Nablus- "Tala, Tala, Abu al-Amir Tala'" was the last word with which Muhammad Safadi ended his conversation with us before he cut off contact and embraced his brother Ashraf, who was released on Sunday evening from Israeli occupation prisons after 21 years of detention.
The occupation released the prisoner Ashraf Safadi from the last stations of his detention in the Negev prison, and said in his first statements to Al Jazeera Net immediately after his release, he came out "with high morale and greater strength of the struggle."
Ashraf, 53, was arrested in downtown Nablus 12 days after his marriage in 2002. After a year and a half of interrogation, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison for allegedly resisting the occupation and an indictment file containing more than 30 pages.
Despite the verdict, Ashraf, who hails from the village of Urif near Nablus in the northern West Bank, did not discourage him as his first attempt to escape from Megiddo prison in the north of the country a year after his arrest, as a result of which he faced severe punishments that lasted nearly 15 years, including sudden breaking into and searching the cell where he is being held, handcuffing and tying him to the bed.
Speaking to Al Jazeera Net, he added, "After escaping they classified me as a security risk, and they were constantly watching me in isolation, and forced me to sleep opposite the window of the room to make it easier for the guards to inspect every moment, except for deprivation of visit and solitary confinement several times."
Soon after, the second escape, but this time morally, came, as Ashraf escaped from prison to his wife, to have their only child, Amir, and to become one of the "ambassadors of freedom" (a term given to the children of Palestinian prisoners born through smuggled sperm).
During his imprisonment, Ashraf was able to take the high school exam, completed his university studies remotely, earned a bachelor's degree in sociology, and memorized parts of the Quran.
Ashraf Safadi (second from left) after being released in front of the Dhahiriya checkpoint of the Israeli occupation in the southern West Bank (Al-Jazeera)
The cruelty of the occupation
About his brother Ashraf, says Mohammed Safadi to Al Jazeera Net, he withstood and dare in prison the scourge of occupation and cruelty, and did not dissuade the death of his mother after 3 years of his arrest without being seen, then the death of his father years later, and prevent some of his brothers from visiting him, and the arrest of other brothers.
From inside his prison, he provided his family with determination and patience, and met in prison three of his brothers who were detained by the occupation for varying periods, "and he was an incubator for all prisoners, especially the people of his village."
In 1990, Ashraf Safadi lived in his first arrest, and spent 5 years in Israeli prisons as a result of his active participation in the Al-Hajar Intifada (the First Intifada), and after his liberation, he joined the Palestinian security services, and remained there until his arrest in 2002.
Mohammed said the second arrest came after his brother, being a commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Fatah's military wing), was heroic in defending Nablus and its Old City, and the nearby Balata refugee camp during the Israeli invasions. "Ashraf slept for three days among the bodies of the martyrs, which were trapped for about two weeks in a mosque in Old Nablus, and he used to go out to resist and then return and hide among the bodies," he said.
During his imprisonment, Ashraf grew up and his nephews and sisters grew up with him and it was difficult for him to know them except through pictures, but in vain was his attempt, the more he got to know one of them, the older he was later, and his features changed.
Freed prisoner Ashraf Safadi (right) after his release with his brother Muhammad Safadi (Al Jazeera)
Moments that are not repeated despite their harshness
At the Israeli Dhahiriya checkpoint (about 170 kilometers round trip) in the southern West Bank, where the occupation releases most of the prisoners, Safadi's family and friends arrived to receive him, and his 9-year-old son, Amir, remained waiting for him at home, as he did not help him along the way and the heat to go to receive him.
And for 6 hours remained the family of the prisoner waiting for his release, with nerves tight and tense atmosphere until the last minutes, says his brother Mohammed to Al Jazeera Net, "The last minutes were difficult and very long, the days of his imprisonment we were calculated release year, but the last hour seemed like a whole year."
These last hours of release were not easy – also – for the prisoner himself, as the jailers broke into his room at eight in the morning, took him handcuffed with iron in his hands and legs, and transferred him between 4 prisons as a punitive measure by increasing the distance and time, before releasing him.
In the occupation prisons, more than 5,550 Palestinian prisoners are held, including more than 22 prisoners serving life sentences, dozens facing high sentences, and <> others who have been prisoners since before the signing of the Oslo Accords.
The steadfastness of prisoners
Prisoner Ashraf Safadi says that his suffering dissipated with the first moments of seeing his family, and adds, "There are no limits to my joy of liberation, and I forgot a 21-year age in the occupation prisons, when I found my 90-year-old uncle coming to receive me, cutting all that distance, and perhaps this lit a great flame for the struggle inside me, and I will continue despite the prisons."
Ashraf spoke about the high morale of the prisoners despite all circumstances, and their call for all Palestinians to unite, join hands and work to liberate them, and said, "The occupation is trying to break their will, but they are the ones who break it, the prisoners are higher than the executioner, and their will is solid and tall like mountains." "The prisoners have a sublime message calling for their support in all fields to reach their liberation," he said.
After being warmly received at the Dhahiriya checkpoint, Ashraf visited the tomb of the late Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, and was then greeted by a motorcade at the entrance to his village of Urif in the Nablus area.
In front of her house, the family of the prisoner Ashraf Safadi received her son in the presence of national and political figures, and in his military uniform Ashraf roamed the streets of the village, amid great joy that overwhelmed her sadness due to the pursuit of the occupation and its settlers for her sons, the arrest of about 20 of them, and the threat to demolish 5 houses of resistance fighters in it.