Palestinian Detainee Set to Give Birth in Israeli Jail, in First Since 2008

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Damon Prison, three years ago.
Damon Prison, three years ago. Credit: Rami Shllush

Nine-month pregnant Palestinian woman, indicted and detained in an Israeli prison for an attempted attack, is expected to give birth, and Israel's Prison Service has indicated it is ready and preparing for the newborn to stay with its mother, as per her wishes.

The 26-year-old woman, Anhar al-Deek, from the village of Naima near Ramallah, was arrested in March on suspicion of trying to carry out a stabbing attack at the Sde Ephraim settlement outpost in the West Bank, when she was four months pregnant.

Prison childbirth among Palestinian female detainees is considered rare, with the last such case having occurred in 2008. This is because there are far fewer female security prisoners than male security prisoners and even among female security prisoners, pregnancy is uncommon.

Al-Deek’s case has set off Palestinian social media campaigns and demonstrations demanding her release in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Another rally is also expected to take place on Sunday in front of Damon Prison, south of Haifa, where she is being held.

In April, al-Deek was charged with aggravated attempted assault and possession of a knife, and was remanded to custody at Damon Prison until legal proceedings against her draw to a close.

One of the posts on social media in campaign calling for Anhar al-Deek's release from jail.

According to the indictment filed in the Ofer Military Court, al-Deek entered the Sde Ephraim outpost in the western part of the West Bank with a kitchen knife, and tried to stab a female resident. The resident's partner arrived at the scene along with brother, carrying a gun, the indictment says. Al-Deek then dropped the knife she was holding and was arrested by Israeli security forces.

Al-Deek is expected to give birth in a few weeks by Caesarean section at an Israeli hospital. al-Deek has asked that her baby remain in custody with her and the prison service says it has made preparations to that end. By law, newborns may stay with their mothers until they are two years old, so long as mothers indicate that they would like them to. Damon Prison is one of Israel’s most outdated prisons and no infants currently reside there.

Over the past few weeks mainly Arabic-language campaigns calling for al-Deek's release have gained momentum on social media under the banner “Save Anhar al-Deek.” Posts credited to al-Deek describe harsh conditions in prison, as well as her concerns for the fate of her baby and herself. “The prison guards said they would put me and the baby in solitary confinement because of the coronavirus. My heart already aches for my son,” one post said. Demonstrations demanding al-Deek’s release have taken place in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, featuring caricatures that depict Al-Deek and her baby as prisoners in an Israeli jail.

Al-Deek’s attorney, Adv. Akram Samara, is expected to ask the court on Tuesday to place al-Deek in a psychiatric hospital in Ramallah as an alternative to continued imprisonment. Samara said that Al-Deek suffers from depression, previously tried to commit suicide, and that an examination conducted for purposes of the court proceedings revealed that Al-Deek was in psychological treatment before. An Israeli psychiatrist determined that Al-Deek is capable of standing trial and Samara has asked that another psychiatric evaluation be conducted.

According to a report by the Palestinian news agency WAFA, based on data from the Palestinian Prisoners Club advocacy group, a few detainees and security prisoners have given birth in prison over the years. Most recently, Fatma Azek from Gaza, who was arrested in May 2007 when she was two months pregnant, later gave birth in jail and was released one year later.

Childbirth among Palestinian women imprisoned for security offenses is less common than it is among female detainees charged with criminal offenses. When women imprisoned on criminal charges give birth, a committee comprised of welfare officials from her community meets with prison officials and together they decide whether to leave the baby with the mother in prison, provided that she indicates that she would like for this to happen. However, because Al-Deek is a security detainee from the Palestinian Authority, such a committee of welfare officials from her home village cannot be convened and it is up to the Prison Service to decide.

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