How Palestinian prisoners defied Israel to have children behind bars

The only way for Palestinian prisoners to conceive a child is to smuggle sperm. (photo: via MEMO)

Written by Ahmed Dreamly

“The birth of a dream for Walid, for prisoners hoping to become parents, and for Palestinians who stand up to injustice and poverty without giving in to despair.”

Walid Daqqa (59 years old) is one of the oldest Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. He was arrested in 1986 and sentenced to 38 years in prison on charges of a resistance operation in 1985, during which an occupation soldier was captured and killed. During his stay in Dakka prison, he earned a master’s degree in political science and published several novels and books on political theory. He also wrote a fictional story about a child named Milad who was born with sperm smuggled out of prison. However, Daqqa’s story became stranger than his novels.

Daqqa married Sana Salama in 1999. The prison authorities imposed severe punishments on him: he was placed in solitary confinement, and Salama was forbidden to visit him for eight months. Despite years of pleas to unite with each other to conceive a child or to be allowed to donate sperm for IVF, Israeli courts have continued to reject their requests. They believe that the only way they can get pregnant is by smuggling sperm.

Salama began a long medical process of examinations and injections to get pregnant. When she visited her husband before her first check-up, they agreed that if she became pregnant, she would bring Daqqa’s brother to visit, and if not, she would come alone.

“When I entered the visiting room with his brother, Walid couldn’t resist greeting us. He began to tremble and cry. I told him. “Your thoughts are right, and here is your brother.” The other detainees hugged him. “The visiting room was filled with crying and laughing,” Salameh said. “The birth of a dream for Walid, for prisoners hoping to become parents, and for Palestinians who stand up to injustice and poverty without giving in to despair.”

Daqqa was placed in solitary confinement during the birth. Salameh announced that it will be covered by Palestine TV. “That way, if we don’t have a chance to call him and convince him, other detainees who had access to television would find out the news and tell him,” she said.

Milad Walid Dakka was born on March 2, 2022. For two years, Milad’s family fought in Israeli courts to have her father’s name included on her birth certificate. “They tried to give my child a certificate without Walid’s name, but we didn’t stop until we won. Salameh emphasized that they cannot deny the identity of the children of Palestinian detainees.

This is not an isolated case. Ahmed Abu Aida is now 6 years old, another child conceived with smuggled sperm and intrauterine insemination. He is the son of Gaza prisoner Muhammad Abu Eida who was arrested in 2004 after only seven months of marriage and sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Aida’s wife, Walaa Abu Aida, was prevented from visiting him in prison for more than two years. “During the first visit after a long time, I looked at Muhammad, as he looked at my face, for the entire 45 minutes that the visit lasted, without saying a word. Relatives of other prisoners came to the large visiting room to calm us down,” said Aida.

Although Aida had the opportunity to join her family in Dubai, she decided to stay in Gaza and wait for her husband. Together they struggled to conceive a child.

Conceiving children through sperm smuggling is more difficult for women because of the time and procedures required for intrauterine insemination. The couple tried three times. It didn’t work the first time. The second time was even worse. Aida became pregnant and gave birth to twins, who unfortunately died. “I suffered from preeclampsia. I was in a coma for a month after giving birth and my heart stopped for a while,” she told me. It was a very difficult time for both parents.

In 2016, they tried a third time, and the procedure finally worked. When Aida tells Aida that the fertilization was successful and that she is pregnant, she hears happy shouts from everyone who was held by her husband’s side. She took care of her health and the health of her future child in every possible way. Her parents again asked her to join them in Dubai where they live, but she again refused, saying: “I was worried that I would lose the fetus as a result of the difficulties of traveling to Gaza.”

Aida explained the difficulties of taking care of a child when his father is away. She said: “I want to give Ahmed all the good things in life, but I can’t even give him the simple right to be with his father.” Six-year-old Ahmed knows where his father is and knows that he will be free in 2026.

“I love Baba very much. I’m waiting to be here. I want to stay with him. he said innocently. Ahmed will join his mother for the first time when she visits his father at the end of this month. Aida said: “Before that, Muhammad and I were afraid that he would go to prison. Now I’m still afraid, but he always asks to see his father.”

On December 7, 2022, Walid Dakka was diagnosed with leukemia. He had been ill for a long time due to medical negligence, which is a routine practice of the Israeli occupation authorities. I was afraid of losing him in cruel and inhuman solitary confinement. Salama said. And she continued by saying: “The pain of life does not end, neither does patience, nor does the security of freedom.” God’s will.

Ahmed Drimly is a journalist and translator living in Gaza. His writing appears in We Are Not Numbers and Mondoweiss. WANN contributed to this article The Palestine Chronicle.

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