they asked him to introduce himself to me. I was shocked. He was one of my best friends and a member of another organization. I wanted to talk to him to raise his morale and encourage him. But I found it better to keep silent and pretend not to know him. Unfortunately, this made me sorry. They started beating us both.
"On another day they took me to him. They asked me to take off my clothes before him, as casually as if they were asking me to have a candy. I refused. The young man shouted, 'Leave her!' I knew then that they had threatened him. 'If you don't confess you'll be made to have sex with her in front of everyone.' You know, due to our environment, our respect for our customs and traditions, and the respect our men feel towards women, he was ready to tell many lies so as not to do what he had been asked to.
"The investigation came to an end. Once I was visited by a guy carrying a bouquet of flowers. He handed me a letter signed by some notables and mayors in the Gaza Strip calling on me to plea for mercy. I realized that he was an enemy agent. I refused. After that he came with some intelligence men. They started to call me names: criminal, inhuman... etc. After that they took me to the Ramleh prison where I stayed till my release.
"There I met my fellow militant prisoners. I started to plan for the long period I was supposed to stay in prison. The relations between the different prisoners from different organizations were excellent. We spent our time in discussion, mobilization and gaining more understanding of our revolution and other revolutions. Meanwhile we hoped that anti-imperialist revolutions in the world would be victorious eventually.
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Originally published by The Palestine Liberation Organisation Unified Information as a bi-monthly information bulletin with copy permission granted via the notice "Partial or total reproduction is freely permitted by 'Palestine Bulletin'"
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