Fawzia Has Eight Sons. From Time to Time, the Israeli Army Snatches One Without Explanation

12:00 Oct 29 2021 Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT) :Dura (Doura, دورا) and Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon (מרכז רפואי ברזילי)

Fawzia Has Eight Sons. From Time to Time, the Israeli Army Snatches One Without Explanation Fawzia Has Eight Sons. From Time to Time, the Israeli Army Snatches One Without Explanation Fawzia Has Eight Sons. From Time to Time, the Israeli Army Snatches One Without Explanation Fawzia Has Eight Sons. From Time to Time, the Israeli Army Snatches One Without Explanation

Fawzia Fasfous at the family’s home in Dura. Her living room is something of a shrine to her imprisoned sons. Credit: Moti Milrod Published by Haaretz

Fawzi Fasfous bedside with her hunger-striking son. Before Kayed’s weight dropped by 30 or more kilograms, he was a famous bodybuilder in his hometown. Published by Haaretz

Kayed Fasfous before his arrest. Credit: ? Published by Haaretz

Fawzia Fasfous and granddaughter Ju’an at the family’s home in Dura. Credit: Moti Milrod Published by Haaretz


Kayed Fasfous has been on a hunger strike for over three months. He is hospitalized in critical condition, interrupting his detention without trial, but he refuses to give in until he’s released

by Gideon Levy for Haaretz
Oct 29, 2021

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Oct. 29, 2021

There is no other family like this. On the 103rd day of her son’s hunger strike, Fawzia Fasfous sat in her living room, which serves as a little shrine to her imprisoned sons, trying to hold back her tears.

The previous day she had visited her son Kayed in the hospital; he can now hardly speak. The security people at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon refused to let her and Hala, Kayed’s 31-year-old wife, stay the night in the room of the gravely ill man; they kicked the two women out that evening.

Ju’an, Fawzia’s lovely 7-year-old granddaughter sits next to her grandmother in the living room of the family home; Fawzia occasionally corrects the child and adds details she omits about her father. Kayed has been in custody for about a year without trial, as have three of his brothers, all of whom were raised by this powerful woman, a Palestinian “Mother Courage.”

When we asked her Monday if during her last visit she tried to persuade Kayed to end his hunger strike, now in its most dangerous phase, she rebuked us. “Do you want me to ask him to stop after four months? He is fighting for his freedom,” she said, adding nothing more.

Kayed actually is fighting for his rights in addition to his freedom, and he may end up sacrificing his life for both. Unlike previous hunger strikers, for whom a close but not immediate release date had been set, he refuses any arrangement other than his immediate release from administrative detention. He is fed up with these endless detentions without trial that have destroyed the lives of more than on member of his family.

A military-like SUV, painted olive brown with mounted sirens and tinted windows, is parked outside the house in Dura south of Hebron in the West Bank. War is the name of the game here. Pictures of the imprisoned brothers are pasted on the hood of the vehicle, which belongs to brother Hassan. The living room of the small house is decorated with Palestinian flags and pictures of both Yasser Arafat and the imprisoned sons – a war room containing an elderly and exhausted woman in a traditional black-and-gold embroidered dress, joined by her granddaughter.

Fawzia was born in the year of the Nakba, so she’s 73. She has eight sons and eight daughters, most of whom live near her in Dura, though some have left for Jordan. Six of her sons have been in prison, and her husband died in 2015. The ones who are currently imprisoned are Akram, 38; Hafez, 37; Mahmoud, 31; and Kayed, 32. Akram and Mahmoud are in Ramon Prison, Hafez is in Ofer Prison, and Kayed, deep in his hunger strike, is for now at Barzilai Medical Center. Three of them were arrested one after the other over two days in mid-October a year ago. Kayed was the first, taken into custody on the 17th.

Arab lives don’t matter
This was Kayed’s fourth arrest. He works in the Dura municipality’s car licensing department, referred to colloquially as the Dynamometer (a reference to the Israeli automobile-testing chain). Hassan, 34, was in prison for 12 years after years on the wanted list; he even survived an assassination attempt in 2018 while he was barricaded in this house, surrounded by soldiers, until they withdrew, for whatever reason. Musa Abu Hashhash, a B’Tselem field researcher in the Hebron area, documented the siege of the house and now says he’s convinced that the soldiers were close to assassinating Hassan Fasfous.

