Ex-Palestinian female prisoner recalls Eid festivity inside prison

By Salam Abu Sharar

RAMALLAH (AA) – Palestinian female prisoners lodged in Israeli prisons are eagerly awaiting the day of Eid al-Fitr to hear the voices of their dear ones.

Barred from meeting their relatives and lawyers over the past three months since the outbreak of COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic, a Palestinian radio station in its voice of prisoners’ program will broadcast voice messages of family members of prisoners.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS), 38 female prisoners are lodged in Damon Prison. One-third of them are mothers.

Former prisoners recall that this radio broadcast on the afternoon of every Eid day creates an emotional scene inside the prisons. Haifa Abu-Sbeih, 42, who spent a one-and-half year in the prison recalls that the broadcast brings comfort as well as anger.

Nisreen Abu-Kmail, 46, from Gaza is celebrating Eid behind bars since October 2015, since her arrest. Over the past six years, nobody from her family has been allowed to visit her. Her only connection with the family is this radio broadcast on the Eid day.

Haifa, who spent last Eid day with Nisreen remembers that when she heard the voice of her youngest child Ahmed on the airwaves, she looked very happy but also inconsolable.

“Her eyes were shut, relishing the moment with joy but also loaded with anguish, pain, and longing,” said Haifa.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, she said although the Eid inside a prison lacks festivity and gaiety, prisoners try their best to celebrate it with vivacity laced with sombreness.

Haifa recalls that despite restrictions, prisoners steal moments of happiness on this day to cheer their souls.

As part of increased restrictions, prisoners in Israel’s Al-Damon prison are not allowed to offer Eid prayers since last year. But prisoners use the moment to assemble in the courtyard when they are taken out for counting to greet each other.

– Prisoners exchange greetings

“The prisoners exchange greetings and recall festivity moments with their families amid controlling their tears,” said Haifa.

The prisoners make Eid candy with limited material in hand and write Eid messages and songs.

All the female inmates of Damon prison last year had a surprise in store, when they woke up in the morning to see sweets at their bedside. It had taken Haifa two days to prepare them with limited material.

''I had managed to smuggle a candy-making tool from Hasharon to Damon prison during transfer between the courts. I prepared cookies for about 20 prisoners. We did not have a suitable oven for preparing sweets. I used a hot plate with a small pot for baking the cookies,'' she said.

“We decorate our cells in preparation for the Eid. The prison administration often confiscates decoration material. Still we try to celebrate the Eid, prepare and exchange handmade color cards,” said Haifa.

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By Handan Kazanci

ANKARA (AA) - Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world.

- Coronavirus in Turkey

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 926 additional recoveries as the country began easing measures against the novel coronavirus, according to the country’s health minister.

The total number of recoveries from the disease hit 131,778 as 926 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, citing Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,630 as Turkey reported 21 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Turkey conducted over 54,000 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to more than 2.2 million, said Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to resume international flights to 40 countries gradually as of June 10, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said Thursday.

International flights from Turkey will carry passengers first to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece, Karaismailoglu said in a statement.

Turkey suspended all international flights on March 28 amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions worldwide.

- Global coronavirus developments

A low death toll was once again recorded Thursday as France recovers from the coronavirus pandemic which plagued the country over the last three months, according to the latest statistics reported by the Health Ministry.

The country registered a total of 46 deaths in hospitals Thursday, a drop of 39 cases over those reported Wednesday.

Italy on Thursday reported 88 more fatalities from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 33,689 as authorities unveiled new guidelines to prevent crowded summer spots like beach resorts from becoming new virus hotbeds.

The slowing trend in the number of deaths registered in May continued in early June, confirming that the peak of the crisis has been passed.

Face masks on English public transport will be mandatory from June 15, the British government announced Thursday, as a further 176 people died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

British authorities announced that the UK-wide death toll from COVID-19 is now 39,904.

As Spain prepares for its state of emergency over COVID-19 to last until June 21, the Health Ministry reported Thursday that 195 more people were infected with the coronavirus and five more had died.

The number of infections diagnosed Wednesday was down slightly from the 219 people who tested positive Tuesday but up from Monday and Sunday. In total, 240,660 infections have been confirmed in the country.

Health officials in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza announced Thursday the arrival of medical supplies sent by Turkey to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed that two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines had been delivered for detecting the virus.

- George Floyd Memorial service

Hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the first of several memorials for George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25.

The service at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota was attended by Floyd's family and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family, as well as celebrity guests.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged demonstrators joining protests over the death of George Floyd to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Cuomo said around 30,000 people have taken part in the statewide protests demanding justice for the killing of the unarmed black man in police custody.

Of them, 20,000 were involved in rallies in New York City.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens not to overlook the racism problem in Germany while intensely discussing racism and police brutality in the US after the death of George Floyd.

"This murder of George Floyd is very, very terrible. Racism is something terrible,” Merkel said Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with public broadcaster ZDF.

“Racism has always been present, but sadly we also have this [problem]. We should first sweep in front of our own door,” she stressed.

- Other developments

Turkey and Libya plan to advance cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including exploration and drilling activities, to further benefit from natural resources, Turkey’s president said in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister Thursday.

The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj took place at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Libya have reached a consensus on expanding their cooperation areas on the territory of Libya.