RAMALLAH, November 19 (JMCC) - Fakhri Barghouti was released last month after spending three decades in Israeli prisons for colluding to kill an Israeli military intelligence officer.
In this interview published at al-Akhbar
, he describes life in jail and what it was like to leave his son behind when he was released.
I really got to know my sons as men, only after they joined me in prison, because after each became16 years old, the prison prevented them from being able to come on family visits. One morning the prison administration approached me at 7am and told me that my two sons would join me at four o’clock in the afternoon. Between those hours, all time stopped moving. Other prisoners asked me, ‘how do you feel,’ and I refused to respond, because the pain and heaviness was too great. My nerves were hyperactive, and my head was spinning. How was I going to react? What was I going to feel? I tried to control myself but I could do nothing, as the feelings overwhelmed me.
Everyone knows in conflict situations that before any negotiations after a cease-fire takes place, the first issue addressed is the question of prisoners. It is never put on the back burner while all other issues are negotiated.When four o’clock came, and I heard the guards begin to open the first door, it was my heart that was opening, not just the door. When they opened the second door, my nerves gave way and I collapsed losing all ability to control myself. I felt I was in a pool of water, as the sweat was dripping off of me. The other prisoners tried to calm me, but for naught. All the prisoners in our division began to cry. No one could bear the situation. It was very, very difficult. Till today, I don’t like to talk about it, because I feel it negatively affects me personally…Before that point, I had not seen either of them for the previous six years, when they had been allowed to visit me.
When it came time to leave prison, I knew I had to leave Shadi behind [Shadi is serving the eighth year of a 28 year sentence, and is alleged to have been involved in plans to capture an Israeli soldier to use in a prisoner exchange; Hadi had been released after three and a half years of detention]. It was as though matters, instead of starting over again from the beginning, were now starting from the end.
When I was about to be set free and it came time to say good-bye to him, I wanted to get it over with quickly so I could maintain a sense of balance. So I kept it short, and he walked with me the last 150 meters. I didn’t want him to walk with me, but he did. I tried to remain strong, until we got to the door that I needed to depart from. That was the moment most difficult in my life. He got down on his knees and began to kiss my feet….
When I first got into prison, I could see them occasionally on the visits they were permitted when growing up as children. Then I saw them when they were in prison with me. But, when I was about to leave I felt I was never going to see Shadi again, because I knew I would be prevented from visitation. I feared, that in truth, it might be the last time that I see him…[weeps]
Every human has his point of weakness…The essence of being human, is remaining sensitive. If one cannot feel for ones family and those closest to you, how can you feel for others? If a person allows his sense of feeling to be taken away, then you are no longer human.