Liberated prisoner Marah Bakir (left) celebrates with her family the release from the Israeli occupation prisons (Al-Jazeera)

On the morning of October 2015, 14, Marah Bakir went out in the morning to her school in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, and on her return, an Israeli policeman fired <> bullets at her, shattering the bones of her left hand from fingers to shoulder and damaging nerves.

Marah was accused at the time of possessing a knife and intending to carry out a stabbing, and she was 16 and a half years old, and was sentenced to 8 and a half years in prison, but she was freed – on Friday – in the first batches of the prisoner exchange deal concluded between Hamas and the Israeli occupation.

Al Jazeera Net conducted a dialogue with Marah, who entered prison as a child and came out of it as a representative of the prisoners, and an ambitious young woman seeking to enroll in a university outside the country to study law, to defend the issue of prisoners and raise it in the corridors of international courts, not only local.

  • What's the difference between Merah Bakir in 2015 and Marah in 2023?

Marah 2015 is the child who was receiving her high school education in the literary branch on the benches of a Jerusalem school, and she did not know much about what was going on around her. Marah 2023 is the young woman whose eight years of imprisonment have shaped her personality differently, becoming stronger, more patient and closer to God. I always repeated, "Who was God with, who is on him?" and with this phrase I defied the odds because I knew that God would not leave me in my ordeal. I gained experience inside prisons in how to deal with different segments of society and with different personalities, and I now have wisdom in estimating matters and situations.

  • I went through several stages during detention, starting with staying in the hospital, passing through the cells and not ending with moving between prisons, which is the most difficult stage?

I stayed for 22 days in the hospital during which I underwent two surgeries, and then I was discharged without completing my treatment, which was the need for another surgery to treat nerve damage. I was then transferred to the cells of Ashkelon Prison where I stayed for 18 days, then to the cells of Ramle Prison for an additional two weeks, and from there to Hasharon Prison. Throughout the cells, no one followed up on my wounds and did not change the gauze or even unsmash the stitches, and I found myself facing a great challenge to take care of myself alone without anyone's help, in the absence of my family's forced absence from me, specifically my mother.

  • How did you take care of yourself?

In Ramle prison, they took me twice to the clinic to receive a physiotherapy session, but I was alienated from the therapist the second time, because he told me your hand would be paralyzed and not better. When I arrived in Hasharon prison, the representative of the prisoners at the time, Lina Jarbouni, convinced me to go to the clinic with her to undergo physiotherapy sessions, and the therapist told me that I would need a whole year to be able to move my hands normally, but I challenged him and continued the exercises and was able to move them in just 6 months.

  • How did Marah become a representative of the prisoners and represented them before the Damon prison administration in the last four years?

The prisoners nominated me to represent them before the prison administration, and I do not like to talk about myself, but in general I have a strong personality, and I dealt with everyone with friendliness, respect and honesty, and this made the prisoners trust me, so I was nominated to represent them before the administration, which I have a strong style of communication with, and I never gave up any demand or right.

  • What are the tasks of the prisoners' representative?

She sighed and then said, "What doesn't the captives actress do?" She does everything. For example, no prisoner can leave the department to the clinic without accompanying me, and this is what we learned from former actresses, because the intelligence usually waits to single out the prisoner in the clinic if she is alone, and begins to ask her questions in an attempt to collect information about the department, and the prisoner may fall into the trap of some answers that she thinks are normal.

It is also the responsibility of the representative to arrange the movements of prisoners between rooms if any problem occurs and it cannot be solved, so I immediately submit a request to the administration to transfer the prisoner to solve the problem, without disclosing under any circumstances the cause of it, in addition to many tasks.

  • Did these tasks put pressure on you?

Sure, I was working around the clock, and if there was any problem in the department, the administration would take me out of the room to solve it, even if it was after midnight.

Sometimes the administration decides to make a sudden count in the station at four in the morning, and my job here is to wake up all the prisoners to stand up in order to count them. If the prison administration decides to conduct a surprise search, it is forbidden to enter the rooms and interact with the prisoners without my presence.