Khaled, 33, was in prison for nine years and is now free. All these brothers, surprisingly, are Fatah activists, not Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but they belong to the opposition to President Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe that’s why the Palestinian media is hardly covering Kayed’s hunger strike, unlike the campaigns of other prisoners that sometimes are covered by daily broadcasts from their homes.

Seven Palestinian prisoners are now on hunger strike, including the most well known, Mukdad Qawasmeh; outside his room at Rehovot’s Kaplan Hospital, MK Ayman Odeh had to block his far-rightist colleague, Itamar Ben-Gvir, from getting to Qawasmeh. For now, Kayed Fasfous’ hunger strike is the longest. This weekend, Qawasmeh will also cross the 100-day threshold.

Kayed began his strike on July 15. That was when he learned he wouldn’t be released this month at the end of his second detention, but was sentenced to another six months in prison with no indictment, no trial and no explanation. This is his third hunger strike throughout his various prison terms, and the longest.

His brothers Mahmoud and Akram joined the strike out of solidarity but had to stop after about a month, because of deteriorating health. For Mahmoud, it was his fourth hunger strike, but he ended it after 30 days due to a heart condition; Akram stopped after 25 days. Few of Fawzia’s sons have children because of their long spells in prison. Kayed, who is 32, has only 7-year-old Ju’an. His latest arrest took place only five months after his last release from prison.

During her visit to Kayed’s hospital room this week, Fawzia made sure not to cry in her son’s presence. “I didn’t want to hurt him,” she said, but she burst into tears as soon as she left the room. “He’s like a baby in its bed.”

The first time Fawzia was allowed to visit him, last week, after his administrative detention was put on hold and his guards were sent away, he was still handcuffed to his bed with an iron chain. When Fawzia tells us about it, she bursts into tears, for the first time in our presence. The chain has since been removed.

Kayed refuses to undergo any tests, or to be hooked up to an IV. He can barely swallow water. Pictures of him from the recent past are stunning; in his hometown he was nicknamed the Hero of Dura because of his bulging muscles, the product of his daily workouts. Video accompanied by loud music shows Kayed pumping iron, his muscles about to burst.

Not much is left of him; he has dropped from 90 kilograms (198 pounds) to between 50 and 60 kilograms. He is frail, bearded and gaunt like never before. He can no longer get out of bed and barely moves his arms and legs. His eyes are closed most of the time and his voice is weak. Sometimes he tries to talk and fails. And he refuses to be hooked up to any device.

Ju’an doesn’t accompany the family on visits, after having seen her father handcuffed to his bed during her first trip to the hospital. Hala doesn’t come either; Kayed doesn’t want her to see him in this condition. Only his mother visits; she bathed him and cut his nails after he hadn’t washed for 12 days.

“Either home, or death,” he told his mother. It costs her 600 shekels ($188) for each visit to her son, a taxi from Dura to the checkpoint and then one to Ashkelon – and back. During their first attempt, she was detained at the checkpoint with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter for three hours until they were allowed to pass. Fawzia doesn’t speak Hebrew and she gets very anxious at the hospital, where no one knows her or helps her.

Khaled is now replacing his brother at the licensing department. Since Kayed’s last arrest – armed soldiers and dogs in the living room in the dead of night, the front door blown down – Hala is afraid to sleep alone with her daughter. Her sister-in-law Yasmin, the wife of Mahmoud, now also in prison, comes over each night to sleep next to her. Yasmin, 29, and Mahmoud, 31, have no children. The two brothers live on the floor above Fawzia.

On the night of his last arrest, Kayed was studying for a university exam. He is studying English, and has had to interrupt his studies several times due to his arrests. On October 17, soldiers broke down the front door and stormed in as usual. It was 3:30 A.M., also as usual. About 15 military vehicles surrounded the house and dozens of male and female soldiers rushed in.

Ju’an woke up terrified. When her grandmother talks about it, the girl makes a victory sign with her fingers and smiles her shy smile. The soldiers tied Kayed’s hands, covered his eyes with a rag and snatched him from the house.

This extended family has never shared an evening meal. Someone is always in prison, for now there are four of them. Mahmoud was due to be released in January, but has already been informed that there is “new evidence” against him and that his detention will be extended by six months. “The collaborators once again embellished their lies,” his desperate mother says, and her face says it all.

Home of the Fasfous family
Hunger striker Kayed Fasfous hospitalized at this facility Oct 2021
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