My job is to fight the administration even if I pay the price personally, and sometimes the verbal war between me and the administration continues for two months with the aim of allowing one of the prisoners, for example, to contact her captive brother. If I do not succeed in oral negotiations, we start escalatory protest measures to achieve the prisoner's demand, and we know that punishment may include all oaths, but it is inevitable, these are undoubtedly great responsibilities and pressures.

The mother of the prisoner in the occupation prisons, Marah Bakir, talks about her feelings after announcing her release as part of the exchange deal #Gaza_War#الأخبار

— Al Jazeera (@AJArabic) November 24, 2023

  • How to receive a new prisoner in prison?

I receive her personally and explain to her the general laws and administrative matters in the prison so that she knows the nature of the relationship between the prisoner and the administration on the one hand and her rights and duties on the other. Then "Shawisha" (official) receives the new prisoner room and explains to her the internal matters and laws in the department, thus integrating the new prisoners with the administrative and internal laws from the first day.

  • How do female prisoners build experience in dealing with the jailer?

Everyone should know that the prisoners do not get any demand through dialogue, because the administration only understands the language of the protest steps. We return the meals, we refuse to stand up for the number and we rebel by sit-in in the prison yard so that they know that we are protesters and want to achieve the demands, sometimes we snatch them and sometimes we are punished.

When we entered prison, we learned everything from the former prisoners' representative, Lina Jarbouni, and when it is difficult for us, we use prisoners because their experience is longer, due to the existence of life sentences and prisoners languishing in captivity for many years, and sometimes we had to work hard, so we were injured sometimes, and we paid as a result of our risk a tax by punishing us collectively at other times.

  • I was subjected to solitary confinement twice, tell us about this punishment?

The first time was in 2021 and my isolation lasted for 9 days in Jalameh prison, then I was terminated after negotiations between the prisoners' leadership and the prison administration and I was returned to Damon prison. The second time was on the seventh of last October, and in a very bad cell in Jalameh prison as well, I was monitored by 4 cameras, one of which was pointed at the bathing place.

The toilet water filled the floor of the cell and I couldn't pray for 20 days, the guards didn't respect my privacy and insulted me that I couldn't hear or repeat.

I asked about the reason for my dismissal, and they told me that all the prisoners' representatives were isolated because of the war, and because I am influential in the department, in addition to reasons that they could not disclose, but they were issued by higher authorities outside the prisons, according to their claims.

  • We know that you took the high school exams in prisons and passed them, what about your university education and your future?

I want to become a lawyer to defend the prisoners and their cause, not in local courts, but in the international courts, because the violations they are subjected to are very large, and I know that the light is shed on the prisoners, but not as they should, especially the prisoners, who we always feel marginalized. I also hope to receive my university education abroad, and this is what I aspire to.

  • You said the moment you were liberated that life in prisons is not easy, but it is not difficult at the same time, what do you mean by that?

I believe in God's decree and destiny and I am sure that captivity is a test from God and that we can succeed or fail with it. The prisoner should not succumb to the rigors of the prison and should use his time and develop himself, and we have many success stories of completing university education and the spread of cultural and other committees in all prisons. Adversity must be turned into a gift, and our strength and overcoming difficulties always upset the prison administration, which was angry if they saw us laughing.

Despite the difficulties, 7 female prisoners graduated from Al-Quds Open University recently, after the prison administration tried to prevent the entry of many books and even novels, but the students succeeded and obtained high academic grades.

  • Was your liberation in an exchange deal a dream during captivity? And how do you feel about it now?

I was accompanied by a constant inner feeling that I and all the prisoners would be freed by an exchange deal, because I was very afraid of being freed and leaving the prisoners behind because I felt a great responsibility towards them.

Happy with liberation, and this is the right of every prisoner because our place is not in prisons, but the sad and difficult – and we all repeated this sentence – is that we did not want to be liberated in return for this great waterfall of the blood of the martyrs. Unfortunately, this time the deal was in exchange for the blood of more than 14,<> Palestinians in Gaza, and we are certainly not happy to be liberated in the face of this great destruction.

Even a day before my liberation, I was absent from everything that was going on outside my solitary cell, but when I went out and saw the great destruction, I knew that the price of freedom was high, and that the tax that Gaza paid to return to our homes was very high.

Source : Al Jazeera